A BLOG ABOUT THINGS I LEARN. BASICALLY. I respect copyright and will be happy to remove any photo the holder wishes me to remove. Please email whatstanleysays@gmail.com if you own an image you wish removed.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

TURTLE BAY - BIRMINGHAM

THIS post should have been written a few weeks ago when I had my first culinary experience at the brand spanking new Turtle Bay located on John Bright St. in Birmingham. Due to a string of successes, they now also have restaurants in Bristol, Leamington Spa, Leicester, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Nottingham and Southampton, which tells me that they're doing something right.

 As soon as you walk in you notice a real warmth to the atmosphere, the music is definitely someone's Summer playlist and the staff are all smiling and very welcoming; that's all before you've even tried the food.
There is another word next to 'Laid'..I just can't remember what it was.
Something to note: It's almost always Happy Hour there! There's pretty much every (Rum) cocktail you could ever think of and that, added to the Caribbean beach hut feel of the place, really sends you away with the beach fairies.
YES you bar of rumtastic delights.
The minute our food came, I was won over. If you can smell your food before it's even placed in front of you [and it's not a smell of the bad kind] it's always a good sign:
Get.In.My.Belleh.
I went for the Curry, Shrimp and Mango which came with 'rice 'n peas' and a whole load of incredible spices. By far on of the tastiest curries I have ever had the pleasure of devouring. One thing I will say is that the there wasn't much of the curry at all [something you can't really tell from this photo] and I could have eaten another two portions [at least], but I may have just caught someone on a bad pot-filling day as other photos I have seen tell a different story.
I've never seen a burger look so happy.
My garcon went for the Pulled Chicken Bun which came with rocket, Caribbean slaw and fries, all of which were devoured in about five minutes:
F E A S T.
We also went for some Jerk Pit Prawns which were cooked perfectly [and not somethered in sauce so you could taste the real flavour of the pit, which may or may not sound nice to you], some sweet potato chips with CHEESE and spices and some crunchy chick peas. These are something I have never had before but they're pretty moreish and crunchy. Very crunchy.
For some reason the decor really reminded me of Disneyworld's
Blizzard Beach. WEIRD.
I will most definitely be returning to this restaurant, a brilliant addition to the new wave of eateries gracing us in Birmingham, to try the rest [the entirety] of the menu. It is very reasonably priced, produces good quality, fresh food and makes me feel like I am on holiday. Did I mention it's almost always Happy Hour?



Wednesday, 28 May 2014

THE GEORDIE SHORES

THIS weekend saw us driving from Birmingham [in what seemed like God's wrath] to Newcastle to see family.
What you don't see here is the gigantic bolt of lightening that appeared
two seconds earlier.
And though the weather was as dubious as Hugh Heffner's libido, the journey taught me that
      a] Service stations look practically space age compared to the last time I went into one, and
      b] Family car journeys are just as fun ten years on.
Here's a few things we did when we arrived:
Dodged the rain to see the sights,

walked alongside the Baltic,

admired the many wonderful bridges [definitely reminded me of London and Paris],

marvelled at the stained glass windows of the Crown Posada, the
second oldest pub in Newcastle, also boasting excellent taste in music
and lovely wooden panelling [girl talk],

had some Crabbies at the Crown Posada
[consequently passing out from the sugar crash]

and took the 'Curry Train' to The Valley Indian Restaurant in Corbridge.
This was an experience in itself! Two gentleman greet you at the train station dressed in
traditional Indian clothing. Once on the train you're offered drinks and asked for your order; starters and main dishes only as you are given a selection and unlimited supply of side dishes and rice to accompany your chosen plates.
After a very scenic journey through beautiful fields and lots of greenery you arrive at the station and, at the same time, at the restaurant which is located on the platform [how convenient?!]. Once at the restaurant and after a few drinks, you're taken to your table [already having ordered on the train]. What follows is some beautifully cooked, completely fresh food and possibly the largest Tandoori King Prawns I have ever seen. We were a party of eight and all had nothing but good things to say about the food, as well as the service. I thoroughly recommend this experience if visiting Newcastle!

This weekend will see me venturing no further than Birmingham city centre so I can perform for Elicit at Talk Bar where i'll be playing through an acoustic set at around 8:30pm. You'll get five live acts, three DJs and a partridge in a pair tree for your money which is pretty good going.


love











Monday, 19 May 2014

HENS AND COWS

THIS weekend saw the weather miraculously change into what can only be described as what I imagine the British weather in Heaven to be like. As a result I managed to get outside a bit and do a few things:

ONE] Attend a Hen Night at Moxhull Hall: For my first ever Hen Night [at least in the UK] I was invited to Moxhull
         Hall in Wishaw, Sutton Coldfield. The first thing to say about this hotel is that the grounds are beautiful.
I could have taken a much better photo of the actual grounds and the
grass piano but I was too busy doing Hen Night things.
            The features and general style of this Victorian mansion have definitely been preserved, with stone
         windows, wooden panelling and original-looking tiling present throughout.
         Each guest had their own name card and was greeted with a lovely little goody bag filled with treats:
Satisfying my sugar needs on every level
        After this came a fresh and filling three-course dinner ranging from Mozarella to Paté, Belly Pork to Sea
        Bass and Eton Mess [complete with an upside-down ice cream cone] to a Chocolate and (spot the)
        Blueberry Brownie with an oozy hot chocolate sauce. And then this happened:

       Thank you Maria for a wonderful night and BEST OF LUCK with the final planning stages! See you at the
       wedding!

TWO] I went to Sutton Park: This is something I like to do a lot in my old age, not least because I literally live
          opposite the place [I hear the ducks quacking more than I hear traffic]. This weekend wasn't much
          different, except for the fact that:
We were followed by cows.

I mean, at first we just bumped into them,

but then they followed us.

They stopped to scratch themselves, yes,

but they definitely followed us.

This scene was beautiful, but we couldn't stay there longer than
two minutes on account of the overpowering smell of
fresh cow shit.

So we opted for a grassy bank where we stayed for a while, 
dozing off in the sun.

And then [I'm not even joking] the cows returned.

        Having said that, they were probably the friendliest cows i've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Also I urge
      you all to have a wander through Sutton Park at some point whilst we still have the sun in our reach. Not
      only is it the biggest Urban Park in Europe, it's quieter than any park you'll ever go to [esp if you live in
      London] and there's an abundance of wonderful little doggies running round enjoying life.

THREE] I bought a guitar: I felt it was time, plus it was my birthday last weekend:
Hey there beautiful Tanglewood
                 I bought this from Fairdeal Music which is pretty much opposite the Sunflower Lounge in town. They sell
             all sorts of things from pedals to Mandolins and are very very helpful to boot. I'll be trying my new friend
            out on Saturday 31st May at Talk Bar for Elicit, tickets for which can be found HERE. Stage time to
            follow!

Please by Sunscreen.

love














Tuesday, 13 May 2014

BIRTHDAY: AY AY!

THIS weekend saw me turning twenty six, amongst other things. Here's how I celebrated:
Here's me with an AMAZING card that my 3-year old cousin
  Harry made me - and some weird wallpaper.

ONE] Eating at Annexe, Birmingham:
         This restaurant on Corporation street opposite the Law Courts is a complete hidden gem. I wanted to go
         somewhere that had a good atmosphere, was reasonably priced but had great food to show for it; this
         made Annexe the perfect location to say goodbye to my twenty fifth year. The service is impeccable, from
         the moment you are greeted outside the front door to the minute you leave, something which is lacking at
         many places at the moment [not least at new Turtle Bay where a bar manager actually pulled a
 face at us
         after speaking rather abruptly/sarcastically just before we promptly headed to The Lost and Found
         then Annexe]. The first thing that struck me was the music: all the 30s classics with a pinch of le
         Francais. The second was the decor:
Yes that is a piano placed in front of a large projected Fred Astair (I think) 
Yes that is a wonderfully 30s pattern on french-style mirrors.
    Whilst my photographs had clearly felt the effects of alcohol, my stomach hadn't, and I tucked into every
    freshly- made and delicious course as though I hadn't eaten in a week. We did have an altercation with a piece
    of cod that had been overcooked and left out, but this was dealt with swiftly and professionally as we were
    offered a champagne and cherry cocktail by the manager amid several apologies. Needless to say a new
    piece arrived that was brilliantly flakey and worth the wait. Dish of the evening for me had to be Scallops of The
    Day wrapped in pancetta and served with celeriac purée and pesto which practically melted in the mouth. I
    was told that the Rosemary Beef was equally full of flavour. Unfortunately this is where my photographic imput
    ends but you're going to have to take a wander down and have a look for yourself! 
    FACT: Annexe holds 'Show Nights' every so often which basically consist of dressing up like a 30s
              Hollywood star, enjoying the live performances and eating like a king. The next one is
              THIS FRIDAY 16th May with the theme of 'Opulence, Burlesque, Hollywood Glamour'

