Shopping in the Bullring

Once again it’s half term and I have the grandchildren Jessica 12 and twins Theo and Alexis 6 and I had arranged to meet them in the shopping centre The Bullring. So we spent the morning shopping in this wonderful space. Split over 4 floors and divided into two side this bright shopping space is close to New street station for travelers coming from afar and Moor street station for local trains. 

With ample places both inside and close by to call in for food and drinks it’s easy to spend a full day here. There is car parking for over 3000 cars and at over 125,000 square metres (1,349,000 square foot) it’s also easy to get lost, I always do and I’ve been visiting for nearly 12 years.

We started our day in Selfridges, and it’s a lovely space that sells lots of lovely stuff. Eldest daughter Elizabeth bought a bottle of rum from the drinks department which allows you to pick the bottle of your choice and have it filled, they have lots of different designs in the bottles, from shoe shaped bottle to torsos and gem shapes, you then pick your drink and have the bottle filled. I bought my husband a heart shaped bottle which I had filled with rum  and have previously bought birthday presents from here, they stock Whiskeys, vodkas and rum to my knowledge. Usually you can try samples before you decide, yesterday for some reason my server didn’t want me to try anything, so I didn’t buy but the bottle Elizabeth purchased (also without sampling!) was beautifully gift wrapped and had a message wrote onto the bottle.

Lunch was taken at Nando’s, simply because it’s so child friendly, the kids love getting their own free refills of soft drinks from the soda machine, service was as always super friendly.  One benefit of having so many places is that everyone is guaranteed great service as every restaurant is competing with so many neighbours.

Returning back to the top floor of Selfridges for the fantastic cosmetics floor, all the big names are here, Bobbi Brown, Urban Decay, Clarins, Mac Charlotte Tilbury, Illamasqua and my favourite Tom Ford. Elizabeth got some Bare Minerals make up after having a demo of just how great the coverage was by another lovely staff member who was more than willing to give a free make over. 

It was a very warm day so a drinks stop at Cafe Rouge where I had a fruity cocktail and the children had lemonade, Alexis knocked over her lemonade before getting half way through it and our lovely waiter offered her a free replacement.  Cafe Rouge is somewhere i do choose to stop at when I’m in the Bullring shopping as it is consistently good value, great service and in a perfect spot for people watching on a sunny day with the outdoors seating being right between the two halves of the Bullring.

The city centre was certainly quieter than it would normally be, but we saw armed police on the streets and I never, not even for a moment worried about my safety, but in light of recent events it was a very reassuring sight, it’s also the first/only time I have seen armed police in the uk outside of an airport. 

Jessica needed some summer sandals so a walk up new street to the very large Primark and one pair of gold sandals were chosen, agreed upon by mother and daughter and I picked up some fake lashes at an unbeatable £1.00 A visit to the Build-a-bear workshop completed the trip for Jessica and the twins, the twins chosen bears were a rabbit and a Sonic the hedgehog, always fun for the first visit, even better when there is a deal on two for £28. I then took a very short walk to Moor street station for the short ride home. 

We left my daughter and her friend to finish shopping without having the children, I remember just what a luxury that is when you are a mum to 3, by the time we got home Alexis had lost a shoe off of her new Build-a-bear rabbit as she had carried her new cuddly toy rather than have it packed into a carrier box.  Oh well, I guess we will have to return sooner than anticipated. 

I think it is well worth visiting the Bullring, it really does have everything under one roof, with all the prestige names in Selfridges, some lovely food options and it’s just so convenient being right opposite the main train station, 

All in all it was a lovely day with my daughter and grandchildren, 

Stratford upon Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace.

May Day, the bank holiday, not a distress signal, was perfect.

Shakespeare’s house.

Mr. Red and I drove just a short way to visit Stratford upon Avon, a picturesque and historical town that I love to visit. Let me share today’s experiences with you dear reader. We chose to drive in and used the park and ride. Park and ride really is the only way, unless you go by train, parking is not easy in the town so at £1.00 to park and £2.00 each return bus fare  it is so worth the small fee. Whether you drive in or go by train, the park and ride is right by the train station I definitely recommend you do park and ride.
Our day began with a wander up and down the streets admiring a host of vintage cars, with everything from top of the range cars including Rolls Royce and  Jaguar, classics including 1960’s Minis and VW camper vans that looked like they had travelled to the moon and back and a Barbie pink Barbie Jaguar which had been commissioned for the launch of the Barbie toy car and came with quite a history. I’m by no means a car buff but I did enjoy looking at the majority of the cars on display, although I did feel my age when I saw a 1980’s Ford Fiesta being shown as a ‘classic’….. that was my first car!

