Kiln, London

Kiln is not for the faint hearted.  It is a restaurant with fire at it’s core.  Heat blazes from the clay kiln pots that are used to cook with here, and pop up from the dishes studded with chilli.  From the raised seating around the food counter it whacks you direct to face like the first steps off the plane on a summer holiday abroad.  It is the remover of clothing, the bead of sweat inducing exhilarating reason that we love obsess over fire.  A meal here is not only an insight into the food of North Thailand, it is a celebration of heat and the results it brings with control and skill.

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To see it in action is part of the theatre.  With electricity reserved only for lighting and refrigeration, all the graft is done by the small team over smouldering bits of clay.  We are handed a menu from which we choose something from every section.  We like the smaller dishes most, the pick being a coarsely ground sausage that packed the biggest of chilli hits.  Chunks of aged lamb are skewered and fused only by the melted ribbons of fat.  These are delicious, as are the chicken thigh glazed in soy in cooked gently through.  It is the most solid of starts.

From the fish section comes langoustines, cured in lime and hardly cooked so that the flesh is still semi-translucent.  It never loses the essence of the shellfish despite the big flavours of holy basil and chilli with every mouthful.  It’s delicate yet punchy, and one of the very best langoustine dishes I have ever eaten.

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We are told that the baked noodle dishes are something of a signature here, so we order them off the back of that.  They prove to be the lunches weak point, the crab lost amongst the sour dressing that you work into the dish yourself, the pig unctuous but equally unremarkable.  It’s nice enough, but for me not up to the same standard as everything else we eat.  We finish up with a beef cheek curry, the texture of the cut of meat similar to how I’ve eaten it in the far east, which is a much quicker cook and firmer texture than the long braising treatment we often give it on these shores.  It divides us; I really like the depth of flavour, complex with anise, galangal, and clove, my dining companion less so.  I finish the bowl off happily, teasing the last of the sauce out with wild rice that still has a little bit to it.

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The bill for all of this with a cocktail and glass of wine comes in at a shade over seventy quid, good value, we both agree.  Kiln is simply a one-off; a sneaky peek into the cuisine for a part of a country not associated with voyeurism like it’s southern half.  It’s a thrilling experience, equally for the punchy style of cooking and theatre.  It’s vibrant and in your face, and worthy of anyone building a sweat up for.

8/10

Kiln Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Zindiya, Moseley

I started my last piece on Zindiya with the words ‘Chicken Tikka’. Well I would, wouldn’t I? I’m so bloody predictable at times. A fully committed carnivore whose eyes wonder to the grill section of the menu, even when, as the case is at Zindiya, the majority of the menu is vegetables and other lovely stuff that leave a far smaller, morally larger, footprint on the planet.  Despite that bolshie, macho attitude I like to display I actually really love vegetarian food – about half the meals I cook at home are – and none appeals to this side of me more than Indian vegetarian cooking.  I hardly touched meat in India because I never needed to.  The ability to turn vegetables into a meal of their own is something that the Indians specialise in – they have the lowest rate of meat consumption in the world.

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I’m in Zindiya with someone who has never been here before, and when it comes to India, well, she’s been there, done that, bought the tea set.  We never meant to order a (mostly) vegetarian meal, it just kind of happened.  A lot like our relationship.  I insist on some dishes because I know they will be good, she insists on okra because she is a sadist.  The lady fingers are the first to arrive.  They have crunch and are a million miles from the gloop that I associate them with.  She did okay with this choice.  She can stay another week.

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What follows is a masterclass in vibrant and light Indian street food dishes.  No one, and I mean no one, does this as well in Birmingham as the team here.  The Aloo Tikki Chaat is a prime example of this, the potato cakes being delicately spiced, the surrounding chickpeas more aggressive in heat.  It’s topped with soothing yogurt and the most vibrant of mint sauce.  It sings.  The green pucks that are the Hara Bhara Kebabs are new to me.  The potato and spinach patties are denser than Aloo Tikki and need the mint sauce to revive them.  No such problem with the kati roll filled with cubes of paneer and coarsely chopped raw vegetables.  I’ve eaten this dish a lot because it’s wholesome and complete.  It’s a meal in itself and a bargain to boot at £6.50.

