A few weeks ago I decided to try somewhere different for lunch. I found a website called wheeldecide.com which can randomly choose from nearby restaurants or take-aways. I decided to use it to choose where to go for lunch.
Week 1: Full Stop Sandwich
This place was a bit of a walk. I didn't know where 'New Town Row' was and had to look it up on a map. When I got there it was almost empty but while I was paying for my sandwich it started to fill up. I chose their 'sandwich of the day' which was pork and stuffing. It came with a very thick gravy and a few pieces of crackling.
Week 2: Tuckers
I walk past this place, in the Minories, fairly regularly. It does sandwiches and hot food. I decided to try the all day breakfast for £5 which had bacon, egg, sausage, black pudding, beans, toast, hash brown and tomatoes. It also came with a cup of tea. It was good value and very filling.
Week 3: Wasabi
I needed to walk to the shops to pick up something I had ordered from PC World so I put the postcode for the High Street into Wheeldecide. It kept coming up with places in the Palisades, which is closed for refurbishment, so I decided to go to Wasabi, in New Street Station, instead.
I had been wanting to go there since it opened. I chose one of their salmon sushi boxes, which came with a couple of spicy chicken skewers.
They have a wide range of sushi and bento boxes, with rice and noodles. I'll have to revisit to try something else.
We had lunch at Feast Junction, which is the re-branded and re-launched `Dragon Phoenix' near the ring road. We were last there back in 2006 and the place has been completely updated since then.
The food looked like fairly standard all you can eat buffet but the range was good and everything I tried was good. The food was split into several areas, with salad, soups, starters, mains and desserts. I had something from everywhere apart from the soups. The various different curries and oriental style meats were all good. I also liked the dahl and the paneer. The only real disappointments were: 1) the crispy seaweed wasn't very crispy, and 2) they had run out of ice cream cones in the dessert section, but the chocolate fountain was running so that probably made up for the shortage of cones.
We were back in Birmingham today so we paid a visit to Woktastic, which we go to occasionally when we're in the city centre. We always have the all you can eat sushi and every now and then they introduce different types of sushi.
The change this time was the introduction of deep fried sushi. I don't know how long they have been serving this since it's been a while since we were last there. Part of me thinks that deep fried sushi is such a bad idea and goes against the simple and healthy image of sushi. Another part of me thinks that if a food is worth eating, it is worth deep frying.
It has been a long time since I've been to Wing Wah (the all you can eat Chinese restaurant) in Coventry, so when Emma said she was meeting some people there for lunch and asked me if I wanted to join them, I agreed.
The food doesn't seem to have changed in the intervening period but people don't go there for a constantly varying or challenging menu. People go there because it is a great value eatery with good quality food (as good as you can reasonably expect for £7 during the day).
One area where Wing Wah do sometimes get a bit imaginative is the presentation of their desserts. A few years ago I had a jam tart with a sprig of parsley on top so when I saw a jelly with what looked like a green bean on top, I expected the worst.
It turned out to be a sliced jelly sweet - the long tube shaped sweets with a fondant filling.
Our semi-regular trip to Pizza Express for St. Valentine's Day.
Click on the thumbnail to view the image
Tonight we joined some friends at a restaurant called Rhubarb, in Leamington. A few of us decided to have Tapas for starters: I had the calamari and Emma had the breaded prawns. Both were very good. The calamari were piping hot, tender, and quite a generous bowlful.
For main course, Emma chose the prawns and monkfish in a thick slightly curried broth, which was ordered from the specials board. I chose the braised lamb shank and chorizo cassoulet, also from the specials. Some people's meals seemed to be a bit on the small side and came without vegetables but I couldn't complain about mine. There was a decent amount of meat, which was very tender and fell off the bone with minimum effort. The cassoulet was very similar to a spanish chorizo and vegetable casserole I used to do years ago, which was based around chicken stock, herbs (oregano and mint if I remember correctly), paprika and chorizo.
Overall, the restaurant was ok but the lack of vegetables, side dishes or accompaniments was a bit strange. For example, no bread rolls were served with the starters, even for the people who ordered soup. Prices were reasonable but food quality and serving size appeared to be a bit variable.
We were in Leicester doing some Christmas shopping, which included a walk around John Lewis. We had lunch at Carluccio's. We started with the Pasta Fritta, which was deep fried squares of herby pasta, and Focaccia All'aglio which was a really nice cheesy garlic bread.
For main course we decided to try the Tasting Trio from the pasta menu, for £20. We had the Penne Giardiniera, with courgette, chilli and deep fried spinach balls, and the Linguini al frutti di mare. Finally, I had the Gnocchi al ragu d'angello (lamb ragu) to myself. The food was good and impressive value.
Last time we went to the Bear Inn, I had a starter which consisted of an entire wheel of brie. This time I skipped the starter and went straight for the Winter Pie Platter for my main course.
The platter consisted of a tiny cornish pasty and 3 little pies (venison, chicken & mushroom and steak & ale), along with mash and mushy peas.
