Opus at Cornwall Street, Birmingham

I visited Opus at Cornwall Street to celebrate the end of final year exams. I had heard lots of great things about the place and so wanted to check it out for myself. With it being a 2 AA Rosette restaurant with some of the finest, seasonal ingredients it is a top end restaurant with prices to match, but we were celebrating so decided to take the plunge.

 

We were greeted by a gentleman who took our coats set the standard for the service to come. Not only are you paying for the food here but a seamless and professional service. We were offered two menus: the Market Menu and A La Carte. The Market Menu consists of 2-3 dishes per course for a reduced rate that changes everyday. The A La Carte had considerably more choice with 6-7 dishes to choose from. Both menus are tweaked daily to make the most of seasonal produce which I love. After much consideration we decided to go for the A La Carte because after all we were celebrating and several things jumped out at us.

 

We began with a few oysters each. Served with shallot vinegar and fresh horseradish, they were delicious. Wonderful and fresh, they slipped down without a second thought. The dish they were served in (pictured below) meant the table remained clutter free. We had some bread at the same time, which was served warm. The butter was perfectly soft and easily spreadable. A touch I really appreciated; I hate spreading butter fresh out of the fridge onto bread because it doesn’t spread!

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For starters, Danny and I went for the same, pan-fried breasts of quail, confit leg, fresh peas and watercress salad. It was wonderfully juicy and tender. I love the combination with the apple which gave it a really light and fresh taste. My favourite part of the dish was the centrepiece of the dish (see picture below)which was nice and crisp on the outside yet still juicy on the inside. A wonderfully light dish which set the path for the star of the show.

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Now the main… the main was delicious, John Dory, scallops, crushed salad blue potatoes, spiced cauliflower fritters and a spiced cauliflower purée. The John Dory was perfectly cooked and the skin was beautifully crispy. The scallops were huge and meaty and lightly browned on the outside and the curried parsnip purée and fritters were sensational. Finally, the potatoes, were lovely and soft and more BLUE (how exciting!). This dish really was delicious and I will be dreaming of it for weeks to come; an ideal dish as summer draws closer.

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Overall, I really enjoyed this extravagant evening (for a student). I would love to head back soon but fear for my bank balance. Nonetheless, this is not to say it is overpriced, you pay for what you get and that is brilliant service, delicious food and an upmarket but relaxed atmosphere. I would really recommend Opus and would love to go back to try something from the Market Menu.

The Butchers Arms, Priors Hardwick

For this years Mothers Day 13 of us piled into the already busy Butchers Arms in Priors Hardwick (Warwickshire). It had been on my Granny’s list as a place to visit for a while so Mothers Day seemed like the perfect occasion to treat her. In total, our party had four Mothers to celebrate and being a family who love food, the Butchers Arm was a good place to come. From the exterior it seems like a traditional British pub, and it is to some extent… other than the fact that it is run by a Portuguese family and a few other things I shall mention… However, it truly is a family run pub with at least two generations waiting and chatting with guests.

There was a huge selection of starters. After settling on whitebait my Aunt declared that I must try something different. “I rather fancy some nice whitebait” I thought (in my head) but gave her the benefit of the doubt and chose Duck the Oriental Gressingham Duck Salad – two duck cakes served with sweet hoi sin sauce and tossed dressed leaves.

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I have been having a bit of a hankering for duck recently, however, I wish I had stuck with my initial choice and gone with the whitebait. Even more annoying was looking across the room (we had two tables because apparently it’s bad luck to had 13 people to one table) to see my Dad munching on a nice piece of whitebait looking very happy with himself. My brother had the same problem as me and we found the duck cakes to be quite dry, it really did need the sauce on the side… and more. However, everyone else was happy with their choices (especially Dad).

With it being Mothering Sunday there was a choice of a roast (chicken, lamb, beef, pork) and two fish dishes (sea bass and halibut). I went for the halibut which came with prawns, spinach, an asparagus creamy sauce and some delicious buttery potatoes. The asparagus seemed a little dull in colour but nevertheless tasted good. This was my first time having halibut so I would like to try it again before coming to a firm judgement but I couldn’t help but think it was a little dry.

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After delivering my fish, and for the rest of my family, their meat, potatoes and yorkshire puddings, waiters came round with carrots and broccoli, serving it straight onto our plates. I really liked this little touch and the waiters were really chatty and friendly. These veggies were buttery and cooked to perfection. I had a taste of my Aunts beef and it was delicious but the gravy was already served onto the plates and my cousin who only likes a little gravy was a tad disappointed.

Puddings was something else. A waitress reeled off pudding after pudding – probably around 10 in total – which were served straight from a pudding table in the centre of the room. Usually the puddings go round on a trolly but the pub was so crammed that it had to be stationary. I went for a simple plate of strawberries and cream, the strawberries were huge and I would have liked some clotted cream but the double cream served did the trick. Others had meringues with caramel and strawberries and some had traditional Portuguese puddings.

The pub has lots of seating areas, indoors and out for coffees after eating which was just what we needed to kick back and let the meal go down. Dotted around, on the walls were signed photos of celebrities who had popped by for a meal at the pub. There was a huge amount of them and from what I gather, people have a real connection to the family who run the pub. This really makes for a great atmosphere; the service was quick and friendly and the staff were passionate about the food. I would like to head back here soon to try the à la carte menu as they have some great fish dishes that I hope are as good as those served in Portugal.

I would recommend The Butchers Arms for a relaxed and friendly meal. Despite my reservations I will be returning to order that whitebait!!!

Côte, Bristol

On a recent visit to Clifton (Bristol) to visit my grandparents I was treated to a visit to their favourite restaurant, Côte. My expectations were high after endless positive comments from family members. It was particularly busy for a Thursday night… they had just served a party of 53 as we arrived so we sighed with relief that we had missed the rush. Even though they were busy putting the restaurant back to together with chairs going backwards and forwards, the waiters were great and attentive throughout the evening.

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We skipped straight to main courses in the hope that a dessert would take our fancy afterwards. I went for the cod goujons and frites (posh fish and chips) served with a lake of tartar sauce (£10.95). I’m not sure if I was more hungry that usual, but I could have done with a few more goujons or some chunkier chips as I was left wanting a little bit more! It was delicious though, posh fish and chips through and through. The tartar sauce wasn’t too overpowering so I lapped it up. Overall, it was so tasty, so tasty that I wanted more. I had an authentic, French cloudy lemonade to go with my meal. It was refreshing, light and a perfect accompaniment.

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My grandma had a meal from the specials. It was veal served with apple and cabbage with a thyme based sauce. Another happy Côte customer. Grandpa had two starters, the first a crab mayonnaise with sourdough bread, and the second, sliced smoked salmon with capers, dill and creme fraiche and some bread. The menu has so much to offer, the decision was a tough one. I am happy to say, I have no regrets with the cod goujons, small… but that’s only because I’m greedy and I like to eat until I have to be peeled off my chair and rolled home.

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“Would you like to see the dessert menu?”

“Well, I suppose we could have a look.”

We all know what that means. We’re having dessert! I was still after something savoury so went for the cheese board which came with roquefort, reblochon and comtè and wonderful warm bread. Grand-ma had the dark chocolate mousse or  as she said, ‘pure chocolate’ and Grandpa had the apple tart. We all left feeling full to the brim, happy with the evenings offerings. What can I say, they’ve got good taste my Grandparents.

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Côte can be found all over the UK so make sure you pop in sometime soon. There is a huge selection with specials on top. The interior is really nice too, a comfy restaurant. The Clifton one even had little tables with small desk lamps and one guest reading into the night. How lovely.