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Papri Chaat is my highlight of the night. Pops of crispy dough wafers nestle amongst chickpeas, potatoes, yoghurt and tamarind chutney, giving a perfect contrast of texture. The spicing is beautiful – all depth rather than heat – giving the dish a complex flavour that demands another mouthful. It’s absolute heaven in a dish, and a bargain at only £4.  If you thought that paragraph was too good to be mine, it’s because it is – I’ve nicked it from my girlfriend’s blog because she says it better than I ever could.  Take a look at http://www.noshandbreks.com and see how much better her pictures are of the meal.  It’s not even funny how superior she is.  Anyway, back on my (award winning, had you not heard) blog,  I’m not crazy about the taco-like presentation of the dosa, but the flavour is there in spades.  The potato filling is spiked with mustard seed and turmeric, all neatly folded into the rice batter pancake that probably doesn’t need to be so neat.  The sambhar and coconut chutney it comes with could make anything taste better.  Maybe even tofu.  Those two dishes showcase what Zindiya does at it’s best; deft spicing and vibrant cooking that wont leave you sagging with a heavy tummy for the rest of your evening.  The lightness of touch here is astounding considering the bold flavourings.  We get Chicken Tikka because Claire has never tried it.  It is still the best version of it’s kind I have ever tried.

IMG_9745IMG_9746IMG_9748There was a dessert, but I was too busy working through the cocktail list to tell you what it’s like.  What I can say is that everything has improved since it opened.  The service is sharper, the food on a constant incline.  It is ready to be rolled out across the country and embraced by those far and wide.  Tonight they served up the best vegetarian meal I’ve eaten in the city, despite not being a vegetarian restaurant.  Just don’t forget the chicken tikka.  See, I’ve gone there again.  I’m so bloody predictable.  

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, London

The promenade of The Dorchester hotel is full of those having afternoon tea.  It is a curious mix of ladies who lunch, those celebrating, and hotel guests.  The class and the crass, if you like.  There are pearls and gowns beside velour tracksuits.  Cut glass English accents are interspersed by shouty American ones.  It is a lovely space where new money meets old money with a shared interest in the most luxurious of hotels.

We walk through that promenade and turn left into the dining room of Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester.  It is bigger than I expected, with washed grey walls, immaculate white linen, deep chairs, and an army of staff.  The latter are everywhere, an orchestra of tailored suits and foreign accents who are trained into pouring wine simultaneously and expertly covering up stains with smaller sheets of linen.  Each are aware of their individual roles in us leaving replete and suitably poorer than when we left.

After turning down the attention of a champagne trolley we are presented with a generous pyramid of gougeres – those lovely savoury choux buns flavoured with cheese.  These are nice, a little light on the emmental cheese flavour, and not as good as those at Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road (an obvious comparison given it is London’s only other 3*).  The less said about the amouse bouche the better – a curious blend of cured John Dory, lime and peanut that was never going to work.  If 2017 serves up a more ill-conceived dish I shall be very unfortunate.

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We tried much of the bread to mostly great success.  A farmhouse bun was as light as a pillow and delicate with the back note of pork lard, whereas a black olive was a little muted on flavour.  Best was a bacon fogasse that had us going back for seconds, thirds, and, in my case, fourths.  Who said not to overfill on the bread course has never eaten this.  It’s the ultimate breakfast of knotted bread and cubes of fatty bacon.  We smear it inch thick with a lovely salted butter that has been shaped into an onion, whilst sneering at the aerated cream cheese option that looks and tastes like hair mousse.

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Our first course hit the mark.  A crumbed egg gave way to the brightest of yolks that served as a sauce for the smoked corn, chicken oysters and onion stuffed with chicken mousseline.  A corn tuile was a superfluous addition that the dish did not need, but the rest was indulgent and cohesive.

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And then, well, it all slumped for a while during mains.  A lamb rump was perfectly cooked, seasoned, and rested, with chickpeas, a hummus like puree and pickled onions.  It was nice.  In the same way that Songs of Praise is nice, or making daisy chains.  Impossible to fault, but equally hard to get excited over.  The thrill of dining here is lost amongst the fear of being anything other than perfect, as if the weight of Michelin hangs more heavily here than anywhere else I have dined at it in the country.  There are no risks being taken.  A word on the sauce though, it was an incredible thing that only a classic French approach can result in.

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The other main was a technically astute squid stuffed pasta, with various preparations of octopus hidden under a canopy of leaves.  The overriding flavour is one of citrus that lifts and occasional dominates all it coats.  The octopus was tender, the pasta silky, but three stars?  Really?  It’s all far too safe.

