burrito

The Dark Horse, Moseley

I offer no apologies for the bias that comes with this post. It would be nigh on impossible for me to write about The Dark Horse without taking into account the many nights I’ve spent in the bar drinking endless of amounts of gin, or beer, or bourbon. It is the place at the bottom of the hill, the two minute six second stroll to the pub, or the four minute stagger home. It is the place where the night occasionally descends into fable, where impromptu limbo contents have been known to occur on a Tuesday night, bottles of overproof rum have been plonked on tables, or endless picklebacks have been drunk until I’ve gone home and mistaken my coat rack as a urinal. The Dark Horse is the place I go for a quiet drink on the way back from work, for the midweek open mic nights, or for a closing time dance on the weekend before half of the village comes back to mine. The good times happen here, that is the least you should know.

And yet I’ve never written about the food. Never really considered it, to be honest. Why should I. I’ve always considered what I do to be a study of a menu, not a post dragged out from a pizza I’ve eaten when I was pissed. Plus I like just being another local with a drink problem to the staff behind the bar instead of the bellend with a blog that I am elsewhere. But things have changed recently. They have a new head chef and the food is slowly taking a new direction; more focus on vegetables, a better understanding of fish; the smoker that was once central to the menu is now another gadget in the large open kitchen out back to be used only when required. The food is better than it ever has been, which I suppose is my job to tell you.

Take the truffle mac’n’cheese, so often a let down of overcooked pasta and gloopy béchamel. Here the pasta retains a little bite and the sauce is big on robust cheddar flavours. I can think of only one place that does a better version in Birmingham and I can’t walk there so in your face, suckers. Smoked salmon is wrapped around a salmon and beetroot mousse, before being encased in sheets of pasta and cut into cylinders. It comes on slick of beetroot puree and with a few sweet potato crisps. Yes, it is a bit cheffy, and no, I didn’t expect to see it on the menu (it’s still not on the online version…), but christ is it good. Balanced and delicate, it shows a new direction that happens to be far stronger than the old one.

When they do look to the smoker it’s still cooking of a high standard. The beef tacos are no longer cooked to a mush, now having enough texture to know it is animal you’re eating. The rest of it works; the tacos (likely shop purchased, but frankly who cares) the guac and the chilli. Same goes for the burrito; I dont like the flabby tortilla and I’ve told them as much, but I do like the control and the balance of the filling that never sits still in the mouth. In particular I like the rice that has a slight Persian feel to it and the grilled chicken which is more fragrant than spicy. That chicken returns for a salad that looks and tastes far too healthy to be within these four walls. Claire mutters something about walking down to eat this as a healthy dinner, which to me sounds like a great excuse for a pint.

I can tell you from watching the World Cup here that the pizza is decent, and from a recent work night out that the BBQ beans taste great on just about anything. I can tell you from a meal a few months ago that the Kansas city chicken would not be on my personal list of recommendations, but that even the most robust of meateaters will enjoy the vegan goodness of the Texas caviar salad, even if I still have absolutely no idea what Texas caviar is. I can tell you that that when you get there Karolina will be smiling from behind the bar and Ellis will be giving even the straightest men a stonker in their y-fronts. I can tell you that my mate Tom will be sat on the patio having a pint with just about anybody, and that should you see him you should buy him one for services towards Moseley. Most of all I can tell you that the food is a world away from what it once was and is well worthy of your time. I hear they also do a great Sunday roast, though I’m usually far too hungover to try that personally.

8/10

I once got an A2B home here. True Story.

New York, A Round Up

Prior to our New York trip I took food planning to a new level. Inside the depths of my iPhone were each district of the city, marked out with places to eat for each budget and every plausible occasion. Want somewhere to eat on the cheap in Little Italy? I have it covered. Breakfast in Mid Town? I’m your man. Except I’m not. Even the best made plans go to waste. It transpires that not everyone wants a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at 10am, or that even I care where we eat after drinking all day. After already posting on our experiences at Gramercy Tavern and Momofuku Noodle Bar, here is a snapshot of the rest of our eating in the Big Apple.

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I have been dreaming about Dos Toros ever since we came back. I don’t care that it is a chain – for me they have the perfect business model. It’s fairly priced, they have real ethics about meat sourcing, and, most importantly, a product that works. The burritos are absolutely the best I have ever had and make the UK’s efforts look pathetic in comparison. The braised meat (we tried both the pork and the chicken), the guacamole, the black beans, even the bloody tortilla. Even single element was handmade and delicious. Add a hot sauce with enough raw heat to induce tears and beer which is almost as cheap as water and you have one of my favourite places in the world.

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This can not be said about a couple of other places.  We ended up at The Sugar Factory on the recommendation of a server in a bar whilst on the hunt for Americana in The Meat Packing district.  I can only assume she hated the Brits.  Its the stuff of nightmares; TGI Fridays seen through the eyes of Heat magazine.  The walls are plastered with pictures of awful celebrities whist awful staff serve awful food.  I never took photos as I was too busy looking in disbelief at the dead fly on the rim of my cocktail glass.  The scariest part was not the bone dry chicken, or the heart attack inflicting deep fried mac and cheese, but that the place was full.

The Jintan ended up our default diner when the queue at Momofuku Noodle Bar defeated us first time around.  In premise, its a great neighbourhood Japanese restaurant; low stools, dim lighting, a big sake list and a menu with some things in soup, some raw things, and other things battered and deep fried.  The reality is it wasn’t very good, with vegetable tempura that bordered on raw and a notably bad chicken katsu curry, which tasted a bit like my mothers stew did, only not as nice.  Add staff who were up there with some of the rudest I am yet to encounter and you have somewhere with no real redeeming feature other than it serving ramen across the road from somewhere where people may get fed up of queuing at for ramen.

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That same evening we had a table booked at PDT, an achingly cool speak-easy through the phone box at Crif Dogs in the East Village.  Still hungry and getting drunker by the minute, I try a hotdog wrapped in bacon and loaded with kimchi spicy enough to make you question your choice the following day.  It was good, but then I live within walking distance of Chilli Dog Hotdogs, so perhaps I’m spoilt when it comes to sausages in a bun.

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We finish our trip with an eating challenge at The Pullman Kitchen because my friend Phil and I would rather eat 5lbs of food than walk around Bloomingdales handbag shopping all day.  The Beast of Midtown East is just that; some deep-fried chicken, waffles, cheese, peppers, bacon, ham and the kitchen sink.  Did we finish it? Of course not.  But we had a great time trying, partially because the girl behind the bar exhuded the sort of charismatic service that we had stupidly hoped was standard in NYC, and partially because the sandwich was very nice.  It would make a great lunch for 2-3 people, but for one it was just daft.  The Pullman Kitchen is a lovely neighbourhood bar-restaurant, which just happens to house a stupendous sandwich. Here is Phil with The Beast of the Midtown East:

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So, a mixed bag in this grand city, with unsurprisingly the researched places coming out better than those left to chance.  Not that this is a shock; look to any major city with a large foot-flow of tourists and you’ll have to search hard for the good ‘uns amongst those looking to make a fast buck from a good location.  But none of this has detracted from New York – its one of the finest places in the world.  It will take more than one or two dodgy meals to stop me going back.

Dos Toros 8/10

Sugar Factory 0/10

The Jintan NYC 3/10

PDT 7/10

The Pullman Kitchen 8/10

Dos Toros Taqueria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sugar Factory Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

PDT (Please Don't Tell) Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Pullman Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato