Dine in a Convent

We couldn’t resist sharing this event organised by our friend and restaurateur Aftab Rahman. Thumbs up for a unique idea – a bangladeshi banquet in Pugin’s St Mary’s Convent!

Friday 10 May, £30. Booking: www.bayleaf-restaurant.co.uk e-mail: info@bayleaf-restaurant.co.uk Mobile: 07861 310802

Dine in the shadow of pugin

 

 

Bay Leaf Restaurant start new food and drink courses

Just a quick note of news just in from the restaurant I reviewed a couple of weeks ago – Bay Leaf. They have just advertised a few courses that they’ll be starting to run regularly at their place in the custard factory. They’ll be doing a cocktail making class, a wine and cheese tasting evening, and a Bangla cooking masterclass with owner Aftab Rahman, which looks great. Check out more details on their website: click here

Bay Leaf Restaurant, Custard Factory – Review

I’ve had the pleasure of teaching bread skills and working on a couple of occasions with the enterprising owner of a new Bangladeshi restaurant that’s opened up in the Custard Factory, Aftab Rahman. I remember talking to Aftab about Bay Leaf over a year ago, back when I was bitching about naan bread and visiting his other restaurant, Mint in Yardley. It’s taken me way too long to visit though, but we finally got round to it last Saturday. Aftab has certainly chosen a challenge, the previous occupier of their site in the Custard Factory was the ill-fated fine dining car crash that was Matthews. I never went myself (it wasn’t open long enough), but I remember reading the reviews with pity.

Like Mint, Bay Leaf is certainly pushing their Bangladeshi roots in their publicity, and Aftab is certainly genuinely proud of that heritage, which is refreshing to see in the age of the ubiquitous ‘Indian’ and ‘Curry House’. The menu seems to display several dishes that I’ve not seen on a menu before but there are notable concessions to what Aftab calls ‘vintage’ curries – korma’s, balti’s, dhansak’s etc… A bit of arm-twisting has gone on to allow these onto the menu, which is a shame I think. We stick to the signature dishes and plump for a lamb haleem, and the freestyle chicken which as the questionable title suggests is a daily changing version of chicken cooked on the bone – cooked with spinach and channa today, accompanied by rice and chapatti (I still avoid naan’s these days). The lamb was genuinely fall-apart tender and the accompanying sauce had a spicy sweetness followed by a pleasant and not overpowering bitter astringency from the Bangladeshi limes. The chicken was good too, plenty of it, still moist and nicely accompanied by the mild sauce and iron-y spinach. Chapatti’s were excellent, far better than mine and better than I’ve had anywhere – light, fluffy, and smoking hot. Flavour-wise there was little to fault our main dishes although presentation on the plate could certainly be stepped up with a little more thought. We shared a gulab jamun for dessert, which was flamed with brandy at the table which is a nice twist for a traditional dessert, although executed a little clumsily with a camping stove set up next to the table. Presumably a heated spoon and a match could do the trick a bit more elegantly.

One of the best points about Bay Leaf is the well-stocked bar and the manager Abbs who is very attentive and a trained sommelier too. We finished with a night-cap in the bar, a nice part of the space that Aftab would like to become a bit like a Bangalore coffee house during the day attracting some of the office and conference crowd from the custard factory. Bay Leaf is definitely in a bit of a funny spot with no other evening eateries around, and although it started to fill up as Saturday evening progressed, I feel that they’re going to have to capitalise on that daytime market if they’re going to make it a long term success. I’d certainly like to check it out during the day and sample the coffee and see what they do in terms of light lunches. There’s lots of things pointing in the right direction, but they certainly have their work cut out in that location. Bay Leaf has had very contrasting reviews from Birmingham’s two main press reviewers, Paul Fulford and Richard McComb (check out their contrasting reviews on Matthews too). I have an inkling that Richard McComb is wrong on this one.

If you’re into your your live jazz they hold a jazz night once a month which is very popular (they sold out the night before we were there), the next one is the 4th of November, and you can find out loads of other stuff on their excellent website (even ordering takeaway online!): www.bayleaf-restaurant.co.uk

Bay Leaf Restaurant, Custard Factory – Review

I’ve had the pleasure of teaching bread skills and working on a couple of occasions with the enterprising owner of a new Bangladeshi restaurant that’s opened up in the Custard Factory, Aftab Rahman. I remember talking to Aftab about Bay Leaf over a year ago, back when I was bitching about naan bread and visiting his other restaurant, Mint in Yardley. It’s taken me way too long to visit though, but we finally got round to it last Saturday. Aftab has certainly chosen a challenge, the previous occupier of their site in the Custard Factory was the ill-fated fine dining car crash that was Matthews. I never went myself (it wasn’t open long enough), but I remember reading the reviews with pity.

