Month: September 2015

The Keg and Grill, Birmingham

I have been quiet of recent; I know this and I apologise. I had taken a couple of weeks to go on one of those silly diets that permits pork scratching’s, cheese and not much else. I have become an eggspert (apologies) at omelettes and being boring, forgoing alcohol and my sense of humour to halt the waistband creeping up towards 36 inches. Diets aren’t fun – anyone that tells you otherwise needs to invest in a life instead of the latest juicer – they suck the life out of mealtimes and make it impossible to eat out. Midway through my descent into hell I was put in the usual position of being tasked with finding us somewhere to eat: I had nothing, not through lack of good options, but for my singular restrictions of what I could put in to my system without committing carbicide. For that reason the suggestion of The Keg and Grill is owed to the personal trainer at my local gym, who, in-between scolding my crash dieting plans, almost shed a tear when telling me about the mixed grill there.

Fortunately, I saw sense on the day and decided that I had a life to live and curry to eat.  We keep the booking in place because I have a good idea of what to expect.  The owner here used to run The Hen & Chickens, a pub that features high up Tripadvisor’s  list of Birmingham thanks to its Indian grill kitchen.  I’m a big fan of these places; they breath life into public houses that would probably close otherwise, providing a style of food that far exceeds the soggy cheese sandwich’s which once frequented the counter.  Inside it’s a cosy pub, fully functioning with locals perched at the bar.  A lick of bright orange paint about covers the extent of the refurbishment.


About eighty percent of all dishes we saw leaving the kitchen were mixed grills, so that seems the obvious place to start.  For a tenner, its a beast, where you can fill your boots with whatever meat you like just as long as it is chicken.  I lie:  There is also lamb seekh keebab’s, though the skewered dry meat is instantly forgettable.  Going back to the bird, we have accurately butchered morsels coated with honey & mustard and tandoori drumsticks that are both piquant with heat and soothing with yoghurt.  Breast meat is represented two ways; as a traditional tikka with a similar marinade to the drumsticks and as a chilli tikka, unlike anything I had tried before.  This is their bright green calling card, all balanced heat and mellow bitterness.


We try curries because it would be rude not.  Both, despite traditionally being from the tamer end of the menu, are firmly set to “Hot”.  A rich butter chicken cannot escape from the big whack of chilli, as neither can the tikki masala, despite being heavy on the cream.  They are unrefined, but then we are on a backstreet in a part of the city centre where refinement is low on the list of priorities.  Fluffy naans and rice perked with the umami whack of mushrooms complete the order.




With no desserts on offer we pay the bill and consider our next move.  Its remarkably cheap, with only the large grill over a tenner, and that will feed three people comfortably.  I’ve been to enough of these grill pubs to say the cooking is honest, if maybe not up some of its competition on the outskirts of the city.  Would I rush back especially to eat the food?  Probably not.  But as a one-stop-shop of meat, beer, and Sky Sports; The Keg and Grill has that in the bag for its locations.  That’s where places like these come into a league of their own.


The Keg and Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Deliveroo; Chilli Dog Dog’s / Heavenly Desserts

If you are one of the dozens of people that follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that I am partial to food from Chilli Dog Dog’s. I occasionally post pictures of their food, which, if you are not familiar with their back catalogue, mostly amounts to buns containing protein and other stuff that tastes nice. These food porn images have led to a bit of an on-line bromance with Simon, the cordial chap that slaves behind a grill in the backyard of The Prince of Wales so that I can get fatter. He humours me, which is an achievement in itself. Outside of Twitter our relationship extends to me being a drunk and him working in a beer garden that I often drink in. I am a big fan of his cooking, so when those nice fellows at Deliveroo suggested that I have a dinner on them, there was only one place I was going to fill my boots at.

I keep on returning to Chilli Dog because the standard is consistently high. In a market saturated with burgers and hotdogs he takes prime ingredients’ and doesn’t mess with them – a concept that I wish would catch on. Given the nature of this blog I should be out trying others and probably wishing that I hadn’t, but I don’t because I am fastidious and difficult with the food that I eat. I am also intrinsically lazy, so praise to Deliveroo for saving me the hassle of changing out of my pj’s and getting my dinner to me within forty minutes. Even if the man on the scooter had to handle over the goods to a rotund ageing man in a dressing gown.

