Circle Restaurant, Birmingham Hippodrome

Earlier this week, we saw Sunset Boulevard at the Birmingham Hippodrome. You can find my review here. Before seeing the show, we decided to test out the Hippodrome’s own eatery, the Circle Restaurant.

The restaurant offers a pre-theatre menu, from two hours before curtain up, and often have menus themed around the show in residence. For Sunset Boulevard, there was a themed menu priced at £24.50 for two courses, or £29.50 for three. You can also keep your table for the interval, and pre-order deserts or drinks.

The restaurant is pretty, but felt a little crowded to me. It could have done with a few less tables, as navigating between them was a bit challenging. Unfortunately, it took about fifteen minutes before anybody came to take any kind of order, and then I could see our drinks sitting on the bar getting warm before anyone brought them over (which ended up being after our starters arrived).

Ham and Eggs Benedict

I started with Ham and Eggs Benedict. The ham was salty and delicious, topped with a perfectly oozy poached egg. I am very particular about poached eggs, and this was spot on. I would have liked a little more sauce, but what was there was delicate and complemented the ham well.

Soused Mackerel

Dave chose Fillet of Soused Mackerel with fennel and dill remoulade on toasted rye bread. The mackerel was excellent; meaty and plentiful, and held it’s own against the strong fennel.

Belly Pork

For mains, we both chose Pork Belly served with sea salt crackling, apple and celeriac puree, tenderstem broccoli and creamed mash. The sides were fabulous. The mash and the puree were both smooth and creamy, and the broccoli still had good bite. Dave’s pork was very good, but mine was very dry and I ended up not finishing it. The crackling was also dry as a bone, but somehow chewy. Dave managed to get through his, but mine was totally inedible as I couldn’t even get my teeth through it. I suspect the plate had sat under a heat lamp on the pass, which would explain why the crackling was under and over done at the same time.

After we’d eaten, we had about forty minutes until curtain up, so we had time to order desserts. Sadly, by the time a waiter came near us, we did not have time for dessert before curtain. I asked for the bill and to pre-order some interval drinks, and was met with great huffing and was told, “Oh…well, I guess you can.” Who knew the advertised option to pre-order to your table for the interval was such a nuisance? By the time a card machine arrived and we’d paid, we had to run to our seats, and were sat with only a minute or two to spare.

It was opening night of Sunset Boulevard, the main house was very full, and they had invited press in, so I am willing to give the Circle the benefit of the doubt on this one, but I do think a theatre’s own restaurant should be able to handle a pre-theatre menu in a timely fashion. Our starters were excellent, and Dave really enjoyed his main course, but mine wasn’t great and the crackling was frankly shocking. I would like to go back and try it again, not on press night, and see if the service is better.

We paid in full for our food and drinks. All words, images and opinions are my own. I didn’t tell them I’m a blogger. 

Girls Night In at Aluna, Birmingham

A little while back, I joined some of my favourite bloggy types at Aluna for Girls’ Night In. Being the sophisticated women we are, myself, Laura, Fay and Emma made a beeline for the bar to get the drinks in.

Aluna Birmingham

Prosecco

Aluna is a sleek space, with dark wood, twinkly lights and lots of cool framed things all over the walls. I grabbed myself a pink Prosecco and set off for wander around the bar and restaurant for a nose about. Aluna are big fans of alginate, a liquid that you drip into water and it creates little jelly like pearls (a little like tiny versions of the bubbles in bubble tea). The Prosecco had a healthy scoop of these bubbles in, which I have to confess rather spoilt it for me. Good Prosecco but the jelly bits make a horrible texture on the top like drinking frogspawn.

Mangolian

Frogspawn abandoned, it was time for a cocktail masterclass. I’ve done approximately a million masterclasses at events this year and have accepted my fate as one who cannot free pour or properly shake a cocktail without making a right mess, so I opted to watch. Our bartender talked us through the making of the Mangolian (£7.95). Mango fruit juices are sloshed liberally over chunks of dry ice, which immediately billow clouds of ‘smoke’ from the top of your glass. For me, this was far, far too sweet, tasting mostly like a J2O, but if you have a sweet tooth, this is a popular option.

Lava Lamp

More dry ice and alginate bubbles came along in the Lava Lamp (£7.95), which is another fruity concoction. The dry ice causes the bubbles to dance about in the glass, much like a, you guessed it, lava lamp. Again, far too sweet for my taste, but good fun.

Asian Infusion

Bar flair

Rum Punch

Bush Fire

Next, our barmen took to theatrics to show off some more of the menu. There were clouds of tumbling dry ice, there were infusions, there were flames. The Asian Infusion (£22 – designed for two people to share) and the Rum Punch (not listed on the website, so I can’t find the price, sorry) were fun to watch being made, but were, as before, a little sweet for my taste. More my speed was the Bush Fire (£8.95), which has a good slug of sloe gin. Bar flair is cool, but there does come a point where I just want a good, strong cocktail.

Margarita

Sidecar

Happily, we were able to harass a barman into assisting us on our quest for a short, strong drink. After knocking back a shot of Tequila each with said barman, we were rewarded with a round of Margaritas and Sidecars. Simple, but classics for a reason.

Our next mission was befriending the restaurant manager. Aluna is owned by the same chaps who own the lovely Siamais, which I visited a while back and loved. Being the greedy piglets dedicated food bloggers we are, we asked if we could get something more substantial than the few and far between canapés circulating to get our teeth into.

