Salsa Verde

Sauce, you love a sauce don’t you? Yum yum, sauce.

“Excuse me waiter, could I have some more sauce?” You ask embarrassingly in a restaurant.

“Please, just a drop more sauce, I love sauce you see. Don’t I love sauce, darling? Go on, tell him,” you plead.

“Yes, he really does like sauce.”

BUT, what is the best sauce? The more intelligent among you will have probably put the title of this post and that question together and come up with an answer.

For the more simple that darken our world, I’ll eliminate any doubt: the best sauce is Salsa Verde.

No, it’s not a dance. No, it’s not a bloke who plays the piano from the 1800s. It’s a green sauce.

You see, ‘Salsa Verde’ cleverly means ‘green sauce’, and there are many varieties. French, Argentinian, Mexican all sorts. However, most of these are wrong.

There is only one acceptable type of salsa verde, and it is my version of how Italians do it.

Ingredients 

  • Capers
  • Anchovies
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Fresh basil
  • Flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Method

Get a food processor, plug it in. Put a handful of basil and parsley in, chuck in some olive oil.

Blend it a bit.

Chuck in two or three cloves of garlic, a table spoon of red wine vinegar and 7/8 anchovy fillets.

“Whoa! That sure is a lot of anchovies,” I hear you whimper.

Yes, it is and it is time you fucking grew a pair, you’re probably the sort of person who sees a recipe that calls for one clove of garlic and actually only uses one. Put all the anchovies in if you want and thank me later.

Stick some capers in, maybe a tablespoon? I’m not sure, I think I just use whatever spoon I’ve got closest.

TASTE

Now, does it need more of anything? More anchovies probably, keep adding anchovies until you’re happy with it.

What now?

You’ve got yourself a delicious green sauce, but now what? Sure, you could just eat it with a spoon, but the real beauty of this stuff is that it goes with pretty much anything.

Steak – YES

Fish – YES

Chicken – YES

Badger – Probably

And most recently for me – duck – YES.

Where to spend Valentine’s Day in Birmingham

Any romantic worth their weight in jizz knows that Birmingham is one of the most romantic cities in the world. Don’t believe me? Then read this: Birmingham Is The Most Romantic City In The World And People Are There For It.

Why is it so romantic? Well, not a lot of people know – but Birmingham actually has more canals than Venice. That’s right, and what’s more romantic than a canal? Nothing.

Once you’ve shown your loved ones the canal, pushed a shopping trolley in and shouted at some geese together you’ll be looking to cap the night off with some food, drink and great conversation.

Here, exclusively, is the best place to ensure you get pumped, do some pumping or a bit of both on 14 February 2019.

The Square Peg

If there’s another place in this fine city where you can point at almost all the other inhabitants and say, “bet you’re pleased you’re here with me instead of them,” then this is it. It’s the perfect place to cement the fact that you’ll probably not do any better – the most important thing to remember on Valentine’s Day.

Other than looking at the locals you can also treat yourselves to a debate about Brexit. Grab a copy of the Wetherspoon’s News magazine and discuss a few of the stupid fucking things in it.

Make things more exciting by perhaps asking the staff about their amazing worker’s rights.

For even more of a thrill, play Brexit Bingo and ask some of the locals you were staring at earlier for their thoughts – the first one of you to hear how brilliant World War II was gets a free drink.

Romance means Romance.

Pumping means Pumping.

Just get on with it.

Atrium at University College Birmingham

When I heard there was a restaurant run by UCB students studying chef, food service and hospitality courses I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to inspire the next generation of the food world.

On arrival, we sat in the lounge area and an adorable young man told us about the cocktails of the day.

Patronising? Me? No. The reason I found him adorable was because I’m completely deluded and still think I’m 24/26, so when I see 16/18 year olds I think they’re about 10. I settled on a Manhattan that was not bad at all. It left me wondering if I’d be allowed to start propping up the bar here dispensing wisdom at these youngsters on a daily basis. They’d love that.

We went through to the very nicely done dining room and took our seats. The waitress who poured our water was so nervous she was shaking. A young lady clearly clued up on the food blogging sphere and knew she was serving a FoodieBoy!

The menus came out, they’re in a leather case and when you open them they light up Which delighted me because I’m a simpleton.

There was an amuse bouche described as pork banh mi – it was a small piece of pork belly, a blob of mash and some sultanas. It was tasty, but I’m not sure where the ‘banh mi’ bit really came in.