We then stoped at a wine bar restaurant called Loxleys on Sheep Street, a charming and quaint pub, with flagstone floors, friendly staff and fabulous food. We had called in for a bite of lunch and a drink,  and it was surprisingly quiet. We had tried a couple of other places but they were simply so full as to make it no fun at all, so we persevered, I am so glad we did. The food and the service were exceptional.  Keith had the steak burger, I had the lamb liver, oh my! That liver was sublime, as tender as patè and packed full of flavour, for me it was a treat although I do realise liver isn’t to everyone’s taste, I adore it and the liver at Loxleys is the best I have ever had. Our server was an absolute treat too, even though it was his first day at Loxleys, he was definitely a ‘people person’ and an asset to this lovely restaurant. Sometimes a sandwich or a salad is all that is wanted for lunch, and Loxleys do offer a posh sandwich  with fries and a bowl of soup for £10. but for the quality and flavour of my lamb liver I’m going to say we made i right choice.

Steak burger and chips, liver with horseradish mash. 

Interor of Loxleys.

An after lunch walk along the riverside led us to the  Butterfly Farm, via a market selling everything from street food to Lego art. It was incredibly busy, as everywhere was but it had a great atmosphere. The Butterfly farm had literally hundreds of butterflies in a tropical hot house as well as leaf cutter ants that were working hard. Mr. Red had a Butterfly land on his head as soon as we entered the hot house. I shall take the twins there this summer, it was very interesting, so many beautiful butterflies and even a room full of other creepy crawlers, if you like seeing that kind of thing. I know the twins will enjoy it, perhaps we could go for a river cruise too, as Mr. Red and I did not get around to that this visit. 

A stroll back along the riverside past the theatre, bought us to The White Swan  hotel on Rother Street where we enjoyed a half afternoon tea.  The half afternoon tea is basically afternoon tea without the sandwiches, so Mr Red enjoyed a pot of tea with his scones and cakes, I washed mine down with a gin and tonic which was served with juniper berries. Once again a beautiful building. I think everywhere is Stratford is gorgeous. I can see why so many visitors come here every year.

The White Swan. Half afternoon tea. Interior.
Our day in Stratford was a lovely one,  there was a sword swallower performing on the street behind the market, Morris Dancers  had finished but we saw them in their outfits, complete with bells, and of course Shakespeare’s house, This really is a town worth visiting, its historic, it’s beautiful and the locals always seem very friendly, with plenty of lovely places to stop for food or drinks and  so many buildings worth photographing.  Even though it is only about an hour drive Stratford upon Avon really is a million miles from the hustle and bustle of Birmingham, yes it gets busy here in summer but it all adds to the atmosphere, and if you move away from fast food restaurants and chain pubs, there are some quieter places where you can enjoy great food in stunning surroundings, as we found out. 

The theatre  overlooking the river Avon.

Cucina Rustica.

Last night I had the pleasure of my first visit to. Cucina Rustica,  located on Ludgate Hill and just a 5 minute walk from Snow Hill station (if you exit from the St. Chads end)

The exterior of Cucina Rustica.

What a truly wonderful evening I had. I had been invited to attend a bloggers event to discover the new spring menu and that in itself was wonderful, but there was more! There was also a wine matching with each course and we had expert vintners from Colombier Vin Fins to talk us through each wine which perfectly matched each course. Delicious food and fine wines alongside some great company made for a very memorable evening indeed and I certainly can not wait to return.

Cucina Rustica is an Italian restaurant that deals with so much more than pizza and pasta, although I’m sure these are available, but  the choice of food I tried last night was so special it really would be a shame to have something you can get from just about anywhere when at Cucina Rustica you can experience King prawns with a tomato and cream sauce, or king scallops with garlic butter and shrimp. I ordered a gin & tonic when I arrived and Cucina Rustica does carry a good selection of gins. I tried a Bobbys gin, it was incredibly fragrant with hints of black pepper and cardamom and served with Fentimans tonic was the perfect aperitif  and I would have enjoyed a second glass had I not been presented with a chilled glass of cava to welcome me.

