Sunday, 9 September 2018

Food: Wok to Walk

Style: Noodles     Price: £ (From £3.95)   Location: New Street, Birmingham

The location

There's a lot of these fast food noodle places in the city centre, so I was intrigued to see what could be different about Wok to Walk, the newest, appropriately located on New Street. The orange branding catches the eye, and you can see the chefs cooking and also how many seats are available. It's compact but they've used the space well.

Order at the counter and your meal is prepared in front of you. When you sit down, you'll find chilli sauce and clever wireless phone chargers at each table.

The food

This is a fast food, order at the counter type place. Pick your base from a variety of noodles, grains or just vegetables.
Next, choose as many meats, fish and veggies you would like with it and finally a sauce. The staff have lots of suggestions and recommendations. Each of the bases and toppings are clearly displayed to help you choose your meal.

The toppings are changed frequently for freshness, but waste is avoiding by only preparing as much as they need for each. At the end of the day, meals are handed out to the homeless in Birmingham, again avoiding food waste.

You pay £3.95 for your base and sauce and any toppings are extra. You could easily just pick one and have a tasty filling meal. I couldn't possibly pick just one: I had five. Peppers and cashews for crunch, pineapple for freshness and prawns and squid because I love seafood. It's a bit of a funny mix, but that's the joy of Wok to Walk: you can have whatever weird combination you like.

I chose the Bangkok sauce after recommendations from a staff member who said it went well with seafood.

 Your ingredients are handed to the wok chefs, who pan fry the ingredients to perfection. I had a go on the wok and it was such hard work!

Finally, my orange box of goodies was ready.

Yum! I added some crispy onions and herbs and a dollop of chilli sauce and spent a happy twenty minutes scoffing it. It's a generous portion, so I had plenty left to eat for my lunch the next day. It was a well-cooked meal, with lovely fresh ingredients and a tasty, coconut sauce. The chilli sauce was good and hot. My meal would have come to quite a large amount: I think around £10, but I had a lot of toppings. I could have added cashews and prawns and it would have come to around £7, but you could make it cheaper than that.

Wok to Walk is a quick, easy, reasonably priced place to grab a healthy meal. It would be great for lunch or for dinner before going to the cinema or theatre.

Wok to Walk

Photos by me

Food and drink were complimentary for review purposes. 

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.