food
Am I a food critic yet? Some days it feels like it, but nope, I just know what I like and I can talk about it for days. Maybe that's why Miller & Carter invited me down to dine in one of their newer restaurants last week. I can't be sure, all I know is that I went, ordered whatever I fancied, and I enjoyed every last bite.
The recently opened Marlbrook restaurant is located just outside of Birmingham in neighbouring Bromsgrove. It's situated in a very easy to get to spot and has a large carpark at the front which makes a nice change from over crowed, multi-story parking in the city. 

We arrived pretty much bang on time for our reservation last Thursday night and were promptly greeted and seated. We were offered the choice to sit and have drinks before being shown to our table but our stomachs were empty and we were ready to eat. 

The interiors of the Marlbrook branch were similar to other Miller & Carter restaurants. It had a very familiar feel but with a warm homely touch. This welcoming feeling was one that would not leave us all night, but was especially prominent whilst we were being served by our waitress Kat.

Once we were given our menus there was no rush to order. We were given plenty of time to pick and choose what we wanted and I noticed the same patience was shown to other guests, even the less friendly ones.
After a good few minutes of debating what to order I opted for a bowl of Mediterranean olives as a starter, and a bacon and smoked cheddar burger with more olives as my main (don't judge me). I also decided to push the boat out and ordered myself a little Mojito. 

I took my partner in crime to help me sample the delicious menu, such a tough job I know, but I have to repay him for the hours he spends taking photographs of myself for the gram, am I right? Sean is a huge steak fan so I doubt he even looked at the burgers or any other section of the menu whilst ordering. In fact he opted to order from the Steaks & Dates menu (obviously) in which you can order a 3 course meal for £25.95 per person on Thursday nights after 5pm. 
Sean's not one to stick to budgets when eating out and so he ordered the cluck and duck wings for a starter, the 8oz 30 day aged fillet, which incurred a £5 supplement, and a glass of red wine. I have since been told the supplement was 100% worth it. Our drinks soon arrived and the photoshoot began (sorry Sean).

After a very short wait our starters were brought over to the table. Sean's looked absolutely incredible and I was told the hoisin glazed chicken and duck wings tasted as good as they looked. As I was saving my main tummy space for my burger, I didn't want a large starter and so my mixed olives were the perfect thing to nibble on while I sipped on my Mojito feeling all fancy.
My tasty little cocktail was soon gone and it was time to order another. This time I opted for something a little bit more boozy, a long island ice tea. I had one back in December when we visited another branch of Miller & Carter and it was the perfect drink to accompany my main meal. The designated driver had a coke, poor Sean. 

After another short wait our mains were placed in front of us - cue another unbearably long photoshoot for Sean. He knows the drill by now, I'm sure all 'Instagram boyfriends' do and to be honest it wasn't all that hard to take cracking photos when the food is as well presented as ours was.
We were soon tucking into our meaty meals which were every bit as delicious as we anticipated they were going to be. My bacon and smoked cheddar burger really was something else, it was juicy and full of flavour without being greasy like burgers sometimes can be.

My favourite touch was the cheddar topped bacon which is more like a slab of gammon in my opinion and really does take the burger to the next level. I also think it's priced very reasonably for a steak house, costing just £11.95 including a large side of chips and tasty coleslaw. I know Sean also enjoyed his meal by just how quickly it had found itself into his belly. 
After munching down on our mains we were pretty stuffed. I couldn't even finish my second helping of olives, can you imagine? We asked to take a short break before ordering our desserts and weren't felt rushed at all. 

When we were eventually ready for our sweet treats Sean knew exactly what he wanted and ordered the rich chocolate brownie. It sounded amazing, and was even available on the regular dessert menu however I fancied something much smaller. Although the desserts on offer looked delicious I knew I wouldn't be able to finish an adult sized portion, but I didn't have to fear as Kat was here and ready to recommend a child's ice cream which came with two scoops and a cookie on the side, perfect.
Some restaurants wont let adults order from the child's menu as it's company policy. In my eyes this translates to 'we just want you to spend more money' but this wasn't a problem here at all and my dessert was the perfect size to finish off my delicious meal. 

Sean and I both had such a nice date night, in a lovely setting, served by the friendliest waitress. Miller & Carter is a treat for me as some of the dishes can be on the pricier side but I can honestly say it has left me pining for more. The quality of the food really is worth every penny and I can't wait for my next visit. 

Want a fancy date night of your own? Enter my competition HERE to win a £50 Miller & Carter voucher!

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* Our meal was complimentary however all thoughts and opinions are my own. I would never promote anything I didn't believe in.