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You get the mignardises here before dessert, why I simply could not tell you.  What I can tell you is that they are all delicious, with some of the best macaroons I have eaten, cocoa coated almonds, nougat, and chocolates.  A lot of work goes into these and it pays off, with a salted caramel toffee disappearing to a nothing on the tongue.  Really lovely stuff.

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Desserts were true three star calibre.  An almond sponge has the lightest of textures, with poached apricot’s and almond granita.  Like the savoury courses there is nothing to fault but this has character; it stands up and demands attention.  Before I move onto my dessert, we were given an additional course because we were celebrating.  Its strawberries and cream for the child at heart, one perfect quenelle of milk ice cream, another of strawberry.  Little meringues of raspberry provide texture, with a singular fruit crowning it all.  The depth of the ice creams are truly staggering.  There is obvious skill in this part of the kitchen.

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The best course of the lunch deserves a post of it’s own, but I have a liver to kill and only  limited time to do so, so you’ll have to make do with this paragraph.  Chocolate and passion fruit.  It sounds simple enough.  Wrong.  Two tempered chocolate domes, one filled with a white chocolate mousse, the other a passion fruit mousse and topped with passion fruit seeds so that it resembles a halved fruit.  Have a look for yourself.  I couldn’t believe it as I cracked into it and I was 30cm away.  More chocolate as a creme, tuile, and crispy covered puffed rice.  Central to this was a vivid passion fruit ice cream that perfectly balanced it all out.  I’m not a dessert man because they are too often an afterthought, but this is up there with the very best sweet courses I have ever had.

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We finish with coffee and a tea trolley where you choose your own plant for an infusion.  It’s a lovely concept, typical of a place where every thought has been considered for the consumer.  Apart from the food that is. See, my biggest problem with Ducasse is a simple one:  Exactly one week one after dining here I have to refer to notes to remember much of what we ate.  I remember the splendid company and wonderful service.  I remember how charming the restaurant manager was.  I remember that the desserts were unquestionably three star level.  But the savoury stuff was mostly forgettable safe cooking, hovering around the two star level if they were lucky.  It’s nice.  But then nice just doesn’t cut it when this sort of money and reputation is involved.

7/10

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Townhouse, Stratford-Upon-Avon

The Townhouse know how to do weekend stays.  They understand the desires of a customer over the stereotypical stuff we are expected to want from a hotel stay, but never actually do.  Fluffy bath robes are out, a decanter full of port is in, because anyone sane would take fortified wine over post-shower warmth.  Nespresso machines and tea pots.  We get oversized mirrors and showerheads, both of which are ideal for my massive head.  It’s a details place, that much is obvious, with tasteful, well appointed rooms.  It is one of the better places I have ever stayed in, and this was before they gave me two breakfasts the following morning.

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But I’m a restaurant blogger (award winning, would you Adam and Eve it), so lets get down to the nitty-gritty.   The restaurant here is adjacent to the bar, a warming space of dark woods and moss green.  On the evening we are here there is a band on, a thought that had me running for the hills until the opening chords of TLC’s Waterfalls played.  In truth, it sits very comfortably between those locals who know the quality to be had here, and for those visiting this town who have took a punt on the website and central location.

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I have no problem in saying that the food far exceeded our expectations, which isn’t to say that those expectations were low, just that we wasn’t expecting a couple of dishes to knock us sideways.  A scallop starter would be one of those dishes.  The mollusc has been cooked with a blow torch only so that the centre was rare and the outer a speckled black.  The circular plate design was a pretty as a Gainsborough, the base formed of sweetcorn puree, for which the scallop, chorizo, and broad beans were placed on top.  It’s cohesive in flavour and thankfully not overly sweet as mind imagined, it is a grain of salt on each scallop from being something astonishing.  If any dish shows their desire for accolades it’s this.

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Another starter was far simpler in construction.  Potted duck features all of the bits of the animal that require patience and plenty of rendered fat to make tasty, pulled into a jumble and pressed back into a jar.  On top is a fig chutney that is sweet and warming, on the side is an apple salad.  The eating is a simple process of smearing it all thickly on to bread.  It’s an honest bit of food that would comfortably feed one with a pint of beer at lunch.

