17/07/2011

Anderson’s bar and Grill, Birmingham

Back in May of this year I had the great honour of attending a very dear friend’s wedding. We drove up on my birthday, which was fine by me as I do love a good road trip, but decided that instead of going to the hen night, we would go out to dinner for my birthday. Don’t worry, I did check with the bride, and she said it was fine. Then she told me that we absolutely must, nay, had to go to Anderson’s Bar and Grill. So we did. I wasn’t going to take a restaurant recommendation from Gilly lightly.

She was absolutely spot on as to it being my kind of place. I would happily go here again and again and again.

The website be here: http://www.andersonsbarandgrill.co.uk/

First off, the words ‘bar and grill’ do not in any way do this place justice. It is far more than that.

It is hard to find, in that only the  restaurant door is on street level, there is no frontage to speak of. The only clue is a sign sticking out above the door. We did hang about for a bit going “Where? It must be here somewhere…” It was. We were almost right outside it. Yes, we felt silly.

You descend into a cool, stone clad basement with lovely arches and a long bar, gleaming in the candlelight. Now, there, that word, candlelight. It is quite dark, so for us pathological food blogger photo taking types, this is a bit of a bother. I’m afraid the photos do not do the food justice, because I have to tell you, the food is absolutely top notch, first class lovely.

It took us a very long time to choose what we wanted. The starters alone took us an age. We perused the menu, in the proper meaning of the word. We were highly amused by some of it.

Soup of the moment    

We decided against the momentary soup in favour of breads with warmed olives and roasted garlic. These are under the heading of ‘For the Table’ but are generous enough to make any self respecting table fall over and groan. Simon’s actual starter was a huge dish of moules mariniere. I tried one. It’s no good, I still don’t like mussels.

The warmed black olives made my delightful dining companion realise he liked them after all. Rats.

Hot olives, roasted garlic and fresh bread   Roasted garlic

All was as it should be. Soft, slippery, toasty garlic, herbed olives with chewy bits of roasted lemon and lovely soft breads. That would have kept me happy on its own, but fear not, we ventured forth into the rest of the menu because There Be Steak.

However, first I really should mention my actual proper starter, which was a slow roast free range pork belly, with a sticky chilli and honey glaze. Perfect. Rich and juicy, with a very thin crisp of crackling and a deliciously sticky surface. There was enough glaze to dip the meat into as well, which made a nice change.

slow roast pork belly

And then….oh dear sweet heaven, then there was steak.

From the grill

I agonised over what to have. The rib eye nearly won out, but I always have that – and why not? It is my favourite cut of meat – but then I thought I should go for something different. A Dexter Sirloin Chop. I’d never had Dexter beef, and a sirloin chop was unusual, so that was my choice and I am very glad that I chose it. Simon chose fillet, and he was just as happy with his dinner. We both chose a brandy, Dijon and shallot sauce to go with and it was just heavenly. I could have eaten that with a spoon all by itself. Rich and creamy but not overpowering.  Both cuts of beef were beautifully tender, but not squishy in texture, and the hint of char was just right. Next time I am so going for the rib eye, because I think I would probably be in beefy chargrilled heaven.

Dexter sirloin chop iiDexter sirloin chop Fillet steakFillet with brandy and dijon sauce 

We went a bit mad, and possibly ordered too many sides but they all looked so lovely!

Steak, steak and veggies

Basil and garlic roasted potatoes, buttered herbed carrot and courgette ribbons, buttered spinach and green beans with garlic. We like our garlic! I like to think that we did justice to it all. I think we only left a bit of spinach, to be truthful.

There was a moment of worry as to whether we could fit in dessert or not, but as we only had to go back to the hotel and lie down in our pants, we decided to go for it.

Chocolate brownie with peanut butter ice cream and cappuccino foam? Bring it on. I did get to taste a bit of the ice cream and that was stunning. The foam is served in a wee chocolate coffee cup! Cute, and tasty.

Chocolate brownie with PB icecream

I had a white chocolate parfait, with crushed honeycomb and caramelised pineapple. It was like the most adult choc ice in the world. I couldn't get enough of it. Melting and chewy at the same time, with a paper-thin coating of chocolate that broke into shards as you applied the spoon. It was a dessert of absolute divinity.

