Thursday, 3 May 2018

Drink: Birmingham Whisky Club


Style: Bar and whisky tasting lounge                  Price: ££ (Varies depending on what you're drinking)

Location: Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Vyse Street 

The Venue

Birmingham Whisky Club began in 2011 as a tastings company. I attended a few of their tastings upstairs at The Wellington and a couple of 'taste-a-long' films at The Electric. They were all very welcoming, open and interesting, with plenty of whisky! It's not my favourite spirit but I always enjoy how you can really taste the difference in taste depending on the process, the ageing and the ingredients. Through these tasting I've learnt that I like a peated whisky or rye and that I am not too fussed about the very expensive ones!

They recently opened a specialist whisky bar, technically inside the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, but with its own entrance. It's a relaxed and comfortable environment; you can pop in, peruse their amazing selection of whiskies, choose your own or be advised by Amy and her team. 


On each table you'll find bottles of water, glasses and pipettes so you can add water to the whisky or just have a glass to drink, which I love.


The drinks

Obviously there's a lot of whisky...


But you can also try one of their mixed drinks- they're not calling them cocktails, but they basically are. I like how they've clearly explained what goes into each and they're all fairly priced.



As well as whisky, there's a decent selection of other spirits, beers and ciders. I tried the Devon Mist, which is a gently sparkling cloudy cider.


Events

The Whisky Club also has a lovely room for tastings now. An ambassador from a brand, or a specialist will share their knowledge, while talking you through the different whiskies.


I attended A Taste of Nikka and Kavalan, led by their brand ambassador.


Kavalan is a Taiwanese distillery and Nikka is Japanese. Both are relatively modern compared with Irish or Scottish distilleries and have interesting stories behind them. The group of whisky tasters were sat around a lovely wooden table, with our line up of whiskies in front of us, a list of what we would try and some water. Talking about the whiskies and trying them was interspersed with some of the history and a little technical detail.

Don't worry if you're not a whisky expert (I'm not, I could do a gin masterclass at this point but whisky is so complex)- you're not going to feel like an idiot. Drink the drink, think about the flavours, listen to what others have to say. On the other hand, those with more knowledge won't be bored or feel patronised. I've always found tastings at the Whisky Club to be perfectly balanced.

Check out the website for more events, happening regularly. Birmingham Whisky Club events. 


Birmingham Whisky Club

I was invited to the whisky tasting free of charge but I paid for other drinks myself .

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Food: Itihaas


Style: Indian fine dining    Price: ££ (Mains around £15-20)  Location: Fleet Street


The Venue

On a sunny evening, my first day back at work after the Easter holidays, I made my way to Itihaas, a sophisticated Indian restaurant with a focus on quality cooking and service. I was there for a blogger's dinner where we were to try lots- lots- of dishes from their menu.

I really like how fancy it is in Itihaas; it certainly feels like a special occasion venue, with moody lighting, lots of gold everywhere and lovely plants.

We were downstairs, which is available for private dining. This felt lighter due to the large windows. There's a bar there too so it would be great for parties.


The drinks

I'd already drank plenty of rose champagne with the canapes before I realised there was a rum and brandy ambassador present, who would be providing us with paired cocktails for each course.


With the canapes, I tried a Rum and Grape, made with Bonpland Rum and Ferdinand's Peach Bitters. I liked how simple and summery this was, though the grapes make it a little difficult to drink.


During the meal, we had some of the Bonpland VSOP rum over ice and a lovely rum Old Fashioned. With the dessert, we were served Chateaux Labaude Armagnac XO, whoch was rich and splendid.

Itihaas have an extensive wine and cocktail menu. I've had a look through the cocktails and the champagne cocktails look especially appealing, all £10.50 and made with Piper-Heidsieck champagne.


The food

When I arrived, they were handing out canapes, which would be lovely at a party. These were mostly from the chaat section of the menu- little tasty bites with street food influences. My favourites were the potato patties with chickpeas, yoghurt and pomegranate which you see above and the salmon and goats cheese samosas below.


When we sat down at the table, we were handed a starter of Soft Shell Crab in a pakora batter. As well as being beautifully cooked and seasoned, this was striking to look at too. I don't usually fuss about whether something is on a plate or not, but this particular meal was tricky to eat off a slate!


