A month in food- June 2018

Each month we find ourselves somewhere new and often, I am too busy to write about it. So I will try and recap what we have been up to each month- I’ve probably forgotten a few along the way!

New Places:

We visited a lot of new places this month but most of them were in Madrid and are covered separately but we have been out and about locally too.

Tiffin

We tried out Tiffin in Harborne this month which has taken residence in the former location of Turners. It’s run by the same people who previously owned Purnima in Bearwood which was our go-to curry house and a leisurely walk from our house. The menu remains mostly unchanged and the staff as friendly as ever, whilst they do offer the expected Indian fare it’s their specials that we tend to go for, Jordan is very fond of their Lamb Roshni and I often have a Jinga Mass. It’s a small venue in comparison to their former establishment so it will be interesting to see what happens with it in the future.

 

Nearby is the Hop Garden which is a cool pub with lots of outdoor space- definitely worth a visit

Maekong Thai

This is in Bromsgrove but as we are in that area quite often several people suggested we should try it out. The Barton Arms is one of our favourite places to go for a quick and easy lunch but it’s always good to try somewhere new. The menu is good with some different dishes for us to try and the sharing platter starter was good value. Given the choice we would probably still pick The Bartons Arms but I’d happily give this another go too.

SadlersPeaky blindersTap Room

A new opening in Quinton this place has a good selection of cask and draught ales but I was pleasantly surprised by their gin selection too. It’s a bit of an odd location (In a row of takeaways and opposite the Toby Carvery) but the atmosphere is suitably upbeat and they have a small kitchen too

Mortimers

I had very long lunch out in the sunshine at Mortimers in Ludlow, formerly the site of La Becasse, it’s had several changes in ownership and flips between gaining and losing a star. It’s very traditional in its styling and I would have liked a better selection of gin but the meal itself was done well.

Foodies Festival

We have been to this for the three years in a row, notably the food stalls tend not to be local so on one hand you get to try something new but on the other, the throngs of people that attend are not going to experience the Birmingham food scene or support the local independents. We had some tasty plates of food and there were some different options this year. We also watched a Malaysian cooking class with Norman Musa, a very charismatic guy and one we will certainly be looking up again following rumours of him opening up a place in Birmingham. The main let down for us this year was that the number of stalls to buy produce seemed to have diminished, we got some good sausages and a couple of plants but that was it. We left still feeling hungry and detoured into Digbeth dining club on the way home and I had my best dish of the day there.

At home:

We haven’t cooked as much this month, a reflection of being on holiday, the heat and preparing to move house. I did a bit of an audit of the freezer to work out what we needed to use up and was surprised at just how much we managed to cram in there! It was quite pleasing too as I realised the only things we had that were not ‘raw’ ingredients were a bag of ravioli and some onion rings leftover from making burgers some time ago. Everything else was meat,fish,veg or ingredients such as stocks and sauces we have made and frozen or herbs,spices and citrus. I did the same thing with the cupboards and discovered things I had forgotten about so we have some new things to try.

For our own cooking, we have made a chicken tagine with preserved lemon and giant cous cous, ‘lazy’ risotto (done in the thermomix) and tried a Jamie Oliver recipe for grilled aubergine with pomegranate molasses and yogurt. For the rest of the time, we have had a number of good sausages, plenty of veg after discovering a farm shop towards Kidderminster (Hodge Hill) that has an ever changing variety of veg available and I’ve become a bit fixated with having Weetabix for breakfast.

Next Month:

No holidays planned for July so we will be trying a few new things in Birmingham instead, with a house move imminent we are trying to use up as much as possible at home so that we don’t have to move it! We will be off to the Independant Birmingham Festival at Aston Hall again after having a great time last year and im planning to visit the Birmingham Thai Festival and the Dumpling festival in one day too which might be a very indulgent day! I’m also trying out some Korean food at Topokki at the end of the week having never visited previously.

