1847 – Winter Menu 2016

1847 is a restaurant that has fast become one of my favorite places to dine in Birmingham over the past 18 months. Relaxed and unassuming, this vegetarian restaurant is the perfect little hideaway for a working lunch or a romantic dinner for two. I was recently invited to a bloggers event organised by local food and lifestyle blogger Brumderland, and jumped at the chance to check out a selection from their new winter menu.

Nestled in the majestic Great Western Arcade, 1847 is a contrast to its traditional, historic surroundings. White wood paneling covers the walls, contrasted by simple grey egg shell and no frills carpeting. The place has a simple, fresh, Scandi-cool vibe. The large leafy canvas that extends both floors echoes the restaurant’s plant based menu and adds to the simple, ‘back to basics’ surroundings. This simplicity is carried into their presentation. Food is served on white crockery, slates and glassware. I don’t tend to enjoy over-thought tableware, I think it often detracts from the food, but here it works – a complement rather than a distraction.

I have enjoyed various different dishes here over recent months, but for this article I will focus on the spread of dishes I was invited to try as part of their new winter menu.

The meal was opened with a selection of simple nibbles – focaccia with shakshuka hummus along with confit garlic and smoked marinated olives. Shakshuka is a flavoursome dish, traditionally made with tomatoes and spices such as cumin and paprika. While I enjoyed chef’s spin on this by incorporating the flavours into a hummus, I felt that it lacked the level of depth and spice I would have expected from the description.

bread

For my starter I chose maple parsnip, parsnip cream, apple and pumpkin seed. I very much enjoyed the simplicity of this dish. The sharp apple, contrasted well with the sweet parsnip. The cream gave the dish a richer level. Definitely the sort of dish you want to get a little bit of everything on your folk and taste together!

    parsnips

My main dish was chickpea flatbread, Calva Nero, mushroom, toasted quinoa, yoghurt and chili. Again, like my starter, this dish was simple but well considered. The flatbread was subtly flavoured and provided a good base for the rest of the ingredients. The light flavours of the mushrooms and kale were not overpowered by the chili and yoghurt. I liked the chef’s play on words for Cavolo Nero cooked in Calvados.

mushroom

At prior meals at 1847, I’ve always found they fall down a little on dessert. My dessert for this meal was chocolate brownie, dehydrated chocolate mousse, white chocolate powder, soaked red wine blackberries. While the dish was generally pleasant, I felt it didn’t quite match the standard of the other courses. I often find when I order a brownie, it arrives and it isn’t a brownie at all, but a piece of chocolate cake. 1847’s brownie was exactly what a brownie should be, stodgy and rich. Not crumbly. I found that the accompaniments were too dry however, and the blackberries were a little underwhelming. Something lighter, and creamy would have complimented the delicious brownie better. Perhaps a berry coulis as well, or something using citrus? As a result, I struggled to finish as the whole dish was too rich.

brownie

To accompany our meal, we were served two blended Portuguese wines from the Alentejo region, a red and a white. I enjoyed both wines. The white had a soft, peachy flavour. The red had a berry aroma, and a soft tannin finish.

I really enjoyed my evening at 1847, the food, service and atmosphere was fab (as always). It was also great to be in a room full of fellow food lovers, talking* about my favourite thing and meeting new people.

While the bloggers event I attended was complimentary, I have eaten here on numerous occasions and can’t fault the price. Their menu is a fixed 2, or 3 course at £19.75 and £25.50 respectively. They also do regular discounts via their mailing list, and are a Tastecard affiliate. If you would like to visit 1847 I would recommend booking in advance as they are often busy at weekends. For those non-Brummies, you can also find branches of 1847 in Manchester, Bristol and Brighton.

*waxing lyrical

menu

Under Pressure Espresso

paisleyimmy
March 15, 2015

Whenever I move to a new area or start working in a new place, I make it a priority to find a good coffee shop. Not only is the coffee important, but I find coffee shops provide a great social space. When I stumbled upon Under Pressure Espresso after recently starting work in Sutton Coldfield, I knew I had found something good with great potential.

