Hotel Chocolat Cafe, Birmingham

A new Hotel Chocolat store has opened on New Street, complete with snug cafe at the back. I was invited along to the opening party to try out some of the treats on offer.

The new store is bright and well laid out, with a range of edible delights, including chocolates, alcohol and even chocolate pesto. We sampled the coco infused gin and the salted caramel vodka, both of which are very tasty.

We were treated to lots of samples of the range, including the new options for Christmas. The Mulled Wine chocolates in particular are excellent.

Chocolate Cafe

The cafe is at the back of the shop, with a handful of comfy booths and small tables. The cafe serves a range of teas and coffees, and of course a huge array of hot chocolates. You can also buy cakes, and ice cream.

Salted Caramel Brownies

The Salted Caramel Brownies (£2.50) are gooey and sweet without being sickly, and were a standout for me. An excellent treat.

Ice Cream

I braved the cold and tried a taster of the ice cream offering. The ice cream is infused with cocoa nibs, which gives it a gentle chocolate taste. The festive Mince Pie sauce is a triumph, with plenty of Christmas spice.

Hotel Chocolate

The Hot Chocolate menu is, as you’d expect, impressive, complete with Christmas Specials. I had the Salted Caramel and Clementine (£3.95 for the regular). The chocolate is thick and rich, with lots of orange flavour. The whip on top is delicious, but too cold, I thought, as it cooled the chocolate very quickly. It looked impressive though.

All in all, I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening and have already been back to pick up Christmas gifts! The cafe is a nice addition to New Street, and is a lovely spot for a chocolatey treat.

I was a guest of Hotel Chocolat. My food and drinks were complementary, but I was not obliged to write a post. All words, images and opinions are my own. 

Aluna, Birmingham

After a night of flaming cocktails, I headed back to Aluna  for dinner to try the food. Delicious PR invited a group of bloggers to test out Aluna’s menu.

Aluna

Aluna shares an owner with Siamais, and the menu is a stripped back version of the Thai menu available at the sister restaurant.

Beef and Kimchi Tacos

To start, I had the Beef and Kimchi Tacos (£6.50). Strips of beef are marinated in ginger, garlic and chilli, topped with kimchi and served in a taco shell. The beef mixture was tasty, but unfortunately completely overpowered the kimchi. The mix was almost like a chili, and was strong a flavour against the less robust kimchi. The hard taco shell was clearly out a box too, which is a shame. A soft taco would have worked much better, I think.

Beef Massaman Curry

The Beef Massaman Curry (£13.95) was creamy and pleasant, although I would have preferred the beef in smaller chunks. The portion size wasn’t great either, with too much rice compared to curry. I had the lamb version of this at Siamais and it was delicious, but this version didn’t hold up.

We all tried a few options from the cocktail list. The Smokey Old Fashioned (£8.95) was enjoyable, but needed a peatier whisky. The whisky taste was largely lost, hidden in the sweetness and citrus of the rest of the mix. The service in a glass bottle, with the smoke trapped, is attractive though.

The Basil Grande (£6.95) is Grand Marnier and Chambord, shaken with basil and strawberries. Again, I found this sweet, more reminiscent of Ribena than anything else. Even my Espresso Martini (£6.95) was very sweet, which disappointed me, as it’s a favourite cocktail of mine.

The verdict around the table was similar; all the cocktails and even a lot of the food were overly sweet. Of the two restaurants, I would recommend Siamais, but Aluna isn’t for me.

I was a guest of Delicious PR and Aluna. Food and drinks were complementary but I was not obliged to write a post. All words, images and opinions are my own. 

The White Swan, Edgbaston

The White Swan in Edgbaston has had a makeover, updating to a new stylish interior, with a sleek menu to match. Dave and I were invited along to have a nosy at their new look, and sample the menu.

The White Swan

The refit is gorgeous, and classic. The restaurant is painted in grey and deep green, with mismatched chairs in sumptuous textures of velvet and leather. We had a peek into the pub area too, and it’s full of cosy nooks, snuggly chairs and looks like the perfect spot for a winter evening. We grabbed a seat in a window nook and set about agonising over the menu, and trying to narrow down our choices from ‘one of everything please’.

