Great British Menu

The BBC’s Great British Menu is back on our screens showcasing some of the most exciting chefs in the country competing for their chance to cook at a culinary feast marking 70 years of the NHS.

Briefed with the task of creating “celebratory and heartfelt dishes in tribute to the heroic staff of the NHS,” we thought we’d take a look at some of our favourite dishes so far.

Wales

Bryan Hamm of the 0 Rosette ‘Wedi’u piclo Selsig’ in Bangor created a dish that judge Oliver Peyton described as “a real punch in the guts.”

‘Triage my Sausage’ is a tribute to the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of their condition. Hamm cooked a selection of bangers, put them on a single plate and allowed the judges, starting with the most hungry,  to take turns eating from it. Peynton was sadly left to lick up nothing but wiener juice.

Peyton.jpg

London and South East

Susan Bisto of Two Michelin starred ‘This Isn’t For You’ in Mayfair took a massive step away from her more traditional cooking techniques to wow the judges with her dish ‘Enema of the Skate’.

Each judge was given a rectal bulb syringe (see below) filled with a cocktail of skate, brown butter and liquid treatment used to relieve severe constipation. After administering the solution the judges evacuated their bowels into metal bowls and ate the mixture, “it’s a lot like a chowder,” remarked Andi Oliver.

280px-Rectal_bulb_syringe

Scotland

Kevin McAllister from ‘Get Oot Ma Hoos’ in Glasgow’s trendy East End wowed the judges with his dish dedicated to MRSA.

‘Mince Radish Sardine Almond’ were the first foodstuffs Kev could think of that started with the corresponding letters of the popular hospital infection. “It really is very clever,” said judge Matthew Fort as the drip to feed the mousse was inserted into his hand.

1

We’re sure you’re as excited as we are to see what the rest of the series has in store.

Opus – Birmingham

Wednesday – it rolls around once a week without fail, whether you like it or not. You get through Tuesday, but then BANG Wednesday. You’ve still got three more days at work to complete before you get the two where you’re allowed to do with as you want.

When I say ‘two days to do with as you want’, I obviously don’t mean two whole days. You’ll spend a good chunk of Sunday doing boring work related activity – perhaps preparing lunches or doing ironing, maybe both. Lucky you.

What often happens to me during the week is I’ll reach Wednesday and not really be able to cope with the idea of waiting until Saturday to go out and do something enjoyable, so end up making last minute plans. See below.

I don’t regret the above visit to The Plough because the candied bacon, pine nuts, fig and sun blushed tomato pizza was delicious.

A Wednesday fool

However, I don’t always make such sensible decisions. One fateful Wednesday in August I fancied going out after work for some booze and food. Wanting to try somewhere new, I took to the internet.

Restaurant Opus had popped up a couple of times and they had an offer of 50% off some of their wine, the reviews of their food also seemed to be largely positive.

Picture the scene, myself and the lady woman friend in my life enter a huge restaurant with two other people in. We sit, order some drinks, drink the drinks and then order wine and food. Classic restaurant behaviour.

To start I had a roasted breast of quail with chorizo, red pepper and peal barley ‘paella’. I’ve got no idea why the word ‘paella’ was listed and I suspect I will never know. The quail was reasonably well cooked, the chorizo could have done with a bit more time in the pan to give it a bit of colour.

My main of hake with creamed potatoes, white wine sauce, summer vegetables and caviar was perfectly OK. The skin on the fish could have been crisper, but it was a perfectly reasonable plate of food.

Dessert was a toffee cheesecake with white chocolate ice cream and honeycomb that I don’t remember at all.

The wine was Italian and despite having 50% off was not very nice.

Closing statement

“That doesn’t sound terrible, what are you moaning about?” you tut.

Correct, it wasn’t terrible, it was mediocre, ordinary, MEH. The reason this annoys me (well, I annoy myself) is because I want to try Carter’s and The Wilderness again and still haven’t been to Purnell’s. Spending £120 on an average meal that could have gone a large part towards a great meal is the behaviour of an absolute bloody fool.