Atmosphere

You’ll find UPE on the Birmingham Road approaching Sutton Coldfield Centre. It popped up in late summer 2014 as the brainchild of coffee enthusiast Matt Hall. Years of planning while working in various coffee houses in a Canada have gone into this venture, and it shows.

I’d describe the décor as urban-rustic. The shop frontage consists of an inviting full length window, covered with the Under Pressure Espresso branding. The earthy colour scheme continues into the shop: one red wall is bordered by a bare brick feature. The others decorated with a map of the world, and graphic art pieces depicting takeaway coffee cups. The floor is painted concrete, adding to the urban feel, while the seating (my most favourite feature) is rustic heavy bench tables. The shop seats around 15- 20 people. I like this. Being small means a relaxed ambience is maintained. With its carefully selected music and unobtrusive layout, UPE is most definitely a great hideaway.

  coffee-machine

Drinks

Having carefully followed their evolution since their establishment in 2011, UPE have selected Work Shop coffee as their coffee supplier.

I find the way that UPE sells its coffee refreshingly simple. It starts with how it is brewed: espresso or filter. Espressos are made using the Victoria Arduino machine that sits proudly, like a well loved ’50s car on the coffee bar. You can choose to have a single or double espresso, or to combine them with milk to create the familiar latte, cappuccino, macchiato etc. The filter coffee, however, is where the real coffee science starts. If you want to grab ‘a quick coffee’, filter is not the way to go. Everything is precise, from the digital coffee grinder measuring the exact weight of the coffee, to the kettle setting the temperature of the water. I’ll be honest, the first time I notice my coffee being weighed as it brewed I thought it was a bit overkill, but after explaining how using this method, consistency is ensured in each cup, I realised how much of a quality cup of coffee I was about to drink. In keeping with the care taken with this cup of brown nectar, black filter coffees are served in a carafe. I thought this was a really nice touch.

The filter coffee being served over my several visits has been the Santa Rosa, from Huila, Columbia. At first I tried it with my usual ‘1 sugar’, but discovered it really didn’t need it. Initially I found it to have a juicy acidity with slight notes of dark rum, but then settling with a rich sweet finish.

Alongside ‘the main event’, UPE also sells a selection of Canton teas as well as soft drinks supplied by Square Root London. Again, like the coffee, these brands have been selected with minute care and attention. I tried a lemonade and was pleasantly surprised at its tart flavour, something you don’t often get with bottled ‘old fashioned’ lemonade.

lemonade-and-bun

Food

Currently UPE sells a selection of cakes from local supplier Lil’s Parlour, and Buns from Thirteen Bakers.  Over the past weeks I have tried various different goodies. I particularly enjoyed the Berry Florentine bar from Lil’s Parlour. There was a really nice mix of berries and cereals, producing a satisfying soft and textured bite. The brownies, however, I found to not be as of good a standard, being a little over baked and lacking a gooey texture.

Thirteen Bakers are currently supplying UPE with a selection of Scandinavian Buns. I tried a bun flavoured with cardamom, and was really impressed with the quality. I wouldn’t normally go for this type of bakery, but will certainly by going back for another. Cardamom can often be overpowering if not used in careful quantities but these had a perfect balance between sweet and spice.

coffee-and-florentine-bar     brownie

Pricing

Hot drinks:  £2.25- £2.80

Square Root Sodas: £2.50

Cakes and Pastries: £2.00

Lemonade and Scandinavian Bun: £4.50

Overall

I am really looking forward to how UPE grows over the coming months. Their motto is “Striving to serve up some of the best coffee in the country” and having spent some time getting to know the place, I honestly think this is an ethos that will be stuck to. The UPE guys want to serve the best, and be the best they can be, while helping others to do the same along the way. I love the relaxed atmosphere, and how so much care and attention has been put into everything, from the decor and ambience, to the coffee and food itself. I really hope to see more people taking advantage of the knowledge about coffee being shared here. In regards to products, I hope to see some more savoury options. At the moment, the sweet tooth is more than catered for, but perhaps some filled croissants, or fresh baked sour dough would be a nice addition to the selection to provide a better balance.

