food

One of my favourite things about travelling is definitely gorging on new types of weird and wonderful foods. I love trying out new things, and even though I'm the fussiest eater known to man, I always leave a trip having eaten something I've never tried before. The only problem with this is that when I'm not able to travel I find myself pining for my favourite foreign foods, and usually, nothing that I, nor my local restaurants cook will suffice. You cannot beat traditional meals cooked by the natives who grew up eating them, it's a fact. 


Grace is sat to a table inside Mr Souvlaki Restaurant in Stourbridge. In front of her is a plate of Chicken souvlaki, a bowl of salar, and a mixed grill platter.


So when I saw Birmingham Eats tucking into a banging portion of Souvlaki a few weeks ago my interest peaked. Chicken Souvlaki has been one of my all-time favourite meals since I first tried it over 10 years ago on the beautiful Island of Crete. It's a fairly basic meal, but done well it's absolutely delicious. So where had the pair behind Birmingham Eats managed to nab an authentic-looking Souvlaki dinner? Mr Souvlaki in the centre of Stourbridge.


Now Stourbridge isn't exactly on my doorstep, it's around a 40-minute drive away from Birmingham, but that's a hell of a lot closer than the nearest Greek island so I was prepared to make the journey to feast some traditional greek food.


On entering the cafe-style venue, you're almost transported to a beautiful whitewashed Greek town. The interiors are done in such a way that it looks as though you are sitting on the outside of a small Greek taverna, it's just a shame they weren't able to also capture the Mediterranean weather. 


Inside Mr Souvlaki restaurant in Stourbridge. The interior is decorated to look like a white-washed greek town.


But the feel of Greece doesn't end with the decor, oh no, its with the food itself that you are really taken on a trip. The menu is pretty straightforward - Souvlaki, Gyros, Burgers and more are all on offer here, and available at greek prices too! The only thing over £10 on the menu is the mixed grill which comes in at £19.50 but feeds two!


After what seemed like an age of starting at the menu (we really were spoiled for choice) we opted for a couple of Mixed Grills, a portion of Chicken Souvlaki, a Village Salad, and 3 pots of Tzatziki. We thought 2 portions of Tzatziki would do at first but believe me that stuff is so delicious you'll want a scoop of it with every bite!


First impressions of our meals were good. The portion sizes were generous, everything was well presented, and the smell, well that was just something else. I'm not sure how I managed to take any photos before we all jumped into our dishes because the scent of the warm fresh meat in front of us was beautiful. 


And the taste didn't disappoint either. My Chicken Souvlaki was cooked perfectly and the pitta bread that arrived with it was the best I've probably ever tasted before. I can only assume it was cooked fresh on the day because I've never had pitta bread that was quite as soft and fluffy as this - not even in Greece! I also tried a few bits and bobs from the Mixed Grill Platters which tasted just as good as my meal if not better. I didn't get the chance to munch on everything from the platter but I was assured by my family that it was all as good as it looked.


A plate of Chicken Souvlaki, a mixed grill,  a bowl of salad, and a bowl of Tzatziki at Mr Souvlaki Restaurant Stourbridge


The only criticism I have with the food was that it wasn't as warm as I would have liked. Although the cooked meats were warm, the potato sliced chips were actually quite cold which we raised with the staff at the time. This wasn't a huge issue but the meal would have been perfect if they were a little bit hotter. 


Would I visit Mr Souvlaki again? Without a doubt! I've never had a more delicious and authentic Greek meal outside of the country itself before, and I doubt I will come across one again for a while. Although it's not exactly local to me, the quality of the food and the crazy low prices would definitely bring me back to Mr Souvlaki's again in the future, especially while travel is off the cards!


Are you a fan of Greek foods? Where is your favourite place to nab an authentic Greek meal in the UK?


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Two previous images from inside Mr Souvlaki. Test between the images reads "MR SOUVLAKI - A TASTE OF GREECE IN THE HEART OF ENGLAND"


MR SOUVLAKI - A TASTE OF GREECE IN THE HEART OF ENGLAND

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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Birmingham, UK

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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Solihull, UK

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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Birmingham, UK

HOLY MOLY MACARONI - FAD OR FEAST?

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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Birmingham, UK

PIES PIES PIES*

I'm not a cat person. Dogs are better. Fact. Sorry but it's true. That being said, I am quite fond of the funny little fluffballs so when I happened to stroll past a cat cafe on my solo trip to Leeds a few weeks back I virtually ran inside.

I wasn't really sure what to expect, and I really really wasn't sure if it would actually be an enjoyable experience on my own but I was more excited than anything so I paid my £6 entrance fee and off I went. I didn't know there was an entrance fee at first, there didn't seem to be signs anywhere, but I guess it makes sense as this particular cafe works closely with a cat rescue centre. 


Once inside and shown to my seat I was allowed to wander around, I was actually encouraged in fact. This seemed like a good idea at first, the cats were great at hiding and I didn't fancy waiting for them to come to me so I got up to find them. 


On my first walk I didn't actually see many cats, I can only assume they were hiding/ sleeping/ fed up of being poked by children all day. Admitting defeat I headed back to my table for a cup of tea. Being the clean freak I am I didn't want to actually eat food in a place full if kitties, no matter how clean it looked. 


On a second thought maybe I should have ordered a snack or two to entice the cats over to me. I spent most of my 1 hour slot frantically trying to take photos of various cats as they desperately tried to run past my table without being touched or so much as looked at. These cats were wild.



Not having much luck with my furry friends in my seat I decided on yet another walk around. This would be my second of many attempts to see some kittens. Whilst there were various cats lounging around in comfy hiding spots, for the most part they were all out of sight.


It was on this wander that I realised why they were all tucked away, and that would be because of the children. Actually scrap that, it was because of the people acting like children. Old and young alike seemed to spend their hour slots chasing and poking the little fluffs as they went about their day. It's no wonder really that practically all of my photos from that afternoon are of cat coloured blurs.


So I took some snaps, drank my tea, and off I went to think about whether cat cafes are actually a good idea. So what did I think? Well on the one hand they are a fun way to make some money for good charities. Most of the cafes I've heard about are linked to a cat rescue in some way by either adopting cats, donating money, or both. That being said I also can't help but think there should be sort sort of 'stay in your seat' rule. I don't even know how they could enforce something like that but letting children run around after terrified cats isn't the best business plan i've ever seen to be honest.



So would I go back to one again? Maybe. I did enjoy it don't get me wrong but it wasn't the magical kitty utopia I imagined. It might be a better idea to visit these kind of places in the week, that way it wouldn't be full of wild children and maybe the cats would be more inclined to make an appearance if the room was a bit quieter. 


I love animals and I love a good cuppa, so combine the two and for me you're on to a winner. Maybe I wouldn't go out of my way to visit a cat cafe again, but if I happened to walk past one I would probably give it another go.


Have you ever been to a cat cafe before? What did you think?


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Leeds, UK

MY FIRST CAT CAFE EXPERIENCE

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