White chocolate parfait  Parfait close up

We rounded all of that off with sublime coffee – and they even give you a biscuit with that!

This is definitely a place to go back to. The service was lovely and friendly, the atmosphere lively but not too loud, and the prices are very reasonable indeed. We enthused about it to many people at the wedding reception as well! When you find steak that good, you have to share.

10/10 Anderson’s Bar and Grill, thank you for a very lovely birthday indeed.

Anderson’s Bar and Grill - http://www.andersonsbarandgrill.co.uk/

30 Mary Ann Street, St Paul’s Square, Birmingham, B3 1RL

03/07/2011

Low carbing, lunches and ignoring bread.

According to a lovely GP, years ago, I am supposed to eat a low carb diet. I have a fabulous thing called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – PCOS for short – which basically means that fertility is scarce (thankfully I care not) losing weight is not easy at all, and I am prone to acne, depression and excess hair. This could also be the result of coming from a family of short, round, fluffy Greeks but it never helps to have another reason as to why I’m fat. Oh, yes, along with PCOS comes insulin resistance, so unless I fancy being diabetic later on in life, I had better stick to this way of eating.

Now, most of these things can be fixed or hidden, but the losing weight thing, well, that just doesn’t happen. It doesn’t matter what I do, it takes me three times as long as anyone else to lose a pound in weight, and that is that. Believe me, I have been to enough diet classes and weigh ins to know this. It is one of the most frustrating things in the world to watch other people start Weight Watchers or Slimming World and after a few weeks have lost a stone or more. Me? Doesn’t happen. It took me a year to lose two stones on Slimming World and then another year on very strict Atkins to lose another two.

After ten years of Atkins, and more or less staying the same after that initial weight loss, I gave up. I’d had enough. I missed rice. I missed cooking ‘normal’ meals and being able to eat the same as the other people I cook for. It might seem like a small thing but when you have to cook two meals all the time, it’s a real pain in my large but lovely arse. Slowly, very slowly, the weight crept back on. Of course it did. That is what happens when you stop a diet regime and just eat what you want. Thank goodness not all of it did because even when I fall off the diet wagon that low carb fairy is still there, poking me in the stomach and telling me that pasta, sugar, rice, bread and potatoes are evil. I cannot eat those things without feeling a tremendous sense of guilt about it.

Last month I decided to get back on the wagon after a fairly disastrous month of comfort eating. I don’t usually comfort eat, but it was a bad month encompassing all the hormones in the world and some pretty rubbish emotional stuff. I wondered if the PCOS was starting to play up because of it so that was that. End of the line for YOU carby goodness. Back on the wagon for me.

The first week was easy, almost a relief to be honest. I bought the lactose free milk for work as that is lower carb (2.7g per 100ml as opposed to 4.7g per 100ml for regular whole milk). Soya milk is much, much lower but it isn’t quite the same in tea, and I drink a lot of tea.

I stocked up on things that I can eat, the difference being this time I am allowing myself beans and pulses though that might have to be revised. We’ll see. I’m loathe to give up houmous you see. I am allowing myself a few ryvita or a Dr Karg’s cracker if I need quick food, because low blood sugar leads to severe crying fits for me and no-one wants that. Anyway, my love of pulses and all things beany aside, I took photos of my lunches, mainly so I could remember what I’d eaten and prevent boredom setting in. Here they are, for your delight and excitation. This will probably only be fun for me but it is a nice record. Some days were repeated and needed no photos.

Artichokes, butterbean houmousBacon burgers, courgettes, butterbean houmusBig Fat Greek meze 1Celery, fennel salamiCelery, pork belly saladCorn fed chicken, garlicPork and fennel meatballsFlageolet beans and artichokesChicken, tomato and artichokeGrilled chicken saladLentils, sausages and black puddingFennel salami saladSucuk and chick peasMortadella, mozzarella, lambs lettuceSausage and asparagus

I won’t say that this is easy, because to be honest it is a lot of work for very little visible reward, but at least the food is good!