We have also booked a table at Marcus Wareing for July as we will be in London for the day to see Kermit and the gang at the O2 and wanted to make the most of it, with the announcement of the 2018 Top 100 restaurants this month we have been busy lining up our future bookings and planning a few holidays around our desired dinner options!

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DiverXO- Madrid, June 2018

 

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It’s difficult to decide whether to write about DiverXO as doing so feels like I am betraying a closely guarded secret. Much like The Fat Duck, its not just about the food, it’s a theatrical experience in itself and one that is incredibly difficult to put into words. Dinner at DiverXO is a lot like falling into a tank of electric eels- there is an initial shock followed by apprehension as you wait, senses heightened to see what will happen next. It’s fine dining, but not as you know it.

So, go and look up DiverXO and if you decide you might go then step away now as there are spoilers to come….

Continue reading “DiverXO- Madrid, June 2018”

Mirazur- Menton, France May 2018

Fine dining on the French Riviera

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Continue reading “Mirazur- Menton, France May 2018”

Sydney 2018- Day 3

Day 3 started with a hearty breakfast at The White Rabbit, a cool venue with an excellent brunch menu, fresh juices and very good coffee. Despite the array of weird and wonderful options, I couldn’t resist the lure of sourdough toast, poached eggs, avocado (swapped out instead of a mushroom), spinach halloumi topped with kale pesto= uber hipster but it was excellent. Jordan went for a duck sausage lasagne which seemed an unusual offering but was equally satisfying. After a lot of food the night before the fresh juices and strong coffee were much needed.

 

 

 

We spent the day walking around the botanical garden in glorious sunshine (a refreshing change from the day before) I was amazed to see an Ibis walking down the street and quickly discovered how common they really are. (I also thought I was very funny and sent a picture of one back home with a comment about Australia getting their pigeons wrong but nobody seemed that impressed)

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The gardens are certainly worth a visit, it’s an easy walk with a lot of variety. We gawked at cacti and snapped photos of scary looking spiders whilst soaking up the sun. There are some incredibly viewpoints and we got some great photos of the Opera house and Harbour Bridge against clear blue skies. Sitting waterside for a cider it was a relief too see bottles of sunscreen lined up on the bar for much needed top ups.

We stopped off in a food court for a quick lunch and I went a bit crazy with my dim sum order before we headed back to the water and to the Barangaroo reserve. This was much more peaceful than the park swarming with sweaty runners and I enjoyed reading about it’s heritage and walking along the rocks trying to photograph some of the wading birds without scaring them off (not my most successful attempt on this occassion)

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According to my phone we walked over 20k that day so we stopped off at a bar in Redfern for a drink on our way home. Craft beer has been popular in Australia (and let’s face It, everywhere else) for some time now so there are loads of places to choose from but cider remains in short supply. We hadn’t made dinner plans so after a chat with the staff we picked up a recommendation for a place near by that did ‘meats and bbq but not the American kind’ but more importantly a gin bar that was right on our doorstep!

Trusting the local intel we walked down back alleys and side streets until we found L.J’s Meats. It reminded me a lot of Buffalo & Rye in Birmingham but with a twist. The menu seemed pretty simple and service casual. We ordered what we thought would be a small starter to share of Blood Sausage served with pickled onions. It was served warm, packed with flavour and dotted with chunks of walnut throughout. Its pretty rich so the onions made a welcome addition. As we waited for our table to be cleared, and then realised that plates and cutlery are reused between courses we were presented with a platter of Loretta stuffed with fennel, smoked chorizo, potato gratin and a mountain of shaved fennel salad with peas and mint. Once again we regretted ordering a starter (although it was delicious) and set about tackling the mountain of food before us.

This is not the kind of place for the meat averse, whilst the menu does offer some veggie friendly options, the kitchen is open plan and this includes the preparation of all meats, midway through dinner a carcass was brought to the counter and broken down into it’s appropriate cuts. To me, of you are going to eat meat you should certainly be comfortable with this but it can make some squeamish. I’ve become a bit tired of meat heavy menus lately but this was a refreshing change, everything was lighter and didn’t have the over sauced, heavily spiced kind of flavour that is so popular. The gratin was pleasant enough but I favoured the fresh salad and loaded up on minty peas. For a suggestion from a stranger, it certainly turned out to be a good one.

