Sunday, 30 August 2015

Review: Sunny Soul Shack at The Sunflower Lounge

Opening night at The Mockingbird

Right at the start of the year, The Sunflower Lounge had the decorators in and changed their food offerings. For those who don't know, The Sunflower Lounge is a bar on Smallbrook Queensway in the city centre which has live music as well as DJ sets. I've been there for a few nights out and love the music but had never thought about going for food before this year.

In January they teamed up with Big Papa's to release a menu of soul food classics such as buttermilk fried chicken, ribs and mac'n'cheese. I went along to the launch night, to a blogger event and several other times as I was so impressed by the food.

Well, Big Papa's have now moved on to their own bistro at The Mockingbird in the Custard Factory. I was intrigued to see what would happen to the food at The Sunflower Lounge. The soul food must have been a success for them as they have now teamed up with Sunny's Soul Shack- serving up soul food!

I was very pleased to be invited to sample the new menu along with a few other bloggers. I was keen to see whether the food would be exactly the same, completely different or somewhere in between.

And more importantly- would it be as good?!

I settled down with a G&T to look at the menu. Yes there were similarities- fried chicken, sweet potato, hot dogs, nachos- but there were also differences- catfish, chicken wings, beef hash. But there was still that final question to answer...

The chefs brought us a selection of all the starters to share and we chose an individual main course each.

 Sticky Bourbon Chicken Wings. I am a sucker for a good chicken wing and these went down very well. The coating had a kick but not too much to burn your tongue and there was a reasonable amount of meat on there.

 Homemade nachos. Since having the homemade nachos at Bodega, I've become a bit fussy and I was so happy to see these appear! Huge nachos topped with fragrant salsa, sliced chillis and guacamole and sour cream to cool things down.

 Blackened catfish. This dish prompted a conversation about what catfish even is with phones being pulled out to google pictures of it. I don't think I've tried it before and it was a tasty, juicy fish in a southern fried coating. It was served with something called succotash, which is a mix of sweetcorn, beans, chilli and lime. I really enjoyed this, haven't tried it before and will definitely be replicating it at home. Brilliant to have two things I haven't tried before on one dish.

 Sunny's Hash. Beef brisket with potatoes, egg and BBQ sauce. This went down very well on the table. I managed to get a bit of runny yolk and it was lovely with the other ingredients. This would be great to share.

In fact, all of the starters would be great to share. All of the starters were delicious, I can't pick a favourite! I enjoyed them so much that I may have gone a little overboard and was rather stuffed by the time it came to the mains I was feeling a little stuffed.

 Buttermilk fried chicken. I had said I wasn't going to have this but I looked at the menu and it just SPOKE to me. You could have it with sweet potato fries or rough cut chips. I went for the rough cut chips just to be a little different. This was exactly as it should be- a generous cut of chicken, succulent meat in a tasty, crispy coating. The chips had a lovely cajun seasoning and the corn on the cob was soaked in melting cajun butter. I just wish I'd left a bit more room as I couldn't finish it!

Gluten free diners are well catered for with the option to have cajun spiced chicken breast. This looked delicious and tasted delicious too apparently! Check out Alev's blog as she will have something to say about it soon.

Most of us on the table went for the chicken but Emma's boyfriend went for the burger topped with beef brisket. He mentioned to us that he wished it had bacon on it but have a look at Emma's blog for a full review soon.

I was very pleased with everything I tried at The Sunflower Lounge. I was especially happy that Sunny's Soul Shack clearly have their own way of doing things and there is a clear difference between the new menu and the old Big Papa's one

If you haven't tried the food at The Sunflower Lounge, now is the time to give it a go. And if you haven't been for a while, head down and try out the new menu. They will be launching a new menu for winter in the next month and I'll be sure to check that out and see what has changed.

Sunny's Soul Shack at The Sunflower Lounge, Smallbrook Queensway. Conveniently located five minutes from Birmingham New Street Station.

Photos by me.

I was invited by The Sunflower Lounge to try the new food and also received complimentary drinks. I was not obliged to write a positive review.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Event: Blogger Evening at Henry Wong's, Harborne

It's always nice to have something to do when you come back off holiday. It was especially nice to spend an evening with fellow bloggers, eating and drinking at the fabulous Henry Wong's in Harborne, the day I came back from Italy. After 9 days of Italian food I was excited for something different.

Despite being something of an institution, I've never been to Henry Wong's. They've been serving up classic Cantonese dishes for 30 years and also have a super cocktail bar.

I chose a French 75 cocktail at the bar and settled into my seat where I was also presented with a glass of Laurent- Perrier champagne.

I had a peruse of the special menu in front of me and waited for the fist course with great anticipation!

 Trio of King Prawns (Honey Pepper, Wasabi Cream, Garlic) I love prawns as I have mentioned many times. These were plump and juicy, each one with a different flavour, my favourite being the honey pepper. This was my favourite dish of the evening.

It was served with a glass of Riesling which is probably my favourite wine!

 Lobster and spare ribs in chilli and pepper. I loved the chilli pepper dressing here. The lobster was the stand out dish for me of the two-great textured meat complimented by the tangy dressing.

This was served with a glass of pinot noir, a very fresh, fruity red. I was surprised by how well it went with the lobster.

 Credit: Jas Sansi
Seabass with sweet chilli sauce

This somehow managed to taste of delicious fish and retain its crispy batter while being drenched in sweet chilli sauce. I loved this!