TWO] Learning to Ski:
          That's right - my wonderful boyfriend surprised me with a fast-track skiing lesson with Snozone at Xscape
          Milton Keynes on my actual birthday. This, my friends, is an amazing gift. If [like me] you get to your
          lesson and suddenly find yourself overcome with fear DO NOT WORRY. THIS IS NORMAL. Was I scared?
          Yes:
Here's me looking scared
          Did I have an amazing time? Yes. Did I want to go back yesterday and today? YES. I have no idea
          how much the lessons are [and will not look] but am assured they are great value for money. 
I'm not sure how but I mastered everything. Birthday luck.
        The great thing about this place is the real snow. It's one thing to learn how to ski on a completely smooth
        surface but it's another ball game to be able to handle your skis when they're buried under a mound of
        snow. 
Actual amazing snow
          Thanks must go to my instructor 'Lemmon' who:
                  a] was patient, encouraging and uplifting in instances of frustration [of which there were a few]
                  b] pushed me down the slope backwards, about fifteen minutes into the lesson, and
                  c] taught me how to ski in three hours.

video

        I'll definitely be back soon to complete levels 3 and 4 and basically rule the slopes. NB These lessons are 
        not age-specific as far as I can tell on account of the four year old twins who showed me up.

THREE] Ordering a 15" Pizza from Joes Pizza: OBVIOUSLY

love



Monday, 5 May 2014

THE REAL FOOD MARKET + STREETS OF SPAIN: SOUTHBANK CENTRE

THIS weekend saw us back in London visiting family. Thankfully the weather realised and put on a great display which resulted in one slightly tanned nose and the whole of the city 'hanging out' in the same place: the Real Food Market which is held every Friday to Sunday at the Southbank Centre until December. 
Source: Real Food Market website
Bizarrely I didn't take a single photo, but that may have something to do with the fact that I could barely see my feet due to the sheer volume of people [not due to the amount of food I ate]; I have however stolen a photo from someone I was with:
Thanks Iain Fenton!
These brownies were from the Outsider Tart stall, the shop for which is described as an 'authentic American bake shop' with the two owners heralding from New York. All I can say is that they tasted like the best brownie i'd ever tasted had spent the weekend in heaven and come back topped with smarties as a memento. Heard enough? Their address is 83 Chiswick High Road and they're open EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK. They're also always as the food festival so pick the one that's nearest and go! P.S I opted for a falafel wrap topped with Harissa, obviously.
Here's Jo and I giving it a thumbs up because that's what it deserves.
Rond the corner was also Streets of Spain, an entire stretch of Spanish food and drink stalls with offerings from paella to queso Manchego and plenty of places to buy as much Sangria as you could hold. I managed not to take any photos of this either [it's like I was never there] but here's a photo that someone else took of a couple of incredibly large paella dishes that I can confirm were at the market:
Unless you're round the corner and you've read this, you'll probably miss it because today is the last day it is on, HOWEVER it is open until 10pm so technically you still have a lot of time..

Some other things that happened this weekend include:
ONE] The devouring of the two largest Lindt bunnies I have ever seen. I wish I had something else in this picture           to act as a scale setter.
TWO] Trees were climbed in a lovely garden so that CDs could be put up to scare away shitting pigeons:
THREE] I saw a photo of my boyfriend trying on an exceptional suit for a family wedding that we're going to in
             July and my expression was something similar to this: 

I hope you're all enjoying your Bank Holiday weekend.
Love.



Tuesday, 29 April 2014

VERDE & COMPANY LTD - SPITAFIELDS CAFÉ

ON the weekend I took a trip back to London to see a wonderful friend. It was only a fleeting visit so all I managed to see was Hoxton in the dark and a beautiful little café on Brushfield St near Spitafields Market called VERDE & COMPANY LTD.
mmm. Chocolate.
Bizarrely this café looks much larger on the outside than it is on the inside, but it is all the more cosy for it! When you enter you're faced with walls of homemade jam, Italian sauces and pasta, a large selection of pastries and boxes of Belgian Pierre Marcolini chocolates
Here's the impressive jam jar wall
And here's the Italian wall.
Thank goodness the bag I had with me was small otherwise I may have bought the lot.

On the menu is a host of breakfasts [go for the Verde breakfast] and lunchtime pick-me-ups including the delicious-sounding Breasola with sun-blush tomatoes, fresh tomato & leaves £5.95 and a selection of freshly-made quiches £3.50. I opted for the stomach-lining [Friday and Saturday drinks..] Goats cheese with grilled aubergine Sandwich on brown bread £4.65 which was big enough for someone who'd woken up after breakfast-time with a hunger and tasty enough for even the harshest critic. Sadly I didn't take a photo of the sandwich, but someone else has taken a photo of the chocolates:
One thing that also struck me was how passionate, friendly and helpful the gentleman who appeared to be the waiter was. So next time you're early for a train or you fancy something to eat before a bout of Summer-related afternoon drinking down Brick Lane, pay a visit to VERDE & COMPANY LTD and - basically- enjoy.