Today was a rare warm bank holiday monday and we decided to go to Kenilworth. We started off with a pub lunch at the Queen & Castle (which is a Beefeater chain pub but has a better atmosphere than most other chain pubs). We then had a walk around the outside of the castle.
We passed this ruined barn on our walk. It looked like there might have been a barn on the site for quite a long time. Some of the stones were suspiciously castle coloured and were probably 'borrowed' from the castle before such things were frowned upon.
Tonight we ate at Bombay Joe's on Walsgrave Road. We were walking up the road looking at the different restaurants looking for one to eat in.
We started with the traditional poppadoms with chutneys. For the main course we shared a South Indian Garlic Chilli with chicken and a Chicken Dansak. For side dishes we had pilau rice, chilli naan bread and Tarka Dahl. The curries were both very nice - the first was one of the restaurant 'specials' and had huge pieces of garlic in the sauce. The Dansak was described as 'sour and sweet and fairly hot' and we hoped the heat would offset any sweetness. The end result was well balanced without any obvious sweet or sour flavours. The Dahl was very smooth and buttery - we would never dare to add that much ghee into a meal but somehow when you eat out it seems ok.
As usual in Indian restaurants, the portions were well sized and we were both feeling rather full when we left. Recommended and worth visiting again.
We have been to the 'old' Pizza Express restaurant in the city centre but this was the first time we'd been to the new one in Belgrade Plaza, next to the theatre. We tried two of their new pizzas: I had the Da Morire Romana which was the winner of the competition where customers could invent a new pizza. It was quite a brave pizza, with a lot of strong flavours including pancetta, blue cheese and rosemary. The flavours worked well together and didn't clash or overpower it. Emma had the Monte Bianco which was a chicken pizza using bechamel sauce instead of tomato. We both enjoyed our pizzas.
For dessert we had the new Doughballs with Nutella. Although the menu didn't describe it as such, this was more suitable for sharing than individual servings.
The food was good, the service was friendly. I felt a bit guilty ordering dessert and asking for the bill at the same time but we had tickets for the theatre and only had a few minutes to finish eating and leave.
The Open Arms pub in Coventry held a food and drink tasting evening tonight to show off their new menu. We found out about it from their mailing list. It sounded too good to miss so we went along to see what the new food was like.
I'll have to admit that I liked everything I tried. They brought the food out, cut into bite-sized portions, and we were allowed to help ourselves. The first taster was an 'onion ring loaf' which came with a goats cheese dip. We managed to have a few pieces of this, both the onion loaf and the dip were tasty.
Beer-battered mushrooms were next. The batter was slightly peppery and it worked well. The next starter was pate, which was nice but was just a normal pate. The hummous which followed was much better - there were two kinds: spinach and piri-piri. Both were good but the piri-piri hummous was the better of the two.
The main courses were represented by a root vegetable pie, which was nice for vegetarian food, and slow-cooked lamb, which was very tender and fell off the bone very easily. There were also pieces of sausage on sticks, to give a taste of the sausage and mash. The sausages were slightly smokey, probably from the bacon, but they also tastes slightly salty.
The desserts were particularly nice. The carrot cake cheesecake was slightly crunchy and could have done with slightly more defrosting but it tasted great. The chocolate orange truffle tart was very rich and solid. It tasted slightly spicy which worked well and balanced the sweetness.
We don't eat out very often but the new Ember Inns menu looks good. Unfortunately none of their pubs are within easy walking distance which means if we go out, I can't drink with the meal. We'll probably go back again, either for their new menu or their sunday menu which also sounds good.
The food was a bit more expensive than we're used to - 3 courses cost £56 for the two of us, without wine. I think it was probably worth it though. Everything was well cooked and well presented.
I started with the Chilli Squid (from the weekly specials) and Emma had the potted prawns. My squid came with a couple of 'baby' octopuses which I wouldn't normally eat but I decided to give them a go.
My main course was the Pork Tenderloin, which came with sweet potato mash and a 'black pudding scotch egg' which had a tiny quail egg in the centre. For dessert I chose the pistachio and chocolate tart, pictured below.
We ate out at Frankie & Benny's in Coventry tonight. The restaurant was a bit noisy but the food was good. We shared two pizzas:
Top - Chicken Caesar Salad.
Bottom - Seafood Supreme.
The Seafood Supreme had anchovies, prawns and clams. The other pizza was a chicken pizza topped with tomato and lettuce in a caesar dressing. It was unusual to have a dressed salad on top of a pizza - we have often topped a pizza with a strong leafy salad such as rocket or watercress but we'd not thought of using a dressed salad. It was a surprisingly good combination.
My boss took a few of us out to dinner last night, to Sunam in Kenilworth. The restaurant was very busy and apparently is crowded on most nights. The food was good. The portions didn't seem huge (apart from the massive naan bread which was shared between the 5 of us) but I was feeling very full afterwards.