 My welcome drink of Cava.

Scallops, portobello mushroom, king prawn.

Frascati to accompany starters.

Our starter was a trio of  Gratinated king scallop with Parmesan, parsley garlic butter  &  shrimps,  grilled portobello mushroom with garlic butter, goats cheese & tomato sauce and king prawn, tomato garlic, chilli & cream. My scallop was cooked to perfection, and  the goats cheese on my portobello mushroom was not overpoweringly ‘goaty’ but instead rich yet light, the chilli in the king prawn was very subtle and did not overpower the delicate flavours on my plate.  To accompany this light seafood based  starter we had a  glass of  Frascarti,  which was fresh, light and perfect with seafood.

Next we had a sharing platter of antipasto misto  which included Parma ham, Salame, mortadella, grissini and olives. I tried to resist as I knew we had more courses yet to come, but resistance was hard and I did try a little of the mortadella as it is a favourite cooked meat of mine. Yes mortadella can be found in supermarkets here but it’s never as good as what I have from overseas of really good restaurants, so I had to try. It did not disappoint. Antipasto.

Pinot  noir, Domaine V la Grange,  served with cooked meats and olives.

Our wine with the antipasto was a red Pinot noir,  Domaine V La Grange and of course it was the perfect accompaniment yet again, obviously richer and slightly heavier in flavour and it worked perfectly with the meats and olives. 

The main courses included fillet of seabass in a saffron sauce with baby prawns,  risotto con fungi made with mixed mushrooms and asparagus ( I’m also pretty sure there was a hint of truffle or truffle oil in the risotto)  sliced beef fillet  with capers, shallots and anchovies which had a deliciousness that my vocabulary can not even begin to do justice to, rack of lamb, mouthmeltingly tender lamb that had a hint of pink and was juicy and succulent and finally  fried breaded chicken breast,  which was served on a tomato sauce.  Although we got to try a small portion of everything it really was just too much food for me and I was really struggling as I wanted to taste everything. Sadly by the time my final plate arrive all I could manage of the chicken and the seabass was the tiniest of nibbles, but there was absolutely nothing that I did not enjoy.  Yet more wines to accompany our main course and  once again the perfect partner to each main. 

 Beef fillet and rack of lamb.

Seabass with saffron sauce, mushroom risotto, fried breaded chicken breast.

With the lamb and beef we enjoyed a divine Barbara Ruleja, Which was described as “top rank” and “proffers blackberry and truffle over resin balsam, opening to a mouth of sheer elegance.”  Which is so much more elegant than I could have worded it.

Our chicken and fish was served with Fiano Salento,  another beautiful white with  citrus and white peach.  The seabass was lovely, as a well cooked seabass always is and had a delicate saffron sauce, the breaded chicken was just that, for me it was something and nothing but it’s a safe bet to have on the menu for the less adventurous diner, the coating was beautifully crisp with absolutely no hint of oiliness and the creamy tomato sauce was packed full of tomato flavour.  But for me, the star of this plate was the risotto as it was packed full of mushroom flavours and still moist and  creamy with a hint of truffle. 

Sadly I had to leave before dessert was served,  but with a hot chocolate fondant on menu, a light cheesecake with forest fruits or the more traditional tiramisu,  I’m sure I would have enjoyed any one of those, but my poor stomach needed a rest from all the deliciousness and Mr. Red had been waiting patiently outside to drive me home for about twenty minutes. 

All the food I tried last night was superb,  as I said earlier, there was not one dish that disappointed and of course the wine matching was perfect with each dish. Cucina Rustica is a beautiful building both inside and out. With roses and candles on the table and real linen napkins it has an up market feel without coming across as snobby or pretentious. In my opinion it’s ideal for a romantic dinner for two or a family gathering with a crowd. Service was  polite and swift and it’s somewhere I will be returning to. Just far enough off the beaten track, yet not at all far from town Cucina Rustica ticks all the boxes for a grand night out.  Of course alongside their fabulous menu, Cucina Rustica has a great selection of wines provided by  Colombier Vins Fins who only provide exclusively to restaurants and who source all their wines themselves. Beautiful interior.

