by Food Blogger Anita Champaneri
This spring saw a boom in trendy bar and bistros opening in the City, all promising something new and offbeat in eclectic surroundings but casual, comfy and affordable. So we put three to the test to see if they really had the wow factor.
First up was the new Marmalade Bistro and Bar. Situated inside The REP’s famed arches, the casual dining restaurant is very on trend with eclectic furnishing, bold décor and soft mood lighting. The website boasts of entertaining the taste buds with delicious food at affordable prices, so we were eager to try it out.
I thought I would go for a healthy starter and ordered the Lime Margarita cured Salmon which came with hunks of granary bread. It was perfectly plated on a slate plate and tasty too. I followed this with a small plate of coffee infused lamb rump with a prune glaze. It sounded awful but I was pleasantly surprised that the flavours worked well together, and with the sweet potato mash was a great combination. The presentation with the edamame beans looked pretty cool, but it could have done with more greens – I wanted less style and more substance. Yet the Battered Cod Loin with fat chips was just that. Hearty food for a hungry diner.
For dessert we ordered the Plum, Orange and Caramelized Apricot Crumble which sounded divine, and with the cinnanmon ice cream it proved to be an ideal finale to the meal. Next time I am going to try the Gingerbread Cheesecake with Maple Sauce and Toffee Pecans, which looked amazing.
The Kids Menu is normally £8.25 but was FREE for half term! Result! My two boys had the Nibbles Lunch, free-range chicken skewers which came with cheese, carrots, cucumber and crisps and an innocent smoothie. The kids meals offered a good healthy choice and different from the usual fooder on many a kids menu. The dessert choice were pancakes, ice cream sundae or fruit kebabs, so they we very happy indeed.
Most of the main dishes lean to wholesome bistro dining with the presentation inspired by fine dining establishments that city does so well. The pre-theatre menu is very affordable too.
Rumour has it that if you are pretty social then Gas Street Social at the Mailbox is the place to be for getting together with friends and colleagues to enjoy great food and drink.
The newly opened venue seems to be a big hit for its menu of craft beers, fine wines and signature cocktails. The cocktails are not cheap at £8 each, but there are some innovative concoctions; even the mocktails are amazing. The interior is inspired by the industrial heritage of the city with stark metal works and chunky wooden furniture in booths.
Our lunch consisted of a sizeable Poached Chicken Salad that came in an oval dish filled with mozzarella balls, lettuce, chicken, asparagus, sundries tomatoes with balsamic dressing. The addition of asparagus was unusual but a nice touch. We also had a lovely trio of Scallops that were served with garlic butter, dill, capers, and herbs.
For main I had the Chicken Ballotine, a good quality meat that came with a rich gravy and my guest has a fine cut of Sea Bass that sat on a creamy prosecco sauce, with a delicate fennel sauce. The fish was soft and perfect with a crispy skin.
The desserts here were a winner too. Our Poached Pears came with strawberries raspberries and black berries and a dollop of homemade ice cream. It made me feel like I was being healthy!
Another new venue that has been hyped up recently is The Botanist near Colmore Row a charming and quirky venue offering botanical cocktails, craft beers and ales, Champagne and wine. The menu takes inspiration from all over the world, with dishes inspired by the deli, rotisserie and BBQ. Head to my blog to read my review of the menu.