A trio of starters followed. Lamb Tikka and Chargrilled Salmon both had a gorgeous dry heat to them, having being cooked over an open charcoal flame. The Salmon and Seabass fishcake was delicate but still packed a punch of flavour.


I was already feeling quite full having gobbled up too many canapes, but an absolute feast awaited me.


Chicken biryani was fragrant and the chicken was moist. It's got to be the best one I've had. This was served alongside raita and traditional Biryani gravy. I really enjoyed mixing these in with the rice dish.


Other dishes included Jaipur Lamb Takka, a rich tomato-based curry, and Goan Lobster Curry, which had a beautiful coconut base. Everything was delicious; I just wish I had enough space in my stomach left to enjoy more.


They've done interesting things with desserts, making Indian-inspired cheesecakes or slices. I had a taste of the Gajar Halwa Cheese Cake, a cheesecake with a carrot cake base but I was so full it was rather lost on me.

I had an incredible experience at Itihaas. I had so much to eat (and drink) and everything was a joy. I definitely need to head back to really appreciate the excellent cooking and ingredients on offer.

Itihaas, Fleet Street, Birmingham

Food and drink were complimentary; thanks for the invite Delicious PR

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Food: Fiesta Del Asado


Style: Steak restaurant                       Price: ££                                 Location: Hagley Road, Edgbaston

The venue

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Part of the Lasan group, Fiesta Del Asado is an Argentinian steak restaurant 5 minutes drive from Five Ways. Birmingham is home to some devout steak lovers, the majority of whom will point you in the direction of this restaurant for an excellent quality steak. Since my first visit, I've joined their ranks of admirers- and I don't even like steak! Last time I wrote about how good their fish was; today I'll be tackling their lamb.

I was visiting with food writer Paul Fulford and blogger Emma Stokes. An easy taxi ride slightly out of town, dropped me outside an elegant building. Inside feels like you have stepped out of the city centre and into somewhere a little more rustic. It's a cosy, intimate setting, which sounds buzzy and smells delicious.

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Drinks

Naturally for a steak restaurant, the focus is very much on red wines, though they have a good selection of white too. When I arrived, Emma and Paul had already chosen a bottle of Malbec, which was perfect to complement the red meat to follow. 



Food


The starters looked lovely, with empanadas and grilled sausages featuring heavily. However, with the thought of a hearty meaty meal ahead of us, we decided to share some olives (£2.99) and padron peppers (£2.99). Padron peppers are one of my favourite things and these were piping hot and sharp from a squeeze of lemon. I loved that the olives were stuffed with little pickled guindilla peppers.


Onto the mains. Although I've tried the steak at Fiesta Del Asado and understand why ardent carnivores love it so, I simply can't bring myself to love steak in the way others do. I picked lamb, a much tastier meat, I believe.

The Costillas de cordero (£19.89) or grilled rack of lamb, comes as three neatly prepared, meaty lamb cutlets, beautifully seasoned and cooked in the same way as the steak: over an exciting flame grill. As with steak, they ask how you would like it cooked. I don't like my meat too rare so I asked for it cooked medium. When I cut in, the meat was still pleasingly tender but not bloody. Perfect.

Showing great attention to detail, the side salad is no after thought. I liked the lovely dressing that came with the salad, and the pieces of sweet potato I found nestled amongst the leaves.

For my side, I chose Papas criolla (£1.99) - roasted potatoes tossed in paprika and oregano. These had the crunchy/soft combination that you would expect and I enjoyed the seasoning.


Finally, dessert. I can't find the price online, but based on the rest of the meal, I don't think it could have been badly priced. I chose a Tarta de Santiago, made with almonds, and tasting a bit like a Spanish Bakewell Tart. It was served along the most beautiful honey ice cream.


Service throughout was excellent, with plenty of advice available where needed. I really love that Fiesta Del Asado don't fob off those who aren't steak fans with insipid dishes. They treat their food well here and that goes for all the dishes.

Fiesta del Asado

Meal was complimentary for review purposes, thanks to Paul for the invite. 

Photos are mine apart from those marked with an *