The food which arrived may have had the precision knocked out of it a little by the short ride up the road, but it was hot and packed with all the flavour that I have come to expect. A cheese and bacon burger was the star; the texture tightly packed, the beef flavour massive from the coarse meat of an animal that had been properly aged since its offing. Thick, cured bacon gave smokey notes which were eventually wiped away by the pickles. Everything served a purpose. It wipes the floor with any other burger locally and you’ll be hard pushed to find a better one in the city. A Mexicana Dog has toppings of guacamole, cheese sauce, sour cream and jalapenos. It’s not conventional, though it works because the sausage is of extraordinary quality from Lashford’s. The pork flavour inside the crisp skin is ramped up enough to handle enough to handle everything that is thrown at it. It’s messy, but then the best things in life are.



Side dishes from here are usually bypassed in my attempts for a quick nosh between beers, though this time we try a variety to turn it into a main meal. Out of the additional carb’s we order only nacho’s disappoint by being far too salty, even for my taste buds. Chips have crispy exterior and fluffy centres thanks to several cooking processes, whilst a mac and cheese has pasta with just enough bite. What holds them all together is molten nacho sauce, thick like custard and cheesier than four bar stools containing the members of Westlife, for which I would love the recipe for.


It was a different proposition for the second Deliveroo of the evening.  I was aware of Heavenly Desserts in the sense that I had seen the constant queue of people that I was never going to wait in:  I simply don’t like sweet things enough to stand around and wait in line with strangers for them.  What arrived twenty minutes from order on my doorstep would be my first experience of them; quality was generally high, though everything was very sweet.  A chocolate cheesecake was intense on the cocoa flavour and light in texture, the accompanying Belgian chocolate ice cream equally indulgent.  It’s a chocoholics dream (which I hasten to add, that I am not) and a relative steal at £4.90.  For the same price a waffle, a wheel trim in size and appearance, felt less value.  The sweet batter was a little heavy, the sugar levels in the white chocolate sauce relentless, even more so with the addition of whipped cream that was packaged separate.



The highlight of the Heavenly Dessert order was a special that was a play on Ferrero Rocher.  Chunks of waffle, intermingled with crisp chocolate pieces and chopped hazelnuts, nutella and cream, topped with a massive scoop of hazelnut ice cream.  If the waffle was one-dimensional this was a riot of texture and temperatures, with familiar flavours cleverly pronounced.


A final quick word on Deliveroo, because they covered my dinner and therefore deserve it.  The on-line ordering is simple, the delivery process efficient and hassle-free.  It is never going to replace my obsession with dining out, but it does continue to give me options of eating at great places on the nights when I want the comfort of my own home.  In instances such as Heavenly Desserts its a no-brainer:  Why queue for thirty minutes in a store when you can have your sugar rush delivered to your front door in twenty?  And with Chilli Dog Dog’s, well you should regardless, because its bloody brilliant.  Go on, treat yourself.  You deserve it.

Chilli Dog Dog’s 9/10

Heavenly Desserts 7/10

Deliveroo picked up the bill on this occasion, though I’ve since ordered (again) on my own accord.  Mostly because I appreciate nice food and so do they.  Go check them out at

Le Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham

I wanted to wait a while before writing this. To give it a week or so to allow the emotions to settle and the sheen of alcohol to disperse from the bloodstream. On too many occasions over the last year I have been guilty of bashing away at the keyboard the morning after and letting the previous evenings emotions take over. Scores become a product of the overall experience, rather than the meal itself, which, I hate to break to you, is the purpose of this blog. In truth, a very good meal late last year was probably bumped up to the score it got because straight afterwards we went up The Shard and got pissed on cocktails. Fast forward twenty-hours and I am still high from being high up, waxing lyrically about the day to one and all, with it now reflected over an exaggerated 500 words.  Not this time.  I need clarity: Time to digest, both metaphorically and physically, which is what I have done with last week’s two and a half hours at Le Champignon Sauvage. Now I can confidentially tell you that my initial reactions were correct: It was one of the greatest meals of my life.


