Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Botanist, Birmingham Review.

I never heard of The Botanist restaurant before, although I have, of course, heard of Botanical gardens so after doing some research I had some idea of what to expect when the lovely people at The Botanist invited me to their media lunch. Located at the trendy part of the city (14-16 Temple Street) and with opening times from 12 noon - 12am (2 am over the weekend), this is one of the must visit restaurants in the second city.  The Botanist's motto is "concept like no other, offering soon to be world-famous selection of botanical cocktails, craft beers and ales, champagne and wine. Food inspired by the deli, rotisserie and BBQ. With live music every night, sublime social times are guaranteed".  As I walked up Temple street and found the outside of the restaurant, I was instantly impressed with the beautiful decor outside such as the beautiful outdoor steel, the style and design of the chairs in what I consider to be the al fresco area, the beautiful and diverse plants and the lighting: I could not wait to see what other delights I would find indoors. 

I was greeted by further beautiful lighting area and a very impressive bar area. I enjoyed watching the  stylish bar tenders mix and make all the gorgeous cocktails I almost forgot to order my cocktail! There is a comprehensive range of cocktails in the cocktail menu, such as the signature The Botanist (which I ordered), Cherry and Sage Sling, Passion Fruit and Basil Crush, The Chocolate Rose, Rose Cosmo and Strawberry Martini. Mmmm, such dazzling and tantalising flavour combinations there, but I chose the Botanist cocktail: it was fresh, cool, fashionable and classy. Most importantly, it tasted incredible, the elderflower and jasmine syrup really came through which helped to balance the vodka and Havana rum.






To me, there seemed to be two parts of the restaurant, the bar and live area, then the restaurant area, I'm unsure whether this was due to the media event, but either way, I felt it work. After a a chat with Lorna from Lets Eat First, I walked past a cool looking male singing and playing the guitar. The seating area is large, but the seating arrangement, felt cosy and quite intimate. After oohing and ahhing of the lighting above me, admiring the menu design, oh and other guests food, I began to order my own. For starters,  I ordered the chicken and rum liver pate (£5.95) and also sampled some of Lorna's pork scratchings (£3.50) and onion rings (£2.95). The presentation of each starter, in particular my chicken liver rum pate was revolutionary, inventive and the theme "Botanist" thoroughly in-cooperated in the presentation. I found my starter, presented in a mini plant pot, tasted luxurious, creamy and I loved the texture of the ginger biscuits on top of the pate. For my main course, I ordered The Botanist Deli Board, where you can chose 4 items out of a selection of 21 for £9.95. I chose the houmous, Greek salad, Coronation Chicken and Chorzio, all served with Turkish flatbread. And because I'm greedy I also ordered side dish of "properly seasoned chips". 









I admired Lorna and her sisters main course dishes the Hanging Kebabs (£10.50-£13.50) was visually impressive and the Lamb Tagine (£12.75) was vibrant and colourful. I decided to pass on ordering any desserts as I was absolutely stuffed, however for those who have appetite for dessert, the description for the Warm Chocolate Fudge Cake, Rum Baba and Banana and Coconut Kebab. 




Overall: The latest must place visit in Birmingham, fabulous cocktails, beautiful food and a vibrant environment.

Disclaimer: I dined as a guest of The Botanist.

The Botanist Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato xxx
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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Bank Restaurant Review.

I haven't been to Bank  restaurant for a good few years now. I first discovered this restaurant after visiting with an ex, one Saturday evening many moons ago. I vividly remember that the starter that I ordered was amazing (duck rolls, not like what you get an all you can eat Chinese restaurant) and in my opinion, an overpriced chicken and coconut curry. Although I visited a few years ago, the fact that I remembered the menu, means that the restaurant made a positive impression on me. The location, located in the trendy Brindley Place attracts the trendiest of crowds and for  some is the place to "be seen".
I fancied an impromptu visit to Brindley Place and after visiting the nearby Ikon Gallery, my cousin and I took our seat to dine Al Fresco on the comfortable heated sofas outside with blankets and outdoor heating, I was instantly sold. As we visited at lunchtime, we ate from the Quick Lunch menu, which is more affordable than the main menu. For £15 you receive, sourdough bread and oil and two courses. For my starter, I chose Potted Beef and Piccalilli and my cousin chose Chilli Squid, Thai Herbs and Noodle Salad. The Potted Beef and Piccali was rich, luxurious and delicious with sourdough toast. My cousin stated that Chilli Squid was delicious, which I promptly took a squid piece, which was was crunchy on the outside, tender in the inside and I loved the texture of the chewy squid and spicy chilli.
Bank restaurant - image from the website.