My guinea fowl starter was really good, the scotch egg that came with it was exceptional, better than some of the ones that get wanked on about in the city centre that’s for sure.

An interesting aspect of the menu was the fact it had the carbon footprint of each dish next to it. It’s nice to know the guinea fowl put some effort into making it possible to be eaten by me (16.9KG Co2) compared to the lazy potato dish (1.1KG).

My cod main came in at 5.6kg.

“Excuse me, young man. Could you tell me how 5.6kg of Co2 converts into miles, I’d like to know how far it swam to get here.”

“I’m… not sure, I’ll go and ask.”

With that, the French lady who was overseeing the evening’s operation came over.

“Hi, I hear you have a question.”

“It was a test, and I’m delighted to say your student passed with flying colours.”

A hefty chunk of cod came with a horseradish gremolata, potato purée and asparagus and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

However, the dish of the night was the chocolate dessert. I ordered it despite the description having the word liquorice in it, that’s how dedicated I am to chocolate.

A set mousse had a liquorice insert, that rather than overpower, actually enhanced the chocolate flavour. If I’d been served that at one of the city’s Michelin starred restaurants I wouldn’t have batted an eye lid.

Not bat an eye lid, what the hell is that all about. Why did I just write it? If it’d been shit would I have batted an eye lid? No, I wouldn’t.

For three courses it was £30, exceptional value. It gets slightly more expensive if you have a cocktail first, two bottles of wine and a dessert wine to finish – but it’s good to show the kids how it’s done properly.

You will find the The Atrium and Brasserie Restaurant at University College Birmingham, Summer Row, Birmingham B3 1JB.

Tattu – Birmingham

“Any chance I can have a female waiter?”

“I’m afraid you’ve got me,” the male waiter replied.

“You really need to be female.”

“Why?”

“For the purpose of a blog. I’m a very famous food blogger and I want to do a gag about ‘all the things she said’ in my review of this place.”

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“The Russian lesbian pop act…”

“Can I take your order?”

Wow! What a space! It’s got a big, dead tree in it and everything!

Thing is, I’m not here to tell you about the space am I? I’m not a ‘Space Blogger’ am I? And if I was, it’d all be about that weirdo Tim Peak not trees in basements.

“Good point, how was the food then?” Thanks for asking. The food was alright.

There’s a small plates menu and a mains menu, we decided to stick to the small plates until I got greedy and decided to try a main too.

The mixed dim sum basket had a soup dumpling which tasted of satay which was interesting, a pork one with spicy iberico pork that wasn’t spicy and came in a pointless ‘beetroot dough’ and another one that didn’t really taste of much.

The dips accompanying this were soy, sweet chilli and a more interesting coriander and jalapeño concoction.

The chicken truffle shumai tasted of nothing but truffle, which is OK as I like truffle.

The prawn and lobster toast just tasted like prawn toast I get from my local Chinese takeaway where I get about twice the amount for half the price.

The beef and foie gras gyoza were genuinely quite interesting, although I couldn’t taste any teriyaki sauce they were supposed to be in.

The beef short rib was my favourite of the small plates, what’s not to like about ribs covered in sticky soy sauce?

The other standout dish was the XO fried rice which was very pleasing, I suppose it would be as XO sauce is delicious. It had bits of pancetta in it too which worked well.

I settled on the red pepper lamb chops for the main to try. It also said ‘hot and sour pumpkin’ under the title of the dish – I’ve got no idea why. These didn’t really taste of anything other than a slight char. Thank the lord baby Jesus Christ almighty that it was the final days of the soft launch when I visited as these would have cost £24 normally. £24! Fuck! TWENTY FOUR POUNDS.

I’m glad we went to try it out, it was fine – if I’d paid full price I think I’d currently be weeping on the bus (I’m writing this on a bus).

Will I be going back? No, well, not unless I start having an affair with the wife of a lower league footballer and want to impress her with a big pink tree, my ability to piss money away and a trip home on the 23 bus.

You’ll find Tattu Birmingham at 18 Barwick St, Birmingham B3 2NT.

Bistrot Pierre

“Bonjour, est Peter dans la maison?”

“Sorry?”

“Wae’aye! Is Pierre in the house, like?”

That’s just a short snippet of a conversation that dragged on for over 45 minutes. Eventually, it became clear that Peter was not in the house. It was at this point too late to find anywhere else to eat, so we agreed to take a table for two.

As a top #FoodBlogger I’m often first to know about the big news in the food industry, for example, I knew about fennel, salted caramel and razor clams before anyone else. However, very few things have blown me away compared to when I discovered that Peter Beardsley had opened up a chain of French Bistros across the UK.