The well stocked bar, which includes the deliciously fragrant Bobbys gin.

Contemporary and romantic interior.

I was invited to dine at Cucina Rustica last night at no cost to myself in return for my honest options via my blog.  I would like to thank Big Cat PR for inviting me, Cucina Rustica for providing a wonderful selection of superb dishes in a warm, friendly and romantic restaurant and Colombier Fins Vins for their fabulous selection of wines and for imparting their knowledge and experience to everyone that was enjoying the evening.  I really did have a top night, if you are looking for a great Italian dining experience I highly recommend Cucina Rustica or her sister restaurant Pasta di Piazza on Brook street, I have a review for them right at the beginning of my blog, should you wish to read it. I guarantee you will not leave disappointed from either of these wonderful restaurants. 

Trentham Gardens and Monkey forest.

We took the  grandchildren to Trentham gardens and monkey forest last Friday and I can safely report not only was a good time had by all but we officially wore the twins out.

As well as acres of mature forest which houses almost 200 Moroccan monkeys there is shopping village,  gardens, lakes, fairies, miniature trains and a boat ride. Plenty for everyone.

Entry to monkey forest  is separate to entry to Trentham Gardens  but both are very reasonable for prices. Located at Stone Road Trentham, Stoke on Trent it’s easy to spend a full day exploring the 700 plus acres of Trentham Gardens. Obviously the children loved being so close to the monkeys, which live a fairly natural wild existence, with no bars and no cages, they roam freely. The monkeys pick grubs, berries, spiders, leaves and shoots but their diet is supplemented with fresh fruit and with feeding time being every hour at from 11.15am you will get to be up close to these beautiful and intelligent monkeys. We really enjoyed watching a group of younger monkeys playing in some trees, rough and tumble doesn’t even cover it, they are very steady both in the branches and on the rocks.

Usually tickets can be purchased that does include entry to both parts of Trentham, but for Easter week we were told we would have to buy our garden entry separate, I’m sure they have a good reason. We took the boat across the lake, great fun for the children and only £2.00 each.

We had a rather nice lunch in the lake side restaurant, which has really nice service too. The children chose from mains, sides and drinks on the children’s menu and Mr. Red and I plumped for a toasted ciabatta sandwich, mine having steak and blue cheese which I washed down with a glass of red. It was all very civilised.

We explored the maze and found the very centre of it, which had the name of the Easter bunny, having found the Easter bunny later the children all claimed a chocolate egg and declared the maze to be the best bit of the day. We let them find their own way to the hill in the centre, having first made sure they understood not to leave the maze itself,  to be absolutely honest this early in the year the greenery still has a bit of filling out to do so we could see through to keep an eye on the three of them as we enjoyed a leisurely stroll.

Unfortunately we hadn’t allowed enough time to do the bare foot nature walk, where we could have walked through mud and water and sand, it’s always very popular. Still it’s good to have an excuse to return and we did  do a lot of walking as well as spotting fairies, and we got the little train back to our car.

There are definitely a lot more fairies at Trentham gardens this year, they really are quite beautiful too. 

Luckily for us it did stay dry all day, a really good thing as I had not picked up any coats or jackets when I stole my grand babies away from their mum, but it did look like it was going to rain when I took this lovely broody storm cloud photo.

 The rain did come later on, by which time  Theo and Alexis were in their pyjamas. Fresh air and running around, essential for growing children and easily done on such a nice day out,  but please bare in mind that running and shouting are not allowed whist in the monkeys home area.

Dudley zoo and dinner at Harvester. 

It’s the school easter break and I have the pleasure  of my grandchildren,  Jessica (12) and twins Theodore and Alexis (6) so we headed to our local zoo.

The day was dry and unusually mild, as well as being fairly quiet at Dudley Zoological  Gardens so it was a perfect day to visit. 

I know zoos can be quite controversial  but I for one like to know that at least some of our endangered species may survive this century.  

Located on Castle Hill Dudley, this zoo is on a fairly steep hillside, even though it is well paved it is perhaps a difficult place to see if you are less steady on your feet or pushing a wheelchair, I have visited in the past with toddlers in a small pushchair and you do need to plan your visit to get the most from your day as there are a lot of steps too. That’s when the train really helps.