I’m a fool

Opheem – Birmingham

Me and me mum and me dad and me gran fiancée
We’re off to waterloo Summer Row
Me and me mum and me dad and me gran fiancée
with a bucket of vindaloo pickled vindaloo purée

Vindaloo, Vindaloo, Vindaloo, Vindaloo, na na

A little nod there to the World Cup that has just passed, I do hope you enjoyed it. Cleverly, I’ve also given you details about the restaurant review you’re about to read.

It’s a formula any great food blogger knows like the back of their hand:

Nostalgia + Information = Success

******* Learn more about how to make your food blog a hit with my 6 week blogging course only £995 £795 for a limited time only! Click here for more information *******

(Suppose I should now magically transition this into a blog about Indian food. Watch and learn.) 

Birmingham is well known for its Indian food and I can often be found eating it. (Clever)

On Saturday we moved house. Moving house is an absolute fucking ball ache, especially when the removal men refuse to go upstairs because they thought you were on the ground floor – despite the job clearly stating 3 bedroom HOUSE.

According to my activity tracker thing on my iPhone, on Saturday I did 58 flights of stairs. FIFTY EIGHT! Which is approximately 50 / FIFTY more than I usually do. (“Weird, he’s gone off Indian food and onto a little personal anecdote, I wonder what’s happening here?”)

Knackered, with a house full of boxes of stuff I haven’t used for years that get carted from one place to the next, I decided we should go for dinner. I’d wanted to try Opheem for ages – WAY BEFORE Aktar Islam was on Saturday Morning Kitchen the other day, seriously, way before that, like two months before that at least – so BACK OFF. (It’s all just adding texture to the blog, a lot like a chef would add texture to a dish. Chew my words.)

To begin we had a cocktail each, I had a negroni, as I always do, and the woman in my life had a champagne cocktail, as she always does – as she wants to bankrupt me.

They were both good, but then the really good stuff happened – AMUSE BOUCHE! I love an amuse bouche, nothing amuses my bouche more than bits of free food. 1) Smoked cod’s roe, black garlic and something else I’ve forgotten, sat on a cracker. 2) A fancy panipuri tasting item on a spoon. 3) A little cone with pea purée and smoked trout in. They were all delightful.

I’d seen various photos of the food at Opheem on social media and thought it all looked very exciting. I’d seen the tandoori octopus more than anything else, and thought about not ordering it because I’m interesting and different.

To start, I had the tandoori octopus. With all the tandoori flavours you’d associate with a piece of tandoori chicken, but on an octopus. It was so good I could quite happily have eaten eight!!!!!!!! (One for Sea Life fans to enjoy. Maybe I should put a link to the Sea Life centre Birmingham in here for SEO purposes.)

There were more amuse bouche, and as I’ve mentioned, I do love amuse bouche – but I can’t be bothered to write about them, despite them being really good. Can we just get to the main course now? Great, thanks.

The pork vindaloo dish was so good I keep thinking about going back and having it again. I can imagine myself being 75, dressing up in my suit every day and going to Opheem to eat it.

“Oh, fucking hell, he’s here again,” they’ll say. “We stopped doing the vindaloo dish 25 years ago.”

“What? Where am I? Vindaloo please.” I then repeat the words “vindaloo purée” over and over until they give in – every day, until I die.

The dish is pork three ways: Pork loin, smoked hock in a thin sort of pastry and trotter. I’ve only had trotter a handful of times before, the last time in a gastro pub in London where the chef had clearly never met a pig before, let alone cooked its feet. I’ve not had it since then – but this was delicious.

The pickled vindaloo purée had a decent amount of heat to it, enough to get my pathetic nose running a bit, but not enough to overpower the pork. It was one of the best plates of food I’ve had in a long time.

For dessert I had a chai parfait / pineapple concoction. It was alright, the chai flavour could definitely be taken up a few notches.

Conclusion: The fact I keep thinking about going back already should tell you all you need to know.

Read about more Indian food and the time I lived in India.

Folium – Birmingham

Folio, folias, foliat, foliamus, foliates, foliant.

LATIN – glorious. If that was Latin, and I’m almost certain it isn’t, perhaps it could mean:

  • ‘I eat at Folium’
  • ‘You eat at Folium’
  • ‘He eats at Folium’
  • ‘We eat at Folium’
  • ‘They eat at Folium’

If after reading this review you decide you want to eat at Folium, which I suspect you will, perhaps give them a ring and just say, “Foliates?” with a rising intonation to indicate it being a question, over and over again.

