Madame Gourmand
26. 02. 2015

Panache Balti in Warwick is hands down our favourite local Indian restaurant, it’s delicious. Fact.  We have visited several times and it’s our chosen restaurant of choice for a takeway (like last Friday night).

We have wised up a bit when it comes to dining out at an Indian restaurant, in the past we would sit and munch our way through several poppadoms followed by starters, mains and sides and always wondered why we could only eat a forkful of our main dish before admitting defeat.  Now we may have 2 poppadoms skip the starters and sides and go straight on to the main course.

The restaurant is situated about 5 minutes walk from Warwick Castle so would be a perfect place to visit if you have popped to Warwick for the weekend.  I love the décor inside, one wall features a huge drawing of the castle and I could just spend ages looking at it.

I’m not sure what it is that keeps us going back time after time, obviously the food is delicious but Panache seem to just take it to another level in terms of flavour.

 

Panache_indian

 

Panache is a small restaurant and we have been only ever visited before 7pm so have never had to wait for a table, I’d imagine that it gets very busy on an evening so  booking is probably recommended. There is a great variety of dishes and a few things I’ve never seen on a menu before like Mini Gourmand’s favourite dish of Paradise Chicken (£8.50) which is basically chicken tikka pieces cooked in a rich sweet creamy sauce flavoured with mango puree, dry mint, bay leaf, almond, coconut powder & mint sauce, if you like korma or chicken tikka masala then you will love this.

Panache_Rice

I’m a bit of a creature of habit when it comes to Panache as I always go for the mixed Biryani (£10.75), my answer when questioned about this is always “Why wouldn’t you?”  If it’s not broken don’t fix it.  It’s a simple dish consisting of chicken, lamb, prawns, king prawns, mushrooms & pan fried omelette and depending on the chef you sometimes get pieces of pineapple.  It’s far to big a portion for one person so we usually share it or take a container of food home.

Panache_Byriani

panache_naan

We usually alternate between a Peshwari Naan or Keema Naan (£2.50) depending if Mini Gourmand is with us or not, Baby Gourmand is partial to either.  The Naan bread is always hot, filled throughout and huge!

panache

Mr Gourmand is quite partial to a lot of heat from his curry and can quite often be found ordering a Naga curry (£8.95) which is cooked with aromatic flavoured spicy hot ghost naga from Bangladesh.  I do have to admit that although it’s spicy it really is always delicious, it seems to have different levels of both flavour and heat which I’ve not found in a curry before.

Don’t get me wrong I do love some of the other Indian restaurants Warwickshire has to offer but Panache is just a little bit special to me.  You can find Panache Balti on Just Eat for takeaway food or the restaurant is at 5 Saint Johns, Warwick CV34 4NE

17. 02. 2015

Last week I purchased our first Gousto box, it’s not something I would usually use as I like to visit my local butcher on a weekly basis and I grow my own veg but I was interested to see what this box was about and I knew that if I was intrigued by it that some of my readers would probably have been too.  It’s always a bit of a risk signing up to a subscription service so I thought I’d give you a completely honest and Impartial review of the service.

Signing up to the service couldn’t be easier, you visit the Gousto website, choose 3 recipes, select how many people you will need portions for 2 or for 4 people, Enter your post code, choose your delivery day and click “Continue”.

If you have a discount coupon, you can apply it to your first delivery in the next step, before you click “Proceed to Checkout”. Complete the checkout process by entering your delivery and billing information. You will get a welcome email when you’ve successfully subscribed.

There are 4 types of weekly boxes available at the moment:

You can pause or cancel anytime. There’s no club fee and no annual fee, you only pay for the food you get delivered. Whenever you’re on holiday, simply skip those weeks using the calendar function in your account.

When pausing or cancelling deliveries, be sure to do so before the cut-off time of the delivery, which is always at noon on Sunday before the delivery.

