Category Archives: Birmingham

Review of Itihaas, Fleet Street, Birmingham

It’s quite amazing how many people haven’t heard of this place, the few people who know this fine dining establishment speak about it like it’s the best around and yet in all my years of searching for quality Indian cuisine I have never had the pleasure of visiting Itihaas. Thank goodness I did…

Itihaas is Indian fine dining at its very best. It is situated on Fleet Street, central Birmingham and is easily walkable from the summer row and Jewellery quarter pubs and bars. On the particular evening of my visit the country was enjoying a warm spell of weather which made the very cool air conditioned ambiance most welcoming on my entrance to the restaurant. I was also welcomed with warm smiles and shown swiftly to my table.

Upon first glance and to be fair second glance the menu was extensive, my dining partners were more aghast than flummoxed as we studied the array of dishes available. Much deliberation later we decided on starters:

Mirchi Lasooni Jhinga – butter coated prawns in a flaming wok, tossed with spring onions, green chillies, garlic, sweet plum chilli sauce and soy sauce

Tiranghi Murgh – marinated trio of chicken skewers displaying the colours of the Indian flag. Fiery orange chicken tikka, fenugreek, spinach and mint marinated Baabri Tikka and creamy mild yogurt and cheddar cheese marinated marai chicken.

First thing to note was the stunning presentation, candles with elegant trays to add a bit of style and more importantly warmth to keep your dish fresh. The prawns were tangy and sweet with the plum sauce and had just enough spice to make this dish a perfect mix of sweet and sour ingredients which is often evident in asian cooking. The food whilst a delicious mixture of flavours if anything was more substantial than I would normally expect of a starter and it made me wonder if I would be able to enjoy my main course as much.

My girlfriend’s dish was even more appealing; it mimicked a small tandoor in which a candlelight shone from the bottom highlighting the exquisite presentation. The chicken was 3 kebabs of 3 pieces of brilliantly succulent meat which fell deliciously off the skewer, the 3 colours showing the colours of the Indian flag, this displaying the attention to detail which Itihaas clearly goes to for it’s customers. For all its plusses this dish was very large by starter standards and again we wondered how big the main courses would then be.

Again we were pleasantly surprised; the main courses came and offered a more reasonably expected portion which had my taste buds tingling with anticipation. We selected:

Tandoori Trout – a fusion of east and west. British seafood with Indian cooking techniques and spices.

Maha Jingha – freshwater king prawns, in a tangy marinade roasted in the tandoor.

Being a seafood fan I was intrigued as to how this fusion would work. The fish was served on the bone and was a delight to look at. The fish came off the bone very nicely and the spices were just enough to highlight the beauty of the fish without overpowering. Also with enough lettuce greens to compliment.

The prawns also highlighted superb attention to flavouring, the prawns perfectly cooked, juicy with bags of flavour and spice, they were large but yet were so good to eat made you want more and more.

The side dishes of naan bread and rice were more traditionally cooked and also showed good texture which added to the overall experience. The wine list was expensive, but with a decent selection of wines of fruity and tangy red wines which would compliment spicy food. I was looking for a merlot wine which I find goes excellently with Indian food and found this reasonably priced on an expensive list.

There is no doubt this was a ‘very’ fine dining experience, possibly the best I have experienced, not the cheapest, but with quality comes expense and on this occasion that was most definitely worth it. By no means however was the bill excessive either, the main winner of the night was the food though, brilliant flavours and elegant presentation. Don’t be too keen to tell your friends about this one, you may want to keep it to yourself. I know I will be…

By Robert Wilson

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Midlands Supper Clubs

When I told friends that I’ve been invited to attend two Supper Clubs, their responses ranged from intrigue at trying something new to trepidation of dining at a secret location. I’m torn between Italian cuisine in Warwickshire or a French menu in Birmingham to try, so I hope that writing this post helps me to decide which one to go to!