We used the chairlift for the first time this visit, previously I considered the twins too small (the chairlift is recommended  for over 7) but it’s a grand way to arrive. If you can not use the chairlift there is also a train that takes visitors all over the grounds. Sadly for us the train was not running yesterday, but again it’s an exciting way for small children to travel. 

The remains of Dudley castle   still remain at the very top of the hill and your admission  to the zoo means you can also explore  the ruins. 

We took a picnic lunch and there are ample tables and park benches for you to enjoy your picnic in comfort. There are also fast food restaurants, should you not want to carry your lunch around all day. Sitting on the grass in the castle grounds is also a lovely option when the sun is shining. 

We timed our visit so as to be at Penguin cove for the talk from a keeper. Alexis most favourite  animal, and we watched the penguins have their fishy lunch much to Alexis delight. 

Having seen the humbolt  penguins have their lunch we followed the path to see the sea lions have their lunch too.  I always love seeing the orangutans, I saw a new baby orangutan  arrive a few years ago, he is as big as his mum now, it’s nice to know his habitat will not be destroyed to plant cheap palm oil.

The lemur enclosure  is a one acre space that has the four types of lemurs running free in, usually lots of lemurs who like to people watch come up reasonably close but yesterday it was windy and they were all hunkered down snug in their indoor space. We did see a couple of lemurs braving the windy weather. 

Theo wanted to see the big cats. There are lions close to the lemur enclosure and tigers are right across  the other side. 

The lions were relaxing on the grass of their enclosure and we were able to get quite close to them. I have a photo from a previous visit with one of the tigers just about 6cm from me, behind a reinforced  glass window. 

We ended the day at the small funfair. A few toddler friendly rides for the smallest members of your family, Theo  and Alexis enjoyed the bigger rides but we’re not big enough to ride the dodgems, Jessica loved the dodgems and we finished on a little rollercoaster,  just the right size for us all to enjoy one ride together. The funfair was reasonably  priced with 35 tokens costing £20. and the rides cost 1 or 2 tokens.  

Obligatory visit to the gift shop, where Alexis got herself a ‘lifesized’ soft and cuddly penguin toy. Theo bought a meerkat to remind him of the time we had spent watching the meerkats and Jessica chose a fluffy owl soft toy. 

It was beginning  to get a bit cool around 5pm so we headed a very short walk to the Harvester Castle gate business  Park, where I had arranged to meet up with Mr. Red at 6pm.

The harvester used to be called the Bostin  Fittle, but now it just seems to be Harvester. It has a great children’s menu and is very family friendly. It really is only a short walk (less than 10 minutes)  from the zoo and it’s where we usually finish a day trip to the zoo. Theo had a child’s portion of half a chicken, Jessica had salmon, Alexis and I both had chicken with cheese, bacon and bbq sauce and Granddad had a half rack of ribs. As I said, it’s very family friendly. I had a very welcome  Gin & Tonic and the grandchildren had a soft drink whilst we were waiting for granddad to meet up with us.

Lovely service and nice food served in a clean and friendly environment make this the perfect place to finish our day.

The cost for entry to the zoo was under £50  but the funfair is charged separately.  We shall be returning  to Dudley zoo  again in the summer, they seem to be permanently  modernising and improving the older parts and it’s nice to see that. A lot of the old concrete pits still remain but they have changed a lot since they were built, now having grass instead of concrete under foot/paw and enriched with climbing frames, sunbathing platforms etc. Our attitudes to animals well fair has changed since this zoo first opened in 1937, yes it is sad to see a tiger cooped up when he should have acres and acres but their numbers are in rapid decline, at least the captive ones will never fall victim to a poacher.  By visiting you can make sure that the zoo has the money to continue improving the facilities. So please don’t hate zoos but instead try to support their work and improve animals lives by visiting them and making sure they have funds to give their inmates a great life.

Lobster Peninsula 

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary  but I was also booked to review a play for another blog. We wanted a romantic dinner close to the theater and we opted for Lobster Peninsula  located a short walk from the New Alex theatre and  New Street station on John Bright street. 

Lobster Peninsula  has been on our radar since it opened some 4 months ago and our anniversary  was the perfect excuse for us to eat here. Now we have been we will not need an excuse for a return visit. 

