Thursday, 31 October 2019

Tap and Tandoor, Solihull craft beer and Indian food review

I hate motorway service stations. Their sole purpose seems to be to extract money from you for rubbish food. Except for the brilliant Gloucester and Tebay Services, of course.

So, whenever I take a motorway trip I try and find somewhere tasty just a short detour away.

Burger Shop in Worcester is one example.

So too is the Crown at Burchetts Green.

Another such place is Tap and Tandoor in Solihull. Recommended by the excellent Birmingham blogger Meat & One Veg Blog, this craft beer pub meets Indian restaurant is located just a five minute detour from the M42 on the outskirts of Birmingham.

With its pubby vibe, this is exactly the kind of place where you could spend the evening tucking away a clutch of pints and pause halfway through the night for some dinner.

Their craft beer list is at the more obvious end of the spectrum but there were a few things of interest including a light and refreshing Sleeping Limes gose from Wild Beer. Tiny Rebel, Magic Rock, Gipsy Hill and Beavertown also feature on can and tap; it’s certainly an upgrade from a bottle of Kingfisher.

The menu focuses on small plates, home-style curries and meat cooked over charcoal. 

Three of us shared a selection of dishes to make up a light lunch.

Butter chicken (£7.50) had excellent complexity to its spicing and the gravy was seriously rich and creamy. 

Alongside a super soft, cheesy and chilli flecked naan (£2.65), they were the two standout dishes of the meal. 

A regular mixed grill (£12.50) was lovely too - fiery seekh kebabs, nicely charred lamb chops and juicy chicken wings were the highlights. Chicken tikka was well spiced but could have been a touch more tender. 

Plain rice (£1.85) was light and fluffy… 

whilst mogo chips (£3.75) made with casava were crisp and coated in a sweet, spicy and tangy sauce. 

I really liked Tap and Tandoor - it’s a great concept which has been well executed. If you ever find yourself driving along the M42 then it’s well worth checking out.

The Details:

Address - Tap and Tandoor Solihull, 658 Warwick Rd, Solihull B91 3DX
Telephone -   0121 711 1166

Saturday, 26 October 2019

A few great places to eat and drink in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is a ridiculous place.

From its over the top architecture, to its countless bars, restaurants, shops, shows and casinos, it’s the natural conclusion to humanity’s consumerist excesses.

And that’s why I love it. But I can I see why so many people hate the sound of the place.

We visited Vegas at the end of September when the average temperature was a perfect 27°C. We spent our days by the pool sipping on frozen margaritas and our nights inhaling craft beer and excellent food. We gambled a sum total of $1 and still had an epic time.

Here’s a run down of the best places we ate:

In 'n' Out Burger
The Linq Hotel + Experience, Las Vegas Boulevard

In 'n' Out Burger make the quintessential American hamburger. Everything tastes impeccably fresh and that’s because it is - nothing is frozen and everything is cooked to order.

A signature Double Double ($4.45) combined a squidgy bun, juicy slightly pink patties, oozy cheese, uber fresh salad and burger sauce. The toppings on their animal style fries outshone the slightly limp potatoes - caramelised onions, melted cheese and tangy burger sauce were a filthy combination.

Egg Slut
The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas Boulevard

I can't stand the name of this egg-focused cafe but everything we ate eggceeded (sorry) our expectations.

A sausage, egg and cheese ($8.75) saw a sweet soft brioche bun loaded with herby turkey sausage, golden yolked runny fried egg, oozy cheese and mustard mayo.

Even more indulgent was a Fairfax ($11.75) loaded with buttery scrambled egg, fiery sriracha mayo, crispy shards of bacon, melted cheese and sweet caramelised onions. On this showing, I’d recommend checking out the London branch which has just opened.

Milk Bar
The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas Boulevard

I've wanted to visit Christina Tosi's Milk Bar since I was captivated by her creative confections on Netflix's Mind of a Chef.

Milk Bar Pie, formerly known as Crack Pie ($6.50), was a buttery, soft, crusty, salty and sweet, caramelised sugar and oat twanged delight which reminded us of a cross between a flapjack and treacle tart.