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POSH BURGERS AND COCKTAILS - A TASTE OF MILLER & CARTER

Last week I was invited down to Chung Ying, a traditional Cantonese restaurant in Birmingham City Centre, to test out their brand new brunch menu. I'd not been before, and come to think of it, I don't think I'd ever had brunch before either, so I invited a friend and we both jumped at the chance! I'm a big fan of oriental food, but I'd mostly eaten at chain restaurants or nipped up the road for a takeaway, I've never tasted the real deal before.


Location

Chung Ying is located in the heart of Birmingham's China Town directly opposite The Arcadian, and a short distance from The Hippodrome. It can be reached in less than 5 minutes from both the Bullring shopping centre and Grand Central train station. 

Service

When we arrived at Chung Ying we were immediately seated at our reserved table even though we were quite early. We were promptly given our menus and ordered our drinks, which arrived back at our table very quickly.

Our waiter also assisted us with our order, and explained how the brunch menu works. You can order whatever you like but there is a deal on which we were trying to stick to. He also showed us how to actually order from the menu; like some similar restaurants the food items have numbers next to them and to select the item you would like you simply write the amount you want next to the corresponding number on the paper slip you are given. 

Our waiters seemed to change quite regularly throughout our meal, each one stopping occasionally to ask if everything was okay and to top up our tea. At one point it was clear I was having trouble with my chop sticks (honestly what am I like) and so one of the waiters brought over a super easy to use wrapped up pair. I didn't even have to ask but it made eating a lot easier! 

Although the restaurant was very quiet when we first arrived, it soon got incredibly busy coming up to lunchtime, but regardless of the sudden surge in customers the staff were still very attentive and helpful. I honestly couldn't fault the service we were given during our meals.


Food & Drink

So onto the food. There are 5 sections to the brunch menu, which are; Dim Sums, Congee, Claypot Rice, Noodle Soups, and Seasonal Vegetables. On the brunch offer (which we were trying to stick to) you can pick one Dim Sum item and one item from any other section.

Victoria and I both opted for spare ribs in plum sauce for our first item, she then decided to go all out and try something completely new by ordering chicken feet and spare ribs as her rice dish. I on the other hand played it safe and ordered century egg & pork which comes in a rice porridge with a side of noodles - my favourite. For our drinks we both opted for a pot of classic green tea. It was served in traditional handleless tea cups, topped up frequently, and complemented our meals perfectly.

Once our food arrived the portions were much larger than we expected, although we were told by our waiter there would be a lot of food. It's always a nice surprise to be given a good sized meal, especially in a City Centre restaurant. Once our table was filled with an array of colourful food we got stuck in.

Vic was lapping up the brunch like there was no tomorrow, the chicken feet and spare ribs that she ordered at a bit of a risk turned out to be really tasty. I quickly wolfed down the noodles which are always my favourite, and even nicked quite a bit of Victoria's rice which was also delicious. I didn't find all of the meat to be quite to my taste on this occasion, it was very different to what I'm used to and I'm not a huge meat eater at the best of times anyway. 


Price

I can only comment on the brunch menu as I didn't get chance to have a look at the main menu on this occasion but I found the brunch prices to be quite reasonable. Our brunch deal, which included one Dim Sum item and one other item was £9 which considering the size of the dishes, and the fact that it's a City Centre restaurant is pretty good. The dishes are £6 individually which again, I don't think is too bad.

My Verdict

Overall I thought the whole meal was a really fun authentic experience. It's very rare than I come out of my comfort zone and try new things, so although not everything was my cup of tea, it was nice to give something different a go for once. If you are new to traditional cantonese food then this is an exciting experience. If you are used to it however, you can expect to enjoy a selection of rich, tasty, flavourful food with excellent service.

Have you been to Chung Ying Cantonese in Birmingham City Centre?

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* Our meal was complimentary however all thoughts and opinions are my own.



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HONG KONG BRUNCH - FOR ADVENTUROUS FOODIES


When was the last time you made yourself something really nice to eat? Not for your partner or the kids, for just you. Can't remember? Neither could I. Now I cook a lot. Most nights a make some yummy meals for Sean and myself, but I don't if I'm just feeding me. If Sean's out I'll make a sandwich or some Supernoodles, who wants to go through all the effort of creating a fantastic meal just for themselves, am I right? But I've thought about that a lot lately and I don't think its a good way of thinking.

It makes me really happy to cook for Sean. I want him to eat well and I want him to enjoy his food. Maybe its a female thing? A motherly instinct? I can't be sure but one thing I do know is that I don't take that same care for myself when I'm eating alone. Its silly when I think about it because if I was single I couldn't live on a diet of crisp sandwiches and sausage rolls (although wouldn't that be fab). So why don't I treat myself to good food?