Like Mint, Bay Leaf is certainly pushing their Bangladeshi roots in their publicity, and Aftab is certainly genuinely proud of that heritage, which is refreshing to see in the age of the ubiquitous ‘Indian’ and ‘Curry House’. The menu seems to display several dishes that I’ve not seen on a menu before but there are notable concessions to what Aftab calls ‘vintage’ curries – korma’s, balti’s, dhansak’s etc… A bit of arm-twisting has gone on to allow these onto the menu, which is a shame I think. We stick to the signature dishes and plump for a lamb haleem, and the freestyle chicken which as the questionable title suggests is a daily changing version of chicken cooked on the bone – cooked with spinach and channa today, accompanied by rice and chapatti (I still avoid naan’s these days). The lamb was genuinely fall-apart tender and the accompanying sauce had a spicy sweetness followed by a pleasant and not overpowering bitter astringency from the Bangladeshi limes. The chicken was good too, plenty of it, still moist and nicely accompanied by the mild sauce and iron-y spinach. Chapatti’s were excellent, far better than mine and better than I’ve had anywhere – light, fluffy, and smoking hot. Flavour-wise there was little to fault our main dishes although presentation on the plate could certainly be stepped up with a little more thought. We shared a gulab jamun for dessert, which was flamed with brandy at the table which is a nice twist for a traditional dessert, although executed a little clumsily with a camping stove set up next to the table. Presumably a heated spoon and a match could do the trick a bit more elegantly.

One of the best points about Bay Leaf is the well-stocked bar and the manager Abbs who is very attentive and a trained sommelier too. We finished with a night-cap in the bar, a nice part of the space that Aftab would like to become a bit like a Bangalore coffee house during the day attracting some of the office and conference crowd from the custard factory. Bay Leaf is definitely in a bit of a funny spot with no other evening eateries around, and although it started to fill up as Saturday evening progressed, I feel that they’re going to have to capitalise on that daytime market if they’re going to make it a long term success. I’d certainly like to check it out during the day and sample the coffee and see what they do in terms of light lunches. There’s lots of things pointing in the right direction, but they certainly have their work cut out in that location. Bay Leaf has had very contrasting reviews from Birmingham’s two main press reviewers, Paul Fulford and Richard McComb (check out their contrasting reviews on Matthews too). I have an inkling that Richard McComb is wrong on this one.

If you’re into your your live jazz they hold a jazz night once a month which is very popular (they sold out the night before we were there), the next one is the 4th of November, and you can find out loads of other stuff on their excellent website (even ordering takeaway online!): www.bayleaf-restaurant.co.uk

Soul Food Project unleash new menu

soulfoodprojectI was excited last week, to be invited to attend the ‘gastro evening’ launch of Soul Food Project’s new menu, the cheffy equivalent of an album launch if you like. Soul Food project occupy the kitchen upstairs at The Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath, and serve up southern-style food to discerning eaters, and drinkers with an appetite. That’s the essence of proper pub food I suppose, you have to attract a few people that would normally head to a restaurant, but maybe want to save a quid or two, but also feed the tipsy reveller who suddenly gets the munchies. The question then, I suppose, is does the Soul Food Project’s new menu hit the mark?

During an enjoyable evening comparing oven temperatures and bakery start times with the smiley Sarah Frost, we were given samples of 7 or 8 dishes off the new menu as we washed it all down with pints of Purity’s finest. The first, and finest of them all, was the Sierra Nevada hush puppies, a moorish deep-fired savoury doughnut made with corn and Sierra Nevada pale ale. Next out came the burgers, chunky locally made beef patties in a sturdy bun with a punchy soul sauce, good stuff. We sampled the consistently good Jambalaya, a great sunburst salad with halloumi and sweet potato, veggie gumbo (I thought gumbo had to have peanuts in it – am I thinking of somehting else?), and SFP’s SFC (southern fried chicken), of course.  The thirty-strong crowd were visibly stuffed by this point, but when chef’s Carl and Matt emerge with trays of the famous brownies and stunning churro’s to finish us off, who can turn that down?!

