Review: Byzantium, Kings Heath, Revisited. 


   

Byzantium was colonised by Greek colonists from Megara in 657 BC. Not that anyone in Kings Heath was present, or can remember this. Partly because of heavy nights and days in the nearby Hare and Hounds and partly because well, the residents of Kings Heath have been silenced by their fear of more charity shops and the shock that a new ‘Subway’ sandwich shop has opened on the High Street. 
    

But then if the Greeks were around today then I’m sure they’d be impressed by the quaint and intimate hideaway named after their great empire that sits cosily on York Road (almost opposite The Hare and Hounds and next to Fletchers Bar.) 

For me Byzantium is the kind of tapas restaurant a Vegetarian could frequent often and still not get fed up of the same dishes. In fact there are numerous choices and daily specials that makes one scratch your head and shout out ‘if only I had one choice, life would be simpler.’ Yet, I have my favourite dishes, well why not, life’s too short!

Byzantium takes its inspiration from across the Mediterranean to create a tapas menu that’s reflective of the whole area. So you have, Spanish, Italian, Greek, French influences in the dishes which keeps the menu varied. Inside you’ll find religious art on the walls, church like seating, and ornate lamps which help to create a lovely exotic atmosphere. 

I’ve been going with Ruth to Byzantium fairly regularly over the last few years. It’s our go to place. We had a lovely Valentines night meal there earlier in the year. For its elegance, romantic lighting and soothing gothic shadows lend itself perfectly to the occasion. In fact my very first restaurant review for Veggie Foodie was Byzantium back in April 2014. 

This occasion too was a celebration for it was Ruth’s Birthday and her Mum was with us to celebrate. In fact Ruth’s Mum loves the restaurant.

I began with an aperitif. The Negroni. The classic Italian cocktail. 

  Negroni at Byzantium.

The Negroni was a well made aperitif, one part gin, one part Vermouth, one part Campari. Italy in a drink. Delicious. 

We also shared an excellent bottle of Prosecco with our food. Well we were celebrating. 

  

The vegetarian dishes we chose to share were: 

Homemade Flatbread. 

Zaalouk: pan fried Aubergine dip with cumin, Tomatoes, and Corriander. 

Olives: a selection of marinated green and black olives. 

These were all eaten as a shared starter. 

The flatbread was a beautiful unleavened bread, very large, served with a jalapeños chilli on top. Ideal for sharing it was a joyous thing, and probably due to its flavour and size the best plain flatbread in Birmingham. Taken with the punchy tomato and aubergine based Zaalouk its a perfect sharing starter. The pan fried aubergines perfect in a dip and the ideal accompaniment to the flattened doughy bread. A beautiful zingy flavour with a touch of cumin. 
  

To follow Ruth and her Mum ordered a couple of meat tapas to share and I ordered the Halloumi Souviaki for myself and four veggie tapas to share between the three of us. 

The dishes we shared were: 

Croquetas: Cheese and spinach croquetas served with alioi and red onion jam. 

Patatas Alioli: Crisp potatoes served with Garlic Mayonnaise. 

Tortilla Con Queso: Spanish omelette with potato, spinach, cheese, caramelised onions. 

Championes Rellenos: mushrooms stuffed with tomatoes, roasted red peppers and cheese. 

Halloumi Souviaki: skewers of Halloumi cheese, Mediterranean vegetables, served with Tzatiki (creamy yogurt, cucumber and garlic).

  Tortilla Con Queso. 

A classic Spanish Tortilla, an indulgent blend of potatoes, spinach and cheese, topped off with the golden tinged caramelised onions to make s very satisfying tapas dish. One of the best. A Perfectly made tortilla. 

  

Championes Rellenos. 

A tasty tomato based stuffed mushroom dish which had a delicious lingering flavour and complimented the tortilla well especially. The cheese didn’t overwhelm the rich tomato sauce. I liked the bulky mushrooms as a contrast to the Patatas Alioli too. 

  Croquetas. 

Nice Croquetas with a good creamy filling. Served with the red onion marmalade gave it another dimension in flavour that elevated it. A recommended dish. 

    Halloumi Souviaki. 

