Wednesday, 21 June 2017

New cocktail menu at The Alchemist

Cocktail bars tend to fall into two categories for me, summed up by the question 'can they make a decent martini?'  And I mean a proper martini. Bars which fall into the 'no' category aren't necessarily bad but I don't tend to take them seriously. On my first and second visits to The Alchemist, it landed firmly in the 'no' category, as fun as the place is. My third visit gave a slightly different answer: 'it depends who serves you'.

I went along to try their updated menu with a group of Birmingham bloggers and nightlife enthusiasts. Many of their drinks are twists on classics (read: much sweeter) and my first drink was no different. A Rhubarb and Custard Sour (£8.50). Sours are most well-known when made with whisky, but actually can be made with any spirit, egg white and lemon.  This version used Chase Rhubarb and Licor 43, a Spanish vanilla liqueur. This had the distinct taste of its namesake but the sharpness and smoothness I expect from a Sour.

Next I tried 3.5oz of Happiness (£12.50) one of a few cocktails that arrive in a flask which you can keep. When you return the flask, your refill is £7.50 This drink was made with gin, Chambord, vermouth and 'citrus'. While it was sharp and had a good alcohol kick, I would have preferred it stirred and strained into a chilled coupe.

My eye had been caught by the pretty White Cosmo (£8.25) as a coupe glass is my favourite way to drink a cocktail. It also had a beautiful ice ball with flower petals frozen within. The drink was vodka, elderflower, Cointreau and lime; a rather drinkable drink and one I'll have again.

The evening got a bit silly when I started talking excitedly about Negronis with one of the friendly bar tenders. I'd decided to order the Barrel Aged Negroni (£10) which is pre-made and kept in a barrel. The Alchemist are a busy night life spot rather than a cocktail snob's haven so speed and drama is key and a Negroni takes a while. So a drink that can be just poured out of a barrel (and has a nice depth of flavour) works well for them.

He decided I should also try the Banananegroni (£8.25) a lighter version made with Aperol instead of Campari and with banana vermouth (I think). It's lighter and easier to drink but still packs a punch. It only seemed right to have a traditional Negroni too. It was interesting to try all three together.

Looking past some of the more gimmicky cocktails on the menu, there's some good stuff for cocktail fans to try.

The Alchemist

Photos by Helen

Drinks were complimentary for review purposes

Monday, 19 June 2017

Lunch at Boston Tea Party

Boston Tea Party is a massively popular brunch spot on Corporation Street, near the law courts. Its location means I never made the effort to head over. However, everyone's instagrams did look super, so when they got in touch to invite me to try their new lunch options, I said yes straight away.

Firstly, it's important to remember that BTP is a chain, for all its chalkboards and distressed wood. To me, this meant the drinks were not as good as they might have been but that service was excellent, quality was consistent and there were some nice touches such as an excellent coleslaw.

The venue itself is gorgeous, so light and airy and welcoming, with a lovely tiled floor and retro light fittings. I'm a sucker for this kind of faux-hipster look; don't hate me.

To drink, Edd ordered a Flat White (£2.65). It was a perfectly well-made flat white but he found the coffee a little bland. I don't like drinking coffee with lunch so I had a refreshing Iced Tea (£2.50) which had a good tea kick and was much better.

The lunch menu has expanded to include fashionable influences from around the world and less bread options. Edd chose the trendy Cuban Sandwich (£8.25) slow roast pork, ham, Emmental and gherkin on a toasted roll. This was a perfectly fine meaty sandwich, with a pleasant sharpness from the pickle.

I chose the Vietnamese Banh-Mi Sandwich (£7.95) a vegan option made with BBQ pulled jackfruit, which takes on the texture of chicken or pork, pickled veg, vegan mayo and sriracha. I was happy to try jackfruit. It's definitely a fantastic meat substitute and I'm hoping it will become more of a thing.It is good to see chains like BTP offering more than the standard veggie/vegan options. The sriracha was good and hot and made the rather bland bread more exciting. As I mentioned, the pink slaw on both dishes was crunchy and tasty.

This would be a super lunch time option if it wasn't for the price. For £8 I would like a great deal more filling: more jackfruit, better pickled veg, juicier meat. However, I respect the effort they have put into providing more interesting lunchtime options, especially for vegans and veggies.

I very much liked the location and some aspects of the food and I'll be back to try the brunch that everyone is so keen on.

Boston Tea Party

Photos by Helen and Edd.

Food and drink were complimentary for review purposes. 

Saturday, 17 June 2017

New set menu at Malmaison

Malmaison is a stylish hotel in the Mailbox with its own bar and restaurant. Unlike many hotel bars, the Mal gets rather busy. Perhaps the non-hotel lobby atmosphere and decent drinks helps!

I met some fellow bloggers in the bar on a sunny Thursday evening and it was full of post-work drinkers. We tried some drinks from the new summer specials. The Rhubarb and Basil Gimlet (gin, rhubarb liqueur, lime, cranberry bitters and basil £9) was popular with the others.

I chose the Spring Fizz (£12.50, more expensive than the others) which was peach liqueur, Aperol, grapefruit, sugar syrup and prosecco. I was sold on the Aperol: my favourite summer taste. This was a fun, fruity twist on an Aperol Spritz but somewhat more expensive.

On into the bisto area where we picked out meals from the set menu. Now, sometimes the set menu can be disappointing and lacking in options. Not here. I struggled to choose as everything sounded so delicious. It's two courses for £19.95 or three for £24.95 which isn't the cheapest in the city but is great quality. So, is it worth it?

There was fabulous bread, oil and olives to start. I just love those glorious big, buttery olives. Don't let anyone tell you they don't like olives until they've tried Nocellara olives.

For my main I couldn't resist the call of Fresh Burrata: beautiful, fresh, creamy mozzarella with heritage tomatoes and a herb puree. This was just as light and summery as I'd hoped.

For my main I chose Pan Fried River Trout because I am turning into my mother and always choose fish. The fish was very well cooked and trout is something a bit different to the standard sea bass, as much as I love it. This was served with a pea and broad bean puree, which had sadly split as it had been sitting under the lamp for a while.

More cheese for dessert. I love a cheeseboard but often they are designed to be shared and that's not always possible. So I was super happy to see an individual cheese board available on the set menu. Three decent chunks of cheese came with a variety of crackers, quince jelly and fig chutney. A nice little bite to finish my meal.

I had a lovely evening at Malmaison, the food was splendid and there were so many other meals I could have chosen off the menu.


Photos by Helen.

Food and drink were complimentary for review purposes.