The legend of the kitchen here that may go some way to explaining the quality on the plates leaving the pass.  The man behind the stoves is David Everitt-Matthias; a cook’s cook by some stretch.  Whilst others are working their way through the BBC food roster, the chef here is yet to miss a service since they opened in 1987.  He has little care for the modern frivolities of the cooking world, choosing to focus on feeding the diner over his ego.  It is David’s wife, Helen, who presides with grace over a dining room which at best can be described as composed, or dull in other eyes.  Little does this matter for the fireworks are all reserved for the cooking.

From the start we knew we were in for a treat.  Brioche tuile, a bacon muffin of impossible lightness, a cube of something gelatinous coated with chorizo powder, all gone in seconds.  This is followed by a small ceramic pot with a set cabbage cream at the bottom, a bacon foam and some crunchy nuggets of black pudding.  It tastes like the very best of Irish home cooking condensed into a couple of mouthfuls.  The other half half has the same base, with shavings of cauliflower and hazelnut atop.  Miraculously it is the same earthy notes, minus the meat content.  Bread is presented, the star of which is the bacon and shallot brioche.  I ignore the rule about not filling up on carbs and go back to it three more times during the meal.

007 006


We order fairly priced wines from the Loire and Gironde which come with the seal of approval from Helen and descend into our chairs a little further.  Starters appear, my partners a faultless combination of Jerusalem artichoke and truffle.  The choke, both water bathed and fried, offset against a truffle shaved, grated and reduced it a tar like substance that I would like to take home and slather on some toast.  A scattering of bitter leaves and dots of apple puree balance out the richness.  The one word note in my phone says it all.  Perfect.  It overshadowed my well-timed pigeon breast with baby carrots and spiced carrot puree, but then it would overshadow anything.



Cheap cuts and brawn may not be to everyone’s taste, but to those who it is not, I’m sorry, we can’t be friends.  The wobbly bits of soft porcine meat and fat from the pigs head that lay at the base of my plate would be the starting point for one of the very best things that I have ever eaten.  Add to the mix bits of braised cheek and belly and what you have is a winner.  Croquettes that open up to be molten sweetcorn provide interest and sweetness which would be levelled out by tenderstem and pickled wild mushrooms.  Its intrinsic cooking of flawless work and ballerina like poise.  I find myself scraping the plate for last of the head meat with a crispy bit of pig skin.  If there has ever been a more masculine sentence written than that, I would like to go for a pint of beer with the man that wrote it.


Whilst I was lost in a piggy haze, the veggie was working her way through a dish equally exceptional.  Translucent discs of turnip gently folded over a smoked onion puree, silky smooth and potent in flavour.  It shared the plate with more wild mushrooms, wilted lettuce and peas, both fresh and pureed.  As with the starter, the dish was set up so nothing detracted from the purity of the vegetable flavour.  It is cohesive and expertly judged.


A pre-dessert of set mascarpone with chocolate sponge and coffee nods successfully towards a tiramisu without ever really touching the heights of the previous courses.  It’s a welcome break, though we are quickly back with a mille feuille of peaches and raspberries intertwined with a lemon verbena cream.  I am not usually a fan of shrubbery in my sweet course, though here the floral notes were restrained and in harmony with the fruit of stunning quality. The accompanying peach ice cream was a thing of beauty.  I’ve eaten my far share of mille feuille’s; this may be my favourite.




We finish with petite fours that are a step too far for our bulging waistlines.  Amongst them are mini baba doused in rum and a chocolate dusted in liquorice that slips out of my fat fingers and on to the crisp white linen.  I take this as our cue to leave, even if the waitress greets the black smudge with the same cheeriness that has met us with every course this evening.  Le Champignon Sauvage is a lovely place where wonderful things happen on plates without any evident pretence.  My only issue is with my scoring.  The top score I am obviously going to give it puts it up with some very good places, but this is a special restaurant, worthy of top billing on its own.  The clarity of flavour.  The ambition to match the execution on every dish, flawless from start to finish.  I’ll repeat it once again:  One of the greatest meals of my life.


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