The star dish on the night. Who doesn’t like skewers of Halloumi? Served with Mediterranean vegetables, the peppers in particular offer a juicy accompany ment as does the side salad and the garlicky Tzatiki. Halloumi heaven on a plate. 

  Patatas Alioli: 

crisp potatoes served with a garlic mayo. A classic tapas dish though not as fine as the Patatas Bravas which is also on the menu. Any potato dish whether Alioli or Bravas is essential for Vegetarians at Byzantium.

  Tiramisu. 

The most disappointing dish of the night. Both Ruth and I chose the Tiramisu. I’m in love with tiramisu and it’s often my first choice when in any menu. Yet in the UK it can be underwhelming, as this unfortunately was. The cream was over whipped and it didn’t ‘pick me up’ at all. Quite the opposite in fact. A disappointing pud. I can’t find anything positive to say about it at all. 

  

Poached Pears soaked in Red wine.

So to counterbalance the bad, meet the good. The Poached Pears, Just lovely, decadent, the pear fragrant against the deep full bodied reduced wine, a beautiful strikingly simple desert that I’ve eaten before and found an old photo of. 

Along with the Creme Catalan the best pudding on the desert menu. 

Byzantium is a lovely tapas restaurant and one that Kings Heath is rightly proud. Our food on the night was delicious. The dishes were all well made, with the menu demonstrating a varied and sensitivity to vegetarians and meat eaters are well served too. In fact for veggies there’s enough choice for tears of joy and to return with Christmas bells on next week, and have a completely different menu. 

The service was good, attentive, friendly and efficient. In fact everything that a neighbourhood restaurant should be. It has a strong drinks menu, with sherry’s, cocktails and a mixed selection of European wine, plus spirits, vin Santo (which we enjoyed) and a good strong espresso. If only their Tiramisu was up to scratch things would be perfect, but for now it will do, maybe the Greeks didn’t get to Venice or Verona, but thankfully South Birmingham and who can complain at that? 

  
 

We paid for our food in full apart from the complimentary bottle of prosecco, kindly given as it was Ruth’s birthday. My opinions are honest and no review was expected or required. 

She had a good night. 

http://www.byzantiumtapas.co.uk/

http://www.byzantiumtapas.co.uk/menu/

Byzantium,  11 York Road, Kings Heath, Birmingham, B14 7SA. 

Thanks for reading. 

Andy 😊

Byzantium have also recently opened an up stairs function room for parties and large groups to dine and party. 

For details and party menu see their website and my post here: 

http://t.co/9wa86cSkdr

   
 

  

Review: Tapas Revolution, Grand Central, Birmingham. 


 Birmingham’s ramp that leads from New Street into the new shiny Grand Central is a ramp of legend. How many Brummie kids have met friends, dates or family on or at the foot of the ramp. The ramp as I’ll call it leads into a world of food and shopping, oh and yes something to do with trains. (New Street Station)

The first restaurant you see when you enter from New Street is Tapas Revolution the shiny small group of Spanish Tapas cafe, bars and restaurants owned by Omar Allibhoy. Inspired by the tapas bars of his native Madrid Tapas Revolution is open from breakfast until bedtime, for food or drinks, at the bar or at a table, the choice is yours. 

With four restaurants in London, Grand Central is the first outside of London to open and much is expected of the restaurant in the revamped shiny new Birmingham shopping paradise. 

 
   

The Restaurant as you enter is open plan with half walls seperating  it from the shopping centre.  You can sit as we did overlooking the station below or around the busier kitchen. The station view seats are more private for couples or smaller groups or families. 

We visited on a Monday evening so the station and the restaurant were quite quiet but still had a nice atmosphere. I was impressed though that you didn’t notice the station noise below. It felt private. 

   

 The menu at Tapas Revolution is split equally into Meat, Fish and Veg tapas with a section also for nibbles (Picoteo). 

As Ruth and I were here to sample the tapas that’s what we did. You can enjoy Spanish burgers of which one is vegetarian (Tortilla burger) and of course breakfast (again there is a vegetarian option).

Having eaten some of the best veggie tapas In San Sebastián, in North Spain I’ve ever eaten (called Pinxtos) at bars with such an array of food that it looks quite daunting but isn’t at all, I have a little idea of authenticity which Omar is trying to replicate in the UK. 

