Month: March 2016

The Highline, Resorts World

Resorts World is a strange beast in the best possible sense. Part gambling mecca, part retail outlet centre, part leisure development, its location within the grounds of Genting Arena serves predominantly the throngs of people otherwise visiting the nearby exhibition halls. Initially I was sceptical; where was their core business, other than the constantly shifting demographics of those staying short term in a nearby hotel? I failed to see how they could constantly draw on more local support, when even the most local of those is a good taxi journey away. But what do I know. It transpires that their master plan is simple: To take the development and make certain parts of it more exclusive than what we already have anywhere else in the city. To offer the glitz of a five star hotel in bar and restaurant form with a suitable price tag. People are suckers for the glamorous and the expensive, few more than my fickle self.


All of which brings me to The Highline, a chintzy new bar restaurant within the confides of the development. It’s a pretty art deco styled space, with deep turquoise booths and monochrome fittings that ooze Great Gatsby style 1920’s chic, a sentiment echoed by smartly turned out staff who look to have been employed as much on their aesthetics as their congeniality.  The menu looks to New York for inspiration, with a strong Italian accent that you may find in the lower west side.  We start with corndogs like those I had in New York less than six months ago.  These are infinitely superior, the finely minced sausage inside a batter far lighter than it looks.  From there we take arancini balls that have a deep savoury flavour from plenty of porcini mushroom and properly jointed chicken wings which crack from their crisp batter.  The ingredients are high quality and everything avoids the greasiness that too often plagues deep fried food.




Meatballs are gutsy things of beef and spiced pork, sat in a thick puddle of tomato sauce that punches with plenty of garlic.  The bread which I would have piled these on to needs work, though it matters little as I dredge excellent fries through the last of the sauce.  Sliders are too big to rightly be labelled as such – instead consider them as three sandwiches for £14.00, which would easily feed two.  The Rueben is not quite there yet, whereas the beef burger very much is with a big whack of cow flavour offset by pickles with nice acidity.  There is another with more of the meatballs which disappears quickly.




Too full for dessert we order two desserts, purely in the name of research, of course.  A pop tart is everything that McDonalds wishes its apple pie could have been, with flaky pastry and a filling of apple and cinnamon which leaves you wanting more, without the first degree burns.  Best is a chocolate bomb, delicate in texture and big on flavour.  My advice is simple; come here for cocktails, order the meatballs and follow it up with this bomb for dessert.  Thank me afterwards.



Afterwards we go for a drink in The Sky Bar and very good they were, too.  From our perched seats we could see a couple eating at the chefs table that looked a far more serious intention from what we ate.   The taster menu they do is reason enough for a return, as would be Bottega, the prosecco bar with hunks of cured Italian meats.  Resorts World already has its doubters, though we were impressed.  It wears its ambition proudly on its sleeve.  And that is perfectly fine with me.


We were invited to eat at The Highline.  Opinions remain my own

The Highline Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato



Divinis, Prague

Right now we’re in the midst of a whatsapp conversation that centrals around finding an Italian restaurant for someone’s birthday. Menus are being batted about over instant messaging, price ranges are being discussed.  All the usual suspects in Birmingham are there and all of them will undoubtedly disappoint, with their identikit dishes, dried pasta, and lack of imagination.  Hang on, Pizza Express has been mentioned.  Holy shit.  I assume this is some kind of demented joke.  Nope.  They are being serious.  I bang my head repeatedly against a table and wonder what I have done in a past life to deserve this.  My opinion is being asked for:  I want to tell them we should book a flight to Prague, to Divinis where some of the best Italian food I have tried can be had.

Go to Prague and you will find Divinis tucked away on a back street in the Jewish Quarter, far from the stags and hens and strippers which marginally taint this beautiful city. It’s a conservative space in a affluent part of town and is expensive by local standards, which means it is not expensive at all.  The interior is warm beige, bright artwork and modernist light fittings.  The staff all have strong jawlines and matching checked shirts.  Its a nice place to spend an evening by any standard.

Cold cuts of meat speak of intention, amongst them impeccably sourced mortadella and salami.  The board is dotted with salty pecorino, whilst the accompanying olives and sundried tomatoes feel like an afterthought that we are glad for.  There is homemade raviolo rolled so thinly that we can see the cheese and spinach through its opaque skin.  The thick tomato sauce which layers the plate is a testament to time and seasoning.  A blancmange coloured risotto is less about its additions of sausage and courgette and more about the rice, cooked perfectly to al dente.  Such attention to detail leads me to guess that whoever does the cooking here is either Italian or an Italian obsessive.  Either is fine with me.




We order braised ox cheeks because we are told that they are a specialist of the chef.  They do not disappoint, though portion size dictates that there is no need for them to be plural.  The marsala wine they have been cooked in has added a slight acidity which holds up against the fatty meat and sweet raisins.  Its a rich dish, as the best ones always are, and it needs the spinach to provide respite.


Veal osso buco is the kind of dish I wish we would see in every Italian restaurant but seldom do.  Here the medallions have been braised until its just holding its shape, with the cooking liquor and fine dice of vegetables clinging on for dear life.  Its good interpretation held true by a gremolata full of garlic and parsley that brings everything to life. I pile on the creamy garlic risotto that it is served with and clean the plate whilst wondering where else in the world I could find such delight for under fifteen pound.

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Dessert would be a curveball of finesse compared to the rustic fare that had previously been served to us.  A well made cherry parfait has cracks of sea salt throughout will elevate the fruit flavour, and a deconstructed Jaffa Cake – my words, not theirs – that is as good to eat as it is to look at. The sweetened cubes of bread are the textural base to provide distance between segments of orange and pipe bitter chocolate.  Just like the parfait it excels at not being overly sweet whilst still feeling like a dessert.



The meal comes at a price similar to what we would find at home with a level of cooking well above what we are used to for Italian cuisine.  Starters and desserts all under a tenner, mains not much more.  We take advice on the wine and plump for a Czech white which does little to repay my faith.  Still, as far as finding somewhere to eat in Prague I could recommend Divinis highly enough.  There is warmth and skill aplenty which I would return to in a heartbeat.