Birmingham
On thursday night myself and the rest of the family popped into Birmingham newest pop up bar, Once Upon a Time in Birmingham. It's a Christmas themed pop up bar situated slap bang in the center of Birmingham inside the old Jamie's Italian Restaurant. 
The launch night actually fell on Dads birthday so I thought it would be rude not to nip in for some complimentary xmas themed bevies!


On arrival you are given a pair of kaleidoscope glasses which are meant to 'enhance the experience'. They basically multiply the twinkling lights by 1000 and make you feel like you've already had one too many cocktails.They do make for some fun photos though and I've never been to a bar in Birmingham (or anywhere for that matter) that dish out props for the night!

Once inside there are several areas to sit in, booths, a chill out area, and the main bar area. We chose to drink in the main bar area as there were a few of us and the booths were taken. If you do get the chance I would recommend grabbing a booth as the view you get of the bar is by far the best from there. The booths are also surrounded by a forest of fairy lights making that area almost den like.


Around the bar there are over 88,000 fairy lights, a shit tonne of tinsel, and various other Christmas decorations, tacky doesn't even come close to describing this temporary birmingham bar. That being said I am a lover of all things novelty and I know this place will do incredibly well in the run up to Christmas. Christmas, booze, and a super fun interior? I think they're onto a winner here.


Speaking of booze, what can you guzzle down in this funky little place? Well the menu consists of everything you would expect, wines, beers, soft drinks etc. but it also features several Christmas cocktails which I don't think you would find anywhere else in Birmingham, or even the UK. Over the course of evening I think I managed  to try every festive drink on the menu, but my favourite by far was the super sweet Gin & Pomegranate Punch. It would have been nice to also see a few basic cocktail combinations on the menu but I understand that they've tried to keep the whole experience on theme.


There are also festive bar snacks (Christmas spiced bombay mix, pine salted peanuts, and potato & gravy flavoured crisps) none of which I tried as we had come straight from a Chinese buffet and you best believe we stuffed our little faces silly! The one thing I would have liked to try however was the elusive clear christmas pudding. It's highly advertised and even shown as a bit of a selling point for this Birmingham bar however I sadly couldn't get my hands on any as the chefs had gone home. Better luck next time maybe?


So what did I think overall? It's a fun little pop up that I know will be massively popular over the next few weeks. I do think the cocktails are a little on the pricey side of things but it's a gimmicky xmas themed bar so you're always going to pay a little more at those kind of places. It's probably not the kind of bar you would want to spend every weekend but it's a nice enough place for a few festive drinks in the run up to Christmas!

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* Our drinks were complimentary however all opinions are my own

ONCE UPON A TIME... IN BIRMINGHAM?*

A couple of weeks ago myself and Mom were invited* down to Rico Libre to see the new location and try out the new menu. I’m a big fan of tapas on holiday and so I jumped at the chance to test out how well we do it here in the centre of Birmingham. Rico Libre is now situated in the heart of the custard factory, so just a short 10-15 minute walk from Birmingham city centre. 



Between us we ordered 6 dishes which was the recommended amount. Initially we weren't sure if this would be enough as we are big eaters but I think anymore than 3 dishes each would have been a bit of a struggle.

After a fairly intense look at the menu, I finally decided on my three. I chose Pollo Marbella (chicken breast with white wine, chorizo, and cream), Pisto (Spanish Ratatouille), and Tortilla de Patatas (Spanish Omelette). The Polla Marbella was nice, though the taste of the chorizo was a little strong for me after a while, the Pisto was delicious, if not a little on the spicy side of things, but the Tortilla de Patatas was the real winner for me. It was larger than the other dishes and really was my favourite of the night. I would also recommend the Pisto as both myself and mom thought it was very tasty, but it is a little spicy and if like me you can't hack the heat, you may struggle with this one.


Mom on the other hand went for Pan de Barra (bread with Kalamata & Halkidiki olives and balsamic oil), Pescado Blanco Frito (deep fried fish in a light batter), and the grilled beef served with a five bean salad. The Pan de Barra was perfect, we both love olives and thoroughly enjoyed nibbling on them as we sipped our drinks. The fish I'm almost certain was moms favourite dish as the portion size was quite generous and she said the batter was lovely too. I will admit though that the beef, as beautifully presented as it was, just wasn't really our cup of tea.

A lot of the dishes were very different to the kind of tapas we’d tried in the past so some of them we loved and some of them just weren’t to our taste, but that’s always the risk when trying out new foods. Sometimes it's nice to give new things a go even if they aren't something you'd be in a rush to try again.