Aluna Food

Massaman Curry

The menu is mainly Thai, which is one of my very favourite cuisines. A few taster plates appeared, including some delicious Massaman Curry. I’m actually heading back next week to try the food properly, so I’ll save in depth thoughts for then, but the tasters we had were very tasty and I’m looking forward to a proper try of the menu.

We had an enjoyable evening at Aluna and their staff are certainly enthusiastic, friendly and happy to oblige annoying requests from bloggers. The theatrics with the cocktails would be great fun for a girly night out (maybe a hen party?) but personally, I am more interested in quality cocktails than juggling of barware. The theatrical cocktails were too sweet for me, but when we asked for the classics, they were well made and well presented. I’m excited to go back and try the food!

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

Sear and Smoke, Birmingham

In Birmingham, we’re lucky enough to have some of the very best street food traders in the country. Imagine if lots of those traders were all under one roof, presided over by purveyors of burger filth, OPM, and ultimate foody event, Digbeth Dining Club. Imagine no more, because it happened, at Sear& Smoke in new Digbeth venue, Crane.

Sear & Smoke

Crane is a classic Digbeth industrial venue. The space was packed with tables, hungry visitors and a haze of smoke from the many street food traders.

Low 'n' Slow

Barbeque

Pork Belly

We headed straight for Low ‘N’ Slow, ready to load up on slow cooked barbecue treats. We opted to split dishes so we could try as many as possible and ordered the Middle White Pork Belly (£8) to share. Served with bone marrow smoked cornish potatoes, lemon vinegar slaw and heritage tomato salsa roja, this was a plateful of seriously sexy food. The pork belly fell apart, with good bark from the smoking. The salsa was hot, and a gorgeous companion to the rich meat. The slaw was tangy and fresh, cutting through the fat of the meat.

The Whisky She

Whisky Cocktails

Next stop was The Whisky Shed, run by Birmingham Whisky Club. We tried a Boulevardier (£5) and an Old Fashioned (£5). These were seriously strong, well balanced and hit the spot nicely.

Salt & Earth

Chicken Thighs

I was really excited to try Salt & Earth, the new venture from Two Cats Kitchen chef, Niki Astley. The Tilapia Ceviche (£7) with sweet potato, red onion and coriander immediately intrigued me. I love ceviche, but among the stands of burgers, wings and slow-cooked meats, I wasn’t expecting to find a dish like this. The fish was perfect, delicate with some serious tang from the dressing. The fish was beautifully sharp, and the colourful plate of food was a sophisticated contrast to all the heavier meaty dishes around it. Dave tried the Fried Chicken Thigh (£7) with cheese, salsa and chipotle ketchup. The chicken was juicy, and flavoursome, and the chipotle ketchup added deep, smoky heat.

Grill Brazil

Grill Brazil serve ‘Churrasco’, which is Brazilian  barbecue. The Carnival (£8) is charcoal grilled prime Brazilian steak cut Picanha, Calabresa style sausage, caramelised onions and vinaigrette. The steak is soft, and well flavoured from the melting onions. For me, the stand out was the sausage. Slow-cooked, it was soft and smoky and paired well with the freshness of the tomato. A real highlight of the day.

Baked in Brick

Baked in Brick special

Baked in Brick‘s grill is amazing; I love the fact it’s built out of an old Mini. We split the Sear and Smoke Special (£9), which was Aubrey Allen 45 day dry aged rump of beef with skinny chips, bone marrow and chestnut sauce. The chips were truly incredible (I assume from the bone marrow), and the meat was lovely and pink. Unfortunately one slice was a bit fatty and I struggled to eat part of it, but the other slice was perfection. Pink and soft and tender.

Flying Cow

Next I failed as a blogger and didn’t manage to photograph The High Flyer (£7) from Flying Cows before Dave cut it in half. The burger is an aged beef patty, swiss cheese, sweet smoked streaky bacon, red onions, lettuce and club sauce. It won Best British Street Food Burger this year, and I can see why. The bacon was sweet, and so crispy. The burger was pleasingly messy, with a strong tasting patty and plenty of melty cheese.

The Lottery Winner

Onto desserts! Urban Cheesecake was a must visit, as we both love cheesecake. We split The Lottery Winner (£6) which is a slice of their white chocolate cheesecake topped with Maldon sea salted caramel, Lindt chocolate pieces and smashed buttered shortbread. I like a good biscuit to cream cheese ratio and this was spot on, with a thick layer of crunch biscuit and a tower of creamy and somehow not sickly white chocolate cream cheese. The shortbread was perfection, buttery and crisp. Truly exceptional!

Jam vs Custard

To finish, we grabbed some treats from Jam Vs Custard. I tried the PBJ (£3.50) which is a doughnut filled with peanut butter custard and raspberry jam and topped with a shard of caramelised white chocolate. The doughnuts are injected with their fillings in front of you and they are massive. The jam in mine was really sharp, which helped stopped the giant doughnut becoming sickly. The peanut butter custard was nice, but not peanuty enough for me. Dave’s Rum and Raisin vanished quickly and was met with good reviews too.

Crane

The event was an amazing way to experience a selection of the some most exciting street food traders around the city. There were even more traders we didn’t get to, and we rolled out, full and happy. I hear there are already plans for a second event next year, and I already know I’ll be going!

We paid in full for our entry tickets and everything we ate and drank on the day. All prices are correct at the time of writing. As always, all opinions, images and words are my own. Nobody knew I was a blogger.