Although slightly out of the city Redfern was the ideal place for us to stay, the commute was easy with excellent public transport but it was nice to come back to somewhere a little quieter so when we found out about the gin bar we couldn’t have been more pleased. Entering through plush curtains, the bar is full of mismatch vintage furniture, old pianos and dark corners. It has a speakeasy kind of feel and an impressive bottle collection. We took a table at the bar and chatted to the owner as he stood chopping cauliflower for home made pickle. He told us how to make our own tonic and walked us so through some of the more unusual drinks on offer. We have been to a lot of gin bars but this one stands out in both product and environment. This is also where, after discussing my current preferences, I discovered my favourite gin of the trip- Dry Wattleseed by IronBark distillery. A good run through the menu and we headed home for an early flight to Melbourne.

 

 

Singapore 2018: Part 2

Whilst Jordan has been to Singapore, this was my first visit which meant that getting around and knowing where to go was easier than normal.

We started our day with breakfast at the hotel (after missing it everywhere else we had been) It was ok- no comparison to ones we have had in Thailand though. I do question my choice at breakfast time though..

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We decided to head to the Botanical Gardens as they are known to be very good and Jordan was impressed with the orchid garden in the past. The weather was excellent so we soaked up the sun whilst wandering around.  I am not sure how we ended up visiting 3 different Botanical Gardens on this trip as we aren’t really ‘plant people’ . However, it was certainly worth the trip and paying for entry for the Orchid Garden was a good choice.

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The gardens are incredible, a good atmosphere, plenty to see and lots of information available for people who just want to look at something pretty but might not know what it actually is. Jordan mentioned that he had seen a turtle on his previous visit so when we spotted one in the lake I was ecstatic. As we walked along it quickly became apparent that there were loads of them. Families of turtles sunning themselves or swimming around was a sight to behold and I couldn’t believe how easy they were to spot. We also saw several Water Monitors digging for food and scuttling across the grass (N.B.- They may have been turtles and water monitors, we weren’t 100% sure and this was the best guess we could make after a bit of googling)

water monitor

 

turtle

We did a lot of walking around the gardens and took an obscene number of photos which on reflection, are only interesting to us! Following a recommendation from a friend in Melbourne, we sought out the Adam Road Hawker Market. There are quite a few dishes that are considered to be ‘must try’ but we tended to go with whatever we fancied at the time

adam road interior

adam road

Most of the food I went for was quite simple really, this was a roast pork, prawn and noodle soup. Not too spicy but packed with flavour and very filling. It was off course accompanied with a fresh juice. Jordan had a chicken set meal similar to Hainanese Chicken Rice but with vegetables on the side. I quite enjoy this style of eating, just finding a stall that looks appealing and watching it be cooked quickly before sitting at a plastic table surrounded by other hungry people. It’s not something we do well in the UK (The food court in Birmingham was always terrible) which is a real shame. At least we have Digbeth Dining Club now which has ever expanding opening times.

Not wanting to miss out on the highlights of Singapore, we headed to Raffles for a signature drink. When I told people we were stopping in Singapore as part of our holiday, it was one of the first things people asked if we were doing but to be honest- I didn’t really know what the fuss was about and hadn’t given it much thought.

As it turned out, Raffles was closed for extensive renovation but they clearly know how much of a draw they have for the influx of tourists as a pop up bar is in place just around the corner. We stopped in for one (very good) drink and to snack on some monkey nuts. I’m not much of a cocktail drinker but a gin base is always nice and we were interested to learn that Sipsmith developed a special gin just for Raffles. More impressive to me, were the posters lining the construction area and I wish we had picked up copies to bring home.

singapore sling

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Not content with what had already been a jam packed day, we had booked ahead for dinner at Labryinth, a 1 Michelin Star restaurant located in a shopping centre of all places. I didn’t know much about Singapore or it’s native cuisine so when we were researching our dinner options before we went away, this menu was one that caught my attention. Dinner was excellent and gave us the opportunity to try new things without fear. We had an incredible Chilli Crab Ice Cream which was the highlight for me (along with a single dumpling based on Hainanese Chicken) It was exciting, modern food and after we had eaten the chef came out to chat with us which really did top off our experience.