After finishing off our meals we decided to have one small desert between us, and I will admit, it was quite small. We chose the Mousse de Maracuya (Passionfruit mousse in a chocolate cup). I think mom only had one small spoonful, but in all honestly was more than happy to finish it off as the mousse was incredibly tasty with a really great texture to it, and the chocolate cup, well I wolfed that yummy little casing down in no time.

Drinks wise we opted for a bottle of Peach green tea and a can of San Pellegrino as Rico Libre isn’t licensed and we didn’t know this beforehand. I do wish I'd done my research before dining as I'd set my heart on a glass of Sangria which I thought would be readily available in a Spanish restaurant, but as they cannot sell alcohol this would never have been possible. I would definitely recommend taking your own wine/ beer etc. as that way you can drink whatever you like and obviously it keeps costs down a little which is always a bonus.


As for the service, I did think this was a little on the relaxed side of things, especially for a weekday. I did have to ask for things a couple of times, but I will say our server was incredibly friendly and once we had requested something, nothing was too much trouble for him.

So my verdict? As I said previously not all of the food was to my taste, and if I’m honest I did find some of it a little on the pricey side of things. Dishes range from £3.50 all the way up to £7/£8 which can very quickly add up when you are ordering a few items. That being said it is a little independent place set in one of my favourite (and one of the most instagrammable) parts of the city and it offers an experience unlike any chain restaurant you dine in. It's clear that the food is cooked fresh and the ingredients used are good quality, you wont get microwaved tat here.

Are you a fan of Tapas? Where is your favourite place to eat Tapas in Birmingham or even the UK?



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* Our meals were complimentary however all opinions are my own 

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RICO LIBRE - TAPAS IN THE HEART OF BIRMINGHAM*

Well this is an overdue blog post if I ever did write one! A couple months ago myself and my lovely mother took a trip down to Solihull as I was invited to review* the new (well, not so new now) afternoon tea at the Village Hotel. Spending an hour or so chatting over a good cuppa and munching on miniature cakes is one of my favourite past times, this however was an afternoon tea with a twist...



The afternoon tea is actually inspired by Great British Bake off winner Candice Brown. Now I'll come clean, I've never watched bake off, nope not even once, so fans of the show might find that more interesting than me - I'm just here for the tea and cakes let's be honest.

So what's on the menu? As with all great afternoon teas you should expect lot's of tea (or coffee) and cakes. As I said however, this is no regular afternoon tea so you'll also be treated to bite sized quiches, teeny tiny egg mayo rolls, and some kind of prawn cocktail creation on a cracker, instead of the usual finger sandwiches. Now I'm not a fan of seafood so I didn't touch the prawn creation or the salmon quiche but I was told that alternatives are available for fussy eaters like myself. My mother and loyal afternoon tea taster did enjoy the little fishy foods however and reported back to me that they were in fact quite tasty. I'll take your word on that one mom.



Along with the little savoury snacks we were also presented with rocky road style cakes, miniature rhubarb & custard profiteroles, and posh cornflake cakes of all things. The cornflake cakes actually took me a bit by surprise as they are something you usually make with 5 year old and not something you would ideally serve up to paying customers, however it was more than your bog standard cornflake cake. The cake had a soft base, similar to that of a cherry bakewell and was filled with a sweet lemon filling, the cornflakes themselves were then topped with coconut which might seem like a ctrange combo but funnily enough it all worked really quite well together.

So what's after the cakes? Scones of course (or scoooones if you're posh). To mother and I the scones really are the make and break of an afternoon tea. Give us a good jam & cream scone and you're onto a winner. Give us a bad one, or one with, god forbid, butter and you're straight into our bad books. So did this this afternoon make our naughty or nice list? Well I'm still slightly undecided. The scones included in the Village Hotels afternoon tea were actually chocolate orange flavoured so they were pretty much written off straight away by my mom. If it's not broke why fix it right? Well I would be inclined to agree with her but I did actually quite enjoy these funny little citrus scones and although they aren't necessarily what I would chose, they were still pretty decent.


So what was my opinion of the whole thing? Well it was a different afternoon tea experience I'll give it that, but it wasn't too different, and actually it was nice to spice it up a little bit. The platter comes in at £17.50 per person which isn't too pricey for a 4 star hotel restaurant, but it probably is a little more than I would usually spend on an afternoon tea if I'm honest. All in all it was pretty damn decent and I enjoyed trying out an afternoon tea with a little bit of twist.