 Sweet cutlery holder. 

  

We began with drinks. I ordered the Spanish gin based “Pomada” Xoriguer Gin and Fever Tree Lemonade. A refreshing gin tonic from Menorca with grapefruit and lime. Very nice, though quite sweet. Ruth ordered a glass of white wine (Vino Blanco). 

We decided to order a couple of nibbles (Picoteo) to share.

So ordered Almendras de Mallorca: (slow roasted almonds) and the beautiful Pan Con Tomate (toasted bread, garlic, tomato and olive oil) which was deliciously tomatoey and with a good but balanced garlic flavour. Lovely. 

  

Almendras de Mallorca. 

  Pan Con Tomate

I advise if ordering for two to order six tapas to share or 3 for one. 

The Vegetarian Dishes from the Tapas menu I ordered were: 

Piquillos Rellenos de setas: piquillo peppers stuffed with mushrooms.

An ok dish. piquillo are hand picked and slightly sweet and worked well with the mushrooms. Not bad. Needed more seasoning maybe. 

Tortilla de Patatas: Spanish omelette made with potato and onion. 

The star dish of the evening for me. Reminiscent of San Sebastián with delucious comfort food par excellence, transforming a couple of humble ingredients with a soufflé like effect. A well made tortilla. 

Pisto: Aubergine, courgette, pepper, and herb stew. 

A lovely ratatouille type dish typically from the region of Murcia and La Mancha. Served warm  it was comforting and Warming with the flavours of finely chopped aubergine and courgette providing a healthy backdrop to the pepper and tomato base. Really enjoyable. 

Patatas Bravos: Deep fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce and alioli. (To share with Ruth) 

What’s not to like about potatoes and tomato sauce. Nothing in this case. As  Tapas Revolution’s Potatas Bravas was the best I’d had outside of San Sebastián. Utterly beautiful. 

  

Piquillos Rellenos de setas: 
  

  Tortilla de Patatas

  

Croquetas de bacalao: Cod croquettes which Ruth Ordered and enjoyed. 

  
  

Patatas Bravas. 

  
    

Torreznos con mojo dulce: Ruths pork belly dish. She lapped it up. 
    Pisto: 

We were initially disappointed that the Churros weren’t on the menu tonight, but vowed to return to enjoy them. 

We decided to order the crema Catalana (Traditional Spanish  custard made with vanilla, Cinnamon and lemon. Also known as burnt cream and the Torrija: (caramelised brioche bun soaked in custard) 

The Crema Catalana: 

A lovely Catalan cream desert. Delicious flavoured custard with the flavours of  vanilla and lemon coming through. A lovely caramelised top. 

  Crema Catalana.

  

Torrija: A very tasty soaked brioche bun with a fried and batter consistency. Sticky, yummy, a crispy outside and smoother inside. A Recommended desert. 

Tapas Revolution is a fun Tapas restaurant that is an excellent addition to Birmingham’s food scene. It’s ideal for an informal sharing meal either at lunch time, breakfast time or during a shopping trip. It also works well in the evening. The service was friendly, quite swift but always polite, though it did move swiftly into a ‘chainy’ style a few times which was a bit grating. It’s maybe not an intimate romantic venue but is Ideal for people watching. 

The tapas we tried was good, some wonderful and among the best we had tried outside of Spain. I really liked it’s informality, it’s pop in at any time concept, which in Birmingham is welcome. 

The emphasis is on quality and freshness of ingredients and dishes to the plate. It’s in a Good location and accessible for commuters. 

Tapas Revolution is much better than many new openings recently in Birmingham and for this reason is welcome. I wouldn’t hesitate to return any time of day for its good value tapas.

The Revolution has arrived. 



 Estella Galicia lager.   

Zuma de Naranja: freshly squeezed orange juice. Refreshing and thirst quenching.    

Bar at Tapas Revolution. 

  

  View of Grand Central from Tapas Revolution. 

    View of Tapas Revolution from below. 

   

Thanks for reading.

Andy 😊

Disclaimer: we were invited by Tapas Revolutions PR company to eat free and sample their dishes for a fair review. My opinions and thoughts are honest of my experience as always. 

