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.

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.

Absurd Bird – Exeter

I’ve seen some absurd birds in my time – no, not that type you vile, sexist pig. Actual birds.

Here’s the most absurd bird I’ve seen during the course of my life so far:

A few weeks ago I found myself in Exeter, I’d tell you why I was there if it was any of your fucking business – but it’s not, so keep your beak out of it.

After a few gins at Crocketts bar – I quite like it there, and a couple of ciders at The Old Firehouse – I like it there. I decided I needed food, I’d walked past ‘Absurd Bird’ earlier in the day and was pretty intrigued to find out which of our weird, feathered friends they were serving up.

“Perhaps it’s Pelican?” My woman friend suggested.

“We can only hope.” I answered.

After being seated it became pretty obvious that the only birds for consumption were chickens…

Chickens are not absurd, the only thing absurd about a chicken is that humans eat the eggs they shit out with alarming regularity.

We ordered wings: 6 x buffalo & 6 x smoked garlic parmesan and lemon and some chicken tenders.

The tenders were OK in that way chicken tenders you buy from Sainsbury’s when you’re hungover are OK.

The wings were shite. The buffalo were the better of the two because FRANKly you can put that sauce on anything and it’ll taste better. Honestly, try it. Anything. Yes, even that.

The smoked garlic Parmesan and lemon were an insult to chickens, garlic, Parmesan, smoking and lemon.

It tasted like tepid PVA glue.

After informing the waiter that I don’t really like the taste of PVA glue he offered to get us another type in exchange, we went for the crispy buttermilk wings in the hope of avoiding another sauce disaster.

They were shite too.

Sorry chickens.

Harborne Kitchen

1) Harborne Kitchen, I’ve got one one of those. It’s a kitchen in a house in Harborne that I borrow from a man I pay loads of money to every month.

2) Weather! Remember the ‘Beast from the East’ a couple of weeks ago? Well, I do.

In the house mentioned in 1. there is a boiler and a central heating system. The beastly snow resulted in the boiler packing in for a few days. (Yes, I poured warm water on the fucking condensate pipe.)

The delightful man I generously donate cash to refused to send anyone to look at his broken boiler, or to give us any money for a heater, so with the house utterly pissing freezing we decided staying in on the Friday night and cooking in our Harborne Kitchen was totally untenable, so instead we booked a table at Harborne Kitchen.

3) This was my fourth visit to Harborne Kitchen and it was also the best. “Why was it the best?” Thanks for the question. It was the best because it had heating, booze and fantastic food.

Now, if you want to read someone talk about the food properly read this – as he had the same menu I enjoyed.

baked celeriac, blue cheese mousse, pickled quince and celeriac broth

baked celeriac, blue cheese mousse, pickled quince and celeriac broth

We had intended to do the three course menu for £30, but then I looked at the six course tasting menu and the chicken liver parfait, cod curry and wagyu brisket dishes sounded too good to miss out on.

“Why have you posted a photo of celeriac above then?” Again, thanks for the question, it’s nice to see you’re engaged. The reason I posted that was because frankly it was the one course I wasn’t that bothered about, but it was delicious and the celeriac broth aroused me so much that my penis peaked out from within myself where it’d been hiding for warmth for the past two days.

“Can you please tell us a little more about your penis, please?” Not right now, I’m going to post a couple of pictures of my other two favourite courses then sign-off .

Welsh wagyu brisket, Longhorn fillet, mushroom and chive

Passion fruit and chocolate cremeux, popcorn ice cream, caramel

I may have ordered that dessert above twice, because I am a fat shit and it was tremendeux – that’s probably French for tremendous and is also a play on words with cremeux!!

“Haha! That’s amazing, there really is no doubt that you’re a massively welcome addition to the Birmingham food blogging scene. London’s loss is certainly Birmingham’s gain!” Thank you.

The food at Harborne Kitchen really is exceptional and what makes it an even better experience is the atmosphere and service. The service here was easily better than two of my Michelin experiences in Birmingham, it’s not pretentious, but it’s thoughtful, attentive and the staff seem to like working there – and it shows.

I did have a chat with Head Chef Jamie Desogus but frankly don’t remember what I was banging on about, probably because I was drunk on warmth, great food and three pints, two bottles of wine and two espresso martinis.

Bloody marveleux.

 

 

Review: White Swan Harborne

I walked past here yesterday and noticed they’re closed for refurbishment, perhaps they knew this review was coming in and decided to buck up their ideas.

DISCLAIMER: Before I go off on one (and then feel bad for being mean), I believe upwards of 70% of roasts served up in pubs and restaurants across this land are total shit. How can so many chefs not be capable of making decent gravy?

It was 1 October when we visited, and I’d just decided to sign up to not drink alcohol for a month like the attention seeking twat I am. For this reason, I ordered a blackcurrant and soda rather than a delicious pint of booze.

Whoever made it must have filled the pint glass half full of cordial, it was diabetes diabetes in a glass (type two diabetes). I had a sip and sent it back, asking for more soda, it came back just as strong. They took it off the bill in the end.