Their repertoire has massively expanded and now fills a glossy A3 menu (complete with photos!), and there are many intriguing dishes that I still want to sample (pork crackling with a bourbon sauce for a starter? yes please!). So have they managed to hit the hungry-boozer/gourmet-diner-on-a-budget balance? I think they pretty much have. The dishes are certainly good value – starters are £3-4 and mains just £5-7. The dishes aren’t refined and showy like a flashy restaurant, they’re hearty, which is how soul food should be, and perfect for fuelling-up for a night out. The resounding thing that struck me though is that there’s no one else really doing this kind of food in Birmingham, so although there’s no smears of chestnut puree or embellishments of pea shoots on the plates, I urge foodies, gourmands, and anyone wanting some honest, original pub grub, to head down and check out the new menu. I know i’ll be returning soon…

Simpsons vs Purity – matching fine food and real ale

Last time I had a pint of Purity Brewing Co’s Mad Goose, I think I was standing in The Wellington surrounded by the smell of sweat and salt and vinegar crisps. That’s probably a fairly typical accompaniment to real ale, but following a chance meeting between Andreas Antona (Simpson’s chef-proprietor) and Paul Halsey (MD of Purity) at the Taste of Birmingham festival, that might all be about to change…

image001

Andreas and Paul decided to put together an evening to celebrate both artisanally made food and beer, and last week at Simpson’s there was a fantastic five-course menu on offer with a different beer to accompany each dish, including Purity’s real ales Pure UBU, Pure Gold and Mad Goose, and its imported beers Veltins Pilsner and Maisels Weisse. Although Loaf wasn’t there on this occasion (we found out too late!), reportedly the evening was a real success, with around 20 guests tucking into the delicious food and beer.

Purity also had Paul Corbett, the Managing Director of its hops merchant Charles Faram, on hand to talk to the guests about how the hops in its beers impacts upon the finished flavour. All of Purity’s hops are specially selected to produce unique tasting beers, making them a great choice to match to different types of food.

Paul Halsey was there to help host the evening and he said: “Andreas did a brilliant job of designing a menu that perfectly complemented our ales and imported beers. It’s great that people are starting to realise that real ale can be enjoyed with fine food just as well as, if not better than wine.”

Purity kindly provided Loaf with the menu from the evening – let this whet your appetite:

Terrine_of_HamCourse One – Terrine of ham hock, chicken & foie gras, sweet corn puree, truffle vinaigrette
(Beer Veltins Pilsner)

Course two – Escalope of salmon on a bed of sauerkraut, light mustard sauce
(Beer – Pure Gold)

Course three – Slow-cooked belly of suckling pig, ravioli of braised trotter, fennel compote, spiced baby pears, honey & cracked pepper sauce
(Beer – Mad Goose)

Caramelised_BananaCourse four – Caramelised banana, caramel parfait, peanut butter ice-cream
(Beer – Maisels Weisse)

Course five – Welsh rarebit
(Beer – Pure UBU)

Although Simpsons were unable to provide a specific example of supporting local farms through their delicious looking menu, they are stalwarts of the local food scene in Birmingham, buying from great Midlands butcher Aubrey Allen, and Staffordshire’s Manor Fruit Farm among other local producers.

A quick google search reveals there’s a lot of resources out there for would-be ‘ale sommeliers’. Try this CAMRA guide for a start, or if you can get hold of Purity’s excellent Ales (check stockists here, or buy from their shop), here’s what they recommend:

Pure Gold is a refreshing golden ale with a dry and bitter finish that is easy to drink. It would suit light savoury and spicy dishes, such as Indian, Thai and fish dishes, especially salmon.

Pure UBU is a distinctive premium amber coloured beer that is balanced and full of flavour making it a pleasure to drink. It would go well with any red meat in the form of casseroles, stews, steak and kidney pudding and also with most strong-tasting cheeses.

Mad Goose is a classic pale ale that is zesty and full-bodied. This light copper coloured ale would go with pork and lamb dishes. (what, not salt and vinegar crisps then?!)

These two great local businesses obviously hit it off, as they are hatching plans for a second date on the 12th November, where they’ll be matching game and beer. Stay glued to the site as full details will be published here when they are released.

Were you there? Tell us what you thought by leaving a comment below.

Simpsons vs Purity – matching fine food and real ale

Last time I had a pint of Purity Brewing Co’s Mad Goose, I think I was standing in The Wellington surrounded by the smell of sweat and salt and vinegar crisps. That’s probably a fairly typical accompaniment to real ale, but following a chance meeting between Andreas Antona (Simpson’s chef-proprietor) and Paul Halsey (MD of Purity) at the Taste of Birmingham festival, that might all be about to change…

image001

Andreas and Paul decided to put together an evening to celebrate both artisanally made food and beer, and last week at Simpson’s there was a fantastic five-course menu on offer with a different beer to accompany each dish, including Purity’s real ales Pure UBU, Pure Gold and Mad Goose, and its imported beers Veltins Pilsner and Maisels Weisse. Although Loaf wasn’t there on this occasion (we found out too late!), reportedly the evening was a real success, with around 20 guests tucking into the delicious food and beer.

Purity also had Paul Corbett, the Managing Director of its hops merchant Charles Faram, on hand to talk to the guests about how the hops in its beers impacts upon the finished flavour. All of Purity’s hops are specially selected to produce unique tasting beers, making them a great choice to match to different types of food.

Paul Halsey was there to help host the evening and he said: “Andreas did a brilliant job of designing a menu that perfectly complemented our ales and imported beers. It’s great that people are starting to realise that real ale can be enjoyed with fine food just as well as, if not better than wine.”

Purity kindly provided Loaf with the menu from the evening – let this whet your appetite:

Terrine_of_HamCourse One – Terrine of ham hock, chicken & foie gras, sweet corn puree, truffle vinaigrette
(Beer Veltins Pilsner)

Course two – Escalope of salmon on a bed of sauerkraut, light mustard sauce
(Beer – Pure Gold)

Course three – Slow-cooked belly of suckling pig, ravioli of braised trotter, fennel compote, spiced baby pears, honey & cracked pepper sauce
(Beer – Mad Goose)

Caramelised_BananaCourse four – Caramelised banana, caramel parfait, peanut butter ice-cream
(Beer – Maisels Weisse)

Course five – Welsh rarebit
(Beer – Pure UBU)

Although Simpsons were unable to provide a specific example of supporting local farms through their delicious looking menu, they are stalwarts of the local food scene in Birmingham, buying from great Midlands butcher Aubrey Allen, and Staffordshire’s Manor Fruit Farm among other local producers.

A quick google search reveals there’s a lot of resources out there for would-be ‘ale sommeliers’. Try this CAMRA guide for a start, or if you can get hold of Purity’s excellent Ales (check stockists here, or buy from their shop), here’s what they recommend:

Pure Gold is a refreshing golden ale with a dry and bitter finish that is easy to drink. It would suit light savoury and spicy dishes, such as Indian, Thai and fish dishes, especially salmon.

Pure UBU is a distinctive premium amber coloured beer that is balanced and full of flavour making it a pleasure to drink. It would go well with any red meat in the form of casseroles, stews, steak and kidney pudding and also with most strong-tasting cheeses.

Mad Goose is a classic pale ale that is zesty and full-bodied. This light copper coloured ale would go with pork and lamb dishes. (what, not salt and vinegar crisps then?!)

These two great local businesses obviously hit it off, as they are hatching plans for a second date on the 12th November, where they’ll be matching game and beer. Stay glued to the site as full details will be published here when they are released.

Were you there? Tell us what you thought by leaving a comment below.

La Banca Review

Bill for four including wine
Bill for four including wine

La Banca is a brand new Italian restaurant in the heart of Cotteridge village. It’s home is the old bank (hence the name) opposite the corner of Pershore Road and Watford Road. Opening night was the 30th of June, and loaf was there to soak up the atmosphere…

La Banca has little competition in Cotteridge – the clean but classical decor is a far cry from Greggs or Subway – and provides a buzzing, excited atmosphere whilst loaf awaits it’s dinner guests. The welcoming and obviously experienced manager, belied a noticeably nervous front of house, with the understandable opening night jitters: uncollected cutlery, unpoured wine, bill mistakes, and longer than usual waits for orders etc. The menu is probably a bit too large for a single cuisine restaurant, but with a notable absence of pizzas – perhaps investment in a proper oven will come at a later date. Pasta predominates, but there’s an enticing range of non-pasta ‘secondi’ too – the tuna steak with cold tomato salsa was tempting, but at £13.95 (the most expensive item) loaf couldn’t stretch to it in these credit-crunch times.

The menu is spattered with seasonal treats – chard, peas, mint; but there’s no claim that this is intentional, nor is there any indication of where they are sourced. Nevertheless, the food was good – homemade canneloni was executed well and served in a deliciously fresh salty-sweet tomato sauce, and the tirimasu was smooth and luxurious, if lacking a little of the expected alco-kick. There were appreciative noises coming from round the table and the portion sizes were about right if you’re having more than one course. The wine list is excellent, and extensive, with great descriptions for those as ignorant as loaf!

Overall La Banca serves good, well presented, fairly priced food, in a nice environment, which is an overdue treat for Cotteridge. The owners also run Pangaea in Kings Heath which is also worth checking out for a posh curry. For address details and menu etc, see their website at: www.labanca.co.uk

3/5