That’s correct, set up in 1994 originally under the name ‘Bistrot Beardsley,’ it was decided that not enough people would want to eat there, same for ‘Bistrot Peter’, and eventually ‘Bistrot Pierre’ was born.

Pierre’s website

“What would Pete eat?” I said to the waiter who’d asked for my food choice.

“I’m not sure what you mean,” he replied.

“Don’t worry, I’m a food blogger, I know about the whole Peter Beardsley thing,” I whispered.

“Can I take your order?”

That’s just a short snippet of a conversation that dragged on for over 45 minutes. Eventually, it became clear the waiter was unwilling to talk about the former Newcastle winger. Frustrated, I ordered the first two things my eyes set upon: goat’s cheese to start followed by the fishcake for main.

My ladywife was uninterested about the whole Peter Beardsley thing, well, until I told her that the beef bourguignon she’d ordered was actually using a recipe Peter had perfected during his spell at the Vancouver Whitecaps in 1982.

Peter perfecting his beef bourguignon recipe in Canada.

My starter of goat’s cheese, sourdough, pear and chicory was perfectly reasonable. It was great to finally try Pete’s Pears straight from his orchard in Stockton-On-Tees.

My fishcake main was less successful, a stodgy salmon affair with a poached egg and a Dijon sauce.

Disappointed with my main, the next day I drove to the Middlesbrough branch of Pierre’s and was lucky enough to catch Peter on his way out.

“Pierre!” Pierre!” I shouted as he walked towards his car.

“Not me, fella.”

“Peter, I know that you’re Pierre. I want to talk to you about your fishcake.”

“No idea what you’re talking about.”

“It was very stodgy, Peter.”

And with that, he drove away, leaving me feeling like Matt Allwright.

To conclude, if you want average food, reasonably priced, cooked by a former Premier League star – you can’t beat Bistrot Pierre.

Adam’s – Birmingham

A couple of months ago I got married, I know, this player finally packed up his playing boots and said goodbye to the circus. I’d like to take this moment to apologise to all the disappointed women out there. Sorry.

Due to the wedding taking place on a Saturday (no cheapskate mid-week affair for me), I arranged to finish work on Thursday lunchtime. There is no better feeling than leaving work at lunch, you feel like you’re stealing time – a whole afternoon that was meant to be spent staring at a computer in an office is now yours to do with as you want.

Complete with a fairly long list of things to do before my 10am train to Devon on the Friday, I skipped out of the office and into Birmingham’s warm embrace. I quickly decided that most of the things I needed to do could wait until the morning, and that I deserved a nice lunch.

After a bit of Googling I settled on Adam’s lunch menu, three courses for £39.50 at a Michelin starred establishment seemed pretty reasonable.

“If I just have one glass of wine it will still be under £50, and I deserve a treat, just ring up and book it,” I convinced myself.

Fast forward 20 minutes, I’m sat Martini in hand, half bottle of wine and the additional course ordered – feeling pretty damn good about life.

Writing this quite a while after eating it means I’m probably going to get half of the ingredients wrong. I’d like to take this moment to apologise to everyone concerned. Sorry.

So, what we’ll do instead is post pictures and then using what’s left of my memory, I’ll say if it was nice or not. 

First up came some snacks, as anyone with half a brain knows – snacks are why you come to fancy restaurants. Delicious bits of free food, what a concept.

Horseradish ice cream

The first was a horseradish ice cream with a beetroot (or possibly red cabbage) gazpacho and olive oil. I remember this because it was indeed – very nice.

Next up was pork belly, apple and some other bits. This was nice but the least memorable of the courses, and also the worst photo. For this I can only apologise. Sorry.

Then came the additional course – lobster with a cashew satay and pickled ginger. This was very nice indeed, my only complaint was that I’d have liked a touch more of the pickled ginger.

NEXT: masala plaice with brown shrimp and aubergine and tiny, little potatoes. This was delicious nice. I know this, as I remember thinking at the time, “this is delicious nice.”

To finish, a black forest style chocolate dessert that was also nice.

Before we leave it there and conclude that this was indeed a very nice meal, I must mention the bread. I must mention the bread for this was the nicest bit of bread I’ve ever eaten. Brioche style rolled in mushroom and seaweed, my god it was extra delicious nice. Like properly, properly nice.

Nice.

A shout-out to the Paper Duck and Harborne Kitchen were I continued that memorable Thursday. A Thursday which lead to my now-wife texting me to inform me that I am, “ridiculous.”

