food

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?

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'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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- Birmingham's New Boozy Bottomless Brunch

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- Afternoon Tea at Mckenzies 

MY FIRST CAT CAFE EXPERIENCE

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

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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