Click to access tapas-revolution-grand-central.pdf

   
 Grand Central and John Lewis. 

You can find Tapas Revolution at Grand Central Birmingham. 

  
Tapas Revolution cookbook. 

#Tastymorsel: Bring on the revolution: Tapas Revolution set to open up at Grand Central. 


   
 

   
 
With tapas and small plate sharing dining becoming increasingly popular in Birmingham we welcome another to its growing canon. In this case it’s a small chain with a big reputation in London. 

I love this form of eating, it’s social, and it allows you to sample more dishes and with a hood drink or two it’s s great way to relax after work or on a weekend. For vegetarians in fact it’s usually works well, and allows for seasonal ingredients to be used more vociferously. 

Tapas Revolution, the Spanish-style tapas restaurant group from Omar Allibhoy, is set to open its fourth site in Birmingham this September.

The all-day tapas bar in Grand Central will feature a copper-topped bar, an open kitchen and marble tables, and will serve a changing menu, from breakfast, which will include pastries, Spanish-style coffee and freshly-squeezed Valencia orange juice, to lunch and dinner options such as a paella for £7.95 including a glass of beer, wine or soft drink included. 

For Vegetarians:

Nibbles: pan con alioli, pan con tomate, toasted almonds, olives, 

 Tapas: Try Gazpacho de sandia, Piquillos peppers stuffed moth mushrooms, Paratas Bravas, potato and onion tortilla, red and yellow tomato salad, or fried sweet padron peppers. 

Desserts will include churros (long, thin doughnuts) prepared to order and fried in specialist “churreria” equipment imported from Spain, and then tossed in cinnamon and sugar and served with a hot chocolate dipping sauce.

 The drinks offer will begin with sangria, available between 5pm and 7pm, (on half price) plus Estrella de Galicia beer on tap and a craft beer menu from every corner of Spain, including one brewed with honey and Mediterranean seawater. There will also be a selection of Spanish-brewed gin and wine from all regions of the Iberian peninsula.

There will also be Spanish sandwiches (bocadillos) and coffee available to take away.

First launched in 2010, Tapas Revolution began at Westfield Shopping Centre in White City and now has sites at Bluewater shopping centre in Kent and in London’s Shoreditch.

Allibhoy said: “Tapas is more than food; it’s part of everyday culture. Food and life are always best shared. Tapas Revolution in Grand Central is my version of the lively and bustling tapas bars back home. Birmingham has a great food scene and is increasingly becoming a destination city. I wanted to get involved in the buzz happening here and bring a real taste of Spain to the city centre.”

Life and tapas are best shared. 

You can find Tapas Revolution at Grand Central from Thursday September 24th. 

http://www.tapasrevolution.com/section/45/1/birmingham/557a0749502c604e7953ec5ab02d8693

http://www.tapasrevolution.com/

http://www.grandcentralbirmingham.com/

http://www.tapasrevolution.com/section/8/1/omar-allibhoy-tapas-revolution

@tapasrevbham

tapasrevolutionbirmingham: Facebook

tapasrevolution: Instagram 

   
 
Omar Alibhoy (The Antonio Banderas of cooking according to Gordon Ramsey) riding the bull of Birmingham. 

  
All photos and images courtesy of Tapas Revolution with thanks. 

  
Desert at Tapas Revolution 

  
Photo courtesy of Grand Central. 

   
   

   
   
  
Grand Central Birmingham. 

Review: Amantia Spanish and Mediterranean 


  
Amantia is a new family run (and family friendly!) independent, Spanish and Mediterranean restaurant right off New Street in Birmingham City centre, taking the ground floor and basement of the iconic Sun House.
This building on Bennetts Hill was the house of the Sun Insurance offices, which were founded in 1710. The name Amantia is the name of some ruins near chef and owner Andrea’s birthplace and also includes the initial of him and Marta’s (owner and front of house’s) children. 

Amantia is a smart place. Inside the space is large, bordering on vast, with a sweet bar area to the right of the entrance as you walk in. Serving pinxos  or Pincho (Basque country small snacks from Northen Spain). Oh the memories of San Sebastián are returning. It is in itself a good spot for after work downtime. 