Historically born out of out of paladares of Cuba, London, New York and Amsterdam were quick to popularise the idea of Supper Clubs. As a pop-up dining experience that caters for individual tastes, Supper Clubs have evolved as an alternative to ordinary restaurants or stuffy dinner parties. With a recent survey by YouGov revealing that 40% of us now think that dinner parties are too expensive, time-consuming and stressful to bother with, Supper Clubs are most definitely here to stay.

Inspired by the idea of sharing good food, every month Alex and Sara Chambers throw open the doors of their Warwickshire home and invite strangers to dinner. As owners of Squisito Deli, the couple extend their love of Italian cuisine to foodies who join them at the Squisito Supper Club for a five course meal.

Squisito Supper Club menus make the most of fresh seasonal produce that are also prepared with the Slow Food ethos. Frolesworth free range chicken with green olives and Squisito preserved lemon, Sardinian pecorino with pink peppercorns and Warwickshire honey all featured on their last event.

Squisito is the only Supper Club that I am aware of in Warwickshire, but there are a few more running in Birmingham.

The Tan Rosie Caribbean Supper Club is a chance to sample Caribbean dishes from Jamaica, Grenada, Trinidad and Cuba in the hosts’ living room in Erdington. Chef Monica says that their Supper Club is “a great way to eat fantastic home-cooked food, meet new people and broaden your knowledge of Caribbean food in a fun, friendly and safe environment.”

Over in Bearwood, baked scallops and prawns in saffron cream and duck in balsamic syrup with dauphinoise potatoes were main courses for the first Supper Club held at the end of May. Cake maker Rachel (one of the Crafty Muthas) and professional chef Richard have teamed up to run a new monthly Supper Club for up to 20 people. Rachel says that guests can expect “a five to six course meal served over a good three to four hours with background music, atmospheric surroundings and plenty of chat!”

Judging by the response on Twitter, Le Truc Cafe’s first event on Saturday 9th June could well be a sell-out.  Du pain, du vin and beaucoup de fromage are promised at La Soiree Popette in a secret location in Birmingham.

So what makes a successful Supper Club? Genial hosts who genuinely food and cooking, a popular cuisine and chance to try something new seem to be the winning combinations. With a bring your own drinks policy, £25 is the average price that you can expect to pay for a truly memorable Supper Club evening.

Whether you want to try out recipes on friends, be a chef patron of your own restaurant for the night or just entertain for less money, running your own Supper Club is the dining revolution you’ve been looking for.

If you’d like to run your own Supper Club, then there is only one site that I’d recommend. Kerstin Rodgers, also known as mrsmarmitelover, is a food blogger and pioneer of supper clubs in London –  launching one of the first in the UK back in 2009. Her blog is packed with recipes, photos and tips on running a great Supper Club that is stylish and individual.

Alternatively, enjoy the experience by being a guest and check   http://www.supperclubfangroup.ning.com to find your nearest Supper Club.

http://www.squisito-deli.co.uk

http://www.tanrosie.com/supperclub.html

http://welovebearwood.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/bearwoods-got-taste.html

http://www.letruc.co.uk

www.marmitelover.blogspot.co.uk

By Tracy of Midlands Gourmet Girl

Banfi Wine Evening at Malmaison Birmingham

Stuart and I recently went out on our first night out together since Thomas was born. We were invited to a Tuscan Wine and Food Evening at the Birmingham Malmaison Hotel, located in the Mailbox. We were joined by fellow Midlands Food Bloggers members Jules of Butcher, Baker and Julia of A Wannabe Foodie and their partners. The event was to celebrate Banfi Wines and the event was hosted by Dante Cecchini, UK manager of Castello Banfi and David Manson from Bidendum. The menu was designed by Head Chef Brian Neath. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by friendly faces and lots of wine and food to taste.