Cereal Milk soft serve ($6) with cornflake crunch tasted exactly as described - it was utterly genius and a nostalgic reminder of arguing with my brother over who got the Frosties and Ricicles in our Kellogg’s Variety pack as children.

Greenberg’s Deli
New York New York, Las Vegas Boulevard

This is one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten and certainly the best Reuben ($13.50). Who would have thought that I’d find a sandwich as good as New York’s Katz’s Deli in a faux delicatessen in Las Vegas’s slightly dated New York New York Casino?

Everything hit the mark from the marbled toasted rye bread which was perfectly crisp yet soft to the melted Swiss, cleansing kraut and creamy thousand island sauce.

But that pastrami was the star of the show - a mountain of beautifully spiced beef was so juicy it poured down my arm. I think we inhaled our sandwich in about 30 seconds flat and we resisted the urge to order a second.

Best Friend
Park MGM, Las Vegas Boulevard

Roy Choi's Best Friend oozes LA cool from their resident hip hop DJ and menu of Korean-Mexican fusion cookery to the servers wearing bespoke Adidas tracksuits and entrance resembling a kitsch grocery store.

As the menu is set up for sharing, their tasting menu ($50) gave us the best chance to eat as much as possible.

Highlights included their signature Kogi shortrib beef tacos with tender meat which oozed savoury complexity and crisp chilli soy slaw.

Savoury and spicy Kimchi fried rice, topped with a gooey egg, was compellingly crisp and caramelised in places and soft in others.

House banchan included zingy house made kimchi, fiery pickled daikon and a cleansing yet well spiced marinated cucumber.

Barbecue pork belly was impossibly tender whilst garlic chicken packed a massive amount of seasoning.

Slippery shrimp saw crisp battered crustacean in a spicy and decadently rich chilli mayo sauce.

The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas Boulevard

David Chang's iconic noodle bar has been one of my grail restaurants for what seems like forever. We played their greatest hits and they rocked.

Pillowy bao buns ($14) were loaded with super tender pork belly, diced spring onion, cucumber and sweet hoisin sauce. It's such a simple yet devastatingly delicious flavour combination - you can see why it's the dish which launched a global bao trend.

Shoyu pork ramen ($17) was also bang on. A deeply savoury and meaty broth was addictive as heck. It was loaded with a bevy of treats including a slow cooked poached egg, noodles with plenty of bite and unctuous pork belly and shoulder.

Shisito peppers ($12) disappointed in comparison; some were a little undercooked and a dusting of nutritional yeast was bland rather than compellingly umami.

Secret Pizza Place
The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas Boulevard

The not so Secret Pizza Place in The Cosmopolitan serves pizzas by the slice with a killer thin and crispy base and a delicious chew. Pepperoni and jalapeno ($6) was generously topped whilst blue cheese and ricotta ($6) was moreishly creamy, savoury and a little bit funky.

A crisp shelled cannolo ($4.50) was loaded with smooth chocolate-studded mascarpone with a subtle hit of booze.

Pok Pok Wing
The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas Boulevard

Portland’s Andy Ricker, a James Beard award winning chef, is famous for his Vietnamese fish sauce wings ($15). Crisp and sticky of skin with beautifully tender flesh, they were coated in a killer sweet, savoury, garlicky and spicy marinade. Fresh pickles were a cracking cleansing accompaniment.

Dirt Dog
Grand Bazaar Shop, Las Vegas Boulevard

This LA-headquartered street food stand serves crispy bacon wrapped hot dogs in soft toasted brioche buns; they're pretty friggin' special. A House Dog ($7.95) was topped with a rich yet very well-balanced combination of ketchup, mayo, mustard, crispy onion powder, fiery green chilli spread and a mix of soft sweet onions and peppers.

Grand Canal Shoppes, Las Vegas Boulevard

Emeril Lagasse's cajun steakhouse was the destination of choice to celebrate Mrs G's big 40th. We’d previously visited on our honeymoon and knew to skip starters due to the ridiculous size of their mains.

A 20oz bone-in ribeye ($60) was extremely well-crusted and tender with a savoury Creole rub on the exterior. It was a beauty of a steak.