This review can also be found at

dine-birmingham-med

Rico Libré – Tapas in a Quirky Setting

Marketing itself as ‘very tasty food in a quirky setting’, Rico Libré is the latest boutique restaurant to hit the Digbeth food scene. Formerly a ‘greasy spoon’ known as the Barn Street Diner, Rico’s has transformed itself into an urban tapas experience. Having grown in popularity among the city’s ‘foodie’ types, I was keen to see that it was all about.

Atmosphere

I visited Rico’s on a Friday evening in January for after work food and drinks. Our party of six was booked for 6.30pm. Sitting on the border between Barn Street and Milk Street, its lime green frontage (on which is prides itself) is not hard to miss. The symmetrical round topped windows and foliage around the door give the pleasing feel of a small independent café in rural Spain. Upon entering the establishment, what we were greeted with was entirely unexpected. The restaurant is small, with around 40 covers in total. The main dining area backs onto a semi-open kitchen, and there is a small side room seating about 8 people. The low polystyrene tiled ceiling littered with posters gives the odd impression of a teenager’s bedroom in the 1990s. The rest of the décor comprises an eclectic collection of oddities.  A wonky Che Guevara canvas borders an old Beetles shot. A plastic sumo wrestler figure sits on the window sill next to us. I’m not going to lie I found it all a bit surreal. I did, however, love how the place felt like you were visiting your mad auntie’s house. I was half expecting someone to jump up and start playing the (probably out of tune) piano in the side room.

ceiling

 Food

Rico’s menu consist of a small selection of starters, 14 standard tapas dishes and some tapas specials.

To start we ordered Pan De Bara (bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar), Pan De Ajo (garlic flatbread) and the Brie and Grapes. To be honest, I found the starters a little disappointing. One of our party had visited Rico’s the week before and said our portion of Brie and grapes was a bit on the skimpy side. The bread provided looked like a supermarket baguette. The garlic bread was certainly nothing special.  I was starting to wonder why the place was so popular. Then the tapas arrived…

As a party of 6, we ordered all of the standard tapas dishes on the menu. We chose to order our food in 2 sittings. I honestly cannot fault a single dish. The calamari was well executed- not a rubber band in sight. The Pescado Blanco Frito (battered white fish) came with a beautiful light batter that melted in the mouth- it was not greasy at all. An all-round favourite of the table was the Chicken Livers with Chorizo and Red Wine. It was rich, flavoursome, indulgent.

white-bait       dishes

Drinks

One of the real plus points for the money conscious diner is that Rico’s is not licensed. They do not charge corkage either, but ask for a minimum spend of £14 per head on Fridays and Saturdays- very reasonable. A selection of soft drinks are available should you not wish to bring your own.

Prices

Starters: £2.50

Tapas: £4.50 per dish, or 3 dishes for £12

Specials: £5

Desserts: £3.50-£5

Overall

Overall, Rico Libré is well worth a visit.* Bear in mind, you’re not about to witness a polished performance. They’ll probably have to ‘break out the emergency chairs’ to get you all round the table, and they may forget to bring you knives, but stiff upper lip fine dining is not what this place is about. With the combination of homespun surroundings and friendly waiting staff, the place is warm and welcoming with added quirk around the edges. And most importantly, the food is probably the best and most authentic Tapas in the city. Buen provecho!

*My only negative point would be dining time. After only an hour and a half we were politely asked to vacate out table (despite wanting to order dessert) to make room for another booking. The website does state a strict ‘time slot’ for your meal, but in my opinion this does not fit with the lazy style of Spanish Tapas dining. Our party would have happily spent the evening leisurely grazing through their lovely menu, but instead had to continue elsewhere. Not ideal, even if we were given a discount for the inconvenience.

This review can also be found at

dine-birmingham-med