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A chicken main has a well cooked supreme, with chick peas, a little chorizo and courgettes.  It’s nice, but it’s crying out for more acidity.  A big squeeze of lemon juice to tie it all together or… or… this caponata side dish that went a little too well with the chicken.  Once combined the dish took on a new persona, one a little more shouty and naughty.

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The other main didn’t need the caponata for attitude – it had bags of the stuff.  Pork loin cooked so that it was blushing, with discs of black pudding and apple, new potatoes, and the kind of sauce I would run off with, had doing so twice in one year not been so frowned upon.  The sauce itself was a reduction of the hardy bits of pig, a little cream, some mustard and finished with chives, that held everything together in one big hug.  My partner, heaven forbid herself a food blogger, called it one of the best things she had eaten this year.  For once, she was not wrong.

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Desserts were nice enough, though an obvious area for improvement given the quality served before.  A “‘neatened’ mess” was exactly that, a kitsch looking collection of strawberries and cream which were a vehicle for a pleasant meringue crown.  I preferred the treacle tart with clotted cream, which had a good depth of flavour.  In my opinion, the sugar content for both could have been reduced, but it’s worth noting that I do not have the sweetest of teeth.

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We drank with this a very nice Gavi from a very fair wine list.  After we sauntered into Stratford and then decided that we liked it more back where we were, and made our way into the bar to watch the last of the music.  The Townhouse is that kind of place – approachable and friendly, perfectly pitched at it’s cliental.  It also has a kitchen that is capable of some serious cooking; there are places not as competent as this locally with two rosettes, so this should be their aim.  For mid-priced dining in Warickshire, I can think of nowhere I would recommend more.

8/10

I was invited to stay at The Townhouse by Shakespeares England.  For more information please see http://www.shakespeares-england.co.uk

Bleecker Burger, London

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Bleecker Burger almost never happened.  It was the last entry on our itinerary for the weekend, after the three star and the trendy Thai place and shite patisserie, only making the cut because it was close to our hotel in Victoria and we needed somewhere to go for breakfast.  Which, yes, it does qualify as on account of it being some meat in a bun.

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And, despite its late inclusion, when we where sat on the train home discussing the three star and the trendy Thai and shite patisserie, we both agreed that the best thing we ate came the black fronted, yellow chaired, spot near Victoria station.  Where bits of aged beef mince are compacted and cooked to medium rare, held together by a bun that stays in working order.

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We try two burgers.  A Blue Burger has the patty in a blue cheese sauce that whacks with umami.  Its good, very good even, but it pales in comparison to the Bacon Cheeseburger that allows the quality of the beef to shine with just a little American cheese, a rasher of crisp bacon and white onion.  It is stunning.  As much as I love Original Patty Man back home, this is as good, if not better.  Even with another lunch planned in less than three hours I am sent back inside for another for us to share.  Our later lunch is worth jeopardising for this.

The Angry Fries divide us, but this is my turf so let me tell you that the mixture of blue cheese and hot sauces is an inspired one, one cooling the other, full of umami and funk.  The other half thinks that they detract from the spud but she watches Keeping Up With The Kardashians, so read into her opinion as you want.

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And there you go, maybe the best twenty-six quid I have spent in a while, overshadowing some very serious food had throughout the rest of our weekend.  But it’s created a quandary of it’s own – my five or six trips to London a year are to eat new food, not return to the same places, yet it will be impossible to not have a Bleecker whenever we come back.  I thank the chef on our way out, telling her that it was probably the best burger I have eaten.  She smiles and thanks me in a way that makes me think she has answered to that on many an occasion before.  I can believe it. The burgers here are the real deal, as good as any you are ever likely to eat.

9/10
Bleecker St. Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The One Elm, Stratford 

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The menu at Stratford-upon-Avon’s The One Elm makes me recall the late and very great AA Gills words on The Wolseley, where he lays claim that the very best menu’s are designed by restauranteurs who know their clientele, not by the chefs in the kitchens.   Whilst I don’t agree entirely with Gill – I firmly believe that the finest of dining should be an expression of the kitchen – I do see his point.  Not all kitchens reach for the stars; some are more than content with reaching for the top shelf pans and focusing on feeding the paying, and it’s at these places the work of a chef is to cook, not curate.  Within the grand white walls that home The One Elm the ambition is firmly rooted to the happy customer, one that enters hungry and leaves heavier in the stomach and lighter in the wallet.

