Sunday, 17 June 2018

Food: Breakfast at Primitivo

Primitivo is a wine bar in the Colmore Business District that you might not know about. It's incredibly popular with local business people due to its good prices, warm hospitality and complimentary bar snacks. It's been running for twenty one years: a seriously impressive amount of time in this industry.

As my job (teaching) doesn't really lend itself to the Friday night drinks scene, I'd only vaguely heard of it and wasn't sure where it was. A quick look on google maps made it easy; it's just at the back of the Grand Hotel. Inside, the decoration is simple but with nice touches like the arch shapes dotted around.

Primitivo is very much aimed at the business types who work in the Colmore Business District. Because of this, they don't usually open at weekends, unless specifically requested. They will now be doing breakfasts on weekdays, which is great because so many places only serve up eggs and bacon on the weekend.

They're not quite up and running with breakfast yet, but I went along to a preview service one Saturday morning. I enjoyed a few glasses of fizz alongside my food, an elegant way to start your day.

The hot drinks menu isn't extensive: tea and all the usual coffees. They were able to rustle me up a green tea bag as I prefer a lighter tea with my breakfast. I loved the crockery.

We were given some croissants, toast and jam to start. I'm a big fan of a multi-course breakfast!

The breakfast menu is small but perfectly formed. There's lighter bits like porridge and granola with a variety of toppings, alongside a Full English, Eggs Benedict with ham, salmon or avocado; then there was my choice of potato rosti with portobello mushroom, poached egg and hollandaise (£7.95).

I loved having the potato cake at the bottom, which had a gorgeous, almost caramelised outer. The mushroom gave a good savoury hit, the poached egg was perfect and the hollandaise was thick and creamy. I liked that they put a little on the top with extra on the side. I don't really like lots of hollandaise so I don't want my food swimming in it.

The potato rosti was excellent. I'd actually like this available with ham or salmon, just like the eggs benedict.

Others around the table enjoyed the Full English, which featured beans separated in a pot, bacon cooked to your liking and sausages sourced from a very good butcher. I didn't think the tomato looked very good; it was just a basic tomato quickly grilled. Everyone who had the full breakfast enjoyed it and appreciated that it wasn't greasy.

Breakfast at Primitvo will be a Godsend to a certain sort of person who works in town, particularly those looking for a breakfast meeting venue. Equally, people searching for a breakfast on a Tuesday will be very happy. Who says breakfast is just for weekends?! The service was lovely and the owners are the warmest and most generous people you could meet.

Primitivo, Barwick Street

Photos my own.

Food and drink were complimentary for review purposes.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Harvey Nichols x Edinburgh Gin Afternoon Tea

I write this the day after World Gin Day. What a beautiful thing to celebrate. I love gin. I don't care how ubiquitous it has become, I don't care if it's on its way out and rum/whisky/sherry/whatever are the next new thing. I'll still be enjoying a cool, refreshing G&T or a crisp, clear martini.

The popularity of gin means there's some nonsense out there as companies try and cash in. Unicorn Tears and the current fad for 'pink gin' I'm looking at you. But I've spent my time researching and I know what I like, I know what's quality and has been carefully produced. Edinburgh Gin fits into this category, even as they keep expanding and bringing out more liqueurs and styles of gin. I visited their distillery last time I was in Edinburgh and was able to try several of their products. Their Seaside gin is my absolute favourite, I loved the Christmas one too and their liqueurs are delicious, without being sickly or sticky.

So a Harvey Nichols Afternoon Tea inspired by Edinburgh Gin was always going to be fantastic.

It launched last week, in honour of World Gin Day, and runs until the end of July, giving you plenty of time to book in. Which, if you're a fan of Afternoon Tea and/or gin, you must. It's £22 per person, or £30 with a cocktail, which is in line with other good quality establishments in the city.

You'll be sat in the stylish restaurant at Harvey Nichols, with its fashionable marble and gold colouring. Have unlimited tea or coffee and pick a cocktail from their list, all made with Edinburgh Gin of course.

When I tried a preview of the Afternoon Tea, I had a couple of cocktails too. They've cleverly stuck to long drinks, like spritzes, prosecco with liqueurs and gin and tonics, allowing you to sip your drink throughout your meal.

We weren't served tea or coffee so I'm not sure how the tea selection is. I like a light tea, such as jasmine or lemon verbena with my Afternoon Tea.