I have to admit when it came to selecting my choices there were only two dishes that I really liked the look of, it was hard trying to select the third dish and I took a bit of a risk as I wasn’t completely convinced I had made the right choice.  I loved the look of the Chicken Cashew stir fry and the Kedgeree and my third choice was a Beet burger.

gousto box

My delivery was scheduled for Wednesday and arrived via courier, as I knew it was coming I made sure to stay in all day but it’s not something you need to worry about as you can leave delivery instructions when you order.

The box was well insulated and the ice packs inside were still frozen which I was impressed with, the box can be recycled and I was impressed that brown paper bags were used instead of plastic.

gousto box inside

The box contained everything I needed to make three meals for two people except for oil, salt and pepper.  I was impressed at how well everything was packaged, everything looked fresh and nothing was spoiled or broken

gousto notice

I popped the ingredient list on the fridge so I knew exactly what was needed for each dish and when it needed to be used by.  I found this list incredibly helpful and it’s something I might start doing with my weekly meal planning to ensure I have everything I need for each meal.

cashew chicken

 

The first dish I cooked was Chicken Cashew stir fry, I dislike following recipes so this was a challenge in itself!  I found the recipe incredibly straightforward although I did raise my voice a couple of times when I realised how many dishes and pans I ended up using to prepare/cook the meal.  I was initially sceptical that we would be full after looking at the portion of rice and chicken as I would usually use twice as much.

chicken cashew stir fry

The end result was extremely satisfying and I was surprised at how much food I had made after my initial worry that we were going to be starving after we had finished our meal, if any thing I was really really full up.  My only criticism if you want to call it that was that the dish was very salty, I hadn’t added any salt to the meal as I don’t usually use it so I think the salty taste must have come from  the stock cube.  Both myself and Mr Gourmand thought that this tasted as good if not better than some Chinese takeaway meals we have had so I will definitely be cooking this recipe again.

kedgeree

The second dish was one of our family favourites, Kedgeree.  I was really looking forward to cooking this as some of the ingredients and the method was completely different to the one I use.  I’ve never added roasted tomato to kedgeree, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever used tomato in this dish at all. I was worried that using the whole pack of parsley might have been too much, I would usually use a sprinkle of coriander.

kedgereedish

I personally thought this was fantastic, I loved the addition of roasted tomato which added a delicious rich flavour, the chunky fish was great and it wasn’t overpowered by parsley like I had initially anticipated.  Mr Gourmand practically inhaled his which I think speaks for itself.

beetroot

The final dish was the one I was a little worried about, if I’m honest I wasn’t looking forward to cooking or eating this one.  Both myself and Mr Gourmand love beetroot but we couldn’t visualise how this Beetroot Burger was going to taste at all.

beetroot burgers

It just goes to show that you should never judge a book by it’s cover, we were both pleasantly surprised by this dish. I cooked my chips in the actifry as I find it doesn’t take as much oil but that’s the only time I swayed from the instructions.  The tarragon mayo was absolutely delicious, I could have eaten a bowl full, the caramelised onions were to die for and the burgers were just delicious.  Who would have thought beetroot and tarragon would have gone so well together, it was like a marriage in my mouth.

 

Overall we were really impressed with Gousto, apart from the saltiness of the first dish we found that the portion sizes were perfect, the ingredients were just the right amount kind of like when you get a can of gin and tonic, it’s just the perfect amount but when you fiddle with a bottle of gin and a bottle of tonic you can never get the measurements right.

Would I use it every week? No I wouldn’t because it doesn’t suit our family needs at all, for a family of 4 one of which is a toddler the cost of the box just isn’t affordable for us however as a treat now and again for myself and Mr Gourmand I would definitely purchase a box.

We were discussing the box and when it would fit into our lives and we decided that if we knew in advance that we would be having friends over for a few days it would be more cost effective to order a Gousto box than to go out for a meal, or if were had just moved into a new property and didn’t want to go out and purchase lots of bottles and jars that we would only need a teaspoon out of then Gousto would be great.

gousto box discount

Gousto box is a fantastic idea, there is no doubt about that, if you would like to give it a try please feel free to use the money off code that was on my box, you could save yourself £20!