Located on the upper floors we was welcomed by a lovely smiley lady who showed us to our table in this beautiful restaurant.  The interior is much bigger than the outside suggests. Decorated in contemporary  greys with Mediterranean  style tiles and some quirky artwork on the wall, it has a very pleasant, grown up and sophisticated  feel. I was particularly  impressed with the real linen napkins. I always think it such a shame when somewhere classy uses paper napkins. 

Mr. Red had the whole Lobster which arrived on a huge platter, served with salad, chips, garlic butter and a wedge of lemon. It did arrive ready split but claw crackers and a pick were also provided.

I had the Lobster and crayfish scampi in tempura batter. 

This was a big ol’ man sized portion served with chips, salad, tartar sauce and a lemon wedge. I don’t think I even managed to eat half.  With bread on the table whilst we waited for our food and a carafe  of iced water certainly was a superb meal. 

Happy hour meant my gin based cocktail the Bramble  was on a two drinks for the price of one offer. Gin and lemon goes unsurprisingly  well with shellfish.

Our service was swift and friendly. Our hosts were charming all evening. This is definitely  somewhere we will be returning to. Not only do they serve great food in a great enviroment, with a menu full of wonderful dishes including some sharing platters and a specials board. But it was also fantastic value. Our meal which included one whole Lobster and cocktails came in at under £60.00 

We both love seafood of any description  so to have an excellent  seafood restaurant  so far from the coast is yet another reason to visit the city centre that is my home. 

Should you wish to check out the menu for Lobster Peninsula  I have included this link
Which gives you all the details  you will need. 

Our next visit we will be sure to give ourselves enough time to linger.

Birmingham Whisky Club.

last night I was invited to join members of Birmingham Whisky Club   at their tasting.  This event took place on the top floor of  The Wellington  pub located at Bennetts Hill. A charming pub that stocks hundreds of real ales and ciders as well as an impressive  selection of spirits, including over 100 whiskies.  You can find out more about The Wellington here. 

and I do recommend  a visit to The Welly  as it’s affectionately  known, should you find yourself in Birmingham  and you want to visit a proper British pub.

But back to my first experience of Birmingham  Whisky Club. Taking over the entire top floor function room some 16 whisky lovers came together and had a chance to sample whisky from the Chivas Regal  family of whisky.  To present us with a taste of each of five prestigious  whiskies we were introduced  to the delightful  Lauren  who is the Chivas Regal Brand Ambassador and most certainly knows her whisky.

Lauren talked to us passionately about the entire whisky production, where Chivas sourced their ingredients  (everything comes from Scotland when possible )  how different flavours are imparted into different whisky brands, how blending works and a very interesting  history of both whiskey in Scotland in general and the Chivas brand. 

We had five whiskies to try so I had prepared  by drinking a pint of lime and sparkling water, I certainly  didn’t want to pass out before I got to the end of my five whiskies, it does have a habit of sneaking up on me and I certainly  was feeling the effects by the time I finished my third, but by then so had everybody else and what had started as a very quiet group of whisky lovers had by now turned into a chatty and friendly group who were more willing to pass judgement, ask questions and discuss their thoughts with the rest of the group. It made for an interesting and friendly group discussion.  

I was not so keen on our first sample, for me personally it was a little harsher than I would choose which was something of a surprise  as it looked very inoffensive with a pale colour compared to the others. We started by smelling our samples, we then tried them neat and I finished by adding a few drops of water to release all the flavours and perfume.  

The difference  between each whisky we tried was huge and I most definitely  had a favorite by the end of my Birmingham  Whisky Club experience  and surprisingly  it was not the one I was expecting  to favour. 

I love a smokey, peaty whisky, the final whisky of the evening was a wonderfully smokey fragranced Glenlivet  Nadurra, but for me last night the star of the show was the Chivas Regal Ultis .  But at around the £170. a bottle price mark is certainly  not a whiskey I could ever consider buying, and herein lies the beauty of Birmingham Whisky Club, it offers an opportunity  to try whiskies that are not readily available  in the UK market or would be out of a lot of folks price bracket.. A few of last night’s samples are very big in India or America  but not easily sourced here and I felt privileged to be able to try them, others like the Chivas Regal I would never be able to afford.