The menu and the wine was as follows:

Pinot Gigio Toscana San Angelo

Canapés; Pecorine risotto balls

L’antipasto; Mediterranean vegetables & cured meats

Le Rime Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio

Il primo; Hand made pumpkin & sage tortellini

Rosso di Montalcino & Belnero Sangiovese/Merlot

Il secondo; Veal ‘osso busso’, puré de patate, olio d’olivia

Brunello di Montalcino

formaggio corso; Bra formaggio, Piemonte

Florus Moscadello di Montalcino Vendemmia Tardiva

Il dolce; classic tiramisu

The Pinot Gigio with the antipasti and starter was excellent. It was light and refreshing and complimented the cured meats and vegetables. It was my kind of wine – the sort I could (and did!) drink too much of! The risotto balls were amazing and something I will definitely have a go making at home.

The tortellini was expertly hand made. It was very thin and light. The filling was rich without being overpowering. I wish my pasta could look and taste this good. The Chardonnay was a lot smoother than the Pinot Gigio as you would expect. The Pinot Gigio was more crisp and light and although it was my favourite, Stuart preferred the Chardonnay.

The Veal ‘osso busso’ was our dish of the night. It was so tender you only had to look at and it fell off the bone. It was my first time of having this veal cooked this way and I certainly will be having it again. We had two red wines to try with this course and my favourite was Belnero Sangiovese as it was not as dry as the Merlot and had a more rounded flavour with the Veal.

The red served with the cheese course was a bit rich and intense for me. I still enjoyed it but not as much as the reds with the main course. The selection of cheese and crackers were fantastic but my favourite part of this dish was the onion chutney. Its sharpness cut through everything else and refreshed the palette.

For dessert, we had a classic tiramisu. I love coffee but dislike coffee flavoured desserts. I tried the tiramisu but found the coffee way too sharp, rich and overpowering. The regional manager Stephen very kindly asked the staff to bring out another dessert for me which was a lemon tart. This was much more up my street and the pastry was light and crisp and the filling tasted divine.

After a well needed cup of coffee and a final chat to Jules and Julia and their partners, we suddenly found ourselves as the last to leave. It was a wonderful night and one I would love to repeat again. The Malmaison run a few events like this a year.

Many thanks to Zara, Stephen, Brian and the rest of the team for a fantastic evening.

PS: You can read Jules account of the event here and Julia’s here 🙂

Glyn Purnell Is Going To Cook Up A Storm For Cure Leukaemia

Michelin-starred chef, Glynn Purnell will host an exclusive evening with blood cancer charity Cure Leukaemia on Monday March 5 at Warwickshire County Cricket Club’s Edgbaston Stadium.

Cure Leukaemia continues its long standing partnership with Edgbaston to showcase an evening of culinary talent at the brand new Jaguar Suite. Glynn will be directing a live cooking event with assistance from Edgbaston head chef, Dave Hill along with Warwickshire’s Director of Cricket Ashley Giles (also a Cure Leukaemia Patron), Captain Jim Troughton and BBC WM Radio DJ Phil Upton.

Guests will be given the opportunity to be involved in Q&A sessions in between each course and all attendees will receive an executive gift once the kitchen challenge has ended.

The evening is the first official event Glynn has helped organised since Cure Leukaemia announced him as a Patron for the Midlands based charity.

Glynn comments on becoming a patron: “It’s an honour to be a part of Cure Leukaemia and what better way to kick off my involvement than hosting an event at Edgbaston. Everyone has been so welcoming and it is fantastic to be able to combine my passion for food with hosting an event of this nature to raise awareness of the life changing research and treatment.

“I’m looking forward to helping promote the ground-breaking work at Cure Leukaemia. The pioneering research and life-saving treatments that the nurses carry out day-to-day is astounding, and so important because we’re still searching for cures to this illness.”

Glynn was made famous by his appearance on BBC’s Great British Menu where he championed local produce and created exciting and innovative dishes. Glynn owns and runs a string of successful fine dining restaurants in Birmingham city centre, Purnell’s, his Michelin starred restaurant which opened in 2007 and more recently, The Asquith and Ginger’s Bar.

Jackie Kelly, General Manager at Cure Leukaemia said: “We’re thrilled to have fellow Birmingham-based Glynn as a Patron of the charity. This event would not have taken place without Glynn’s support, the evening will be one to remember for all, a VIP event for all good food buffs  and cricket fans alike.”

Cure Leukaemia is a long-standing partner of Edgbaston and last year the venue donated more than £75,000 and renamed its iconic Eric Hollies in honour of the charity at last year’s npower Test Match between England and India.

For more information and to book tickets for this exclusive event, please Contact Ruth Bishop on 0121 371 4367 or email info@cureleukaemia.co.uk.

By Jo of Jo’s Kitchen

On behalf of MFB

Bite ‘n’ Write

We at MFB were very happy to hear of a food bloggers conference here in Birmingham, Bite ‘N’ Writeorganised by one of our members – Annie Ko. We had managed to get a few of our lovely bloggers to go along and here is a quick overview of the day from Louise of Comida y Vida

An event for food bloggers right on my doorstop, a chance to learn to some information and get tips to improve my blog, and an opportunity to meet some of my fellow bloggers with whom I have tweeted with for a long time … well I couldn’t resist.

Bite 'N' Write badge

I booked the ticket for Bite ‘n’ Write so long ago, that by the time November 19th arrived I was too excited for words, if a little nervous at leaving Baby G with Daddy for the longest time yet …. 14 hours!!

So bright and breezy I jumped on a train to Birmingham and once in the lobby of New Street searched out a few of my fellow attendee’s. How to spot a blogger in a busy public place is perhaps a discussion for another day but I wouldn’t recommend walking up to a stranger and asking them if they are a blogger …. you will most certainly get a strange look!

Once the troops had gathered, including the my fellow MFB members Jules of Butcher, Baker, Julia of Wannabefoodie and Kath the Ordinary Cook, together with the very lovely Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog and Charlotte of Go Free foods, we set off for the venue. The event was held in the Old Library room at the Custard Factory.

I won’t go into detail regarding all the workshops that were held during the day as many other blogs have put it far better than I could including Louise at the Vegetarian Experience. I haven’t any decent photo’s to share with you either as was too busy taking in all the information, but here’s my highlights:

* The photography workshop by Craig Fraser of Frasershot was the best start to the day. An interesting look into how professional food photography is carried out and some simple tips to create stunning pictures at home. Who knew silver card and a tampon could be such useful tools?

* Judith Lewis of Mostly about Chocolate and SEO specialist gave an insight into optimising your blog which I found interesting but which was a tad too technical or not of interest for some of my fellow attendee’s.

* The tasting by Artisan du Chocolat was a particular high, a chocolate high that is! We got to learn all about chocolate and taste a wide range of their products. I particularly liked the mint one and the Masala Chai. I loved the look of the O’s too.

* Jeanne of Cook Sister gave a really interesting talk about writing and how to make your blog attractive to readers with tips on the design and content of the blog.

So those were my highlights, but for a fair review I must mention my disappointment with some aspects of the day. The main issue for me was the the lack of time and setting to mingle with the other food bloggers. Whilst I got to know the people on my table it was difficult to find time to meet everyone else. Also the venue was not the greatest with a serious heating problem leaving me drinking cups of coffee just to stop from turning blue, and the meaty non-indian lunch was a bit of a let-down.

I applaud Annie Ko for having the intrepidity to get up and organise something like this event, especially after such a short time blogging, and considering it was her first event it was good. However, there are many things to be improved upon and I would hope that these are put into place to make sure this can become an annual event.

I finished off the day with a get together with some of my tweeties for some delicious food and wine at Jamie’s Italian.

By Louise of Comida y Vida on behalf of MFB.

Birmingham Christmas Vintage Tea Party

We’ve just heard of something new and exciting to the foodie scene in Birmingham for the festive season – a vintage tea party in a cool bar! This sounds like a fab idea for those Christmas parties.  Here’s some information from Katy at The Vintage Tea Cup in conjunction with Kiss Me Cupcakes

2011 has been the year of vintage!   Everywhere you look there is a new vintage fair, festival or book celebrating vintage style and the tea party!