Ridiculously nice.

Miller and Carter

Steak, can’t beat a bit of steak can you? Unless you are a vegetarian or a vegan or something, then you’re probably not into steak at all.

If you are of that persuasion, you probably think cows should be left well alone, not chopped up and covered in mustard. The thing is though, you’re wrong. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all Piers Morgan on you and pretend to find veganism upsetting for retweets, however, I do have to put an argument forward that might find you fetching a fillet, seeking a sirloin, requesting a rump etc.

Cow 1: “Getting busy in this field isn’t it?”

Cow 2: “Yes, mate. Considerably busier than it used to be.”

Cow 1: “I remember when this was all fields, but now, with the rise in plant-based eating, it’s more cows than fields.”

Cow 2: “Do you…”

Cow 1: “Do I what?”

Cow 2: “Do you… ever… wish someone would eat you?”

Cow 1: “THANK YOU! Yes, yes. I had a dream last night that I got chopped up and put in a delicious beef bourguignon.”

Cow 2: “My nan ended up in one of those.”

Cow 1: “Lucky cow.”

Makes you think doesn’t it? Why should your life have a purpose but a cow’s shouldn’t? Wandering about a field waiting to die of natural causes – no thank you, very much.

Now that we’ve got that sorted, let’s move on to Miller and Carter. I went to their Hockley Heath branch on a Tuesday night, it was surprisingly busy, full of men of a certain age who think they’re sophisticated.

I ordered a sirloin steak, which came with a ‘side salad’ a chunk of onions and a wedge of lettuce.

The steak was fine, cooked how I’d asked and pretty tasty. The block of onions was also quite nice.

Why the fuck I’d want a wedge of lettuce covered in buttermilk dressing and soggy croutons I’ve got no idea. The amount of these things that must end up back in the kitchen untouched must be quite impressive.

Anyway, that’s enough about that. Remember the chat we had with the cows earlier? If that didn’t convince you to continue eating meat, then the side salad here should do the trick.

Zizzi – Harborne

Let’s not beat around the bush here and get straight to the best line in this review:

ZZ Top? Zizzi Plop more like!

Clever right? It also tells you what I thought of the food at the Harborne branch of this Italian food chain.

Sometimes, against your better judgment, you end up at these places. It’s 14:30 on a Thursday, you’re going to Waitrose, haven’t eaten since breakfast and think, “fuck it, let’s pop in here for a pizza rather than end up spending £12,000 on crisps and dip in the supermarket.”


My favourite Waitrose dip? Thanks for asking, it’s the Pecorino & Basil Dip, it’s delightful. Dip a crisp in, dip a finger in, dip a dick in – they’ll all taste better for it.


Bread bother

We ordered a bottle of wine, garlic bread and a beef rustica pizza. The wine was perfectly inoffensive, the garlic bread was offensive.

When we ordered we were asked if we want cheese on the garlic bread, and said yes. What wasn’t explained is that the cheese version is also covered in caramelised red onion, so all you can taste is caramelised red onion – not garlic.

“Excuse me, there’s something wrong with the garlic bread.” I bellowed across the room.

“What’s the problem?” the waitress asked.

“It should be called carmelised red onion bread.”

“I shall pass this on to the manager.”

“Very well.”

Squid situation

Even more offensive than the ‘garlic’ bread was the calamari. Why I thought ordering calamari at Zizzi would be a good idea is totally beyond me, and we can only hope for better decision-making in 2019.

It was, as you’ve probably already predicted – limp, rubbery, not very crispy and an insult to every creature dwelling under the sea.

Pizza problem

The Rustica pizza was OK. The beef meatballs were actually quite tasty, but then they’ve made the mistake most Italians don’t, and continued to chuck more and more ingredients on top of it until it all just becomes a slightly spicy mess. It also had what looked like crispy, red pubes on top which was quite the treat.

I had about two slices and took the rest home, it’s been sitting in the fridge waiting for its inevitable trip to the bin ever since.

So, off I went to Waitrose having spent £40 that could have been invested in cheesy cock dip.

Tiger Bites Pig – Birmingham

Tigers – the largest species of cat in the world, fantastic beasts.

Pigs – the most pig-like species of cat in the world, delicious beasts.

Now: imagine a tiger’s mouth made of dough. STAY WITH ME. Imagine inside that doughy, cat gob is a piece of pork.