Research paid off again as we finished our night at Atlas Bar A huge venue, dripping in Art Deco features and with over 1000 gins on the menu (now you know why we ended up there…) The options available were mindblowing, and many items were limited to a single pour per person. We had been really looking forward to Atlas, especially after the excellent bars we had found in Melbourne but we found it lacking in depth. Whilst the menu was excellent, the staff were not as informed as we had expected and therefore if we asked for recommendations they didn’t seem to know too much about what was on offer or in stock. Whilst we did try some good gin, the experience wasn’t as memorable as it could have been because of this (and maybe because I was once again feeling sleepy) The gin didn’t come served as we expected, no specific botanicals and one of the Tonic waters we had was truly vile (we were not warned that it was an ‘unusual’ one until it was too late) I had expected that we would end up staying there for the rest of the evening but we headed home early.

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Continue reading “Singapore 2018: Part 2”

Singapore 2018: Part 1

The last stop on our Spring Holiday

Continue reading “Singapore 2018: Part 1”

Australia 2018: Gin

Given much of our time was spent in Australia on this trip we were keen to try some different gins that we wouldn’t be able to find at home and also pick up a few bottles to take back with us. It may be a booming industry but in general, a lot of newer gins are a bit hit and miss at the moment. We did very well in our sampling so here is a run down of some of the best bars and bottles we came across.

THE BARS

The Barbershop, City Centre,Sydney.

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Uber hipster feel (it is connected to an actual barbershop) but a great collection that has expanded beyond its capacity behind the bar so that now there are cabinets dotted around the room stuffed with bottles.

We liked: The printed menu sorted by location, the knowledgeable staff, the amazing soundtrack including the Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks and Blondie.

Moya’s Juniper Lounge, Redfern, Sydney

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I couldn’t resist including this picture, Jordan behind the counter and a cauliflower on the bar..

An amazing find, this is like walking into your great nan’s living room or stepping back in time to post war Britain but with a bit more luxury.

We liked: home made tonic water and pickles, going behind the bar to investigate all of the bottles. The owner has a lot of knowledge and his suggestions led to us finding the best gin of the whole trip.

Bad Frankies, Fitzroy, Melbourne

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Not a gin bar but it might as well be, they sell spirits and jaffles (toasted sandwiches) in a no fuss environment. We each did a tasting paddle of 5 gins with tonic and garnish for $30AU and got to pick which gins we tried.of particular note was the conversation we had with our server who told us about the origin of our selected drinks and the time he has spent with local distilleries helping make products. He also gave us a pointer on where to go to buy bottles that turned out to be very fortuitous.

We liked: One to one service, good pricing, informed reccomendations.

The Gin Palace, City Centre,Melbourne

Probably my least favourite of the bars we visited although probably due to uber tiredness rather than the venue itself. This is a table service style venue but we ended up going to the bar as it was a bit slow. Venue has low lighting and comfy seats and would be good for a date.

We liked: extensive menu sorted by location, good for lounging on sofas and slow drinking.

Four Pillars Distillery, Melbourne

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The bar is part of the distillery and whilst it’s geared towards tasting sessions and sales they also have live music and food trucks at weekends.

We liked: Cool setting, tasting opportunites, big,bright open space.

(Whilst you can buy gin here, we found it cheaper elsewhere)

 

THE GINS

We easily tried over 35 gins between us in Australia so I will cover only the most interesting ones – all of which are native.

Iron Bark Distillery- Wattleseed dry.