There was also Cantonese crispy chicken, tasty chicken slices with crispy skin left on.
Also a steak dish available which I did not sample as I'm not a big steak fan.

Finally, were were served fruit fritters, fresh fruit and ice cream. The fritters were coated in delicious sticky caramel sauce and the fruit was very refreshing after a big meal. Lots of us were very full by now but I couldn't resist gobbling up a few more of those delicious golden fritters.

The ice cream was very sweet.
After 9 days in Italy it probably wasn't the best time for me to be trying ice cream as it wasn't as smooth and creamy as the gelato I'd been eating!

This was served with a rather splendid Laurent-Perrier Demi-Sec which is perfect with dessert. You may know that Laurent-Perrier are picky about who they supply to so seeing their champagne is a mark of quality.

 Credit: Jas Sansi
Me with Laura of Luxx Mint and Ting of The Ting Thing.

Rosina  and Chloe and me!
Credit: Jas Sansi

Credit: Jas Sansi
Erica, the head chef, Laura and my silly face again!

I had a fantastic night at Henry Wong's, eating delicious food, drinking well-paired wines and chatting about blogging, food, Birmingham, the importance of toilets in a restaurant, being an only child, travel and other random topics!

Based on this event, I will definitely be heading back to try Henry Wong's. It would be ideal for a romantic meal or special event like a birthday or anniversary.

Henry Wong's, High Street, Harborne

Photos by myself and Jas Sansi.
I was invited to the Henry Wong's VIP Blogger event and all food and drink was complimentary in return for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Event: Cocktail Xchange does Absinthe in August

Read my review of Gin in June

My last Cocktail XChange experience was a lot of fun, with various gin cocktails to try, a balloon popping competition and some gin facts. But I already know quite a lot about gin. This event was going to be about a spirit I knew very little of- absinthe.

I think there's lots of us who have heard rumours of 'green fairies' and did a shot of absinthe when we were teenagers and never thought about it again since. That's certainly my experience, so I was looking forward to learning more.

This event was held at Le Truc, a French restaurant in the Arcadian. I've been meaning to go along for ages and this was a great opportunity.

It is decorated as a traditional French bistro but with some quirky twists.

We arrived a little early and had time for a cocktail before the event kicked off. It was happy hour so we chose off the £4.50 cocktail menu. I had the Proven├žal- a honey, almond and fizz concoction.

Edd went for a Lemon Drop which really tasted like the sweets but not as sugary. We loved the glass.

The event began with a taster of the absinthe which would go into our first cocktail- La Fee NV Absinthe Verte. This was the least strong of all the types we tried but a lot of us were a little nervous at first. Head Barman Rob who was guiding us through the evening suggested adding water as this would release the different flavours.

Then onto our first cocktail- Death on a Spring Afternoon. This was a twist on the cocktail Death in the Afternoon, invented by Hemingway and named after his book about bullfighting. The original cocktail is champagne with absinthe- sounds like my kind of drink. This version was lightened up with apple, cucumber and elderflower and used prosecco instead of champagne. I love anything with those flavours and the aniseed-y note from the absinthe was an interesting twist. 

After the first cocktail, food started to appear, which was good timing as we were all starting to feel a little light headed! Each table had moules, chicken liver parfait, olives and bread to share. Everything was absolutely beautiful. I would never pick any of these items off a menu usually but I enjoyed each one thoroughly. It convinced me that I had to come back to Le Truc for food.

Edd and I also ordered (and paid separately for) a baked Camembert to share. It came with apple butter (a very fine apple sauce) apricot chutney and bread. We felt we needed more bread as there was a lot of cheese left. However it was oozy, tasty and delicious and the sauces were perfect accompaniments.

Onto the next absinthe and the next cocktail! This absinthe was La Fee Bohemian absinthe and was stronger than the previous. You definitely needed to add the water to this one!

The cocktail was 'Concealed Weapon'- absinthe, lemon juice, chambord and egg white. I love an egg white cocktail so would have liked more foam on top but I imagine it's difficult to achieve when making lots all at once. When I ordered an egg white-based cocktail later the foam was thick and perfect.

The drink itself was sweet from the chambord, cut through with the sharp lemon and then finished with the surprise of the absinthe. I am really loving absinthe as a cocktail ingredient- it's such an interesting, unexpected twist!

The evening lasted quite a long time with plenty of time to regain your balance after each cocktail. The drinks were quite strong so getting through all of them in quick succession wouldn't have made for the classiest evening. We were sat with a lovely couple who had won a competition to be there so we were pleased to have nice people to talk to.

Onto the final cocktail of the evening. Green and Black, made with La Fee Absinthe Parisienne. This absinthe was eye-wateringly strong and mixing with water was the only way to really appreciate the flavours.

The cocktail was a twist on an espresso martini, made with coffee tequila, a shot of espresso, cane syrup and absinthe. This was very strong, definitely one for sipping! It was an interesting taste- first the obvious hit of espresso along with the hint of something stronger, followed by the slight sweetness of the absinthe.

Throughout the evening we also learnt about the history of absinthe from its beginnings as a medicinal drink in Switzerland, to the crazy rumours that surround it, through to its re-emergence in recent years.

I had such a fun evening, drinking, eating, learning about a spirit that was quite a mystery to me! If this sounds like the sort of thing you'd enjoy, keep an eye on the Cocktail XChange Facebook page. Apparently the next one will be tequila, vodka or whiskey.

Photos by Edd.

I paid for my tickets and also for additional cocktails and food.