13. 02. 2015

Biryani

Chicken Biryani is a family favourite in the Gourmand household, I find it’s a great way to use up rice and any leftover vegetables that you have in the fridge, I designed this recipe while going through a stage of making one pot meals however if you don’t happen to have any leftover rice you will need two pots.  As I’ve said before with my actifry dishes, timings do vary and you should trust your own instincts when it comes to your actifry.

To make this you will need:

1 Tablespoon of Oil

1 onion diced

2 Cloves garlic, crushed

1 Tsp Ginger grated

1 Tsp Salt

1 Tsp ground Cumin

1 Tsp ground Coriander

1/2 Tsp Chili powder

2 plum Tomatoes chopped finely

1 Small pot of Plain Yogurt

4 Mushrooms chopped

8 Green beans cut into 3

2 Chicken breasts chopped

Coriander to serve

Leftover rice

Method:

Put the oil and chicken into the Actifry and cook until lightly browned 8-10 minutes.

Add the vegetables and spices and cook for 2-3 minutes

Add the yoghurt and cook for 8-10 minutes until everything is cooked through and the sauce has thickened.

Add the rice and cook until the  rice has started to soak up the sauce 8-10 minutes.

Sprinkle with coriander and enjoy.

This is a lot wetter than a traditional Biryani but it is incredibly delicious and very satisfying.  Do let me know if you make this in your actifry.

 

11. 02. 2015

Chilli (1)

When you think of Chilli, cooking it an actifry is probably not the first method of cooking that would come to mind, I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out if I’m completely honest but it was delicious and actually tasted a little bit nicer than my usual stove top chilli.  I would assume that my version could be made in any sort of hot air fryer, you just have to be careful of timings, I gave my recipe to two friends to test because they both have an actifry, one friend found that hers took longer to cook and the other said she had to do her onions twice because they had burnt so use your own judgement ass you know your own machine better than I do.

To make this you will need:

500g minced beef
1 onion chopped
2  garlic cloves crushed
2 chilli peppers
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin mixed beans
1 tbsp of tomato puree
1 tsp Cumin & cinnamon
1/2 tsp paprika & Chilli powder

Method:

Brown the onion and garlic with 1 tablespoon oil or some frylight and cook for 3-5 minutes.

Add the mince and cook for  a further 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes, puree, chilli and spices and cook for 3-4 minutes

Add the mixed beans and season.

Add 400ml water and cook for 20-30min until nice and thick.

Serve with rice and chopped coriander for taste.

 

It’s as simple as that!  If you decide to make Chilli in your actifry please let me know how you get on.

 

 

Chilli_Rice

09. 02. 2015

The very first time I visited a branch of Zizzi was around 2008/9 when I was working as a mystery diner, I had been assigned the branch in Newcastle upon Tyne and it was such a bad experience that I never ventured back until 2011 when I was invited out for a friends 22nd Birthday, I remember the food was good, the service was on point considering we had a table of 15 and the overall experience was a very good one.

We decided that instead of going for Sunday Lunch yesterday that we would pay a visit to Zizzi as the menu looked good and as we have seen children in there before that it must be fairly family friendly so I booked a table online for 12:30pm.

We arrived at the restaurant at 12:25 and although I’d already booked, they didn’t have an up to date booking list at the front desk which was fine as they were quite quiet although I wouldn’t have been very pleased if it had been busy and I hadn’t been able to get a table, you have to plan outings like this with military precision when you have a toddler you see.

There were already a couple of tables on the left hand side with prams and pushchairs so we selected a spot on the far right so we be out of the way should it get busier.  Our drinks order was taken by a very polite server  and we perused the menu.

Baby Gourmand_Zizzi

 

Baby Gourmand started with Carrot sticks, Cucumber and Bread sticks which was part of the £6.75 Bambini kids menu, this was the perfect starter to keep him entertained until his main meal arrived.

bread_Zizzi

Mr Gourmand and I decided to skip a starter as we have been to similar chains in the past and the food is usually very filling so we opted for the Italian bread bucket which contained Freshly baked focaccia bread & dough sticks with olive oil & rosemary.  The bread bucket came with a bottle of balsamic vinegar and we made use of the olive oil that was on the table already, we both found this delicious and were quite excited to receive our mains especially if the taste and quality of some simple bread was so good.

