Comptoir Libanais, Birmingham

Grand Central has a new member of the food family with a new branch of Comptoir Libanais opening up. Aiming to bring Souk-style Middle Eastern cuisine to the UK, the chain now has venues all across the country.

Comptoir Libanais

the venue

The restaurant is a riot of colour, with the walls groaning with woven baskets, fezzes and brightly coloured tiles. I did think they’ve crammed in too many tables; Emma and I sat at a corner table, and found we were trapped there once people had been sat either side of us. It’s a great atmosphere though, and there’s been a queue out the door every time I’ve walked past.

Bekaa Valley

the drinks

We chose a bottle of white wine to share, and went for Comptoir Libanais’ own label Bekaa Valley. I’ve not tried Lebanese wine before, but it was pleasant and fruity. It went down well alongside the food.

Mezze Platter

the food

To start, we split the Mezze Platter (£9.95). This portion is for one, but is a great amount to split as a starter. The platter is loaded with baba ghanuj, hummus, tabbouleh, falafel, freekeh salad, halloumi, pickles and pita bread.

All the parts were tasty, but we felt the proportions were off. I’d have liked less tabbouleh, which was tasty but took up half the plate, and a lot more halloumi, which was delicious, but small. The falafel was crisp, and excellent dunked into the creamy hummus.

Mixed Grill

We over-ordered as usual, and went for a Mixed Grill (£13.95) each, when I think one to share would have been plenty. The grill is made up of lamb and chicken koftas, chicken shish taouk and vermielli rice. The rice wasn’t super exciting, but the meat was good. The chicken was the highlight, lightly spiced and moist. The shish taouk was fresh and delicious, with tasty yogurt marinade.

the service

Service was friendly and enthusiastic and several members of staff made suggestions and recommendations on food, wine and how much to order (we ignored that last part). The place was busy, but we were served promptly and our order was quick to arrive.

the verdict

It was a fun evening, and I think Comptoir Libanais is a great addition to Grand Central for tasty shopping lunches in a vibrant, colourful space.

I was Emma’s plus one, so our food and drink were complementary. Emma was invited to review, but they didn’t know I was a blogger. All words, images and opinions are my own. 

Lunch at Pieminister, Birmingham

When the seemingly endless snow hit us, Dave and I found ourselves in town, post wedding fair and mostly freezing our behinds off, and in need of lunch. With the weather that cold, there was really only one option. Pie. You may remember I reviewed Pieminister back when they first opened, but we felt it was time for a revisit.

Pieminister

Pieminister Coffee

the drinks

Pieminister have a good range of milkshakes, cocktails and soft drinks, but due to the whole freezing my butt off situation, I opted for a latte this time. It wasn’t the best coffee I’ve ever had but I didn’t expect it to be. It was decently made though, and tasty and even had some pretty latte art on the top. The only issue I found was that as the restaurant wasn’t the warmest, the coffee didn’t stay hot long at all.

Pieminister Starters

The food

To start, we ordered a selection of small plates to share. You can get three for £10. We chose Halloumi ChipsPork Scratchings and Nocellara Olives. The olives were meaty and fresh, and the pork scratching were excellent with good crunch and plenty of salt. The Halloumi was my favourite, coated in sweet chili and lightly fried.

Chicken of Aragon

Dave ordered the Chicken of Aragon withMashSmoky Baked Beans and Pigs on a Stick (The Feast option – Pie, two sides and a stick – £10). This was filled with chicken, bacon and tarragon. The pastry had great crispness, and the filling was plentiful and flavourful. The beans had plenty of paprika smoke, and vanished in short order.

Matador

I went for the Matador with Cheesy Mash (Pie and a side Option – £7.50, with £1 upgrade to a Super Side). The Matador is filled with beef steak, chorizo, olives and butter beans. The pastry was light, and not at all soggy, and filled with plenty of rich filling. The cheesy mash was tasty, but I couldn’t detect any cheese, so I’m not sure I’d bother upgrading next time (or of course…it’s possible they gave me the regular Mash instead by mistake?).

The service

As before, everyone we dealt with was very friendly but we felt rushed. On ordering, we were asked if we wanted the small plates as starters or sides. Despite choosing starters, a waiter then arrived when we half way through them to tell us our pies were ready. We had to choose to have them earlier than we wanted, or to wait. I asked to wait, and I’m sure this meant they went under a heat lamp; my gravy had begun to develop a skin on top, which was a shame.

I do like Pieminister, but the rushed service is a pet hate of mine.

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

 

 

 

Birmingham Wine Weekend, 2018

A couple of weekends back, the streets of Birmingham were awash with vino, as Birmingham Wine Weekend rolled into town. Organised by the lovely folk behind Birmingham Cocktail Weekend, this was the first outing of the wine version.

Birmingham Wine Weekend

£10 gets you a magical wristband, and a handy guidebook. With your wristband, you can spend the weekend staggering between dozens of venues across the city to try fabulous wines (most venues offer a red and a white) for just £4 a glass. I joined the fabulous Bite Your Brum and her husband, and set about trying all the wines around Colmore Row. I know very little about wine except that I like it, so brace for yourselves for highly vague flavour descriptions incoming…

Bressia Crystal

Our first stop was Gaucho, for a Bressia Crytal Malbec. I’ve never actually made into Gaucho before, but it’s truly fabulous inside, and I spent most of our visit eyeing the delicious looking food I could see in the restaurant. Perched in the bar area, we had a quick chat with Gaucho’s Director of Wine, Phil Crozier, and enjoyed the Malbec, which was rich and smooth, with deep spicy notes. An excellent start!

Passori

Over the road to Hotel du Vin, where we settled in the Bubble Bar for a glass of Passori. The bar was full of people, making it the ideal buzzy venue to enjoy this Italian red we all agreed was ‘quaffable’.

Gran Dominio
Gusto

From there, we strolled up the road to Gusto. Gusto was packed out with revellers, but we managed to grab a glass of Spanish Rioja, Gran Dominio. It was well balanced and enjoyable, but I think the least interesting of the day’s wines.

Piper-Heidsieck

Next stop, fizz! The beautiful Edwardian Tearooms were serving bubbles in the form of Champagne from Piper-Hiedsieck. With live music, and the gorgeous surroundings, this was easily my favourite stop of the weekend. The Champagne is crisp and delicious, and we stayed here to enjoy a couple more glasses. On Sunday, I actually went back with my mum, and we managed to bag a booth with a Press for Champagne button (I wrote about the launch of these here), and enjoyed yet another.

The Emily

Eventually we dragged ourselves away and headed to Chung Ying Central. I swapped to a rosé, The Emily, which was a beautiful pale pink, and very light. It was an excellent refresher after all the red wine, and arrived accompanied by a bowl of Prawn Crackers, which we made short work of.

Finally, we hit Amantia, where I took truly appalling photos of a Tramez Joven, which deserved better treatment. This was an easy drinking red with lots of fruit notes. We enjoyed this accompanied by fabulous live Flamenco.

Finally, we drifted back to Hotel du Vin before calling it a night, fuzzy headed but happy. Wine Weekend is a fabulous way to discover both new wines and venues you might not normally visit. Lots of the venues on the list were new to me, and most of the wines (and I only visited a small fraction of the list!), making this a brilliant way to discover new things. I really hope this becomes an annual thing! Speaking of…I’ll see you at Cocktail Weekend in July…

My wristband was complementary, courtesy of East Village, but all wine was paid for in full by myself. All images, words and opinions are my own.