Sides included crispy charred Brussels sprouts littered with bacon bits and thick and creamy baked grits ($12) topped with a big ooze of melted cheddar and even more bacon.

We just about managed to save room for a whopping slice of banana cream pie ($12).

Tacos El Gordo
The Gold Key Shops, Las Vegas Boulevard

We gave up on our first visit to Tacos El Gordo on a Saturday night when there was a queue of at least 50 people. Returning on a Monday mid-afternoon it was still a full house but we didn't wait long.

There are three separate queues depending on which tacos you want; one for offal, one for pork al pastor and one for steak & chorizo.

I can see why this Tijuana-style taco chain is so popular. With their properly corny tortillas and vibrant salsas, our favourites were the crisp and tender pork al pastor with a slice of pineapple and the smoky chopped steak. They tasted epic even without the slices of lime and radish we forgot to collect (*face palm*). And each taco was a bargainous $2.60.

Rick's Rollin Smoke BBQ
Las Vegas Boulevard

Rick's claims to be the no.1 BBQ joint in Nevada and they've got the giant trophies to back it up.

I ordered two meats ($27 including a side and a large beer) and was really impressed by their ribs which were big on smoke with a lovely spicing. Their thick and gooey smoked macaroni cheese and homemade barbecue sauces were great too. But chopped brisket, whilst well flavoured, was a touch dry - if only they'd mentioned their sliced brisket.

Hattie B's Nashville Hot Chicken
The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas Boulevard

Brilliantly golden and crisp of crust with a good drizzling of punchy hot sauce, Hattie B's serves first rate fried chicken ($12 including 2 sides). Their crinkle cut fries and meat juice soaked sliced white bread were corking too; it was another win for The Cosmopolitan's cracking selection of street food.

Craft Beer

The craft beer scene in Vegas isn’t amazing but there’s a hazy IPA on draught wherever you drink and that’s good enough for me.

Beer highlights included Bearded Iris’s Homestyle IPA at Momofuku, Modern Times’ sour tropical fruit gose at ameriCAN Bar, the excellent selection available at Downtown's Atomic Liquor, Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA at Delmonico and Sin City Brewing’s NEIPA which is available at a number of outlets of the Strip.

The Details

We flew with Virgin Atlantic directly from Heathrow Airport and stayed at The Aria, slap bang in the middle of The Strip - they've got an awesome pool deck.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

A few great places to eat and drink in Glasgow

It’s been over a decade since my last visit to Glasgow and I’m still smitten with the city’s trendy West End, handsome museums and Mackintosh’s art nouveau influences.

This time I was tagging along with Mrs G whilst she was at a conference. We spent an awesome few days eating and drinking around the city. Here’s my highlights:

El Perro Negro

This Finnieston burger shop won Best Burger of the year 2019 at the National Burger Awards for their Top Dog (£10.50). It didn't disappoint.

A robust challah style bun was loaded with a blushing pink patty with a big big beefy flavour, streaky bacon, sweet golden caramelised onions and a lightly fragranced truffle mayo. A salty, meaty and savoury slick of roquefort and bone marrow butter brought everything together. 

Confit wings (£4.50) were also excellent. Uber crisp of crumb and juicy of flesh, they were coated in a delicately fiery Korean gochujang glaze and topped with crispy and spring onions. 

Mother India's Cafe

We had a twenty minute wait for a table at this small plates offshoot of Glasgow's legendary Mother India. But, once we were seated the service was super quick and the food excellent. 

The spicing was perfect on every dish from Southern Indian lamb curry heady with ginger (£6.50) and garlic twanged chicken karahi on the bone (£5.50) to an aubergine and green bean curry (£4.75) which was as well smoked as a Hang Fire rack of ribs. Best of all, our bill for two with heaps of delicious food came to £35. 

Eusebi Deli

This West End Italian restaurant and deli is far more than your average pizza pasta joint. I was here because Marina O'Loughlin named it in her top 50 restaurants in the UK.