That’s when things went downhill.

pizza_Zizzi

Mr Gourmand had ordered the Classic Pepperoni Campagna topped with Pepperoni, ham, mushrooms, mozzarella & thyme but as he’s a big bloke he went for the larger Rustica base for an extra £1.50.  The pizza may have been larger on the board but it was so thin that the edges had burnt, Mr Gourmand wasn’t a fan of this style of base at all, he found the combination of cheese and topping wasn’t quite right, there was big chunks of topping in parts and very little at other sections.  He found the pizza lacking in flavour and was rather disappointed with his choice.

risotto_Zizzi

I had thought about getting a pizza and at the last minute changed my mind in favour of the Risotto Pesce which contained King prawns, mussels & squid rings in a tomato, chilli & white wine risotto.  I very rarely eat risotto unless I make it myself I was quite excited to try this.  I had my first mouthful and found I couldn’t taste anything but butter, I quickly gave Mr Gourmand a forkful to make sure my taste buds hadn’t died but I was right the dish didn’t have any real flavour just a very buttery taste.  I then made the biggest mistake I’ve ever made when eating an Italian dish, I picked up what I thought was a piece of red pepper only it turned out to be a chilli and not a nice chilli a really really hot chilli.  I’m a fan of spice, chilli and heat in my food, I love making curry and use chilli in stir fry, bread and a whole host of other dishes but never have I eaten something that packs so much heat, my mouth was on fire and between that, the lack of flavour and the buttery taste I was finished after 4 mouthfuls, I passed my plate over to Mr Gourmand who was so hungry he would have eaten anything!

pasta_Zizzi

Poor Baby Gourmand suffered the most with his dish pictured above.  This was not minestrone soup but actually pasta Bolognese like I have never seen it before, it was so watery I had to decant the slippery pieces of Penne into a spare bowl.  The least said about the taste of this the better, I think the picture speaks for itself.

I shared Arthur’s picture on instagram and was asked why I didn’t send it back? The restaurant had filled up (more about this later) and there only seemed to be two or three members of staff  serving staff who were rushed off their feet add into this a hungry toddler who would have screamed the place down if his food had been removed it  was best to just let him eat it.

When our server came to take the plates she asked if everything had been ok? I told her that it hadn’t actually been great, none of us had enjoyed our food and I told her I thought Baby Gourmands dish was diabolical, I’ve never actually seen Bolognese like it in my life!  I then told her I wasn’t sure how I was going to vacate the resteraunt, you see while we had been sitting the place had filled up and we had been boxed in to a corner with our pushchair.  It would have been hard enough for a person to squeeze out never mind a child in a pushchair, the server replied that we would have to fly with a laugh.  Our server did offer to have a word with her supervisor but to be honest the restaurant was so busy and we had just had enough at this point that we declined as we just wanted to pay and leave.

We paid our bill, £41 which really wasn’t worth it at all and tried to work out how on earth we were going to get out, not one member of staff came over to help us and we were pretty much struggling.  There was no way that we were ever going to get out so I decided that the best course of action would be to fold down the pushchair and lift it over the 3 tables that were in our way.  The other diners helped us to get out and we made it to the door and still not one member of staff came to ask if we were ok.

One thing I would just like to point out is that it wasn’t just us who seemed to be having a bit of a bad time, a table to the side of us were not happy to have their main course delivered a couple of minutes after their starter and the table behind had sent their food back once and we could hear them after new dishes were brought out complaining about the quality of the food, they looked to have ordered Bolognese, I hope they didn’t have the same sauce as Baby Gourmand!

I don’t imagine we will ever be returning to this chain and I’m actually annoyed with myself that I wasted £41 on food and service that was substandard.

