Posts Tagged ‘review’

Bay Leaf Restaurant, Custard Factory – Review

October 13th, 2011

I’ve had the pleasure of teaching bread skills and working on a couple of occasions with the enterprising owner of a new Bangladeshi restaurant that’s opened up in the Custard Factory, Aftab Rahman. I remember talking to Aftab about Bay Leaf over a year ago, back when I was bitching about naan bread and visiting his other restaurant, Mint in Yardley. It’s taken me way too long to visit though, but we finally got round to it last Saturday. Aftab has certainly chosen a challenge, the previous occupier of their site in the Custard Factory was the ill-fated fine dining car crash that was Matthews. I never went myself (it wasn’t open long enough), but I remember reading the reviews with pity.

Like Mint, Bay Leaf is certainly pushing their Bangladeshi roots in their publicity, and Aftab is certainly genuinely proud of that heritage, which is refreshing to see in the age of the ubiquitous ‘Indian’ and ‘Curry House’. The menu seems to display several dishes that I’ve not seen on a menu before but there are notable concessions to what Aftab calls ‘vintage’ curries – korma’s, balti’s, dhansak’s etc… A bit of arm-twisting has gone on to allow these onto the menu, which is a shame I think. We stick to the signature dishes and plump for a lamb haleem, and the freestyle chicken which as the questionable title suggests is a daily changing version of chicken cooked on the bone – cooked with spinach and channa today, accompanied by rice and chapatti (I still avoid naan’s these days). The lamb was genuinely fall-apart tender and the accompanying sauce had a spicy sweetness followed by a pleasant and not overpowering bitter astringency from the Bangladeshi limes. The chicken was good too, plenty of it, still moist and nicely accompanied by the mild sauce and iron-y spinach. Chapatti’s were excellent, far better than mine and better than I’ve had anywhere – light, fluffy, and smoking hot. Flavour-wise there was little to fault our main dishes although presentation on the plate could certainly be stepped up with a little more thought. We shared a gulab jamun for dessert, which was flamed with brandy at the table which is a nice twist for a traditional dessert, although executed a little clumsily with a camping stove set up next to the table. Presumably a heated spoon and a match could do the trick a bit more elegantly.

One of the best points about Bay Leaf is the well-stocked bar and the manager Abbs who is very attentive and a trained sommelier too. We finished with a night-cap in the bar, a nice part of the space that Aftab would like to become a bit like a Bangalore coffee house during the day attracting some of the office and conference crowd from the custard factory. Bay Leaf is definitely in a bit of a funny spot with no other evening eateries around, and although it started to fill up as Saturday evening progressed, I feel that they’re going to have to capitalise on that daytime market if they’re going to make it a long term success. I’d certainly like to check it out during the day and sample the coffee and see what they do in terms of light lunches. There’s lots of things pointing in the right direction, but they certainly have their work cut out in that location. Bay Leaf has had very contrasting reviews from Birmingham’s two main press reviewers, Paul Fulford and Richard McComb (check out their contrasting reviews on Matthews too). I have an inkling that Richard McComb is wrong on this one.

If you’re into your your live jazz they hold a jazz night once a month which is very popular (they sold out the night before we were there), the next one is the 4th of November, and you can find out loads of other stuff on their excellent website (even ordering takeaway online!):

Soul Food Project – review

July 11th, 2010

sfpI tend to avoid going to pubs for a Sunday roast these days – years of overcooked meat, soggy vegetables, overly salty gravy, and flabby potatoes have left me wishing I’d gone to my mums instead! I suppose not many people actually make a Sunday roast these days, so despite the crap food, I guess these pubs are providing a historo-cultural service at least!

So I must admit that on arriving for my much awaited first meal at the Soul Food Project in Kings Heath’s Hare and Hounds pub, there was a tinge of disappointment to learn that the normal menu had been set aside in favour of Sunday roasts. The disappointment didn’t last long though, as I met Alex from the Soul Food crew at the bar, who recommended the cajun beef roast and gave me a nod and wink concerning desserts!

So the beef was what I had, and I was mightily pleased with my choice. The cajun rub on the joint, which was served deliciously pink as promised, really came through on the outer edges of the beef, and permeated the gravy – it wasn’t overly spicy, but just enough to let you know it wasn’t a run-of-the-mill joint. Accompanying the beef were cooked-to-a-crunch broccoli and carrots, sweeter-than-sweet slow-roasted sweet potatoes, and a generous portion of home cooked yorkshires enveloping a spicy pork stuffing. I said at the time it was one of the best roasts I’ve had in Birmingham, and I still remember it fondly a week later. photoThe guys behind Soul Food Project Carl, Alex and Matt, kindly brought us down a sharing plate of their fine desserts, showing off an unctuous carrot cake with thick cream cheese frosting, and my favourite, their tray bake chocolate brownie with vanilla bean ice cream. All round a great sunday roast, a gentle introduction to the Soul Food Project’s southern flavours, and a desire to return mid-week to sample their daily menu – nice one fella’s!

La Banca Review

July 1st, 2009

Bill for four including wine

Bill for four including wine

La Banca is a brand new Italian restaurant in the heart of Cotteridge village. It’s home is the old bank (hence the name) opposite the corner of Pershore Road and Watford Road. Opening night was the 30th of June, and loaf was there to soak up the atmosphere…

La Banca has little competition in Cotteridge – the clean but classical decor is a far cry from Greggs or Subway – and provides a buzzing, excited atmosphere whilst loaf awaits it’s dinner guests. The welcoming and obviously experienced manager, belied a noticeably nervous front of house, with the understandable opening night jitters: uncollected cutlery, unpoured wine, bill mistakes, and longer than usual waits for orders etc. The menu is probably a bit too large for a single cuisine restaurant, but with a notable absence of pizzas – perhaps investment in a proper oven will come at a later date. Pasta predominates, but there’s an enticing range of non-pasta ‘secondi’ too – the tuna steak with cold tomato salsa was tempting, but at £13.95 (the most expensive item) loaf couldn’t stretch to it in these credit-crunch times.

The menu is spattered with seasonal treats – chard, peas, mint; but there’s no claim that this is intentional, nor is there any indication of where they are sourced. Nevertheless, the food was good – homemade canneloni was executed well and served in a deliciously fresh salty-sweet tomato sauce, and the tirimasu was smooth and luxurious, if lacking a little of the expected alco-kick. There were appreciative noises coming from round the table and the portion sizes were about right if you’re having more than one course. The wine list is excellent, and extensive, with great descriptions for those as ignorant as loaf!

Overall La Banca serves good, well presented, fairly priced food, in a nice environment, which is an overdue treat for Cotteridge. The owners also run Pangaea in Kings Heath which is also worth checking out for a posh curry. For address details and menu etc, see their website at: