Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Food: Chuny Ying Central

Food and drink were complimentary to celebrate Chung Ying Central's new menu. 

Style: Chinese    Price: ££ (Order loads of Dim Sum for around £4 a plate but mains vary)    
Location: Colmore Row

Chung Ying is a group of Cantonese restaurants in central Birmingham. I've been a fan for some years now, especially of Chung Ying Central. Chung Ying Central is on Colmore Row, has a slightly smaller menu than the rest of the group and has a focus on cocktails alongside 'small plates' such as dim sum. There's also crowd-pleasers such as Sweet and Sour and they're always trying to add in something less western!

 So, they've just launched a new menu, which is very clear and easy to follow, with small plates at its heart. I was invited along to try dishes from the new menu alongside some fellow bloggers, food writers and so on.

The food was matched with wines by Connolly's wine shop. It doesn't always have to be a beer with your Chinese food! I never consider having wine with Chinese. I particularly enjoyed the red wines; something I'll remember in future.

First up: a couple of Bao. These are small steamed buns, filled with something tasty. Originally from Taiwan, they've gradually sneaked in to Birmingham and I'm really glad to have somewhere else to get them (other than the incredible Tiger Bites Pig).

I tried the sweet potato katsu  and Beijing duck (both £5). You can also get the Bao filled with crispy pork, fried chicken or soft shell crab, all of which sound lovely. These are a perfect bite to start your meal. A perfect mixture of soft and crunchy textures, sweet and savoury flavours.

Next, a plate of spicy goodness! Please note that these are sample sizes, so not the amount you would receive if you ordered the dish. In the spoon you can see a kimchi dumpling (£4) which was absolutely beautiful. A squidgy outer casing was filled with deliciously spicy kimchi. One of my favourites of the evening.

The giant prawn on the plate is a Typhoon Prawn (£20 and absolutely worth it). Giant prawns in a beautiful mix of garlic and chilli. Don't think that head was just for show: there's plenty more meat within.

The group were then treated to a variety of mains. They were on sharing plates so I didn't get many photos. Below you can the Stewed Pork Belly, but we also tried black pepper beef, fried rice, Buddha's Delight (a tasty mix of veg and tofu skin) salted egg lobster, which was beautiful and finally... crispy pork intestines. If you're not squeamish I'd recommend giving it a go. It's just crunchy and fatty really so if you like things like pork scratchings you'll like it!

Finally time for dessert. I don't always think of pudding at a Chinese restaurant but I'm missing a trick as the Lava Buns (£4) are delicious. It's just a simple bun, filled with a salted egg yolk but often that's all you need. Next to it is the Sesame Red Bean Ball (£4) which is filled with a red bean paste, also a nice little morsel.

Chung Ying Central

Photos by myself

Food and drink were complimentary

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Food: Fiesta Del Asado, Shirley

Style: Steakhouse    Price: ££ (Steaks around £20, others between £15 and £20)      Location: Shirley

The location

You may know Fiesta Del Asado from its sister site in Edgbaston. A hugely popular steak restaurant, it also caters for people like me who prefer fish, chicken or lamb. While I'm not advising vegetarians to rush along, don't be put off if you don't like steak.

Opening a branch in Shirley was a great idea. Shirley High Street has some good chain restaurants but not many independents and there's so many people in the area. The building used to be a Marks and Spencer but clever design has made it into a warm and intimate space. Lots of greenery, soft lighting and some curves make for a pleasant  place to spend a couple of hours.

As you walk in, there's plenty of seating if you'd just like a drink and some nibbles; something I could see myself doing. There's a cocktail menu and range of wines, spirits and beers available. I was driving so I chose to have a soda water with lime. I was impressed with how my freebie soft drink was presented carefully in a cut glass tumbler, with a sweet circle of lime perched on top.

Later I chose a gin and tonic. They've got a short and sweet gin list including classics such as Tanqueray, which I had, and Nordes, a Spanish gin. Perfect while tucking into olives (£3.49) and padron peppers (£4.49).

The food

As I said, they're known for steak.  Argentinian steak, cooked over fire. This gives their steak a delicious crust on the outside, while the meat stays tender. So whenever I visit Fiesta Del Asado, I do enjoy a bite of someone else's steak, but I find a whole one too rich.

The joy of the flame-grilled restaurant is that they can grill other things on there. Such as chicken, which is what I chose. I absolutely love a half roast chicken. The crispy skin, the different cuts of chicken all together, the garlicky marinade. It seems simple but it's actually quite a challenge to balance all those things. I've had a over-cooked, dry half chicken on many occasions, or one with soggy skin, or an insipid sauce.

Happily, Fiesta Del Asado's Chicken Parilla (£15.99) ticks all of my chicken boxes. It was clearly a very good quality chicken, the meat was moist and the skin perfectly charred. It had been marinaded in garlic and thyme, which certainly came across. It came with a chimichurri, which could have had a tad more acidity for me. Alongside it was a lovely tomato and onion salad. The menu mentioned capers but I missed them.

Another sign of a good steak restaurant is its sides. I picked my main quite easily (although prawns and orzo pasta is on my list for next time) but I stared at the sides for a while. I knew I wanted some vegetables and I was pleased to see several possible dishes; not just chips and generic veg mix! A cucumber and chilli salad, butter beans in pesto and honey glazed carrots all sounded amazing.