**Update** Zizzi have been in touch via email with the following reply

“It certainly doesn’t sound like our usual high standards of service were achieved and it was disappointing to hear about the quality of the food you and your guests ordered. All customer feedback I receive is logged and collated, I’ve also asked the Operations Manager to share your comments with the team to ensure we’re offering a friendly and efficient service at all times. At Zizzi we pride ourselves on delivering exceptional service and fantastic d ishes but it does seem we have let you down on this occasion.

I can assure you this has been dealt with at restaurant level and has been circulated around Head Office through a Weekly C omplaints Report to ensure everyone stays updated with what’s going on in all our Zizzis. This h elps us improve our service in the future.

I really appreciate you taking the time to let us know about this and by way of apology for your visit, I’d like to send you a £20 Zizzi gift card that you can use at any Zizzi, at any time within the next 18 months.”

I have accepted their offer and will in fact visit again to see if any improvements have been made.

Have you visited Zizzi before? Did you have a good experience?

08. 02. 2015

Zou Bisou is a lovely little place on Regent Court, Leamington Spa.  Its sits happily alongside some big chains like Nandos, Yo Sushi, and Turtle Bay, but is so relaxed and welcoming, it has a feel about it that you only get with an independent place.  The interior is nice, big chairs, little chairs, quirky, funky, but doesn’t try too hard.  It just feels happy.  Does that make sense??  Anyway, myself and Mr Gourmand decided to pop in for a light breakfast on Sunday morning and I thought I would share the experience.

zou bisou scrambled egg

I wasn’t really hungry so decided to order scrambled eggs on toast, a fairly safe bet, and it really hit the spot, in fact, probably a slightly larger portion that I was expecting so I had to leave some, which I hate doing!! Baby Gourmand tucked in and helped me out whihc was nice, as he usually doesn’t like scrambled eggs – a break through!!  I had wished I hadn’t bothered ordering him his own side of toast as he really didn’t need it with my mammoth breakfast to help me with.  The scrambled eggs were creamy and cooked to perfection and the toast was hot, what more could you want?

zou bisou full english

Mr Gourmand didn’t hesitate to order the full english; a guy sitting not far away had one, and as the waiter took his order book out Mr Gourmand’s greedy eyes followed his sausages from plate to mouth!  Just like my scrambled eggs, Mr Gourmand described the breakfast as exactly what he wanted. Quality ingredients, nicely cooked, and a good amount.  What more can you ask for!

Interesting that Mr Gourmand recently walked past Zou Bisou late at night and they are open until 10, and offer 2-1 coffees, defintley a nice place for a late night drink if you don’t fancy going to the pub.  Zou Bisou has also started offering Sunday lunches, lets see if we can sneak one of them in, in the not too distant future!

06. 02. 2015

Some people might say that a hotpot with crisp potatoes on top is actually called a Lancashire hotpot but rather than get into a debate about names and what a true Lancashire hotpot should consist of I’ve decided to play it safe and call this adaptation a plain old Lamb Hotpot.  There isn’t actually anything ‘plain’ about this hotpot, it’s warming, delicious and one of those dishes that you have to have just one more spoonful of.  The quantities should serve 4 but in my house you are lucky if there is a mouthful left over from two people eating it.  I teamed this particular hotpot with a seeded loaf.

seed_bread

To make this seeded loaf you will need:

500g mixed grain flour (I like the Wessex Mill flour)

1 tbsp poppy seeds

1 sachet fast-action yeast

1 tsp salt

300ml hand-hot water

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp runny honey

Heat oven to 180C

Put the flour, seeds, yeast and salt into a large bowl. Mix the water, oil and honey together  in a jug, then pour into the flour mix stirring all the time to make a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough no longer feels sticky, sprinkling with a little more flour as you need it.

flour a loaf tin and put the dough in the tin, pressing it in evenly. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 1 hr, until it springs back when you press it with your finger.

Bake for 30-35 mins until the loaf is risen and brown. Pop it onto a cooling rack and leave to cool before smothering with butter.