If you’re a whisky lover  Birmingham  Whisky Club offers great opportunities  to explore your favorite tipple. Would I go to another whisky tasting event? Yes! In a heartbeat, not only did I get to try some beautiful whisky but I met up with a lovely bunch of like minded people too, such as this charming gentleman  whom, having found out I write about the best Birmingham has to offer was disappointed  he had not yet featured in my blog.  

Find out more about Birmingham  Whisky club here:

Although I was invited to attend last night’s event free of charge I have not been paid to write lovely things, these are, as always just my honest thought’s and experience’s .

Should you wish to purchase a bottle of the Chivas Regal Ultis it is available  here at £168.

Or the Glenlivet  at under £50
These were my two favorites of the evening, one is affordable, one is a splurge. 

Miss Korea, my favorite restaurant. 

Last night Mr. Red and I met up with friends for a meal in my favorite restaurant  in town.  Located on Bromsgrove Street, Miss Korea  is located directly opposite  a good car park and close to Sobar, (in the Arcadian)  a really nice place to meet up for pre dinner drinks.
A funny start to the evening, as I had arrived at  Sobar just before our agreed meet up time, I got a text from my friend to say she was sat outside, I stepped outside onto the terrace and she was not there, so I called her phone. “Look to your left” she said,  my friend and her husband were sat outside the wrong bar! It gave us a laugh and no damage done. Another round of drinks in Sobar, which is a really lively bar later on but was quite for our meeting. They have a lovely cocktail menu and also do great coffee (I’m told, I never drink coffee in England) then a five minute stroll over to Miss korea .

 We ordered one tray of each of the gyoza to start with. The gyoza come in three varieties, chicken, prawn and vegetable  and we all agree that dumplings of any kind are always a firm favorite. These glorious  little fried dumplings of joy  are delicious,  packed full of flavour and they never disappoint. 

We also shared two portions of kimchi.  If I try to describe Kimchi to someone who has never tried it I know I’d be doing this finest of Korean foods a disservice  but I will try to convey the sheer delight this simple vegetable  dish gives me.  Kimchi is the national dish of Korea and for good reason. It’s jam packed full of flavour, slightly spicy, crunchy and just so gosh darn delicious  to say it is made with cabbage. Packed into jars alongside kimchi spices the cabbage ferments and somehow magic takes place in that jar and the simple ingredients transform into what I consider to be one of the greatest foods I’ve every had the pleasure to try. The cabbage retains a delightful  crunch yet is soft. The spices add loads of flavour and a little warmth, there is a heat to this but not a violent aggressive  heat, this is gentle warmth. All I can say is, if you ever get a chance to try it then you’d be missing out if you said no just because pickled fermented spiced cabbage sounds nasty, you’re right, it sounds nasty but it tastes sublime. 

Drinks included three Korean beers for everyone and a glass of wine for me. I started with something from the Wines from Asia  part of the list. I wish I could tell you what it was called, it was white and fizzy. Not at all unpleasant  but certainly  like nothing I have ever drunk before. I like trying new foods, new flavours and anything I’ve never had before is always an adventure. This drink was ok  but it was nothing special.  I moved on to a regular white wine for my next drink. 

For my main dish I opted for Pork and kimchi. I did tell you kimchi features very highly in Korean cuisine  and it is delicious.  The pork was mouth meltingly tender, the thinnest slivers of really tasty pork which had been very well cooked. Mr. Red opted for one of my favorite dishes at Miss Korea, the  Bimibap.  Bimibap is served in a hot bowl with rice, vegetables and Mr. Red had gone for the seafood. My friend also plumped for a Bimibap but with beef. The beef Bimibap has raw beef and a raw egg yolk on top, you simply add your portion of spicey sauce to suit your personal preference   and stir, the heat from the bowl cooks the beef and egg, once again a delicious meal that tastes one hundred times better than it sound. 

The final dish to arrive was another kimchi based meal. Kimchi jjigae  which was a broth rich with kimchi and tofu, served with a separate bowl of rice. 

The bill for four adults, which include two drinks each, main courses and starters came in at under £100. I think that is jolly good value, service was good. ( service started as great, but they seemed to forget us for a while and we did struggle to catch the eye of anyone to order a second round of drinks)

Mr. Red and I have been enjoying this fabulous  cuisine  for a number of years now,  Miss Korea has undergone a few facelifts  over the years but the food stays consistently  good. Korean is my favourite food. When people say they have never tried it and ask me what is it like, all I can say is Korean is like no other cuisine,  but it’s packed full of fresh flavours, mildly  spiced and much underrated.  