Paul picked some chips (£1.99), Alev chose creamed spinach and roast potatoes and I went for roast peppers and butternut squash tossed in butter and we all shared. I loved the decadent spinach. My veg dish was deliciously oily which probably made it less healthy than I'd imagined when I ordered it! But life is for living. Chips and potatoes both added a tasty bit of carb to proceedings.

After all that, I couldn't eat another thing. I fancied Pannacotta but I definitely would have been far too full. One for another time.

If you like the original Fiesta Del Asado you'll like it here just as much. A win for anyone living on this side of the city who enjoys their meal. Thank you Paul Fulford and Fiesta Del Asado for the invite: I can tell it's going to be very successful here.  

Fiesta Del Asado, Shirley High Street

Photos by me except for the first two, which are courtesy of Fiesta Del Asado.

Food and drink were complimentary for review purposes. 

Monday, 7 January 2019

A day out in Birmingham

Happy New Year! A combination of factors have caused me to neglect this blog lately but I'm back with a quick round up of some of my favourite places in Birmingham. At this time of year many people start planning their holidays for the next few months. Allow me to suggest a city break in my home town.

Pick yourself a lovely place to stay ( have lots of splendid hotels in Birmingham to choose from) and when you wake up, I suggest Quarter Horse Coffee for a classy breakfast.

A five minute walk out of the main city centre, Quarter Horse is worth the small detour. You'll find it on a lovely row of shops on Bristol Street, alongside a cafe and a sushi restaurant (Gaijin). The interior is simple and stylish and they roast their own coffee beans. As well as excellent coffee, Quarter Horse also have a range of quality teas: my favourite is the White Peach Blossom. It's very refreshing in the mornings. They serve sandwiches and cakes all day and a small but perfectly formed breakfast menu. There's the ubiquitous avocado smash, which you can add feta to, yoghurt and granola, bacon and eggs and my favourite smoked salmon with cream cheese on sourdough. This is a generous portion for around £6. I hate when you only get a sliver of salmon. The bread is excellent too.

After your breakfast, it's time to wander back into town. Hopefully you've noticed that New Street Station isn't as grim as it used to be. I love walking through the concourse and admiring the domed ceiling. Pop upstairs and have a look round the shops if that's your thing. Foyles is a lovely place to spend some time browsing books. There's a few places which might tempt you for lunch but I'm going to recommend leaving Grand Central (which contains the station) and heading round the corner to Stephenson Street.

Another row of intriguing businesses. There's the extremely popular York's Cafe at the end, a barbers and a hairdressers, plus two little eateries with similar ideas but different cuisines. I'm a big fan of restaurants/cafes sticking to one or two good things. All Greek used to be a deli but they've recently made the switch to street food, serving some yummy sounding gyros, souvlaki and pitta. Next door, Tiger Bites Pig is a new hole in the wall type place specialising in Bao and this is where I headed recently.

Look for the red sign, take a stall and flick through the menu. I liked the cheerful pig on the logo though I was a little worried for his safety. I've looked it up and the dish is called that because the meat in the middle is being 'bitten' by the jaws of the tiger.

So you can pick from a variety of bao or a rice bowl. The rice bowls looked lovely but I was there for a beer and a snack. It's a really nice place to sit and relax with a kombucha, gin and tonic, sake or half a cold beer like I did.

I tried the duck bao and the chicken. The duck you can see below. The bun itself was soft but chewy but melty as I expect it should be. The duck meat was beautiful and I enjoyed the hot sauce adorning it. Annoyingly my chicken photo did not come out well so allow me to describe it. Moist, sliced chicken was accompanied by chilli oil and a fantastic slice of crispy chicken skin with sesame seeds.

After lunch, go through a stroll and don't forget to look up. It's easy to walk past the shops forgetting they are housed within some lovely buildings.

You could climb up the stairs to Medicine on New Street: a cafe serving freshly made bread and cakes as well as being home to exhibitions from Ikon Gallery.

After a rest at your hotel it will be time for dinner.  There are a great deal of wonderful restaurants in Birmingham but for this post I wanted to talk about somewhere I haven't yet mentioned on the blog: Bonehead. It specialises in fried chicken so it's not for everyone, but I just love it there. It's very dark and moody and full with loud rock music. Downstairs is the bar, if you hover at the bottom of the stairs then someone will come down and find you a seat. Upstairs there's some simple seating. The menu is small: you can get chicken burgers, fried chicken, wings or chicken strips. There's minimal sides: waffle fries and slaw. For £10 you can get a portion of wings or strips, a small portion of fries, a dip and a pot of slaw.

I've tried the Buffalo wings and the strips and when I visited with a friend she tried the Hothead burger, which she said was the best chicken burger she'd ever had!

I know the photo is pretty orange but that's what the light is like in there. Anyway you're there to fill your belly with delicious chicken.

I hope you have discovered somewhere to visit in Birmingham. Writing this post has reminded me of all the fabulous things the Brum food scene has to offer so I'll be back with another post soon.

The spending money was gifted by, but all views are my own.