Monday, 20 August 2018

Event: giffgaff game plan at Yorks Cafe

Style: Cafe and events space     Location: Brindley Place

A few weeks ago, I was invited to a bit of a different event. GiffGaff, the mobile phone company, have branched out into personal finance. It's all quite new at the moment, but they want to get the word out there about Game Plan. It's going to be an app and a website which helps you budget and meet goals, including a free credit report.

I've tried a few personal finance apps recently in an effort to improve my budgeting. I've always been ok month to month and at putting money away for a vague purpose; recently though I've been working on saving specifically for annual payments such as car insurance. When I paid my car insurance in full with no pain at all it felt amazing!

So I really support anything that gets people talking and thinking about money. They have quite realistic aims at the moment, such as encouraging people to have £500 saved at all times.

So why was I at Yorks Cafe to hear about this? To help promote the Game Plan wesbite and app, giffgaff have created a board game, which takes you from graduating at 21 to retirement. The person with the most money at retirement is the winner.

It reminded me a lot of Monopoly, in that you have to decide when to spend or save your money, there are cards which throw a spanner in the works or give you a bonus (think: Parents take you out for lunch, save £30 or Date Night, spend £50). I loved playing it and it definitely got us talking about finances. I don't think we should be embarrassed talking about money; it just causes problems. I'm a teacher and I'm point 5 on the payscale, you can pretty easily work out how much I earn if you like!

Now it wasn't just about the game, there was also a buffet to be eaten. Yorks Cafe are well known for their tasty food. This particular branch (at The Ikon Gallery) also serves up some amazing giant pizzas which I've been meaning to order for a while.

They put out a few so everyone got a generous slice, alongside some lovely big bowls of vegetables and coleslaw.

Thanks to everyone at giffgaff and Yorks at Ikon for a fun and memorable evening. Sadly the game isn't available to buy but you can sign up to giffgaff gameplan and get a free credit report.

giffgaff gameplan

Yorks at Ikon

Photos my own

Food and drink were complimentary as part of the event

Monday, 2 July 2018

Food: Jailbird

Style: Steak and seafood          Price: £££ (Around £20 a main)   Location: Victoria Square

The Location

I was disappointed when Nosh and Quaff closed abruptly; I was always a big fan of the chicken wings. On reflection, I understood the closure. It was too pricey for the sort of food they were serving- 'dirty' American fare. There's many places doing that cheaply now. Lasan group kept hold of the beautiful building in Victoria Square and have reopened as Jailbird, a New York style steak and seafood restaurant.  It's still pretty pricey but perhaps steak will attract a more extravagant crowd.

I love the redecoration. They've moved the bar to downstairs, which makes a lot more sense. I'd definitely pop in for a cocktail, which are lovely. Upstairs has a smart casual vibe with plenty of seating and lots of greenery.

The drinks

The cocktails are lovely, many with New York themed names. They're all between £8 and £10 which is about right. There's a good mix of long, short, fizzy, dry and sweet cocktails without being too much on the menu, though you can ask for a specific classic cocktail. I can see many an Old Fashioned being sipped upon here.

I enjoy an Aperitif style cocktail, so that was the section I looked at and chose a Bartholdi's Gift (£8.50) named for the designer of the Statue of Liberty. This was a mix of Absolut Acai vodka, cherries and violet- I'm assuming it's Creme Yvette or similar. It was similar to my favourite Aviation, but longer and more refreshing. An excellent start to proceedings. There's other drinks on the menu I'd return for and it's a relaxed environment.

With dinner, we enjoyed the light red Tilia Bonarda. I'm not sure how much it was but it had the lovely cherries and vanilla type flavour I enjoy.

The food

I was pleased Jailbird are selling themselves as steak and seafood as I don't care too much for steak. I chose the Black Risotto with Prawns (£7.95) which is a delicious, moreish bowl of garlicky goodness. The prawns were huge, good quality and perfectly charred. I loved this and cleared the plate. Looking back at the menu, I can see this is available as a main for £15.50, which is definitely something I'd order in future.

Other starters include scallops, lamb chops (which I tried and were great) giant cous cous and asparagus salad (something I'd go for next time) and a ham hock sharer. Lots of very tempting dishes.

If I'd spotted the prawns-as-main situation, I would have chosen that, but instead I focused my attention on the fish. I was tempted with the garlic and herb chicken (still am) but instead I chose the Creole Sea Bass (£19.80) with a kale salad as it sounded light. Hah. For some reason I agreed to a side of chips (£3.50) despite having told myself I wouldn't.

The fish was giant. My dinner companion George of Caramel Latte Kiss joked that it was, in fact, a whale. The fish was beautifully cooked and tasty, though the creole flavouring wasn't as strong as I expected. The kale salad wasn't quite what I was expecting as it was mixed with sour cream or creme fraiche or something similar. It was surprisingly light but there was a lot of it. The chips were quite disappointing, they were more like wedges. I'd rather they were a little smaller and crispier. Realistically I just didn't need chips.

I felt bad because I left quite a lot, but I was just so full.

Despite this, I left room for dessert and I'm so glad I did as the Coconut Panna Cotta (About £5) was fantastic. Creamy but light and perfectly complemented by the caramalised pineapple on top. I also enjoyed a splendid glass of dessert wine as recommended by the waitress, who was excellent throughout.

Although it could be said that the prices are quite high and the portions quite large, there's a lot to love about Jailbird. Great cocktails, a fantastic set of starters and a lovely location. As I don't care about steak, lobster or expensive wine, I reckon I could have a three course meal and a couple of cocktails for around £40 a head, which is no more than many other places in less pretty settings. I'd recommend trying it out, but stray away from the obvious steak and chips: you'll be pleasantly surprised.

(Sidenote: I'm told they are addressing the portion sizes.)


Food and drink were complimentary for review purposes.

Photos my own.

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.