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And back to that menu.  We struggled as a two to decide between us what to order.  We toy with the idea of chicken and tarragon croquettes, consider crab with blini’s as starters, or beef dandy ribs for mains.  It’s the kind of place you could eat in every week and not get bored, but I guess that is entirely the point.

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We opt for two starters that sit both sides of the spectrum.  The concept of a summer vegetable bubble and squeak is admirable; take the leftovers to Funky Town with a rich black pudding sauce and then pulls it back into the sunlight with a fried egg.  Unfortunately the ratio of sauce is all wrong and everything becomes a little lost in a vast puddle of spiced pigs blood. Whilst that bubble and squeak dish could have been eaten at any point time of the year, the other starter was only ever intended for the sunshine.  A risotto with Carnaroli rice tasted of time spent in quality vegetable stock, with semi-dried tomatoes and red peppers amongst the evenly cooked grains.  On top are plump scallops and a small fillet of monkfish, both of which are cooked are cooked precisely and well seasoned.  It all makes for a serious bit of food, one that you’d like to find on the menu of your local but seldom do.

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A seabass main was pretty much faultless in concept and delivery.  The fish had been shown heat on one side only, a more technical approach that crisps the skin and gild’s one half of the fillet with a golden crust.  The pairing of chorizo, new potatoes, and green beans give light and shade, whilst chive crème fraiche binds it all together.

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Our other main of lamb hits similar levels.  Yes, I would have liked my lamb a little pinker, but the meat had been properly rested and offered very little in the way of chew.  What impresses most about this dish is the balance; the crushed peas are boldly seasoned, the salsa verde bright in high notes.  There are unexpected tangles of caramelised onion in amongst the potatoes that make me reminisce the Boulangere style of cooking.  These are the best bits.

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Dessert is a Pavlova which we share amongst the two of us.  It’s a pretty thing; the meringue holding cream and summer berries.  It’s too sweet for me but not for her, who quickly finishes it.  It’s a lovely fresh note to finish on.

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We drink healthily from a wine list that offers value and plenty of options by the glass, all whilst sitting in a courtyard with the sun beating down on us.  On the day that we visit the place is full with locals, perhaps a perk of its location ten minutes walk from the tourist hotspots on the Avon river.  It all makes for a rather lovely lunch, affordable, refined Gastropub grub.  The One Elm knows exactly the kind of place it wants to be, and it’s absolutely nailed the execution. 

8/10

My meal was complimentary

Gaucho, via Deliveroo


Look at that beef.  Just look at it.  It’s as beautiful a cut of bovine as your house plates are ever likely to see. It’s a last moment for an animal that lives in the wild on a diet better than mine, the finest produce that Argentina offers, wet aged in a vac bag so that it travels the breadth of the world to these shores in optimum condition.  It cuts with ease using an aged butter knife to reveal a perfect medium rare.  It yields no chew at all.  The meat is all cow and length of flavour.


This isn’t going to be a difficult post to write, nor is it going to be a long one.  I posted about Gaucho a couple of months back when I said it was the best steak in the city.  Now, on a sunny afternoon in the city centre, a friend and I have decided to order a steak supper via Deliveroo in to his office for a pre-gig dinner with a couple of continental cans for good measure.  It’s a solid decision.


We keep it simple; a fillet and a burger to share.  Some fat chips, some skinny chips.  Of the latter chip war the winner is the thinner, the skinny ones more evenly cooked through than the slightly erratic chunkier option.  The fillet is a thing of beauty, as detailed much earlier on.  A burger is one of the better in the city – loosely packed with high quality meat.  It has good cow flavour, cooked to a slight pink, with the brioche bun just about holding it together.  At fifteen quid it’s steep, but there is a substantial feed here.


With that burger at that price, and steaks ranging from £17.50 – £44.00, a Gaucho Deliveroo is never going to be an every night option.  And for once I’ll pass judgement on how often it is worthy of your time, as I appreciate that these prices are not for everyone’s budget.  But for us, sat in an empty city centre office with a four pack of Amstel, it was the perfect option without the faff of wine lists or overzelous waiters.  We ate the best beef in Brum from the comfort of our own environment, and trust me, it was so very good.

