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). 

VIP Experience at Grosvenor Casino, Broad Street

An evening at the Poker table is not generally how I plan to spend my evenings, but in the spirit of my mission to have more adventures, when I was invited to check out Grosvenor Casino on Broad Street, I said yes.

We were met by the very lovely Mark, the casino’s Food and Beverage Manager, who gave us a quick tour of the casino. Talk about a hidden venue. After the small reception area, you go downstairs into a huge underground space, full of games tables and machines with blinking lights. After a quick pitstop at the bar to collect a Gin and Tonic, we settled ourselves in the restaurant.

Grosvenor Casino

Bread and Olives

The restaurant is tucked away at the back of the casino and is a modern, welcoming space, with lots of comfy seats. You can order from a set menu, at £10.29 for two courses or £12.95 for three courses during the week, which is a bit of a bargain. We started off with a tray full of lovely bread, meaty olives and oil.

Stuffed Mushroom

We ordered from the main menu. For starter, I chose the Stilton Stuffed Field Mushroom (£4.95). The large mushroom is baked, and stuffed with stilton and spring onion and topped with herbed breadcrumbs, then served on a sweet onion brioche. The mushroom itself was delicious, rammed full of creamy cheese. The stilton wasn’t too strong, and the breadcrumb top was crunchy, contrasting nicely with the soft mushroom. I do think the brioche and the onion chutney spread on it were much too sweet (the chutney was almost like a jam) and overpowered the mushroom a little. I think, I’d have preferred to do away with the brioche, as it wasn’t really adding anything, and instead had two mushrooms.

Sea Bass

For my main course, I ordered Grilled Sea Bass with a Tomato & Olive Salad (£13.95). The sea bass was massive, and beautifully cooked. The fish was flaky and rich, and well partnered by the salad. The mix of olives and tomatoes brought some sweetness to the dish, and the olives paired beautifully with the fish.

Throughout our meal, Mark took excellent care of us, reappearing frequently with more gin and a rather nice bottle of Malbec. It’s often hard to tell in these situations if the wonderful service is a special treat because they know you’re reviewing, but watching Mark chat away to other customers made it clear he is an absolute natural at good customer service. He was friendly, and helpful with recommendations and clearly gets to know his regulars well.

Well fed, and armed with more gin, we went back out to the main casino for some Learn To Play sessions. Mark handed us off to Georgio, one of the dealers, who supplied us with a stack of chips and set about teaching us to play Roulette. Roulette is actually very simple, but Georgio talked us through some of the maths involved in how likely each number is to come up, and how often the numbers do seem to come in patterns. He was able to accurately predict roughly where the ball would land, which was fascinating, for a game apparently based in random luck. We all rapidly lost all our imaginary money, and instead grilled the ever patient Georgio on his suggestions for good Sicilian food in Birmingham and good pasta sauce recipes. Georgio was a delight; charismatic, patient and funny.

We finally released Georgio to go on his dinner break, and moved over to Francesco’s table for a Blackjack lesson. Also endlessly patient with a table of gin-fuelled bloggers throwing the chips everywhere, Francesco talked us through the tactics to win at Blackjack, and we actually managed to hold onto our pretend money for a while.

All in all, it was a really interesting evening. We had a lot of fun, and were incredibly well looked after. I honestly think you’d get the same treatment as a customer too.

I was a guest of Grosvenor Casinos. All our food, drinks and lessons were complementary, in exchange for blog post. Words, images and opinions are my own.