Aperol Spritz

Chocolate Orange Old Fashioned

Nocellara Olives

Our friendly waiter suggested we order some Artisan Rustic Breads (£5.50)to nibble at while we made our very difficult choices, which were an excellent idea. They come drizzled in oil and balsamic vinegar, with a side of Nocellara olives. The olives were almost buttery, and utter perfection. The breads were crisp and delicious.

To drink, I opted for an Aperol Spritz (£7.95), which was not too sweet and looked gorgeous in a branded glass. An excellent pre-meal Aperitivo. Dave chose a Chocolate Orange Old Fashioned (£7.95), which is Woodford Reserve Bourbon, stirred with Grand Marnier and crème de cacao, served with an orange wedge. This was a great twist on a classic, adding a little background chocolate sweetness to the classic citrus flavour of a regular Old Fashioned.

Deep Fried Brie

To start, I chose the Deep Fried Somerset Brie (£5.95). A generous slice of brie is fried in panko breadcrumbs, and served with apricot and cumin chutney. The cheese is melty, gooey, lusciousness, oozing out when I cut it in a manner that should probably be illegal in public. Somehow a slice of fried cheese is not ‘too much’ and isn’t overpowering. The cheese is good quality, with a nice touch of sweetness from the chutney.

Lobster and Tiger Prawn Pot

Dave opted for the Lobster and Tiger Prawn Pot (£7.95), which comes in Devon crab crème fraiche with toasted ciabatta bread. The pot was rich and full of flavour, with good, crisp bread. It vanished pretty fast, and Dave mourned the specks of fish he was unable to scrape from the very corners of the jar.

Belly Pork

For my main course, I couldn’t resist the Roasted Pork Belly and Seared Scallops (£18.50) which comes with potato dauphinoise, tenderstem broccoli, panko apple and red wine jus. After my disappointing pork belly experience earlier in the week, I was praying this would be good. I needn’t have worried. The meat was juicy and tender, and rich. The curls of crackling were perfect. The potatoes were creamy and heavenly, and the scallops were flavoursome and perfectly cooked. The jus was a little plentiful for me, but this was my own fault for getting over excited and pouring the lot onto the plate. It is delicious stuff, but just keep your head when pouring!

15oz 28-Day-Aged Rib-Eye Steak On The Bone

Dave chose 15oz 28-Day-Aged Rib-Eye Steak On The Bone (£25.95) which looked amazing as it hit the table. The steak was the perfect medium rare, as ordered, and the accompanying chips were sensational, especially when dunked in the beef dripping sauce. The onion rings were crisp without a hint of oiliness, and basically Dave looked ecstatic the whole time he was eating.

Espresso Martini

Dessert was preceded by an Espresso Martini (£6.95), which the cheery barman assured me was the best one in Harborne. He may very well be right, as it was excellent. Not too sweet, creamy and comforting.

Ice Cream & Home-Baked Triple Chocolate Cookie

For dessert, Dave chose Ice Cream and Home-Baked Triple Chocolate Cookie (£4.95). Somehow, the cookie wasn’t too sickly, but was instead rich, and well baked. The ice cream was good quality too, rather than the after thought it so often is.

I won the battle of the desserts though, with something of a showstopper…

Chocolate Bomb

Chocolate Bomb

The Melting Golden chocolate bomb (£7.95) is quite the masterpiece. A chocolate shell is nestled in popping candy and shortcrust crumb, and is filled with caramel ice cream. You pour a hot toffee sauce over the shell, which melts and collapses and reveals the deliciousness within. It looked gorgeous, was presented with a flourish, and all tasted gorgeous. It was decadent and rich and generally wonderful.

We had a fabulous evening at the White Swan. The food was superb, matched by friendly, attentive service and cosy, chic surroundings. I’ll be moving in.

I was a guest of the White Swan. Our food and drinks were complementary in exchange for an honest review. All prices correct the time of writing. All words, images and opinions are my own (or extracted from Dave).