Simpson’s, Eureka Kitchen

Cookery schools are one of those things I’ve always fancied but never done. A lot like the waitress in my local pub, if I think about it. I can’t pinpoint why, other than a deep ingrained fear that you pay all that money for a morning drinking tea with ageing ladies, whilst watching someone highly trained demonstrating something that you’ll never be able to achieve. But then I would say that, because I am a pig headed fool that feeds off stereotype until I know otherwise. Which I now do. I can now tell you that with all honesty I had one of the best days I have had in many years at Simpsons cookery school.

First, let me be upfront with the truth. Nosh and I were invited to the friends and family day at Eureka, the new cookery school, which is even more astonishing given that we fall into neither category.  The cookery school launches this weekend in an upstairs section of the restaurant that has been given the full makeover.  It’s an impressive space that looks like it cost a lot of money.  After donning an apron that I looked way too good in, we move onto banks of tables facing the gleaming new kitchen headed up by Nathan Eades, the Head Chef here.

This isn’t going to be like a normal post, because the food I’m eating is what we made, and therefore I’m less likely to be a judgemental prick.  On the menu is salmon, roast chicken, finishing with an apricot and frangipane tart.  I wont bore you with the finer details other than we had a hands-on teaching of some important techniques.  We cured salmon, butchered a poussin, made pastry, pickled veg, and plated up food.  We made gnocchi, which Claire would love me tell you that hers were the best.  She’s quite proud of that and has pictures to prove it.  It’s all I’ve heard all week.  She’s shit at rolling pastry though, so swings and roundabouts and all that.

The skill to this school is the approach.  We learnt things at our time, not once rushed, and always assisted when required.  The result is a morning that is as varied as it is interesting.  After the bulk of the cookery is done we take a glass of champagne in the garden whilst the table settings are changed from school to chefs table.  From here we work in groups at serving courses to the standard of a Michelin starred level, pouring wine and eating the food we all prepared.  It’s perfect.  A way to meet new friends over a shared love of eating.

Lunch concludes with a question and answer session with the main man himself, before us two drunkards take the last of wine back into the sprawling garden sunshine.  A day at Eureka will cost you north of a ton, but that to us seems value that we’re willing to return to very soon.  We’re still talking about it five days on, trying to weave the techniques into the stuff we do at home, thinking about who would appreciate the experience as a present, and who to make that bloody gnocchi for.  My love for Simpsons as a restaurant has always been there; it’s just now added another facet, one that will improve me as a cook and feed me at the same time.

I was invited to try the Eureka at Simpsons.  For details please see here; http://www.simpsonsrestaurant.co.uk/eureka-kitchen

Simpsons Restaurants Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Indioz, Moseley

I clearly remember the time when Indioz opened; the grumblings of middle class Boho’s too polite to raise their voice from condescending to snooty.  Moseley does not need another curry house, they would say, it needs more places where Columbian coffee workers are paid a fair wage to hand harvest the beans in my mug, because this economic tilt towards the lowest paid in South America will help keep the cost of cocaine down.  And that’s the thing about us Moseleyites; we’re as socially reckless as we are conscious.

The reality is that Moseley probably doesn’t need another curry house.  We have several on St Mary’s row not fit to grace the B13 postcode, another on the Alcester Rd, the one where the Jug of Ale used to be that may or may not have given me food poisoning, and Kabbabish, the stalwart of Woodbridge Rd.  The truth is that another is fine if it raises the bar.  Keep the better stuff coming I say, it makes the bad ones dissapear and the good ones try harder.  And in that respect, Indioz works because they do the humble curry better than anyone else close by, all from a plush dining room of softened blues and creams.  Of arched ornate mirrors and thick carpeting.

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I’m not mad on the poppadum’s arriving smashed up in a bowl, but I quickly forget this given the quality of everything else.  A tandoori mixed grill is absurd value at £4.45 given that this buys you a sheekh kebab, lamb chop, chicken drumstick and tandoori chicken breast.  The tandoori chicken is a revelation; as accurately cooked as anywhere else in the city, the meat of a higher quality than expected given the cost.  The rest settles for just merely very good, the pick being the lamb chop that disappeared quickly due to charred outer and tender pink centre.  Our other starter was a greaseless fried bread filled with a heavily spiced mixture of potato and chickpea.  I love veggie food as relentless as this, it takes me back to India where I never cared for meat at all.  Here, in suburban Moseley, this will cost you less than four quid.

