Tag Archives: Birmingham

An evening at Jamie Oliver’s Italian

27 Jul

I’ve already done two posts on Jamie Oliver (is that right?) and one might think that that would be more than enough, but the thing about running a food blog is that you just cannot avoid the man. He’s everywhere – in the supermarket, on the internet, television. He’s even in the book (and app) best-seller list since he released his 30-minute meal manual at the end of last year!

In fact it is surprising that it took me so long to finally get to his restaurant here in Birmingham. A bunch of friends and I decided to pop in for dinner, and when I broke the news back to my sister in India, she behaved responded exactly like a star-struck, celebrity starved giggling girl. “What!”, she said, “You’re going to Jamie Oliver’s Restaurant? Do you know how lucky you are!” And then she went on describe in full detail how even former US President Clinton had trouble meeting the man because he came with a larger than expected party of people. This happened of course at JO’s ‘Fifteen’ restaurant in London. Regardless, I made nothing of it on the phone, but was secretly feeling the butterflies in my stomach. People who’ve known me for a while will also know that I am a big follower of the Chef and more so for his work in revolutionising food in schools (he even inspired me to write a few food-based stories for children).

So when the day finally came, I was very excited. We got there on time, entered and then were shocked at the kind of crazy crowd that had gathered. Our original reservation was for 9 pm, but I think we finally got our table around 9.45. We sat ourselves down, were handed the menus which were surprisingly simple. I know this is his speciality and I also know that on the website he had stated very clearly that the restaurant was all about home-like Italian food. But I have to say that my expectations were so high, that I felt a little disappointed. Although the ambiance was very warm and welcoming (with yellow lighting and wooden panelling), the place was too busy for us to feel like we were sitting in a speciality restaurant.

We ordered the white house wine, which was the right amount of spritzy and fruity for someone who is a wine-amateur like me, and then went on to the main course. The specials that day like the 15-hour cooked lamb risotto and the pork chop with roasted apple turned out to be the best dishes, apart from the sea bass that one of my friends said was delicious. I also tried *wild boar* pepperoni for the first time in my life, which was a bit chewy but subtly spicy and oily (part of the pleasure of eating any pepperoni is the fat it comes with, isnt it?)

The stars however were the desserts. I especially *loved* the chocolate and espresso tart that was served with figs (what a sexy combination!) and orange cream fraiche and dusted lightly with cocoa powder. Wah!

I guess overall everyone was quite happy. Put together – the ambiance, the culinary highlights, a few glasses of wine and fine company made for a wonderful evening. I wouldn’t mind paying another visit, and this time they better have their JO aprons on sale!


Musee de beux Bouffe (The Museum of Fine Food)

18 May

While we were in Manchester the other day, we asked a random stranger in our dorm if we had visited the Museums.

“Do you visit the museums in your own country?” he asked, “Like, do you ever go there? So why should I go to a museum here?”

Totally flawed logic, but it did but a thought in mind. Personally, I haven’t visited even a tiny fraction of museums back in Mumbai. The only one I do remember is the Prince of Wales Museum, and that too because it was one of the most boring and tiring hot summer days of my child-life. When we’re abroad though, its a different story isn’t it?

Which brings me to my visit of the Birmingham museum. Of course I got the expected reaction – “Birmingham Museum? For what?!” I guess it was a bit odd and a little random, but I have to say that there was a lot to see in there and I really did enjoy myself.

But first, here’s a snapshot(s) of my short stroll through the Bull Ring market.

Birmingham Museum

Museums are a great way to get artistic inspiration and to see how trends keep recycling themselves. I remember going past the Jewllery section and thinking, “hey! I have something like that!” or “Wait, I’m going to get this made for myself when I get back home.”

There were some beautiful paintings and sculptures from the 17th, 18th and early 19th century that gave me a lot of story ideas, or just left me gaping at the artistry, skill and finesse of the work.

But most of all, I was really struck by this particular painting about an 18th century kitchen. It was supposed to depict the Biblical belief that God made all the natural bounty on Earth available for man to consume (not a bad though, eh?) and so the painter included every time of food there was, from fish to vegetables to poultry to meat to grains to what have you.

It made me wish I was there to see the ladies cook that in person. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off it once all the dishes had been prepared!

As you can imagine, the museum visit left me very hungry. Thankfully there was a nice little Greek restaurant called ‘Athens’ (no surprises there!) down the road from it.

Greek Cuisine

For starters I had this wonderful thing called Dolamades (plural for Dolma) which is basically a stuffing of vegetables, or in this case meat, rice and vegetables wrapped in a grape leaf and steamed. Because its steamed, the stuffing remains really soft and the leaf that has now acquired a silky texture cuts easily and has this slight sour taste that makes it a delectable bite. It was served with a sweetish tomato sauce that complemented the sourness of the leaf and the slight saltiness of the stuffing.

Along with this, we ordered a ‘meze’ of olives, salad leaves, cucumbers, tomatoes, haloumi cheese, hummus, tzatziki and some other very yummy sauces and dips that I don’t know the names of! Along with this, we were served flat bread, warmed with olive oil. Yum!

For the main course (here’s evidence of my bottomless stomach) we had succulent chicken kebab accompanied by potatoes, really sweet boiled carrots, lemon and rice,

AND Lamb Kleftiko, meaning ” in style of the klephts ” . Now there is a really interesting story behind the name of this dish and the way it is made. Apparently, these guys were anti-Ottoman insurgents (when Greece was under Ottoman rule), somewhat like rugged guerilla fighters, living in the mountains, and because they didn’t have any of their own lamb, they used to steal it and cook it in a pit for hours so the smoke wouldn’t be let out. These days its made slightly differently, but the result is the same. The herbs, spices and lime marinate to the very bone of the lamb and the meat is rendered fluffy, soft, and with juices intact (*talk about food porn*)

When I had gorged on all that, I sealed it with one of the most amazing desserts of all time – Baklava,which is of Turkish origin . Its made of very fine layers of pastry dough that get crispier as you get to the top. Inside these layers are crushed walnuts, and the whole thing is dipped in sugar syrup (kill me NOW!). At this particular restaurant, it was served with whipped cream on the side. Although I was told this is not traditional,there weren’t any complains from me!

This brings me to the final thought of the day. What if there were a museum of fine food? Imagine a place where they could actually tell you stories of how dishes originated and demonstrate for you!  I would totally live there.

Idli-Dosa, garam Samosa ( I mean, Vadai)

27 Apr

If I was given a choice between eating North Indian food for 1 year versus South Indian food for 1 year, I would, without batting an eyelid, choose South Indian food. That’s just the way it is. Seriously, who can resist those perky idlis? And those crisp fragrant dosas that sometimes have a sense of humour( Read: “top hat” dosa) and those tongue-tingling chutneys and of course the gun powder (podi) that makes you feel like chaddi-pals with Rajnikanth.

To add to all that, its cheap. Hypothetically, for example, if I was to order one idli-wada plate and then 2 chettinad dosas and then a drink and then a biriyani, it would still come under 10 pounds!

I swear, I could go anywhere for South Indian. Even if its Birmingham.

Even if I have to trudge through the Bull Ring (where Jamie Oliver has opened a hee-uuge restaurant that I can’t wait to try)…

…And take a round through Starbucks…

…Its all worthwhile for South Indian food…

There’s an important notice you have to keep in mind, though 😛 :