Chiquito, Birmingham

After a long day at a convention, the last thing I want is to go come and cook. After MCM the other week, Dave I decided to head to Chiquito on Hagley Road in Birmingham for some dinner. It’s very close, so we’ve been here a couple of times for nights we don’t feel like cooking.

Chiquito, Birmingham

The restaurant was about half full when we arrived, and we got a comfy booth seat. I ordered a Strawberry Mojito, which was more strawberry than any of the other mojito flavours, but it was tasty. Dave chose an Apple Jack, which is Jack Daniels shaken with cold pressed apple juice, fresh lime juice, and ginger syrup, over ice. The Apple Jack is nice, with a subtle hit of booze.

Street food, Chiquito

We decided to order some dishes from the street food menu. These are small tapas style dishes, which are three for £12.95 or six for £23.95. We went for six, to share, with a side of sweet potato fries. The food arrived in good time and we dug in.

The Quesadilla Bites (folded tortillas, filled with chicken, chorizo, sweetcorn and salsa, and topped with mozzarella) were so full of filling, they were almost tricky to eat. The filling was very tasty though, with plenty of chorizo for some kick. The Crispy Tacos, which are crispy tortillas filled with spicy chicken, melted cheese, and topped with sour cream, were equally well flavoured. The Empanadas were filled with Beef Chilli and were lightly spiced. The pastry was perhaps a touch thick, but we enjoyed them. The Sweet Chorizo Croquettes were a highlight for me. Packed with chorizo, sweetcorn and onion, these come served with sweet jalapeno jelly, which I could have eaten by the spoonful. The pan-fried chorizo is fried in red wine and comes with some little flatbreads to dunk in the sauce. The chorizo itself was very good, in generous sized chunks, but the red wine hadn’t been cooked long enough to burn off the alcohol. It was incredibly strong, even for me as a red wine fan. It just tasted of cheap, rough, boozy red wine, which was a real shame. I did love the Halloumi Bites though, which were crisp on the outside, and soft inside. Delicious.

Cocktails

Unfortunately, this was where things started to go downhill. We’d enjoyed our meal, and our waitress had been great. We didn’t fancy a dessert, but I ordered a Tiramisu Martini, which was the closest thing I could find to an Espresso Martini on the drinks menu. Chiquito’s system means the server takes your order and it is sent to the bar. When the drink is ready, somebody collects it and brings it to you. So, our table was cleared and I waited for my drink. And waited. And waited. And waited. We could see the bar from our table. There were two staff behind the bar. One was messing about with the tv screen, and the other was loading glasses to be washed. We watched them for a while and neither made any move to make a drink. At this point, our waitress had also disappeared into thin air.  We could also see the door to the kitchen from our table. The supervisor had been looking after a table near us, who were clearly a hen party. The service they were getting was certainly attentive, but when they left, he appeared to decide he’d done enough work for the evening, and stood in the kitchen doorway doing nothing. Another member of staff appeared and they stood and chatted for a while, while we sat with an empty table, getting increasingly irritated. I was at the point of just getting up and walking out, I’ll admit, as they didn’t seem to be interested in even bringing us the bill, never mind serving the drink I’d ordered. After several more eons passed, the supervisor noticed our table was empty and came over to ask if we wanted more drinks. When I informed him I’d ordered one a lifetime ago and was still waiting, he then pretended he knew I’d ordered it (why, then, ask if we would like to order drinks?) and would go and chase it up. He came back and assured me it would just be a moment. We watched the barman hastily make a drink, which was brought over. It was badly mixed, but after I’d stirred it myself so all the coffee wasn’t just sitting at the bottom, it was very nice.

I really hate bad service. I worked the floor in restuarants and pubs myself, and it drives me up the wall when I can see staff just standing about when tables need something. Being able to see the supervisor standing around for quarter of an hour made me really angry and spoiled our otherwise nice evening. It’s really not hard to deliver drinks in a timely manner, and even less hard to not ignore a table waiting on service. It was extra disappointing, as we’ve visited this branch a few times, and always liked it. I’ll think twice before going again.

We paid in full for our meal and drinks. All opinions are honest and my own. Chiquito didn’t know I was a blogger. 

 

EDITED TO ADD: After posting this review, Chiquito reached out to me to discuss the issue we had. I had a couple of very friendly tweets assuring me it was being looked into, and very promptly got an equally friendly email apologising for the poor service we received. Chiquito sent me a promise to look into the problem, and as a goodwill gesture, a voucher to spend on my next visit. Thanks Chiquito! That’s how you deal with a customer complaint…promptly, and with friendliness.