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The curries we tried set them apart from the local competition by some way.  A Gosth Banjar was tender pieces of mutton in a dark gravy littered with chilli.  It’s dark and deep with an underlying note of star anise.  A Chicken Mirchi has the faint acidity of pickling liquor running through its veins that control the frequent blasts of garlic cloves and chilli.  It’s this sauce that makes the dish, though that shouldn’t detract from the large lumps of chicken breast that are evenly cooked and absorbed the best of the bowl.  With these we pile in aromatic basmati rice and scoop back out with lightest of naans that shit all over the competition of any within at least four miles.

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They are unlicensed, and are happy for folk to bring in their own booze without corkage, so we make light work with a dinner that fails to hit thirty quid for the two of us.  It’s almost laughably cheap given just how good it is.  I love the food of the sub continent, anyone that reads this regularly will know that, and when its as bold and big on flavour as Indioz I would gladly eat it everyday.  Indioz have stolen the march on the local competition for the humble curry and at a price so cheap its nigh on impossible to not try.

8/10

Indioz Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Damascena, Moseley

So, that award that I’ve been begging people to vote for me on.  I won it.  Officially Best Food Blog in the Midlands for 2017, two years after starting this little old heap of rubbish as a bit of fun.  I happen to love writing this blog; it’s a diary of my hobby, a chance to vent and also to give praise to those that deserve it.  It’s given me headaches, arguably broken up a long term relationship and definitely given me a new partner who shares the same love that I do for edible bits on a plate.  For that alone it is worth it.  It’s opened more doors than it’s shut, introduced me to new friends I’d have never met, and given me a few new enemies.  I’m chuffed to bits that I won.  If you voted for me then I sincerely Thank You.  Honestly, the support I received was genuinely overwhelming and far more than I deserved.

Now enough of the humbleness – that shit doesn’t suit me one bit.  Let’s get back on to the food.  I won this award on Monday night, an evening that cascaded badly into the very early hours of Tuesday with a collection of people that should know better, but rarely do.  When we finally awake the girlfriend decides to treat me to a celebratory lunch a very short stroll away at Damascena.  She does this for two reasons; 1) It is the closest option and she has tiny little legs, and 2) she has impeccable taste.  Of course she does, she’s with me.

Damascena used to be Moseley’s worst kept secret.  We’d whisper it’s name and flock there together for mint tea.  I once sat in there during the depths of winter and watched a man in shorts tell his first date about his troubled relationship with meat.  It’s that kind of place.  I love it, but so does everybody else:  The place is always full, even when they recently opened a second branch in the city centre.  It’s why I used to stick to ordering it on Deliveroo instead of fighting the crowds.

We order way too much food that still fails to hit £25.00 for the two of us.  I insist on the M’sakhan because I always do.  The long marinated brown bits of chicken thigh have tang and pepperiness from sumac and olive oil which seeps on to the flatbread underneath.   Roll it up and chomp away.  Another flatbread is smeared with a course mixture of spiced minced lamb.  It’s pungent and aggressive and possibly the best £3.15 you will ever spend.

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I’ve never had a savoury pastry here before and I know now why.  Its a weak link on the strongest of chains, the cheese and dried mint mixture too bland to threaten anything.  A comment is passed that it tastes like the cheese stuffed pizza crusts which is too accurate and observant to ever come from my mouth.  The proper treatment for bland cheese follows; halloumi marinated and charred, so that the middle only offers relief from flavour.  The pops of pomegranate from the sweet and sharp salad it comes with are a lovely contrast.

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A mezze defeats us and we ask for it to be packaged to take home.  Later on we take the folds of supple flatbread to the best hummus in the city.  We fight over roasted potatoes turned amber by hot spices before dredging them through creamy m’tabal.  Baba Ghanuuj is another home for the flatbread, the aubergine deftly spiked with garlic and showered with lemon acidity.  There are peppers and tomatoes roasted until the texture has merged into one, heavily seasoned and softly spiced.  It’s a lot to take in and we almost forget to pick at the lightly dressed olives.  £7.95 will buy you all of this.

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It’s taken me a long time to properly write about this place, partially down to laziness, though mostly because I shared that same dreadful opinion that us Moseley folk should keep it to ourselves.  It’s a frankly ridiculous notion; food this good should be embraced and shared across the city.  Damascena get flavour as good as anywhere.  Now get in the queue and try it yourself.

9/10