Sourdough bread

Cocktails. 

Potted Beef.

Chili Squid
There was a considerable wait for our main courses: Fish and Chips and Steak and Chips. After 40 minutes of patiently waiting for our main course to appear, I enquired whether the dishes were on it's way and I was informed that the mains were not sent through to the kitchen as the waiter forget to press the send button, brilliant! So after another 15 minutes (a whopping 55 minutes in total) our main courses, arrived. The Fish and Chips was the BEST fish and chips I have ever eaten, the batter was crisp, tasty and well seasoned, the fish was beautifully cooked, tender and moist in the inside. The chip were delicious, much more than chips placed in the deep fryer, I suspect they were twice fried, they were crisp and fluffy in the inside. My cousin spoke highly of her Steak and Chips, which was beautifully presented.
Fish and Chips.

Steak and Chips.

Steak and Chips.
I refrained from ordering a dessert as I was so full from eating my main course, my cousin, however had other ideas and ordered the malteser chocolate sundae. I managed to have a mouthful (I rarely show such restraint) and it tasted amazing, I had to take out my phone to ensure that I didn't take the sundae away from her. 
Malteser sundae.
Overall, this is a wonderfully located location, a trendy and glamorous restaurant, offering exceptional modern European food. I so wanted to give this restaurant a 5 star rating as the food was amazing, location perfect and the restaurant is beautiful. However, due to the mishap with the mains, Bank restaurant gets a 4.5 star rating from me.


Bank on Urbanspoon
Square Meal xxx
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Sunday, 23 November 2014

MSC Divina and Caribbean islands

I love reminiscing about holidays and all the memories that I have, good and bad. I recently went on a cruise, this was my second cruise but my first big cruise. Back in 2012 I went on a mini P & O cruise to Belgium and Guernsey. But this cruise,  by MSC, for those who want to know stands for (Mediterranean Shipping Country) I visited numerous Caribbean islands. I said adios to the West Midlands and Ola to the East and West Caribbean islands: Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Cozumel, Mexico, Bahamas, Miami, St Marten, Puerto Rico and Grand Turk. 
What I did not realise at the time of booking is that MSC cruises is an Italian cruise line, so there was lots of Italian food, which during week 1 is fabulous, not so great for week 2. There are seated allocation for the two main restaurants on board MSC Divina: The Black Crab and Le Muse. There were several other speciality restaurants including Eataly steakhouse and Ristourante Italia. These speciality restaurants came at a cost, the same as a normal a la carte restaurant so, in my opinion did not represent value for money.
As time is of the essence, I was in two minds on what to review on my blog, should I review every island and my experience there and bypass my experience on the cruise. Or should I share my experience on MSC cruise and limit the time given to the beautiful Caribbean islands. I've come up with a wonderful solution to this, which is share the food on the cruise ship, alongside food whilst visiting the islands. With the occasional beach snap just for good measure.
Here are some of my favourite dishes served on MSC Divina. These include: waffles, scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast, spaghetti cabonara, chicken and ribs, smoked salmon and bagels.

Food MSC Divina


Food MSC Divina


Food MSC Divina

Of course, the whole idea of cruises is to visit different places during one holiday and on this cruise, wake up in a different place every day. I had to go traditional when in Jamaica and when I visited the popular fast food chain Island Grill ordered jerk chicken, rice and peas, fried festival and salad. A trip to the Grand Cayman, I decided to continue with somewhat of a traditional theme ordering jerk chicken wraps instead of the burgers that were on offer. 
Jerk chicken


Chicken wraps


Cayman coconuts
I've held a strong view of what Mexican food is like and what better way of trying traditional Mexican fare by ordering a Mexican platter in Mexico. My Mexican platter consisted of steak, chicken, fish, tortillas, guacamole and a spicy habernero sauce on the side.
Mexican platter



The Bahamas, Great Stirup Cay was a private island and the food served on this island was provided by the catering staff on the cruise ship. I do wish there was an opportunity to sample traditional Bahamian food, but unfortunately it was not to be.
The following day, I had a culinary delight in Miami. Visited a restaurant in Little Havana to have some cappuccino to keep up my strength, followed by a trip to Buba Gump shrimp company. Anyone who has watched Forest Grump will know the history of the link between Buba Gump shrimp company and the film.



