June Degustabox

degustaboxLots of lovely goodies in June’s Degustabox.  I am loving the little pesto pots from Sacla.  They are nice and small with a single serving in each one.  My main problem with pesto is that I don’t seem to get through a jar quickly enough, so this is a good solution.  I also think it would be good to take backpacking as they are very light and would be easy to prepare.  Heinz Amoy Coconut Milk is perfect for incorporating into a lot of Asian cuisine like a Thai Green Curry.  The Branston Spicy Tomato Relish would be perfect for a summer barbecue: it goes very nicely with burgers and hot dogs. While we are on the subject of barbecues, Schwartz have an American Smokehouse Homemade Burger Mix which has been formulated to make tasty, juicier burgers.  You just add the mix to your mince. Haywards Medium and Tangy Silverskins (pickled onions) weren’t for me as I am not a pickle fan, but my husband does enjoy this sort of thing and they do bring a little tang to a salad or a ploughman’s lunch. Miracle Noodles are a perfect addition to any quick, after-work meal and perfect with a stir fry.

Degustabox drinksDrinks from Zeo have appeared in Degustabox deliveries before and this Cloudy Lemon was a welcome sight.  We love a traditional lemonade and this one has natural sweetener stevia as well as sugar, so each 250ml serving only has 28 calories.  Marstons have created Kin Star a handcrafted lager with bold flavours, which is great as lagers can so often be a bit insipid.


There are some sweet treats too.  We liked the Destrooper-Oliver Butter Waffle Crisps and we partnered them with ice cream for a bit of crunch with our dessert.Have you tried a bake in a mug brownie yet?  This a fun one to do on a wet afternoon or when you just need a little treat: Bakedin Chocolate Mug Brownie Mix.  Butterkist Yoghurt Coated Popcorn adds something a bit different to popcorn and this is perfect for movie night.  Smooze Mango and Coconut is a ‘freeze at home’ fruit ice with all natural ingredients.  This one is for me as I’m the coconut fan in this house.  Perfect for those hot summer afternoons.

A Cocktail Masterclass At All Bar One, Newhall Street

all bar one cocktail masterclass All Bar One on Newhall Street was the venue for a cocktail masterclass.  We arrived to find out that we were going to be making Mojitos, French Martinis and Disaronno Sour.  I loved the combination of something I hadn’t tried before (French Martini) with one of my favourites (Mojito).

mojito cocktailFirst up was a Mojito, which is one of my favourite cocktails to order whenever I’m at a cocktail bar. I was interested to see how this was done because whilst I have often drunk them, I’d never made one before.  I’d kind of assumed that with most cocktails you put the ingredients together and give them a bit of a shake, but it seems there is more to it than this.  I think I’ll enjoy my mojitos more now that I know how they are made.  I liked that it was explained how to make it less sweet and a bit more sour because I prefer a drier taste for my drinks.

cocktail with chambordNext up was a new one to me: French Martini.  This is quite a sweet cocktail with its mix of Ciroc Pineapple, Chambord and pineapple juice, but it was very nice.  I think I’d just have one of these in an evening as I think I’d find a second one a bit sweet for my taste buds.

disaronno cocktailOur last cocktail was a Disaronno Sour.  I think this might actually be a new favourite for me.  It’s got that lovely Disaronno taste and it isn’t too sweet.

I’d very much recommend a cocktail masterclass at All Bar One, Newhall Street, Birmingham. We had friendly, fun instruction and got to drink our creations.  I think it would be a perfect way to celebrate a birthday or just have a get together with a group of friends.

Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill, Birmingham Review

1-IMG_3740We went to Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill in The Cube in Birmingham the other week.  We’d had lunch bought for us there as a Christmas present and we needed to use the voucher before it expired.  Booking online was easy enough, but we got a distinctively unfriendly acknowledgement email laying down all sorts of rules and regulations: arrive 15 minutes before your booking; don’t be more than so many minutes late; we’ll charge you extra for a window seat; if you want a doggy bag you’ll have to sign a disclaimer.  It was all a bit off-putting and it didn’t get things off to a good start.

view from Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill BirminghamWhen we got there though it wasn’t quite like that.  We had a window seat and so did most people who were there for the lunch sitting.  There was no extra charge, maybe there is in the evening.  The room is what you expect from a high-end restaurant with thick white table cloths and the like, but what sets the restaurant out is its views.  Originally, my husband sat in the window with me facing, but he couldn’t cope with that (he’s scared of heights), so we had to swap.  Heights bother me not at all thankfully and I enjoyed looking around the panoramic view of my city.  It was really strange to look at places I know so well from high up and see how they join up including the bits you don’t usually see like the train line corridors.  I guess at night you can see the city lit up, but I think the daytime view was more interesting.

caesar salad with avocadoThe lunch menu has a limited choice (as you’d expect), but we had no problem making a choice.  I went for the Caesar Salad which I was intrigued to see included avocado.  It didn’t work very well.  The avocados added nothing to the dish and it needed more crunch (there weren’t that many croutons).  A Caesar Salad is a classic dish that lots of chefs like to play around with to put their own individual take on things.  Generally, I find messing around with this classic combination doesn’t work well and this dish was no exception sadly.

squid ringsMy husband chose a little better with his crispy Calamari Rings served with a tartare sauce.  They were everything you’d expect: a simple dish executed well.

fish and chips marco pierre whiteI had the Fish and Chips for my main course.  It was a lovely piece of fish which had been nicely cooked.  The fish was enormous though and I struggled to finish it (but I didn’t dare ask for a doggy bag). If I was going to criticise I’d say that it would have been nicer to have had less fish and few more chips to achieve a better balance.

burger marco pierre whiteMy husband’s burger arrived on a wooden board which was a bit disappointing.  I really wish restaurants would move away from this nonsense: I’d rather have my meals on a plate.  Also I prefer to have my food together, rather than divided up with the chips in a separate little copper pan as they were with this dish.  No complaints on the taste front and this was a quality burger (my husband is very fussy about his beef).

creme brulee marco pierre whiteWe both went for the Creme Brûlée with Raspberries for our dessert.  This looked lovely and was nicely prepared.  The only thing was that using a shallow, wide dish meant that you got a lot of the burnt caramelised layer in proportion to the creamy layer beneath and we felt that the balance was out because of it.  It’s a shame because if it had been served in standard ramekin, it would have been perfect.

The service was good at Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill and we liked the fact that they had a bar area so you could have a drink before or after your meal if you wished.  The food was good, but nothing outstanding, so you are paying a premium for the name and the view at £25 for a three course meal.  That said, it is worth visiting for the view alone.

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