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I can’t remember if that menu above is actually mucky as fuck or if it was a style decision by a drunk designer. I’m fairly certain it’s the former, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.

I ordered the rib of beef with mustard seasoning and roasted onion and garlic. It was to be served with roast potatoes, braised red cabbage, honey roasted parsnips, buttered kale, yorkshire pudding and gravy.

Here it is.

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First things first – the beef was OK, the Yorkshire pudding was also OK. The potatoes were probably OK when they were hot.

The braised cabbage and, definitely not buttered, kale were very sad, but not as sad as the single, definitely not honey roasted, parSNIP (no SNIPS here).

As for the ‘coarse-grain mustard seasoning and roasted red onion and garlic’, well, to be honest I’m not sure. Was the beef supposed to be seasoned with mustard? Should there be some red onion and garlic on the plate? The only thing I knew was that there was a blob of horseradish. I contemplated asking someone to explain the mustard/onion/garlic situation to me but then I realised that life is short and we will all inevitably die.

Don’t even get me started on the gravy – flavourless, watery, brown piss.

And this is where I get pissed off with roasts, that cost £16. Imagine.

And yep, there we have it, I feel horribly guilty now.

Review: Angel & Blue Pig (Lymington) – Toby

There’s nothing better than an Easter getaway, as Tony can attest to.

The New Forest was my selection of location. Please note the name of this area is quite misleading – it’s not all forest and it’s exceptionally old.

IMG_20160326_194822However, it’d be churlish of me to blame The Angel & Blue Pig of Lymington for this oversight.

So I went in on a wet and windy Saturday evening after a particularly enlightening walk around the salt marshes of the area.

“Had a good day?” asked the female-waiter after I’d been granted a table in their restaurant area.

I began to tell her about the environmental importance of these salt marshes; there are certain wading birds that depend on these specific conditions to survive.

“Would you like a drink at all?” she started.

“Much like the wading birds, I’d like just enough to drink, but not too much!” I joked.

“Right, so a half then?” she parried.

“No, a pint.” I couldn’t think of a witty retort. I quickly added that I’d like the sausage and mash which neatly filled the silence that had ensued.

I requested that it came with normal gravy, not the onion gravy they had advertised on the menu. She kindly agreed. Not everyone would be so understanding.

Like my Mum, she refuses to remove the onion from her gravy despite my repeated requests and stomach cramps.

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Here is the sausage and mash. It came with green beans and the special gravy.

The sausages were from Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs, which produce a quality sausage. The accompanying vegetables were nice too.

The only disappointment was the gravy, which was fairly tasteless and felt like it was missing something – they certainly won’t be winning any awards for that!

The venue itself resembled a Scottish hunting lodge, which I thought strange.

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This is what the restaurant looked like

But I liked that, the tartan chairs made me feel like a Lord, or a “Laird” as our Celtic cousins would say.

Overall, a nice meal. Three and a half boys.  Just sort out that gravy guys.

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Review: Tootoomoo

Tootoomoo

No, not Desmond the famous South African Archbishop being asked to impersonate a cow.

No, not someone trying to get an Ox to perform the nutcracker.

No, not someone complaining that their steak is too steaky.

No, not someone explaining his disappointing degree result to cattle.

No, not an infant trying to pronounce the name of the famous Egyptian Pharaoh.

No, not Gary Lineker telling your mum the football score.

Yes, a Pan-Asian restaurant in Crouch End.

North London dwelling Toby, has been suffering with a bit of tummy trouble of late.

“Knock, Knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“Another runny poo I’m afraid.”

Anyway, yesterday he started to feel a little better and Tony suggested he should leave the house. We met in Crouch End.

Toby, who hadn’t eaten for four days saw Tootoomoo and was like, “we should try that place.”

Next thing you know, we’re trying it.

Lots of Asian fare to be had here, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese think of an ‘ese’ and these guys do it, with ESE (ease.) Just call these guys Foodese ™FoodieBoys.

This is very much where the PAN part of Pan-Asian comes from, ‘pan’ being short for ‘span’ (we think) their food SPANS ASIAn cuisine.

Despite it being a Tuesday night, we hit the cocktails. Toby loved his Tootoomoojito, and Toby settled back and quaffed a Tom Collins, like an expat may have done in Asia at some point in the past.

Beef and Foie Gras Gyoza

Beef and Foie Gras dumplings

Not wanting to rest on our laurels, we ordered some Beef and Foie Gras Gyoza to nibble on – Pan-Asian-French (PAF) fare perhaps? These were perfectly reasonable, like little parcels of meat, and who wouldn’t sign-up for that package?!

For our main we decided to share Beef Rendang and Shoaxshing Chicken. Both came with chillis next to them on the menu.

We prepared ourselves for some serious heat and prepared ourselves accordingly, Toby apologised in advance to his bowel.

Sadly, neither dish were spicy but both were very tasty indeed.

Chopstick masterclass

Chopstick masterclass from Toby

So, next time you find yourself in Crouch End, or Islington or Highgate or Whetstone (that’s where their other branches are) and you can’t decide what type of Asian food to eat, why not head to Tootoomoo?