I know I’m lucky enough to have a terrific little Korean restaurant  on my doorstep here in Birmingham.  

Natural Healthy Food.        A new vegan eatery 

Last night Mr. Red and I were lucky enough to be invited to Birminghams  newest vegan eatery.

Natural Healthy  Food is located on the ground floor of Orion building, Suffolk Queensway just before the New Alex theatre, it has plenty of signage up so it’s not difficult  to find, but it really is worth seeking out. 

Not only a vegan and gluten  free dining experience  this is also an organic grocery store  that stocks a huge selection of foodstuffs,  household cleaning items and toiletries. But more about that later, first I want to share my dining experience. 

Before our arrival I had bumped into some friends who had also been invited to try Natural  Healthy Food  and so the four of us shared a table and better still, when we arrived I was greeted by a dear friend who is working here. 

The food is laid out buffet style, with a variety of hot and cold dishes available  for you to serve yourself, when you have filled your plate you take it to the cash desk to pay, payment  is calculated  by weight.

I took  a little bit of everything, OK not quite everything, but I decided variety was the key to my first vegan experience. Variety  is most definitely  on the menu here, food options included cold salad’s including various dips, hummus, chic peas and nuts,  curry, chili, vegan shepherds  pie,  cauliflower  cheese, roasted mixed vegetables, potatoes, rice, noodles and onion bread. 

I absolutely  love the Singapore  noodles  they didn’t look terrifically appetising  but oh my they tasted sublime thanks to a drizzle  of sesame oil, the Black Bean chili was equally impressive  with just enough of a punch to be tasty without overdoing the heat, yet packed full of flavour, the onion bread was rich with the flavour of fried onions and is something I could easily  be greedy with and it’s still gluten free.

A variety of desserts were passed around, I’m not a big sweetie fan but the difference  in a dessert made with sugar and desserts made with sweet stuff that’s not sugar could easily tempt me, I realised I don’t like sugar but I do like natural sweetness from carob, dates and the like. The key lime pie was certainly  my favorite, it packed a zesty punch but the sugar free brownies were also excellent. 

Alongside our delicious  meal we enjoyed a herbal tea, an impressive  selection of tea and coffee are available  and the tea is served with a little egg timer so as to provide you with the perfect strength of your favorite brew. We tried the lemongrass  and ginger, it provides an immediate  hit of lemon followed by a gentle tang of ginger as an after thought, but there is a massive selection of fruit and herb teas,  so you’re bound to find a new favorite if your usual tea is not on the menu. 

Lunchtime take away boxes are also available should you be looking for a healthy and tasty alternative  to your usual sandwich. 

On to the shop, which stocks overy 1500 everyday items. As well as the usual selection of organic fruit and vegetables, canned goods, chocolate bars, whole foods, milks and  juices there is also household cleaning products and toiletries. But for me it was the quality of the fresh vegetables that really impressed.  It’s surprising how we get used to the fruit and vegetables  that our supermarket deem to be ‘quality’ and it’s not until I handled an unwaxed lemon, fresh garlic that is the size of  my palm and as solid as iron and most impressive  a bears claw of fresh root ginger that was shiny and firm rather than the sad and shrivelled  offering I have previously been used to. I do know there is no way I will be settling for the second best quality veggies again, not now I have found my new favourite  vegetable market. Mr. Red and I plan to stock up from here this weekend.

The restaurant  is certainly  somewhere we will be eating at again, it’s perfectly located for us when we go to the theatre as it’s between the New Alexandra and the red cage car park we use.  It’s also super fast service as it is all self service, so no time lost perusing the menu, just grab a plate and take whatever takes your fancy. 

I love the enthusiasm  and the knowledge  that the staff have too. I really do recommend  you try Birminghams  newest vegan dining experience.  Had I not been invited I may well have dismissed this trendy eatery with its reclaimed wood top tables, Eddison  style lighting, friendly staff, welcoming background music, lovely atmosphere and superb food as somewhere for vegans and therefore not for me, but what I  realised last night is  Vegan places are not just places for vegans.  

Although I was invited here to enjoy a meal at no cost to myself, this is not a sponsored  post, this is just my honest opinion to a lovely meal.