Thursday, 25 May 2017

New menu at Hotel Du Vin

Hotel Du Vin is based in the Colmore Business District, in an old eye hospital. It's a beautiful Victorian building and contains a spa, bar, pub and restaurant as well as event spaces and rooms. They have recently launched a new spring/summer menu, full of lamb and seafood and delicious vegetables. I went along to try it out with a bunch of fellow bloggers.

The evening started with a tasting of different sparkling wines from  around the world. As the manager pointed out, you can't be called Hotel du Vin and not have a great wine selection. We tried champagne, prosecco, French Cremant and English sparkling. I'm a big fan of English sparkling anyway but the bistro wanted to show us that champagne isn't the be all and end all. If you see Nytember on a menu for example, it is definitely worth picking that.

I was rather late due to traffic/work/not realising it started at 6, so I didn't try all the wines properly. I am glad to see that they have such a range though.

We headed through to the bistro where we were given an option of bread while we picked from the menu. The tomato and seeded breads were both very popular and went down a treat with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The menu was very difficult to choose from as everything sounded so lovely. I decided to go with a couple of favourites- king prawns in a chilli butter to start and then onto sea bass with a panzanella salad (£16.95).

As the starters were prepared, we were given a suggestion of white wine to try. I began with a lovely dry white wine, a mixture of pinot grigio and chardonnay.

Roasted Tiger Prawns (£7.95) arrived looking just how I hoped: shell and head still on, swimming in butter with plenty of chilli flakes. This is my number one favourite starter and I order it almost any time I see it. The prawns were perfectly cooked and there was plenty of chilli and pastis butter for me to dunk the meat into. I could have handled more chilli but I liked the interesting back note of aniseed from the pastis.

Scallops and smoked salmon starters also looked wonderful. Lovely to see so much seafood.

I've realised that I'm turning into my mother and cannot resist a well cooked piece of fish. What drew me to this wasn't the sea bass, but the panzanella salad accompanying it. Panzanella is another of my absolute favourite things: slighty stale bread, softened with onion, fresh tomatoes and plenty of oil. The tomatoes here were packed full of sunshine. The fish was well seasoned and well cooked and the whole thing was drizzled with a zingy nasturtium pesto. How lovely to see nasturtium on a menu: it's a peppery and summery delight.

We were also given a variety of sides to share. I loved the buttered baby carrots and lightly fried courgette. I got a huge hit of garlic from the sauteed spinach, but others didn't.

By this time, we'd switched to red wine and I had chosen a Pinot Noir from Hungary. I had no idea you could get Hungarian red wine and I'm glad I tried it. Red wine can be a little heavy and metallic for me but this was fruity, summery and light, a perfect match for my fish.

For pudding I'd initially chosen a white chocolate parfait but they were out, so I chose the greedy option of a Chocolate Bomb (can't find the price online, I'd guess around £6).

Excitingly, this was ice cream, caramel and chocolate encased in a chocolate shell, which melted when hot caramel sauce was poured over. This was quite a spectacle and seriously delicious. I don't often choose a sickly sweet chocolate dessert but I really enjoyed this. It was very sweet and sticky but I ate every mouthful. What a treat!

I was impressed by the quality of the produce, the cooking and the menu at Hotel du Vin. If you're looking for a cheaper option, I recommend the Fixed Price Menu which is two course for £17.95 or £20.95 for three. There's some delicious sounding options on there: I very nearly ordered octopus to start.

Thanks for having me Hotel du Vin, I'm looking forward to heading back.

Hotel Du Vin

Photos by Helen

Food and drink were complimentary for review purposes. 

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

A Cocktail Masterclass at The Alchemist

The Alchemist opened last September on Colmore Row and has had queues outside ever since. It's fashionably decked out in copper with fun light fittings, and the cocktails are the silly kind that look impressive on instagram. They have recently launched a new cocktail menu and I'll be writing in more about the cocktails available soon.

In this post I'll be focusing on the cocktail masterclass they offer. £35 pp gets you four cocktails (two which you make yourself) and some food. It was held in the basement bar, which is quiet and private, away from the crowds upstairs. We were greeted with a Peaches and Cream cocktail- peach liqueur, pink grapefuit and lemon juice with a shot of prosecco to pour in. This was perfect for the warm day- sweet but not cloyingly so, as the grapefruit and lemon added sharpness.

Our host Omari demonstrated how to free pour and got us to practise with water. Free pouring is a surprisingly difficult skill: you have to count in your head, it's not just a case of pouring as much as you want. I think free pouring makes a bar seem very generous, we all get excited when we see bartenders pouring a seemingly random amount of gin into a glass. Actually, bartenders have to do a test at the start of each shift and if they get it wrong they can't work that day.

First we learnt how to make a Strawberry Cup, a long, refreshing drink made with vodka, strawberry puree, lemon juice, ginger ale and mint. Again, perfect for the summer.

Next: Bounty. This sounds like it would be rich and creamy but it was actually pleasantly light and coconut focused with just a hint of chocolate. Made with Koko Kanu coconut rum, white chocolate liqueur and lime juice to cut through the sweetness, it's another refreshing summer drink.

Three drinks in, it was definitely time for some food. As I was with Emily, we were served the vegetarian version of their sharer platter. I wasn't expecting to be impressed, but I really enjoyed this little selection. Edamame beans, little cheesy wraps, falafel, nachos and dips were lovely to pick at while we drank our cocktails and had a chat.

The masterclass section was over and the food was consumed; there was time for one final cocktail. We were given the sort of drink that people visit The Alchemist for- colours changing, smoking, fun glassware and not necessarily great tasting.

This is the Colour Changing One (actually what it's called, which is a cute name) and is made with apple and vodka. I enjoyed taking pictures of it but it wasn't a great quality drink.

Other than the final drink, this masterclass made me feel much more positive about The Alchemist. It was a well-organised afternoon and I liked the light, summery drinks and snacks we tried. Check back soon for a look at their new cocktail menu.

The Alchemist

Photos by Helen.

I went along as a plus one with Good Girl Gone Brum and so the afternoon was free of charge. However, I was not required to write a blog post. 

Sunday, 21 May 2017

New York Day Nine

Mexican Brunch at La Contenta

In which I ended up eating nachos and drinking cocktails at breakfast.

Mimrosa ($7) was a combination of prickly pear puree and hibiscus flower reduction, topped with sparkling wine.

Then onto a Mijito ($7) essentially a mojito but with tequila not rum.

Crunchy nachos were served with a mild green sauce and were perfect to soak up the booze.

Edd chose the ubiquitous Torta Cubana ($13) a pork belly, ham, cheese, avocado and pickle sandwich, served with patatas bravas.  

Meanwhile, I made a bit of an odd choice by having Chilaquiles ($13) essentially lots of nachos baked with cheese, chipotle salsa and onions and topped with fried eggs. This was good fun stodgy food but I'm looking at the menu and wondering why I didn't go for garlic prawns or fish tacos.

American Museum of Natural History 

It's certainly a beautiful building and a famous landmark. I'll be honest: I found the whole place a little old fashioned. The stuffed animals in display cases looked tired to me and like every school trip I've seen in US films.

I did enjoy the dinosaurs and fossils and I was interested in the Native American display as this isn't something you'd find at home. However, it was busy and the 'pay what you feel' thing is awkward. Hurrah for free entry to museums at home.

It was day nine and I was starting to feel a little sluggish. Burgers and beers at Benson's helped with that!

La Contenta
American Museum of Natural History

Photos by Helen and Edd.
Everything paid for ourselves.