Onto the food! The head chef came to speak to us to explain that it's not just the cocktails that contain Edinburgh Gin. He visited their distillery and tried their range, using the botanicals and flavours to come up with a beautiful selection of savoury and sweet treats, but sticking to the spirit of Afternoon Tea.

First up, savoury. I don't care too much for standard finger sandwiches, so I'm always happy to see a roll, a wrap, some kind of dip. Harvey Nichols have gone a step beyond that with a beautiful variety of canape-like treats.

Little fish bites were coated in a Seaside gin and tonic batter and popped in a cone alongside rosemary string fries, such a fun idea. A vanilla and plum duck croquette was excellent quality, with the vanilla adding a little surprise twist. I loved these. The goats cheese and vegetable terrine satisfied my cheese cravings and finally, an artichoke and courgette wrap was a refreshing end to the savourites.

I moved onto the scones next, which were excellent, though purists would probably say they weren't crumbly enough. Plain scones and raspberry and white chocolate scones were served alongside plenty of jam and clotted cream. The white chocolate and raspberry were really beautiful.

You can put your jam or cream on first, it will still be delicious.

Onto the final layer: the sweet treats. I like a small, sweet burst of flavour from the sweet layer, nothing too heavy or cakey. These were great: cucumber candy floss made by local company Sweet Cheeks really did taste like cucumber. I would have liked a little more though (at Hotel Du Vin you get a whole stick!) The pastry on the rhubarb and ginger tart had a good bite to it. The panacotta was a little too sweet for me.

Overall, this new Afternoon Tea is high quality and very clever. I love the scones and the savoury bites particularly. I'll look forward to seeing the other Afternoon Teas Harvey Nichols produce.

Harvey Nichols Birmingham

Edinburgh Gin

Food and drink were complimentary for review purposes.

Photos my own. 

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Food: The Ivy

People have been talking a lot about The Ivy. I can tell you right now that I've had two lovely breakfasts there. It's in a beautiful location and I'll get far more use out of it than Louis Vuitton, which was there previously. It's very pretty and it's the sort of place you could take your Mum. If I booked a table for lunch with my friends for a birthday or similar, we'd all have a very nice time.

It's been pretty busy and they do expect you to book. When you go through the doors, you're greeted by about 400 'hosts' who check your booking, offer to take your coat and show you through the door to your table. There's a lovely bar but not really any bar seating, which is a shame.

The downstairs is really beautiful, so pretty and old-fashioned. I felt like I was on holiday or in the past. I'm an absolute sucker for this style of decoration. The high ceilings made the noise of people chatting and the clatter of cutlery echo pleasantly.  The mezzanine level seems less pleasant to eat in as the ceiling is lower.

The first time I visited, for a blogger preview, we were in the private dining room. This was a lovely space, with views over pigeon park. It was light and airy and the table had lovely fresh flowers on it.

We were greeted with a choice of juices: Green Juice (£4) or Beet It (£4.50). I don't usually enjoy a green juice, but this mix of avocado, spinach, apple, celery, mint and parsley was refreshing and tasty. I like the paper straw too!

The Breakfast Pastries (£4.75) we were served to start were lovely and I now want a pastry starter at all fancy breakfasts. A variety of four pastries (some with chocolate, some plain, some with custard and jam within) were served alongside butter and jams. I had this on my second trip and it was lovely then too. I'm sure none of it is homemade, but you're not at The Ivy for a gastronomic experience. It's presented nicely and feels like a treat. 

Onto the main event: I chose Eggs Royale (£9.25). Two English breakfast muffins were topped with smoked salmon, poached eggs and Hollandaise. Now it's all very well me saying that The Ivy isn't really about the food, but if they can't poach eggs and the Hollandaise is crap then I'm not going back.

So- there was a good amount of salmon, the eggs were poached perfectly and the Hollandaise was lovely, just how I like it: a little acidic, thick and not too much of it.

I've headed back to The Ivy since, where I enjoyed the pastries again, sat downstairs in the lovely main room and ate more smoked salmon with scrambled egg. I'll definitely go back for breakfast and perhaps lunch, but I can't imagine going in the evening. Perhaps I'm wrong. Either way, I was very happy on both of my visits to The Ivy (paid and unpaid) with the service, food and location. My bill on the second occasion came to £17.72 for half the mini pastries, lots of tea and a large portion of smoked salmon and egg so you can't sniff at the price either. It's a shame there's no bar seating as I'd love to just pop in for a drink.

The Ivy, Temple Row

Food and drink were complimentary on my first visit for review purposes, I paid myself on the second occasion.

Photos are my own