“Hello, Folium, how can I help?”

“Foliates?”

“Sorry?”

“Foliates??”

“Oh, you would like to eat at Folium. Of course, how many people?”

“A mensa, duabusquaeso.”

“A table for two, not a problem.”

FUN FACT: Every member of staff – the waiting team: Quintus, Scintilla and Horatia & head chef Flaccus – all speak fluent Latin.

Now, I bet you’re wondering what the food is like aren’t you? Is it traditional Latin fare? Well, the Latin poet Horace ate a meal of onions, porridge, and pancake, not exactly ‘Potato, Smoked Eel and Chicken Skin‘ is it? No, it’s not. That is however the first dish of the Folium tasting menu.

“Very fucking nice it was too,” as Horace would say. I have no idea how anyone cannot like smoked eel, it’s fantastic and improves ANY dish. That’s right ANY. Chuck some on that Pop Tart you’re eating and get back to me.

Next up was my least favourite dish of the evening: Mackerel, Cucumber, English Wasabi. It was refreshing and a little tart, but the mackerel got a bit lost, poor Mackerel – COME HOME SOON! We miss you!

ONWARDS:

Kohlrabi, Parmesan, Manjimup Truffle. This was delicious. So much so, I ate most of it before I remembered to take a photo. The Kohlrabi used as a tagliatelle style pasta blew my little mind. The truffle is from Australia – I know, madness!

Cod, Mussel, Parsley. Good, solid, 7.5 / 10. You know, that middle dish in a tasting menu where you’re like, “OK, yeah, pretty good, but bring on the lamb.”

Salt Marsh Lamb, Asparagus, Seaweed. FUCK YEAH. Lovely stuff. Would eat again, three times a day if necessary.

Sheep Milk Yoghurt, Wild Strawberry, Elderflower. PHWOAR. You saucy, yoghurty, little minx. Is that aerated white chocolate on there too? You absolute DEVIL!

Chocolate, Cobnut, Burnt Cream. Creamy, chocolate sex lord.

I think that gives you a pretty good idea of how the evening went. I had high expectations for Folium and they were met. Well done / Bene factum.

Lina Stores – London

I like Italian food quite a lot. I like the fact it’s at its best when simple and made by people who know what they’re doing.

I rarely go out to eat it though, as so often it’s bad. Not bad like inedible, just bad because I could have bought all the ingredients myself and cooked it better at home in about 15 minutes.

Basically, paying to eat terrible carbonara irritates the piss out of me.

Would you believe it was actually the lady woman in my life who said we should try Lina Stores?

“Where should we go for dinner on Friday night?” I asked.

“What about Lina Stores?” She replied.

“I haven’t heard of it.”

“An Italian I know said it’s where she goes when she wants authentic Italian food.”

“All well and good, but I haven’t heard of it.”

After some back and forth, and some Googling, I asked if we could replay the conversation.

“Where should we go for dinner on Friday night?” I asked.

“I’m not sure, where would you like to go?” She replied.

“I’ve heard great things about Lina Stores.” I boasted.

“Ok.”

Much better.

After a brief jaunt through London’s Soho district (I took us to the Lina Stores deli which is on a different street to the restaurant because I’m an idiot) we entered and took a couple of seats at the bar.

I like sitting at the bar in restaurants as it means I can bombard the chef with difficult questions and distraction techniques to see how on top of their game they are. You know, squawking like a seagull while shouting about how long to cook parpadelle – that sort of thing.

To begin, I had a negroni. I like negronis, ordering them makes me feel sophisticated for some bewildering reason.

With this we ate Parma ham and Gorgonzola extra dolce with pear & mustard chutney.

I fucking love Gorgonzola dolce, especially when it’s really soft and runny. I love it so much that I’ve decided I want to die by drowning in it in the Trevi fountain while American tourists pelt my bloated corpse with euros.

We then ordered three plates of pasta to share:

Veal ravioli, gnocchi with peas & salted ricotta and agnolotti with black truffle.