Thursday, 24 April 2014

THE LOST & FOUND, BENNETTS HILL: NEW MENU

YESTERDAY saw us venturing to The Lost & Found [a Grade II listed building on Bennetts Hill] to accept an invitation to try their new menu:
Hiya The Lost & Found!

We turned up, starved out of our minds, ready for whatever they had to throw at us, after we ordered some cocktails [of course] from Matt who was incredibly helpful, very friendly and knew a lot about the menu.
Starved, sippin' on a cocktail

Both the Apple & Pear Cobbler  (L) and the Ms. H.G. Watson (R) were deliciously fruity,
incredibly more-ish and half price thanks to Happy Hour!

We've had dinner here before, but the first difference we noticed was that the menu seemed much more grown up and much less pub-like. Had Hettie given it elocution lessons? It seemed that way, but the reality is that the new Head Chef has a brilliant vision, something that is evident from merely looking at the new menu.
Hiya new menu!

BUT ON WITH THE SHOW. We wanted to get a good feel for what the new food was about so tried to stick to ordering completely different dishes. First was:
         a] Crispy Fried Goat's Cheese with beetroot and horseradish remoulade, beetroot purée and onion ash:
Prettier than Miranda Kerr on a good day

Not only did it look beautiful, each component had a very distinct flavour, with the remoulade being particularly punchy, a great sharp contrast to the gooey/crispy cheese.

          b] Surf & Turf / Slow Cooked pork cheek, black pudding, king scallop, cauliflower purée and apple:
This is the 'metrosexual' of dishes; very manly, but very elegant all at the same time

Everything in this dish was cooked perfectly and the flavours were well-balanced. Definitely go for this starter if you've a big appetite and like bold flavours. Obviously this had to be washed down with another few cocktails:
Probably the most gentlemanly cocktail I've ever met, the Birmingham Cup mixes Gin, Corriander,and top hats,
amongst other things

The Raspberry Lemonade with its abundance of fruit and alcohol is so popular they have it on [sort of] tap

Now back to our stomachs and the main event. The main courses offer a great range of red meat, white meat, fish and vegetarian options but, unable to try everything on the menu for fear we'd combust, we opted for:
          a] Lemon & Fennel Poached Salmon with chargrilled asparagus, chorizo oil, poached egg and
             chorizo crumble:
It almost looked too good to eat, so I ate it

The flavour of the chorizo crumble with the salmon was heavenly; it's a combination I've never had before but it really works, adding a smokeyness to the salmon that doesn't overpower it. I think it may also have convinced me that you don't have to eat egg at breakfast only.

          b] 6 Hour Braised Beef Shin with red wine jus, celeriac mash, crispy leek and ox cheek faggot
It's like the best tasting eyeball I've ever seen

The hours of cooking this beef really shone through in its tenderness and it almost melted in the mouth, but the "pretty bloody tasty"  faggot was the real surprise in this dish, full of flavour and really complementing well the celeriac mash.
And as if we had space for anything else, we went on to order two desserts out of sheer greed and intrigue.
          a] Peanut Butter Parfait with peanut brittle and dark chocolate millefeuille:
PeanutMANIA

The parfait was like a really light, cool, solid peanut-ty mousse, refreshing and indulgent all at the same time with the crunchy brittle and smooth millefeuille as lovely extra treats if you're sharing, so you can each tuck into something different at the same time. Amazing.

          b]Melting Chocolate Pot Pudding with salted caramel and home made tonka bean ice cream
We drew the heart to show the dessert how amazing we thought it looked, and because we're basically big children

If I had to choose a favourite dish of the evening it would have to be this. Imagine being addicted to something so much that you lose the ability to talk in its presence; that's what happened. The melty chocolate. Oh my gosh. The salted caramel sauce. OH MY GOSH. We couldn't put our spoons down until after the entire board had been cleared and all [and I mean all] the salted caramel had been scraped off strategically. Also, tonka bean ice cream has such an unusual and [again] addictive flavour that you're going to be disappointed you can't just go out and buy it from the corner shop.
The Botanical Garden area is where we were seated and basically looks like you've stepped into
an upside-down Victorian courtyard. Very cool.

As you can tell from the menu [top], the prices are very reasonable for the quality and standard of food that is now being served. The Lost & Found is no longer a place to go for a drink and a nibble [don't be rude]; it is now a place to go back to solely for the food. On par with those of the surrounding established restaurants, the new menu is a testament to the passion and hard work of its creator and is clearly the start of big things. I'll be back soon to try the burger which has GUINNESS in it? Yes please.

p.s 
                        sshhh...they've got a little secret