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* Our afternoon tea was complimentary however all opinions are my own!


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THE SOLIHULL AFTERNOON TEA WITH A TWIST*

"Another new restaurant, how long will this one last?!". It's a question that seems to cross my mind with every new opening at our snazzy new station, but I think it's pretty valid. Sometimes it feels like restaurants come and go quicker than the trains at Birmingham's Grand Central Station so when I saw Holy Moly Macaroni open and ready for business I just had to try it out.


The menu isn't massively extensive and features mostly Mac & Cheese dishes (funnily enough). I did find several things I liked the look of however which makes a nice change for me as I'm the fussiest eater on the planet. In the end I chose the Buttermilk Chicken with, you guessed it, Mac & Cheese. The Chicken was delicious, and so was the Mac & Cheese to my surprise! Believe it or not I'd never actually tried Mac & Cheese before but it's definitely something I'd have again. A lot of the dishes come with mini Mac sides but there is also a selection of larger Mac & Cheese dishes with various ingredients if you want it as a main. There's even a Mac & nocheese for Vegans and Gluten free options for the celiacs, so everyone is catered for. 


Despite the food being super tasty, the portion sizes just weren't that big in my opinion. Maybe (definitely) I'm a big eater but I did think there could have been a little more on my plate, Tori my dining partner also agreed. She went for exactly the same meal as me but added an extra side of Cajun chips, good call. 

Along with my dinner I also went for a Vimto, yeah yeah I know it's boring but I wasn't feeling anything alcoholic. Now I could have sworn the drinks were refillable, and I definitely refilled mine, but I can't seem to find anything online to suggest they are? So If they are, they're great value for money at £2.80, and if they're not well then I'm a thieving bastard. 


The service during our meal was fab, the staff were super friendly, and the place itself was kept really clean. I'll definitely go back and try out some of the other tasty meals if it does still exist in a few months time. As I said previously, restaurants in Grand Central don't tend to last too long however I really hope this one does as it's a little bit different and it's not just another chain.

Where's the best place you've eaten at recently?


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HOLY MOLY MACARONI - FAD OR FEAST?


Hi I’m Grace, a born and bred Brummy, but I’m sure you already knew that. I love my home city and even the strange accent it gave me, but now days I spend most of my time planning to escape this town. So much so that when asked where I like to eat and drink I could real off a list bars in Amsterdam, and I could tell you exactly where to get the best grub in Disneyland Paris, but Birmingham? I’m not so sure.

I’m forever jetting off to new and exciting places when I have a whole host of great things on my doorstep. There are so many fun and interesting things to do here, from the fantastic IKON Gallery, to the Botanical Gardens, and a huge range of fab bars, pubs, and hotels in Birmingham that I am yet to try. Not forgetting that we have more canals here than Venice! Oh you knew that one already? Well it's true and since the massive redevelopment a few years back Brindley Place and similar areas have become pretty popular sites to grab some grub and a few bevies. 


So where would I recommend for a couple of drinks? A few weeks ago I wouldn’t have been able to tell you, that was until I challenged myself to a Brummy Bar crawl to discover some fab new places in the city centre. And I didn’t even touch Broad Street once, I actually stayed on the same road for most of the night!

So where did I go?

Bodega Bar and Cantina
12 Bennets Hill, Birmingham, B2 5RS

Bodega is a fun little eatery where you can get some fab Mexican food and drinks. Tori (my drinking partner for the night) and I both ordered Burritos which were much too spicy for our tastes and I ordered a Mojito because I’m boring and basic.

I’m not going to lie the service was pretty bad that night, several tables who were seated long after us were served before so that wasn’t fab. That being said the atmosphere is pretty cool and there is a Mexican Stir Fry on the menu that I really fancy. 6/10 - would return on a school night.


The Cosy Club
33 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham, B2 5SN


After slurping down our drinks we nipped over the road to The Cosy Club. This fancy little bar is a firm favourite with lots of locals and I’ve been once before myself. It's not the cheapest place in the world but it isn’t extortionate considering the banging city centre location and pretty interiors. 

Here I ordered a Grapefruit Gin and Lemonade which was surprisingly tasty and Tori went for a Cherry Bakewell cocktail which she said was amazing. 8/10


Dirty Martini
7 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham, B2 5ST

If you’ve been here a while you will know I’m a big fan of the fairly new Dirty Martini. The decor here is amazing and I couldn’t think of a more Instagram worthy bar in all of Birmingham. I’ve had several little drinkies in here before and I have no doubt I will be back again.