They were all very tasty – the truffled agnolotti being the winner.

As our empty plates were removed the waitress asked which was our favourite and I told her what I just told you. However, she was aghast that we hadn’t ordered their most popular dish – the pici with porcini mushrooms and Umbrian sausage.

Suffering from a quite severe case of FOMO I said we’ll have one of those too. Despite being full. I am the poster boy for greed.

Despite feeling particularly obese, I was very glad we ordered it as it was delicious.

“Did you have dessert, you fat fuck?” I hear you cry.

Yes, I had chocolate cake and an espresso martini. I couldn’t finish the chocolate cake despite it being very good, because I actually felt like I was going to explode.

So, there you go. It was very good, and also very reasonably priced. Go if you want, I’m not the boss of you.

Jailbird – Birmingham

When I heard Nosh & Quaff no longer existed, and Jailbird had taken its place, I was very pleased. I was very pleased because the name ‘Nosh & Quaff’ made me want to rip my eyeballs out. Seems excessive doesn’t it? Well, let me tell you a little anecdote and see if you still feel that way.

It was August 2017 and I was walking through London’s Oxford Circus area, when out of nowhere I saw a restaurant called ‘Scoff & Banter’.

My heart started racing. I looked away. I was shaking. I must have imagined it. Was this a dream?! Surely they haven’t called their restaurant that? I slowly turned back to take a second glance – there it was, as clear as day: ‘Scoff & Banter’. I fainted.

The next thing I remember was waking as paramedics were trying to get me into an ambulance.

“Where’s my girlfriend?” I shouted.

“It’s OK Mr Foodie Boy, you’ve had a bit of a funny turn,” said the paramedic trying to calm me down.

“Unhand me! I need to find my girlfriend.” I got up and ambled away, blood pouring from my head.

“Sorry Sir, who are you here to see?” the receptionist at my girlfriend’s work enquired.

“Fuck off you square,” I screamed as I entered the lift.

“Rob, what are you doing here? What’s happened to your head?” The woman in my life asked.

“We need to go… NOW.”

“What’s going on?”

“There’s no time to explain, but something bad has happened and we need to go NOW.”

We went home, packed up our stuff and headed to Birmingham safe in the knowledge Brummies wouldn’t call a restaurant anything that dreadful.

It’s been great living in this fine city for the past nine months, with the exception of the involuntary twitch I’d get when too close to the sign for ‘Nosh & Quaff’. So, there you have it.


I was fortunate enough to be offered to try the menu at Jailbird by the most delightful Paul Fulford.

The space has changed considerably, with the downstairs bar area far brighter and more inviting than its predecessor. The upstairs restaurant is very smart, comfortable and has plenty of exposed brickwork which I enjoy stroking.

To start I thoroughly enjoyed scallops and bacon. The scallops were perfectly cooked and the sweetcorn offered a pleasingly sweet contrast to the salty bacon. Sweetcorn’s sweet and bacon’s salty – who knew? I really am a fine addition to the food blogging world. Scoff.

For main I had a 16oz Flat Iron steak, mainly because the other steaks on the menu were 20oz, 28oz and 40oz – and I’m not manly enough for that.

It was perfectly medium-rare as requested and a quality piece of meat. The massive chunky chips didn’t do much for me, but then I’m not really into massive chunks of potato. I’d prefer frites with my steak, probably because they fit better in my delicate nosh hole.

We quaffed some Australian Shiraz, and I even managed to fit in a chocolate tart because my dedication to obtaining type 2 Diabetes is unwavering. Banter.

It was a splendid evening and the next time I fancy a considerable portion of meat I will return.

Lima – London

I woke up in London the other week, London is a place in the South East of England, it’s famous for all sorts of things, like did you know it’s got its own crisp restaurant?! Mad!

When I got up on that Sunday morning I felt surprisingly fine considering the amount of booze I’d consumed the day before. So fine in fact, I thought, “I might treat myself to a nice lunch.”

A bit of time spent on popular search engine Google.com lead me to settle on Peruvian restaurant, Lima – it’s got a Michelin star and a tasting menu for £45 (lunchtime only).

Upon departing the hotel the hangover kicked in, not helped by the fact that London was muggier than Danny Dyer stealing your grandmother’s purse.

