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

I've always wanted to be one of those women who goes for brunches and lunches with their girls on the weekends. I've seen it in films loads and that is the life I want. So when I was asked to try out the new Dirty Martini Bottomless Brunch in Birmingham I knew this was my time to shine. I was going to take my Mom for nibbles and drinks and we were going to be sophisticated ladies. We were definitely not going to get drunk...


The brunch itself includes a lovely selection of treats including; Cheese & bacon arancini, beef & cheese sliders, buttermilk chicken, vegetable sushi, vegetable spring rolls, halloumi & hummus wrap, wonton & paprika crisps, and sweet potato chips. The miniature treats were presented in a birdcage, similar to how you would expect afternoon tea to be served - but more fancy. It was all very instagramable.


The food was actually pretty delicious, once I eventually stopped taking photos if it that is. Although small, the Beef sliders were incredibly tasty. They were topped with a sweet smoky (BBQ maybe?) sauce that really finished them off beautifully. I even enjoyed the sweet potato fries which I'm not usually a fan of. I wasn't massively impressed with the Sushi, but then again I've never really been into anything like that. 

The Bottomless Brunch will set you back £25 a head which I thought was a little pricey at first, that was until I realised you each get 4 Martinis and unlimited Prosecco!!! Now alcohol does not come cheap in Birmingham City Centre, especially in a swanky little cocktail bar like Dirty Martinis, so I think you get a lot of booze for your buck. And let me tell you, they are not stingy with that Prosecco either, oh no, they whiz round every few minutes making sure everyone's fizz is filled to the brim!


So what pretty little martinis can you expect on the Brunch menu? You'll have the choice of 5; a Passionfruit Martini, a Blood Orange & Vanilla Martini, a Mango & Chilli Martini, an Espresso Martini and a French Martini. Between us, mother and I tried them all. Moms favourite was the Blood Orange & Vanilla Martini (Absolut Mango Vodka, Briottet liqueur de Mangue, and lemon & mango juices) whilst I fell in love with the French Martini (Absolut Vodka, Chambord and pineapple juice). 


So would I go back? Honestly yes. We were treated to a very boozy afternoon surrounded by lots of lovely ladies and gents doing the exact same on a quiet Sunday. Although fairly new, the brunch seemed to be very popular, and those not nibbling on mini burgers and wraps were taking full advantage of happy hour which runs all day on a Sunday. 

We stayed long past our designated time, which didn't bother the staff, and left very merry* indeed. It's definitely something I hope to do again in the future, maybe for a special occasion or as part of a girly weekend, afterall it really is a treat.

Where is your favourite place to brunch?

*absolutely pissed as farts

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The Bottomless Brunch was provided to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

BIRMINGHAM'S NEW BOOZY BOTTOMLESS BRUNCH

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

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