Congratulations, you’ve just imagined a tiger biting a pig. It all becomes clear. Don’t blame me, blame the Taiwanese.

There, I’ve explained the name of Birmingham’s new bao joint (Birmingham’s baoby perhaps) for you, you’re welcome.

Bao in Birmingham

A while back another bao place opened and sadly it wasn’t very good, and it made me cry. It made me cry because the bun was yellow, thin and a bit hard. They should be bright white, pillowy and make me hard.

I bloody love bao, so much so I did a bao cooking class, then went to a Chinese supermarket – bought all the stuff to make it, and promptly put all the stuff in a kitchen cupboard where it’s lived ever since.

The good news is that I don’t have to worry about making it now, as finally there is somewhere in Birmingham doing it right.

I ordered one of each bao on offer: pork, beef, duck and chicken – crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

The first out were the: chicken / ginger & spring onion / chilli oil / crispy chicken skin and the pork belly / pickled greens / coriander / peanuts. Both were excellent and gave me the exact kind of bao I like: sweetness of the bun, good meat, something crunchy and a spice or pickle to contrast with the sweetness.

Fat stupid thumb not currently included on the menu

The smoked duck breast / spinach / xo sauce and braised beef shin / shiitake mushrooms / cured egg yolk were also both delicious – but only dropped a point for a lack of crunch (I’m well aware this might just be me). A shoutout for the cured egg yolk which gave the beef one an incredible richness.

Delighted that I’d found somewhere doing great bao, I ordered another pint of Asahi and another pork bao before heading for the absolute fuckery of the trains at nearby New Street.

You’ll find Tiger Bites Pig at 34 Stephenson Street, B2 4BH.

The Highfield – Edgbaston, Birmingham

As The Lighthouse family once sang, “when you’re close to tears remember, someday this will all be over, one Sunday we went to the HIGHfield.”

That’s right, against my better judgement we went out for a Sunday roast a couple of weeks back.

“What could be nicer than spending a Sunday in a pub, eating a roast?” you naively ask.

I’ll tell you what could be nicer – saving your money, or spending £50 on amazing ingredients and cooking it for the pair of you yourself.

Let’s do some maths. I’m 33, that means I’ve been around for roughly 1,716 Sundays. Impressive huh? Not very helpful though.

52 Sundays a year, let’s assume every three months I go for a Sunday lunch… this isn’t getting us anywhere, the point I’m trying to make is that 95% of pub Sunday lunches are absolute shit.

I’ve written about one other roast I had in Edgbaston.

This time it was the turn of The Highfield, also in Edgbaston. Surely the sophisticates of this leafy Birmingham suburb wouldn’t have two pubs serving up crap roasts? Read on reader.

To start we shared a deli platter of chicken wings, salmon and something else I can’t remember – an absolutely horrid affair it was too.

I fucking LOVE chicken wings. Love them, they are delicious. That doesn’t mean you can just put them in an oven, with nothing on them, take them out and put them on a platter. Would you do the same with chicken breast? No, you wouldn’t, so don’t do it with chicken wings. Because it’s a ‘wing’ doesn’t make it interesting enough that you don’t have to bother making them tasty.

The platter also consisted of massive chunks of salmon coated in breadcrumbs with a ‘ponzu’ dipping sauce.

They were fine, in a ‘they are better than the chicken wings, but I’d definitely rather never eat them again’ kind of way.

BREXIT

On to the main event, the big one, the ROAST BEEF SUNDAY LUNCH.

Yum! Roast beef, bit of English mustard, potatoes, gravy – just typing it almost makes me think Brexit is a good idea. Done right, there can’t be many nicer things in the world.

“How would you like your beef? Pink or well done?” asked the waiter.

Honourable intentions, but the question really should have been:

“You are getting your beef grey, whatever happens, OK?”

£15.95 gets you two slices of the saddest, grey cow since your mum, three slabs of rock-hard roast potato, a couple of carrots, a Yorkshire pudding and some piss weak gravy.

You can add to the fun with £3.50 each for red cabbage, stuffing and cauliflower cheese. THANK YOU! Thank you so much.

“Oh, I’ve put some star anise on red cabbage aren’t I clever.”

No, no you’re not.

Frankly, the whole thing was a shit show.

FULL DISCLAIMER: I would have sent the whole thing back, but a relative was paying and I didn’t want to make a scene.

I did however send back the Creme Brûlée that hadn’t seen a fridge so was totally unset.

All in all, at the end of the day, it is what it is – and what it is is another shite pub Sunday roast to add to my spreadsheet.