For those of you unfamiliar with hangovers – they are ideally spent in a cold, dark room with a packet of beef monster munch, a toffee crisp and a can of coke. They are not to be spent walking around London in the heat.

A 45 minute walk later… I arrived at the restaurant and waited for the couple with two small children ahead of me to get sorted out. They sat at the front next to the large, open doors where a lovely breeze was floating in.

Asked where I wanted to sit, I settled on the back of the establishment as hangovers are not improved being near small children.

The back of the restaurant was approximately 400 degrees. I asked for a beer before I sat down as beer is cold and can also make a hangover go away.

The tasting menu is called the ‘Peruvian experience’. I settled in and waited for Nolberto Solano to start playing the pan pipes.

Is it fair to judge a restaurant with an almighty hangover? I’m not sure, I’ve either decided it is – because you’re looking for the restorative qualities of the food, or it’s not – because you spend most of the time while eating it thinking you’re about to die.

Fair or not, here’s what I thought.

First to arrive was a bowl of ceviche.

To my massive surprise, a bowl of raw fish actually went down pretty well, as did the next dish ‘Duck escabeche’. Two rather miserly pieces of duck on top of a delicious, sweet and acidic brown sauce – a sauce so shiny I could see my own face in it – which in my state was not appreciated.

At this point I was starting to feel a bit better, so much so I messaged a friend about meeting up for beers after lunch.

Then the next two dishes happened and it all went a bit down hill.

To celebrate Peru’s Asian influences a plate of stir fried veg came out, and they were massively uninspiring.

Then cod with a prawn on top. After dismantling the prawn and having a bite, the taste of full intestinal tract filled my mouth and I wondered what I’d done to deserve this misery.

The cod was sufficiently forgettable that I’ve forgotten eating it.

We were back on track with the suckling pig dish, but by now I was flagging and cancelled the plans I’d made twenty minutes earlier.

The strawberry dessert arrived and I remember eating it very quickly because I urgently needed to get on a train to take me directly to bed.

All in all, it was decent. Although I don’t recommend prawn shit on a hangover.

Little Blackwood – Moseley

‘Little Blackwood’… sounds a bit like a very niche category of pornography doesn’t it? It’s not, it’s a restaurant in Moseley.

I actually went about a month or so ago on the day it opened, but I never got round to writing a review. Sometimes these things just happen – often for reasons outside of your control, like your brain isn’t working or your fingers drop off.

Little Blackwood is the new restaurant run by Richard Blackwood’s little brother – Chef Ben Taylor. I presume he’s Richard Blackwood’s little bother, but must admit I’ve neither asked or researched this – if you’re so concerned, do it yourself.

To begin I had an old fashioned and some wine. Don’t believe me? Fine, proof of this below.

For my starter I had the squid, pork crackling and chimichurri – I always order things accompanied with chimichurri because it’s fun to say and also sounds like something an A-list celebrity like Richard Blackwood might call his children.

The squid was beautifully cooked and the dish worked really well, the crackling could have been a little smaller so you could get it on your fork – but that’s a minor complaint, and meant I got to pick it up and eat it like a man.

For my main I chose the duck with carrot purée and boulangere potatoes.

The duck was very nicely cooked and the potato was delicious. I must give a mention to the guinea fowl Thai green curry that the woman in my life had – it was bloody good.

For dessert we shared three deep fried bao with various sweet fillings – mango sorbet, a mint chocolate chip ice cream and white chocolate. The white chocolate was our favourite – I’m lead to believe ‘white chocolate’ might be the mischievous nickname Richard Blackwood has for Ben.

Summary: Really enjoyable dinner, excellent food and very reasonably priced wine. I will definitely be returning.

Purnell’s bistro – Birmingham

I’m about to blow your mind, seriously, sit down before you read this next bit.

I just realised that ‘Glynn’ is ‘Lynn’ with a G at the front. Had you ever considered that? I hadn’t. Now think of all the other potential baby names just sat there waiting for use:

  • Glaura
  • Glouise
  • Glily
  • Glisa
  • Glinda
  • Glorraine

I know?! Frankly I could finish this blog right here and it’d have been worth you clicking on it – a great return on investment.