There has never been a better moment to launch Birmingham’s own vintage tea party.  With Xmas nearly upon us it’s the perfect alternative to the usual Christmas meal – and not so formal as a sit down Afternoon Tea – this is a candlelit feast in one of the city’s coolest bars.     Opt for either the lighter version of mouth watering canapés, festive cakes and mini mince pies, or a 3 course Christmas dinner.  Everything will be served on 40’s & 50’s china – even the cocktails come in vintage tea cups – and of course, there will be lashings of tea!

The table will also be decked with a variety of original Victorian parlour games – to be played before, during or after the feast.

A truly magical experience, downstairs at Bluu Bar, conveniently located in the centre of town.  Once the feast is complete adjourn to the bar upstairs to carry on the rest of the celebrations!

Any parties looking for more activity to add on to the tea party can book a masterclass of cupcake decorating with Kiss Me Cupcakes or cocktail making.   Skills that can certainly be put to good use over the rest of holiday period.

Where : Bluu Bar, Fleet Street, Birmingham, B3 1JH                                                       When : Now taking bookings                                                                                                       Prices : start from £20 per head                                                                                                 How : Call Katy on 07793 361096 or Dali 07523 139269 for booking form or email teaparty@vintageteacup.co.uk


Birmingham’s New Dining Experience – Spiceal Street

The city’s newest dining destination, Spiceal Street at Bullring, is to open on Thursday 24th November.

The new street of restaurants, located in the St Martin’s Square area, is set to shake-up Birmingham’s dining scene as it welcomes two new restaurant brands to the city, ChaoBaby and Browns Bar and Brasserie. Thai banquet-style restaurant, ChaoBaby, adds a new dimension to the dining out experience in the form of exciting live food theatre as diners watch on whilst food is cooked and prepared in the open kitchen.

The second of the new restaurants is the utterly stylish Browns Bar and Brasserie (officially opens 25th November), which offers a range of signature cocktails and a blend of classic and modern dishes. Both are joined by locally-run handmade burger Co., which opens its flagship restaurant on Spiceal Street, offering shoppers only the finest and freshest ingredients.

A spectacular performance between human and machine at 11am on Thursday 24th November will mark the opening of new dining quarter before ChaoBaby and handmade burger Co. open to the public. The unique performance follows a partnership with Arts Council as part of the Arts Nation initiative, and has been created by Leamington Spa based dance theatre company Motionhouse. Visitors can expect to see three diggers and six dancers unite in a mesmerising dance routine. Dancing with extraordinary grace, the machines carve the space, pivot and wheel their human partners whom they lift, nudge and shift in a poetic display to celebrate the completion of Spiceal Street.

The celebration will continue throughout the day as the new restaurants take to St Martin’s Square to offer visitors the chance to sample their food. There will also be music provided by DJs during the day followed by another atmospheric performance from Motionhouse at 6.30pm.

Tim Walley, General Manager at Bullring, commented: “We’re pleased to announce the opening date for Spiceal Street and we’re sure our visitors are too. As a centre we’re famed for our strong fashion offering and with the addition of Spiceal Street we’re confident that we can say the same about our catering offer too.”

The three new restaurants will sit alongside the existing five eateries in the vicinity, including Nandos and Pizza Hut, which have both been extended as part of the new development, and Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, Jamie’s Italian, which opened during late 2010.

A new water feature, containing poetry co-written by two local poets, Simon Turner and popular spoken word performer, Steve Camden (aka Polarbear), a green wall and a public art commission created by Wolfgang Buttress, will also be unveiled on the day.

 The new dining quarter will open late into the evening allowing visitors to dine after the centre’s shops have closed at the city’s new dining and socialising hotspot.

For further information about Spiceal Street please visit www.spicealstreet.co.uk.