Well I want that to stop. I'm on a mission to take care of myself this year, in all sorts or ways. I want to eat healthier, do more exercise and keep working on my metal health. I'm in a good place right now but its very easy for all that to slip away. So how am I going to practise this self care? There are so many ways of showing yourself love, from physically pampering yourself to recognising and dismissing bad thoughts when they appear. One of the ways I'm going to start working on self love is by making myself, and just myself nice food. The meals don't always have to be healthy, the afternoon tea I made myself was far from it but my god it felt good to indulge. It felt good to make something delicious, something a bit special, something I've always viewed as a treat, just for me. 

I love a good afternoon tea, like I said they are special, but I think special meals should be a more regular thing. I want to make myself feel special, I want to make myself feel loved. I can't just rely on those around me to show me love, I need to show myself some love. I want to love my body, my mind, I want to be a good person, and I want to be successful. I think all that needs to start by doing simple, kind things for myself. 



"There's nothing a good cuppa can't fix"

They say a cup of tea can make everything better and whilst I know deep down thats not true, I can't help but feel there's something behind the saying. Sipping away on a cup of tea allows you a few minutes to just stop, relax, and enjoy. It wont change anything but the act of creating your perfect cuppa and taking some time to unwind is one very small thing you can do to show yourself some kindness. 

A few months back I was kindly sent some tea to try by Adagio Tea*, a small artisan tea company. I was delighted to accept the bundle as I knew it meant I would have to make more time to sit, and drink, and chill whilst trying out the various flavours. Adagio Tea stock a rang of teas from Green to Oolnong to Matcha and more, they even sell decaffeinated teas for anyone wanting to lower their caffeine intake but not give up their daily tea fix. I've still not even put a dent in my box of goodies but the teas I have tried so far have been delicious. My favourite has to be the Earl Grey Lavender, but there's no surprise there.



Its taken me a long time to realise it, but it really is the little things in life that make us happy. Even the smallest of things like having 5 minutes to enjoy a tasty cuppa or creating a lovely meal for yourself are easy ways to practise self love and thats something I want to focus on a lot in the coming months. 

If you love tea like I do, head over to my Instagram now for a chance to win an IngenuiTEA Infuser, Glass Mug, and a range of sampler sets!

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* This post contains gifted items however all opinions are my own and I would never promote anything I didn't 100% believe in.

SELF LOVE & AFTERNOON TEA


Last week I popped down to the brand spanking new Dirty Martini in Birmingham City Centre. I wasn't able to make it to the opening night the previous week and so I was very excited to see what it was like - I wasn't disappointed. The decor was a combination of sleek city sophistication mixed in with fun pops of colour and the occasional neon light. But I wasn't there to ooh and ahh over the interiors, I was there to make some cocktails!

Throughout my years I have sampled my fair share of cocktails, mostly Mojito's, Sex On The Beach's, you know the usual. I'd also never really tried my hand at making my own other than throwing together a mix of spirits in the hope that it would get me drunk and not taste too horrendous at the same time. It's fair to say I'm a complete novice when it comes to cocktail making and so when I was asked to participate in a class I jumped at the chance.


The class started with popping us behind the bar and giving us a run down of what's what. I'd not been behind a bar before so I was actually quite surprised at just how much is going on over there. Between tiny sinks, ice, chopped fruits, and various utensils there was still enough room to make some fab drinks, and that's exactly what we would be doing next.

The first cocktail we made was called 'Grace's Secret' and no it's not named after me unfortunatly, it is one of three Peaky Blinders cocktails made especially for the Birmingham branch of Dirty Martini. You can't get these cocktails anywhere else, and they are only available until the 31st of May! Grace's Secret is a beautiful blend of Langley's Old Tom Gin, Briottet Creme De Fraise, and Lillet Blanc, these are mixed up with rose syrup, lemon juice, egg white, and delicious fresh strawberries. In between throwing various ingredients around and spilling most of the booze I actually managed to make a very tasty cocktail, one of the tastiest I've probably had in a long while. Although I'm no expert when it comes to drinks, I'd give it a firm 5/5!


The second cocktail we were to make was 'The Tommy Shelby' which is another exclusive Peaky Blinders cocktail. This snazzy little drink includes the staple Langley's Old Tom Gin, Courvoisier VS Cognac, Bold Aperitif, Belsazer Vermouth mixed in with peach syrup, lemon juice, egg white, and a dash of Dandelion and Burdock Bitters. I mostly avoided spilling the ingredients this time and I even managed to shake it up reasonable well too, although I could not do this for a living! It is bloody hard work mixing up cocktails and I take my hat off to the bartenders that do this night after night! So what did I think of The Tommy Shelby? Delicious! Really really tasty and a close second to the previous pink beauty.


We didn't get chance to try 'The Garrison' which is the last of the three Peaky Blinders drinks, but it has the same Langley's Old Tom Gin as a base so I have no doubt it tastes just a good as the others - as for the rest of the menu, well there are loads of other drinks, and even nibbles too, so I guess I'll just have to pop back and try them all another time!