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By far the best gin we tried in my opinion, it has a strong, cocoa finish that is only slightly sweet. It does have a lingering finish but that’s what I like about it. IF you have ever tried Polugar gin, this is very similar

 Adelaide Hills Australian Green Ant Gin

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An unusual find, we tried this at Bad Frankies and originally thought it could be a bit of a gimmick but traditionally, these ants were eaten by Indigenous peoples and carry a strong, citrus flavour similar to lime. The ants are used in the distilling process and a few are also found in the bottle, they remain hand harvested by the Motlop family of the Larrakia people. This is a citrus based gin with coriander and pepper berry notes

The Weaver-Loch Brewery

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Another unusual find, we loved the interesting mix of botanicals this gin offered. This is a London Dry style gin but with locally sourced, sustainable ingredients

 

Dasher & Fisher- Varieties

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There are a couple of different varieties of this gin, we tried, Meadow and Mountain but Ocean was probably the one I most enjoyed. All 3 use the same base botanicals of native pepperberry, lavender and wakame and then variants added to reflect the landscape. The salty, seaweed richness and soft hint of jasmine made this a really easy drinking spirit- it was quite hard to find so sadly we couldn’t bring a bottle home.

 

Australia= Good at Gin.

Bangkok 2018

Recap on the first leg of our trip through Asia to Australia

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The Press Club -In pictures

Review to follow- But we met George!

Melbourne 2018- Part 2: The food

This holiday has pretty much evolved around a plate and Melbourne was probably the height of this. Whilst some places will get their own review in time, here is a run down of the noteworthy ones:

Fine Dining

We might have been a little ambitious but we managed to fit in 3 fine dining tasting menus inthe space of a week

Brae

Number 1 in Australia,

World ranking: 44

3 Hats

Style: Country style, contemporary Australian cuisine with an emphasis on locally grown (onsite) produce and ecologically friendly processes.

Verdict: Falls in the top 5 places I have ever eaten. The more I think about it, the more I think it was an exceptional experience.

Vue de monde:

Number 5 in Australia

No world ranking

3 Hats

Flagship restaurant of Shannon Bennett (Masterchef Australia mentor)

Style: Contemporary Australian fine dining in city centre location. Very slick, modern feel.

Verdict: Uber swish, excellent food and open plan kitchen. Feels lavish and extravagant.

The Press Club:

Number x in Australia

No world ranking

Flagship restaurant of George Calombaris (Masterchef Australia host)

Style: Modern Greek with Australian influences. Business like but laid back atmosphere. Surprisingly small venue.

Verdict: Well priced, good food and very friendly staff added to experience. Full tasting menu is a little large but smaller option does exist. Wine pairing interesting and good value.

Casual Dining

Meletos– Yarra Valley

Set in wine country we had a very languid lunch here and I had possibly the biggest mussels I’ve ever eaten. Menu has a mix of dishes from barramundi to pork belly alongside a good range of home made pizzas. Very good quality and affordable with stunning views and quaint shop next door (good dairy shop just around the corner too)

Naked for Satan-Fitzroy

This unusually named venue is known for in pintxos. We were especially lucky as the birthday celebration meant they were 50c each! Needless to say we had a variety including wagyu breasola, smoked salmon, chorizo and an arancini ball. No doubt this was the cheapest meal we had in Australia and the drinks selection was pretty good too.

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The Public Brewery

We only stopped here for a brief lunch and couple of drinks but the pork belly will forever be lodged in my mind. The sauce wasn’t overly sweet but very sticky and the pork just incredible.

BBQ!

We couldn’t go to Australia and not end up having a BBQ. There is a bit emphasis on quality meat and it was great to see the number of independent shops in small suburbs. Finding a good butcher at home is often hard but there were plenty of options available to us with the traditional ‘butcher,baker,greengrocer’ combo not that uncommon. On our final night we had steaks, lamb cutlets (cut to order) kabanos, marinated lamb backstrap and kebabs not to mention fresh corn and salad. It was a great way to finish off our time in Australia and I saw a possum 😁