Expect to pay between £9 - £10 for a Martini here unless you manage to visit at happy hour which runs A LOT and then you can pick one up half price. Tori and I both ordered the Poppy Blush Martini which was on special for a fiver and tasted delicious! 9/10


Lost and Found
8 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham, B2 5RS

Lost and Found is one of those bars I’ve been meaning to visit for ages, I’ve heard nothing but good reviews and I can kind of see why. Like the others it was completely rammed and hard to get served at the fairly small bar, but what can you expect on a Friday night really?

Similar to others along Bennetts Hill, the interiors are fantastic and almost mimic a victorian pub, or at least what I expect a Victorian pub would look like. We even spotted a secret room that seemed to have an event on at the time, but it looked amazing. 7/10


The Botanist
14 Temple Street, Birmingham, B2 5BG

Another bar I have visited before and the only one from the night not on Bennetts Hill, it's actually situated on the next road over. The Botanist is a gorgeously decorated bar that serves all sorts of weird and wonderful beverages, which is why I’m very sad to say I only ordered a diet coke this time. Tory was a little more fun an opted for a Mocktail but its safe to say we were done with alcohol by the time we arrived here. Even if you go for nothing more than a coke I would say the Botanist is still well worth a visit! 7/10


There are so many lovely little bars and restaurants in Birmingham City Centre and I'm always looking for more recommendations so please feel free to leave them below or send me a tweet!


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* The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, however all views are my own.

MARTINIS AND MOJITOS - A FANCY BAR CRAWL IN BIRMINGHAM CITY CENTRE*

Pies, Pasties, Sausage Rolls - if it involves pastry I'm probably going to want to eat it. I'm a huge fan of all things savoury, so when I was invited down to try out the new festive menu at PieMinister I couldn't say no. Christmas Pies? Yes please!

I decided to take my mom along with me to taste test the goods. We've been going for little lunches quite regularly lately and it's honestly been so lovely. Is there a better way to bond than over good food a drinks? I don't think so.


After studying the festive menu for a while and pratting about in our little Christmas crowns we finally decided on our Pies. We both went for Christmas Lunch which includes a Pie, two sides, a stick, and a pudding and costs £15. We probably could have gone for the Christmas Feast which is a little bit larger but honestly the portion sizes are pretty decent here and we didn't want to feel sick for the Christmas shopping we would be doing after lunch. 

We both opted for 'The Cracker' pie which is a Turkey and Ham pie with Cranberries, Parsnips, and Sherry. I was very tempted by the 'Cristingle' too which is filled with Honey Roast Parsnips, Chestnuts, West Country Cheddar, and Leek, but I went with the more traditional option and I'm quite glad I did as it was yum.


The pie comes with a tasty poultry gravy which is quite fragrant. I've always enjoyed the chicken gravy but both my Mom and Sister have said they weren't massively keen on it. I have since been told there is the option to swap that gravy up for a veggie based one which might be worth knowing if you don't fancy a chicken gravy. 

For our sides we both chose Mash, I chose the Festive Slaw and mother chose Minty Mushy Peas. The mash was perfect as always and Mom really loved her minty peas however I wasn't completely sold on the slaw. It was full of flavour and had a very strong citrus zing to it but it's not something I would probably choose again in all honesty.

For our Sticks we also both went for the 'Meaty' which included a Pig in Blanket, a Stuffing Ball, a Mini Yorkshire pudding, and some Cranberry Sauce. There was no competition between the Sticks if I'm honest, I was always going to choose the option with a Pig in a Blanket! I just wish I could have ordered a bowl of them as a side!


Now for our puddings, which we just about had room for, I chose the Hot Chocolate Pudding with Chocolate Sauce and Ice Cream and Mom went for the Sticky Toffee Pudding. When it comes to sweat treats I'm not usually all that bothered. I could skip dessert every time and it wouldn't bother me but if I did want something tasty at the end of my meal it has to be choctastic! I can honestly say I wasn't disappointed as my little chocolate cake came absolutely smothered in warm thick sauce which I virtually drank. It was good.

So would I go back to PieMiniser? Of course I would, I bloody love pie. I do think PieMinister can be a little pricey compared to a lot of the places I usually eat at but it's clear they use good quality ingredients in those pretty little pies. They also cater very well for Veggies, Vegans, and even have a range of Gluten Free pies which is always good to know. 

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* Our meals were complimentary however all opinions are my own. 



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PIES PIES PIES*

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