What is your all time favourite cocktail?


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* The cocktail masterclass was complimentary however all opinions are my own.

COCKTAIL MASTERCLASS AT THE NEW BIRMINGHAM DIRTY MARTINI

Last weekend Sean and I took a fairly spontaneous trip up to Lichfield. It's roughly an hour from my house by train and as we'd just invested in a rail card we thought why not? Earlier that week I'd also really been craving an afternoon tea so after doing a bit of research I convinced Sean to take me to McKensies, a lovely little restaurant in the heart of Lichfield City.


We arrived without a booking which we thought might have been an issue on a busy Saturday afternoon however they were able to fit us in and we were soon seated. After placing our order we were told there might be a small wait on food however this wasn't the case and our delicious afternoon meal arrived promptly.

The top tier of our afternoon tea stand consisted of; Homemade Scotch Egg sprinkled with Cheese, which tasted to me like a posh Sausage and Egg McMuffin, and two slices of Pork Pie - straight from the Butchers. I've had quite a few Afternoon Tea's and this was the first one to provide savoury treats instead of small cakes and macaroons. Although this is not what I'm used to I can honestly say it made a nice change and I will look out for this again in other Afternoon Tea menus.


The second tier held two fresh scones with plenty of cream and Jam - something I can be really fussy about, two slices of lemon cake, and the most beautiful buttery shortbread biscuit I've had in a long time. The biscuit was also branded with the McKensie's logo witch I thought added a really nice touch.

On the bottom tier were our finger sandwiches. The fillings we had on the day were; Cucumber & Cream Cheese, Ham & Cheddar, and Tuna. The menu does state that the Afternoon Tea comes with Salmon & Cream Cheese however I assume ours were substituted for tuna this time. I don't eat fish so that didn't bother me at all however if you really have your heart set on Salmon it might be worth calling ahead to double check the fillings for that day.


Service wise I couldn't complain at all really. All of the staff were very helpful and friendly. We spoke to several members of staff during our visit and none of them gave off the vibe that they were too busy to chat. That being said they were quick to clear our table when we were done and even wrapped up a slice of our leftover cake to take home. 

The overall decor and atmosphere of the place was also lovely. There was a fairly high end feel to the whole building which had a strong Stag theme throughout. Its not very often that I take notice of a restaurants playlist however the background music that played during our sitting was a mixture of cover songs changed up so that they had a smooth jazz feel to them which only added to the ambience.

So would I eat here again? Definitely. The location was good, the food was tasty and the staff were friendly, what more could you want when dining out?

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AFTERNOON TEA AT MCKENZIE'S

I'd not eaten Spanish food since I went to Barcelona last April and honestly I was desperate to get my fill of some tasty Paella. I've not found many places in Birmingham that specialise in Spanish food but I did know of at least one; Tapas Revolution.


Me and Sean had walked past Tapas Revolution a hundred times coming and going in Grand Central but we'd never really had the time to stop and eat there. We had tried the takeaway Chocolate Churros before and were pleasantly surprised so one Sunday we decided to grab a table and sit down for a proper meal.

Now I will admit at this point that I had read the menu wrong and I thought I could order a full plate of Paella from the set menu. Turns out you can only order a small Tapas sized bowl, who would have thought? Disappointed but determined to eat something other than a burger for once we ordered the cheaper set menu for two people. For £20 we got one Pan con alioli, one Croquetas de jamón, one Tortilla de patatas, one Chorizo a la sidra, and one Paella Valenciana. The 5 plates were easily enough for two people. As well as this we were given a small dish of pork belly to try, it was nice but it was a bit too rich for me. 


The food was pretty nice. I was happy to finally have Paella, even if it was just a small bowl and Sean was happy to eat a plate of Chorizo Sausage as it was a bit too strong for me. I would say the tastiest dish was the Croquestas de Jamon which seemed to be fried battered potato balls athough I wouldn't bet my life on it.

As well as our Tapas dishes we each had spanish drinks. I opted for a few glasses of grape juice which were honestly delicious and Sean chose a pint of Estrella. I thought the drinks were pretty pricey, a pint of draught beer coming in at £5.25, but I guess this isn't a place you'd eat at all that often.


Overall I really enjoyed my meal. Although I'm probably not used to some of the strong tastes in Spanish food, I'd definitely like to try Tapas again as I love the idea of picking at a few bowls of food while you drink and chat away. I thought the service as Tapas Revolution was also pretty good, our server was lovely and if he hadn't have gone off shift I doubt we would have waited over 20 minutes to pay the bill. That was the only downside to the evening really, but apart from that I enjoyed my night.

Have you ate at Tapas Revolution before?

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TAPAS REVOLUTION BIRMINGHAM

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