Quick Lunch at All Bar One, New Street Station

We’re having a run of team lunches at work at the moment, with birthdays, people leaving and general team-building ‘let’s all eat lunch together’ moments. Getting a group of you out of the office to somewhere that won’t break the bank but still caters to all dietary requirements, fed and watered and back to the office again, all within your lunch hour can be a real challenge, but I think for Birmingham, we’ve found a really good option. It’s All Bar One.

All Bar One

We go to the one at New Street Station, as it’s close to our office, but there are branches in Birmingham on Newhall Street, Brindley Place and two in Birmingham airport.

But why does it work for those high speed team lunches from the office? First off, the menu. For a bar, it has a pretty extensive menu, with some great options. The lunch menu is a bargain, with each dished priced (at the New Street branch at least) at £7. The fixed price menu offers two courses for £10. There’s a good variety of light bites, hefty portions, healthy options, and some good choices for any vegetarians in the group. You’re sure to find something to feed everyone.

Mocktails, Birmingham

I also like their list of Mocktails, so you can have a drink without having a drink and going back to your desk a bit squiffy. Ideal.

The service really lends itself to a quick office lunch too. If you book a table, you can pre-order, which means your food hits the table when you do, and you can save much needed bitching about the office time. The service is quick, and the staff is always more than happy to let you split the bill across a million different debit cards without so much as a frown.

Team Lunch

Last time we visisted, I ordered the Chicken Quesadilla. This is a chargrilled tortilla with pulled chicken, black beans, peppers, lime and mozzarella, which is served with pineapple & habanero ketchup. The is bags of flavour in this, and it’s a perfect sized portion for a lunch that won’t make you sleepy when you’re back at the desk. The ketchup is sweet and spicy, and is a great contrast to the chicken. It’s also good with sweet potato fries dunked in.

What’s your top pick for those ‘let’s go out for lunch’ days in the office?

I paid in full at All Bar One. All opinions are honest and my own. They didn’t know I was a blogger. 

Sea Life Centre, Birmingham

Playing tourist in your own town can be the best fun sometimes. With a random Friday off after my birthday, Dave and I decided to play at being tourist, with a classic of childhood holidays. We paid a visit to the Sea Life Centre.

Sea Life Centre Birmingham

Where can I see penguins in Birmingham?

I have been before, but not for ages, so I was delighted to discover the Sea Life Centre in Brindley Place now has penguins. We arrived right at feeding time, so the penguins were all happily gobbling down fish and swimming around all over the place. The enclosure is lined with huge windows, including two viewing areas where you can see under the water, so there’s plenty of space to stand and watch the penguins having a good penguin time.

The rest of the Sea Life Centre is arranged in sections, so the fish and other creatures are grouped by where you would find them in the wild, like coastal waters, or particular seas. It was really interesting to get some idea of where the animals come from, and it really aids the Sea Life Centre’s aim to help protect sea life by educating the public about it.

Sea Life Centre

Summer Holiday Activities Birmingham

My favourite part by far is the final tank, which is enormous. It has a tunnel going right through it, so the sea life inside a swimming above, below and all around you. The tank is filled with so many fish, sharks and one gorgeous Giant Sea Turtle. The Sea Turtle was totally hypnotising to watch swim. The Sea Life Centre have had him for around 20 years, but he was smuggled into the country illegally 40 years ago before he was rescued. Obviously he can’t be released back into the wild now, so he’s serving as an ambassador for his endangered species now.

Giant Sea Turtle

We both really, really enjoyed the Sea Life Centre (even the otters were all hiding…) and found it really interesting, so don’t be put off visiting if you don’t have kids. If you do have littles to entertain though, it’s a great option. It’s about the right size for small attention spans, and the access is really great for wheelchairs and pushchairs, as everything is ramps with handrails, and there’s plenty of lifts for the only part that does involve stairs.

I do think the standard entry price is a little steep, considering we were only in there a couple of hours. However, there are lots of really great deals. If you book online, in advance, you can get up to 40% off. If you travel by train or bus to get there, National Rail and National Express offer vouchers that allow you to claim two for one tickets, which is a bargain.

We paid in full for our entry to the Sea Life Centre. All opinions are honest and my own. They didn’t know I was a blogger.