I like Glynn Purnell, almost entirely based on the fact he is also being a Birmingham City fan, but also because he is good at presenting Saturday Kitchen Live. I’m yet to visit his restaurant because I’m a bit scared I won’t like it and will be sad.

Last weekend was my father’s birthday so I thought I’d treat him to lunch. He said he’d like Indian or Italian so I decided to ignore him entirely and take him to Purnell’s Bistro.

I walk past the Bistro pretty much every day, so have always been intrigued what it’d be like. Upon finding out he does a 3 course set menu lunch for £20 it seemed like a winner.

There are only two choices for main, starter and dessert but fortunately there was something we all liked the sound of for each.

The goats cheese tart with black olive tapenade to start was really good, although it did leave me wondering, ‘when does a piece of puff pastry become a tart?’

The blade of beef with confit tomatoes and onion purée for main was pretty good, although it did leave me wondering, ‘are these really confit tomatoes?’

The Earl Grey panna cotta with pistachio biscotti was excellent, although it did leave me wondering, ‘why don’t I have a tongue like a fucking giraffe so I can lick this stupid pot clean.’

It was a really good lunch, especially because it wasn’t hurried (possibly because they weren’t overly busy) but it meant we got to have a few beers, a bottle of wine and a couple of cocktails after – plenty of time to discuss what a fantastic son, and human being, I am.

On the basis of this I’ll definitely be giving Glynn’s restaurant a go once I’ve got some money.

Peel’s – Hampton-in-Arden

Lots of dashes in that title, not very easy on the eye. I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped reading there. Although, if you just read that sentence – you did keep reading, and if you stop at this point I will blame you… anyway, shall we get on with it?

“So, for your 28th birthday I thought I’d take you to John Peel’s favourite restaurant.”

“Who’s John Peel?” my younger fiancée shot back at me.

“Just a little joke, it doesn’t matter. I’m taking you to Hampton-in-Arden.”

“Is that a real place, or another little joke?”

“Not unless you think a village and civil parish in the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull is a joke?!”

“No.”

I booked us a room at Hampton Manor and dinner at Peel’s. To be honest, such a grand gesture on her 28th was a foolish move, what the fuck is she going to expect for her 30th?

As I’m originally from Solihull (please forgive me) I know of Hampton-in-Arden. A kid I went to school with had a gigantic house there that I went to a couple of times, his dad told me off once and it still haunts my dreams.

I’d heard about the Michelin starred restaurant in the village and occasionally contemplated suggesting meeting my mother there for lunch, but I’ve always considered it a bit too much of a cheek to do the whole:

*Bill is placed on the table*

“THANK YOU DEAREST MOTHER FOR THIS KIND GESTURE,” said while bowing.

Before she’s even looked at it or discussed who’s paying.

So, there’s your backstory and here we are.

Picture this: I’m sat in the lounge drinking a blood orange Collins, think a Tom Collins but with blood orange in it, when suddenly some rather delectable amuse bouche are bought out for us to enjoy.

Next thing you know I’m on the floor, on my back, smashing the amuse bouche against the rocks they’ve been served on – before devouring them like the hungry otter I am deep inside.

“How were they for you?” Lovely Luke the restaurant manager asked. Not even flinching at the fact I was on all fours and squeaking.

“Very nice, thanks.” The lady friend replied.

“Ross, our sommelier will be with you shortly to discuss your wine options.”

Quick as a flash I was back up and human again, otters famously hate wine.

After a brief chat with ravishing Ross, we ordered some white to go with the first few courses and a nice bottle of red for the remainder.

To the food. As with most tasting menus there were some courses that stood out more than others.

For me, the langoustine with leek and ginger and the wagyu beef with spiced cauliflower and black garlic were the highlights.

The two desserts also really need special mention, the first: blood orange, star anise and caramel, washed down with an expert pairing suggested by Ross was an absolute treat. Followed by the chocolate, sherry and vanilla which was equally good – and I’d hit that point of being so satisfied with life that I’d have quite happily sat there drinking until they put me to bed.

Fortunately, the staff didn’t have to face putting me to bed, although I’m sure they would have as they were bloody lovely.