Fried chicken, mash potato and corn on the cob.

Next up St Marteen the half French and half Dutch island. I visited Big Woodside Grill, beachfront restaurant. The restaurant menu consisted lots of lobster specials which as much as I love, felt was a bit too indulgent for lunch so I chose the more familiar BBQ chicken with rice and salad.


BBQ chicken with rice
The penultimate island stop was Puerto Rico. Due to a delay in the excursion times, there was insufficient time to visit a restaurant for lunch. I did manage to quickly buy the most amazing chicken empanada for 2 dollars.

Grand Turk Coconut




Grand Turk
xxx
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Thursday, 14 August 2014

Turtle Bay Caribbean restaurant

I love Caribbean food, it's the food that I grew up on as a child and often with foods of our childhoods, they bring back fond memories. Caribbean food has recently seen a revival in the UK with Levi Roots putting the cuisine on the map, alongside featuring Caribbean flavours on talk shows. Turtle Bay is the first (to my understanding) chain of Caribbean restaurants in the UK, what a welcome this has been throughout cities in the UK. I have visited two of their restaurants in Leicester and also in Birmingham and I hope there is a restaurant soon opening in my local city, Wolverhampton. 
Vibrant scenery with Caribbean art work, tasteful Caribbean music. The restaurant in Leicester is somehow superior to the restaurant in Birmingham as there are two floors. The deco is bright, which is perfect for not only not having to squint but also to share beautiful pictures from the restaurant. 
Staff are attentive, able to offer choices, friendly a real Caribbean atmosphere.
It was only right that I share the foodie delights from my two visits, and will share more dishes during my next. I definitely feel that if you have not tried authentic Caribbean food, Turtle Bay is the place to go for authentic food and drinks and you will soon fell you are in Jamrock (or Jamaica if you have never heard of the Damian Marley song Welcome to Jamrock).

Let's start with drinks; there is a fabulous deal at present, 241 (£6.85) cocktails during happy hour, first up rum punch, a Caribbean classic, perfect for those who like their cocktails heavily dosed with rum. Another cocktail I tried was a koka colada , a cocktail that must be related to pina calada, creamy and rich this is perfect drink to go with the spicy meals.
Rum punch
Pina Colada
The first visit at Turtle Bay was lunchtime and I went the whole hog, ordering a Caribbean platter (£12.95) for my friend and I. This scrumptious platter includes: jerk chicken wings, pepper roti, sweetcorn fritters and garlic and herb flat breads.
Caribbean Platter
Caribbean platter
All lunchtime menus are a barginous £6.95 and I chose the Jamaican classic, jerk chicken with rice and peas, spicy succulent and tender wings paired with the mellow rice n peas and crunchy slaw. My friend chose pulled pork brioche bun which was served with fries. I'm not sure how authentic this dish was, but it certainly looked appetising.

On my second visit, I ordered the curry, shrimp and mango curry (£9.65) which was a flavour explosion. Th tenderness of the shrimp paired beautifully with the sweetness of the mango and the fiery flavour of the curry. The accompaniment of the rice and peas ensured this was a true Caribbean delight.

As I love food, I mean really love food and vast quantities of it, I love to order side dishes and I'm a fan of sweet plantain (£2.35).

On to desserts or puddings or sweet treats as we may call them: all are a reasonable £4.85. I've tried two puddings from their menu, the rum and raisin pudding and banana and toffee cheesecake. The rum and raisin pudding won,hands down I absolutely adore the rum and raisin pairing, rich, decadent, fruity and sweet this was a pudding that should be crowned as a must try dish.

Pros: Delicious authentic Caribbean food, good value for money, attentive staff and hearty portions.
Cons: There was a slight delay in receiving our main course at Birmingham restaurant.
Overall: I'm due to visit in September, I loved it so much.


Turtle Bay on Urbanspoon Turtle Bay on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: I chose to review this restaurant as this restaurant is the real deal.
xxx

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