 

lamb_hotpot

To make the Lamb Hotpot you will need:

100g butter

900g lamb, cut into large chunks

2 medium onions, chopped

4 carrots, peeled and sliced

handful of frozen peas

25g plain flour

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

500ml lamb stock

2 bay leaves

900g potatoes, peeled and sliced

Heat oven to 160C

Heat some butter in a large shallow casserole dish, brown the lamb in batches.  In the same pan fry the onions and carrots until golden.

Sprinkle over the flour and allow to cook for a couple of mins, shake over the Worcestershire sauce and pour in the stock, then bring to the boil.

Turn off the heat and add the meat and bay leaves to the pan. Arrange the sliced potatoes on top of the meat, then dot with a little more butter. Cover with a tight fitting lid, then place in the oven for about 1½ hrs until the potatoes are cooked.

Remove the lid for the last 20 mins to brown the potatoes.

 

04. 02. 2015

Situated on Warwick Street in Leamington Spa is Havana Casa De Cafe, it’s one of those places that you could walk past numerous times and not actually see which makes it quite interesting I think.

We first visited for coffee and cake but that was before Baby Gourmand was born and places can change dramatically in a year so when Grandma and Aunty Gourmand were visiting us for the weekend we decided to have breakfast and I can confirm it was delicious.

Regualr readers will know that the Gourmand family like their food so we were praying that the portion sizes would still be decent on our third visit just after Christmas.

Baby_Gourmand

Baby Gourmand behaved himself and we decided rather than buy him anything, we would order food that he liked and put it on a side plate for him.  He looks like he should be facing the other way and playing the piano in this shot!!

Havana_Full_English

Mr Gourmand hummed and harred over what to get, as usual.  Havana has a quite unusual breakfast menu catering for the sweet and savoury toothed among us, so definitely a good choice if you want something, but you’re not entirely sure what!  The Full English eventually won the day, with a little persuasion from the waiter and boy was Mr Gourmand pleased.  “Chips with a breakfast.” he exclaimed.  Was this a good thing or bad thing I thought.  Context is important.  A bag full of crinkle cut chips with greasy fried, eggs not so good.  Half a dozen beautifully cooked and seasoned chips on a plate of equally beautiful ingredients is!  Thankfully this breakfast was the latter, and I hope the photographs do it justice.  In fact, i’m going to Havana again on Sunday, and i’m sure Mr Gourmand will order the same breakfast again.

Havana_muffins

I decided to go for simple muffins with fried egg, mushroom, and tomatoes.  Pretty simple I know, but as I said earlier, this is the beauty of Havana, this is exactly what I fancied, it tasted nice, was cheap, and left room for a cake at lunchtime! Perfect!

Anyone looking for a nice breakfast should try Havana, it really is a great little place.  I actually might visit for evening drinks one day, cocktails at breakfast?!

 

03. 02. 2015

lasagna

For me Lasagna is one of the ultimate comfort foods, It can be incredibly time consuming to make but it’s so worth it, especially if you make enough for leftovers.

To make this Lasagna you will need:

1.5 packets of dried lasagne sheets

50g mushrooms, finely chopped

splash of oil

1  onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 stick of celery, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, crushed

salt and freshly ground black pepper

700g good-quality beef mince

1 wine glass of red wine

2 tablespoons tomato purée

1 x 400g tin good-quality chopped tomatoes

1 beef stock cube

pinch of Italian herbs

1 x quantity of white sauce

50g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

50g grated coloured cheese

Preheat the oven to 180 ̊C

Heat a large pan over a medium heat, add a splash of oil and cook the onion, carrot and celery and leave to sweat with the lid on for 10 minutes, until soft.  Add the garlic and mushrooms to the pan and stir for 1 minute, season with salt and pepper.

Add the minced beef to the pan and cook until browned all over. Pour in the wine and keep stirring until the liquid starts to reduce.

Stir in the tomato purée and chopped tomatoes and add 200ml of boiling water. Crumble in the stock cube. Leave the  sauce to simmer with the lid on for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to simmer for a further 15-20 minutes.

Assemble the lasagne by covering the bottom of an ovenproof dish with a thin layer of meat sauce, follow this with a layer of pasta. Top with a layer of white sauce and then a layer of meat sauce. Continue in this order until you have 4 or 5 layers of pasta and finish with the white sauce.