Fresh whipped ricotta (£9) was served with sweet marsala poached figs and the crunch of mixed nuts whilst a freshly baked olive oil and rosemary garnished focaccia (£6) was a lovely vehicle for that creamy goodness. Deep fried ravioli (£5) were filled with a guanciale studded molten cheesy carbonara filling. 

Bone-in yielding pieces of veal shin (£22) were perched in a grassy loose textured parsley risotto. 

Rich, 12-hour cooked goat, carrot, onion and celery ragu (£18) cloaked golden homemade papperdelle. 

Grunting Growler

This craft beer shop has a great selection of cans and bottles as well as a handful of beers on tap. A Wizard raspberry and blackberry Berliner weisse was tart and as thick as a fruit juice. Horal Oude Geuze Megablend was a very well balanced lambic - creamy, citrusy, fizzy, sharp and a little bit funky. 

Hanoi Bike Shop 

I haven't been to Vietnam but I'm still happy to ignorantly declare that sitting on a stool outside this canteen is like being transported to the other side of the world. 

A light lunch was packed full of hot, sour, fragrant, sweet and savoury spicing. Summer rolls (£6.65) were stuffed with fresh prawns, soft omelette and plenty of fresh herbs.

Crisp crumbed salt and pepper squid (£7.75) was served on a perky salad of watermelon, al dente green beans and sesame. 


We almost had an incredible meal at Alchemilla, a small plates and natural wine restaurant in Finnieston; if only we hadn't ordered a couple of dishes from the specials menu.

Focaccia (£3.50) was perhaps the best I've ever eaten - phenomenally soft and crisp with a delicate chew, it was liberally drenched in the finest olive oil. 

Octopus pieces (£11.50) were super tender yet crisp and cleverly paired with a citrusy green sauce and butter beans. A creamy taramasalata (£8.50) was also matched brilliantly with the crunch of toasted hazelnut, bitterness of endive and zing of pickled beets. 

But, a pair of specials slightly disappointed. Earthy girolles (£8.50) and manchego shavings with a runny yolked egg were oddly paired with a citrus note of lemon thyme. Perfectly pink and tender pigeon (£12.50) breast meanwhile was cleverly paired with smoky charred endive. However, a puree of fig was a sledgehammer of acid and mustard which threw the dish off balance. 

Dessert brought things back on track with a magnificently light, creamy and caramelised Basque cheesecake (£7.50) with a drizzle of raisiny PX sherry. 

Tantrum Doughnuts

Tantrum Doughnuts make brioche doughnuts in innovative flavours such as pistachio & hibiscus, salted honey and cherry cheesecake. 

Their signature Creme Brûlée (£2.30) saw soft dough stuffed with vanilla flecked thick custard topped with a burnished crisp sugar crust. Delicious. 

University Cafe

This West End institution has been serving greasy spoon fry ups and Italian ice cream since it opened in 1918. Anthony Bourdain visited in an episode of Parts Unknown so I thought I'd better check them out too. 

I indulged in a light mid-afternoon snack of a well-crusted and soft-crumbed breakfast roll (£3.50) stuffed with coarse textured breakfast sausage, squidgy potato pancake, runny yolked fried egg and tangy brown sauce. This isn’t high-end stuff but it would be ideal for soaking up some booze. 

Mackintosh at the Willow

I can't really comment on the food at Mackintosh at The Willow (except for a tasty bit of shortbread). 

But, the lovingly restored art nouveau decor at this Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed cafe is an absolute masterpiece. 

Papercup Coffee Company

A Glasgow insider informed me that this enjoyably higgledy-piggledy cafe serves the best coffee in the City. They've also got a roastery just around the corner. 

An Ethiopian filter coffee (£2) was light with plenty of fresh blueberry notes. 

Inn Deep

This pub, which is situated in a series of atmospheric riverside arches, has a good selection of craft on tap from Northern Monk to Donzoko and The Kernel.   

Another solid craft beer tip is Koelschip Yard in Glasgow’s South Side, which has a great range of lambic and sour beers.

The Details:

We stayed at The Derby Suite in the heart of trendy Finnieston (£90 a night). We flew with Easyjet from Bristol to Glasgow.