Sprinkle the white sauce with the Parmesan and coloured cheese and cook in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.

Serve with extra parmesan and a fresh salad.

lasagna

 

31. 01. 2015

Fiesta_del_asado

Christmas is well and truly over, new year weight-loss resolutions of small portions, more greens and less meat, have been rigorously followed, and because it’s nearly February, its probably time to get back in the swing of things with some mega food.  You may have thought talking about Christmas is a strange way to begin a food post, especially when the festive season is not long gone and you are almost glad to see the back of it, tinsel firmly back in its box, china wrapped for another year, and trees stuffed into the attic, however, one thing i’m absolutely glad to see the back of, is meat!

So a month has passed and i’m just about beginning to miss the succulent chicken, mouth-watering beef, and all the trimmings, then out of the blue I have the opportunity to visit an Argentinian Steak House in Edgbaston, Birmingham. Well it has been a month, so time to get back on the horse!

Fiesta Del Asado is Birmingham’s first Argentinian restaurant and surprising as this may sound, the first time that either myself or Mr Gourmand have visited a restaurant of this kind.  We have passed similar establishments, glanced at the menu and obviously liked what we have seen, but always thought it the kind of place to visit for special occasion, and honestly just never got round to trying it.  Another slightly obscure reason is Mr Gourmand doesn’t often order steak if we go out for food, often choosing something from the menu that he’s not likely to get at home, almost like a treat.  Luckily for Mr Gourmand after leaving Fiesta Del Asado, he realised that what he had just eaten was NOTHING like he gets at home!

fiesta_del_asado_decor

We visited Fiesta Del Asado on a quiet Sunday afternoon at midday, not really thinking too much about food if i’m honest. We even had scrambled egg on toast for breakfast which is quite a hefty breakfast for either of us when we know we are going for lunch.  We drove up to Birmingham and found the restaurant very easily, it was only a short distance outside of Birmingham located in a beautiful building, alongside many equally beautiful buildings in this area. Walking through the main entrance of Fiesta Del Asado and first impressions were good; very clean, deceptively large, and attractive décor allowing me to relax into the comfortable surroundings.  Although there was only a handful of guests in at this early time the dining space was very relaxed, however, there was a buzz about that place indicating it would be really special and lively if visited during the evening.  Before I forget, the staff, as common these days, were extremely pleasant, well dressed, and politely lead us to our table, immediately providing a high chair for Baby Gourmand before bringing water to the table while we looked through the menu.  They also offered some olives and free bread which helped whet our appetite.  The olives were gorgeous and had quite a spicy kick to them, a lot bigger kick than expected. The bread was warm and delicious, and the accompanying balsamic vinegar and olive oil perfect for dipping chunks of bread in!

Fiesta_del_asado_olives

Aceitunas marinadas, Marinated gordal olives stuffed with guindilla (£2.99)

fiesta_del_asado_bread

 

Fiesta_del_asado_crab cakes

Mr Gourmand was distracting Baby Gourmand and asked me to order for him;  the menu was pleasantly large, but not so large to water down the experience.  I ordered two starters that we decided to share between us.  First was Pastel de cangrejo, Crab cake served with sweetcorn salsa. (£5.79).  This was a good starter, stuffed full of crab, including the meat from the claws, and was accompanied with a delicate side of dressed salad leaves.

Thankfully the crab cake was light and thank god it was as you will discover as you read on!

fiesta_del_asado_squid

The second starter was Rabas fritas, Crisp baby squid rings with aioli sauce. (£5.79).  Oh my, this is definitely one of my favourite all time starters.  The squid was perfectly cooked, not chewy, but just enough bite and consistency to cut in half if you bit into it hard enough.  The garlic, buttery sauce was also delicious, even baby Gourman seemed to have a taste for it when we caught him dipping his chips in and sucking the garlic off which then turned into just dipping his fingers in!!

fiesta_del_asado_ribs

Time for the mains!!

Mr Gourmand had the Asado de Tira, 16oz 4 bone cross cut beef rib; cooked on the bone for a fuller flavour.  (£18.79). Oh my god, when this came to the table he nearly jumped out of his skin! and so did the guests sitting alongside us!  The smell was intoxicating, a char-grilled spectacle.  The waiter instantly noticed the startled look on Mr Gourmands face, he must have seen this face many times before when serving up a monstrous plate of meat like this.  He lent down next to Mr Gourmand, like we do to Baby Gourmand when explaining something simple for the first time, and gave some very useful advise on how to work his way through the mountain of succulent beef. “start with the middle two sections.” he said, ” then cut the slightly tougher parts (pointing at the left hand side of the rib on the photo) into small chunks, and if you finish that, cut out the remaining chunks from between the ribs.”  Mr Gourmand followed his advice and half way through the second rib was boasting how he was going to easily finish this dish off, yeah right!  The smells, sight, juices, accompanying chimichurri, in fact everything, was a complete package.  It was a work of art, not too reliant on flavourings and smokiness, it was perfect.  In fact looking at the photos bring back the mouth-watering taste over, and over again.  It was one of those meals, something you will remember, and even years down the line, a feint smell will bring back the taste-recall of this exquisite meal.  Suffice to say, Mr Gourmand did leave some, but to his credit, not as much as i thought when he started.

fiesta_del_asado_rump

I ordered the Brochette de cuadril, Skewered chunks of beef rump with peppers onion and tomato basted with rosemary and garlic.  (£16.99)  I’m not sure why I ordered this as I love nothing better than a bloody hunk of meat on my plate but something drew me to this dish and I’m very glad I picked it.  After seeing the monster that Mr Gourmand was left to contend with I thought mine would be an easy feat however I was stuffed by the time I finished.  The steak was cooked to perfection and to be honest when I was half way through I started to wish I hadn’t been so greedy by ordering side dishes.  Just like Mr Gourmands steak, my meat didn’t rely on any fancy flavourings as the meat alone had such an amazing taste which lingered on my tastebuds long after I had finished.

fiesta_del_asado_veg

Ok, about now you are probably thinking surely they didn’t order sides as well…well, we did.  We did go simple though with Salteado de vegetales mixtos, Selection of vegetables tossed in lemon and butter. (£2.99).  Very simple and very nice, butternut squash and peppers. delicious, but possibly one dish too many.
fiesta_del_asado_chips

Then of course was the second side.  Papas fritas con perejil y ajo, Fries with parsley and garlic. (£1.99).  Possibly in the top 5 of my favourite chips of all time? We nibbled at these in between giving up on the main courses, then back again, and again, and again.  Delicious!

fiesta_del_asado_chicken

Lets not leave out Baby Gourmand.  We had no idea what he would like so decided on chicken and chips.  Alitas de pollo, Grilled chicken wings served with mixed leaves and hand cut fries (£3.95).  Lets get one thing straight, on any other given day this one dish would have been perfect for anyone in the Gourmand clan.  The chicken had the same char-grilled flavour of the main courses and the salad was outstanding.  In fact, this dish pretty much became the third starter as we took it in turns blowing on the food, one bite for Baby Gourmand, one bite for Madame Gourmand….

Overall I rate this place highly.  Yes, I couldn’t go every weekend, and yes you could probably rack up quite a bill if there was a group of you and the red wine started flowing (which I can imagine happens often!), however, you get what you pay for, and I would describe the Fiesta Del Asado experience as reassuingly expensive.  The restaurant feels quality, tastes quality, the staff excellent, and happily went the extra mile, including at one point the manager coming over to help entertain Baby Gourmand after spotting the tell-tale sign of being in the high chair for too long.

One thing I would like to add is that Leamington Spa NEEDS a Fiesta Del Asado, I’ve even been planning in my head where I think it should go!

If you would like the Fiesta Del Asado experience you need to head to 229 Hagley Road, Birmingham, West Midlands B16 9RP.

*We received a deduction off our bill in return for an honest, impartial review*