I digress though. The decor of Amantia, contemporary- purple, grey with black and white prints on the wall, smart, and cooling. 

   
   
Though it could feel impersonal it doesn’t. The atmosphere is good,  quite busy too on a Friday evening and the warmth of the service from Marta and her team is a joy. Marta twinkles with charm and enthusiasm for the food and the adventure she and her husband are on with Amantia. 

Ruth and I were invited by Marta and her sister Silvia (also from Amantia) to taste and review some of the Vegetarian dishes on the menu and some new ones not yet on the menu. For that reason the food came out of the kitchen like tapas (discussed on arrival with Marta) and thus this review will reflect that. I like small plates though, tapas is one of life’s pleasures whether italian in nature, or Spanish (tapas) or pintxos for that matter. 

It is fun to have an element of surprise and not order from a menu. It’s very informal and thus more interesting. 

Ruth and I ordered some Olives and two glasses of Manzanilla Sherry whilst waiting for the tapas. The sherry a refreshing fino from Andalusia, served chilled it’s a perfect aperitif and goes well with tapas like dishes. 

   
 
The dishes we shared ( Ruth was a Vegetarian for the evening) were a selection of  croquetas Amantia, (blue cheese and creamy mushroom)  a Rustica mushroom Crepe, a Greek Salad, Roasted Vegetables and Vegetable Moussaka. 

   

 
Having tried the Blue Cheese Croquetas before I was looking forward to eating them again. They held a lovely creamy blue cheese flavour, a recommended vegetarian tapas. A star dish. 

On the other hand, the Mushroom croquetas were disappointing. Quite bland in flavour, with not a lot of mushroom filling,  the croquetas lacked an intensity of flavour that maybe a porcini mushroom filling could have brought. A shame. 

Oh the contrast The Rustica Crepe with its mushroom centre had a deep intensity of flavour. It wasn’t too cheesy which was a relief and the quantity and quality of the mushroom filling made for a very satisfying and enjoyable crepe and served with a side salad would make a excellent and filling main course offering. Maybe use the intense filling for the mushroom croquetas.  Recommended. 

   
 
The Greek Salad, was also very good and looked very appetising.

  
Lettuce, tomatoes, sliced cucumber, onion, Kalamata Olives, Feta cheese, in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It was well seasoned, with salt and oregano and the splash of olive oil made for a nice ripe and fresh salad. The feta creamy and the flavours bold. A very refreshing contrast to the hot dishes. Lovely. 

Our Roasted Vegetables were also well presented and looked stunningly appetising. I think roast vegetables get a bad press sometimes from vegetarians and vegans, cited as a bit boring, but when the veg are fresh and carrying a good in season flavour there arn’t  many better summertime dishes. It always makes me think of sunshine and hot sun and alfresco dining. (Appologies I was lost in memories of Italy there). 

   
 
The peppers and courgettes were delicious and looked stunning. I also didn’t mind the presentation on a board. It worked with this dish. 

   
 
The final hot dish we tried was the Vegetable Moussaka. I think of all the dishes We tried on the night this was our favourite, we felt we could have eaten more of it, it was that creamy, hearty and warming. The combination of aubergine, and potatoes, and tomatoes worked well and made for a classic Greek dish with a veggie twist. 

It also went well with the Greek Salad. A complete summer main course. 

We washed down our mains with a delicious Spanish White Wine: a Marques de Luna macebo. Amantia has a good wine list and also serves cocktails and Sangria. 

As Ruth and I border on hungryly greedy (or just nosey or easily tempted)  types when it comes to food and the fact that Tiramisu was on the menu we felt we had to try a desert. 

Ruth chose one of her favourites the Churos Con Chocolate  

 
Which she exclaimed was beautiful and one of the best she’d had. I tried a mouthful and it indeed was decadently a top pudding. 

Of course onto my Tiramisu test. 

One of my test dishes Is the above pudding. I’ve had it all over Italy and one in particular in Verona on our honeymoon I remember with salivating affection ( the restaurant had won the world tiramisu award, yes there is such a thing! ). 

Yes, it true I wasn’t disappointed. 

   
 
It looked stunning for a start and had the right quantity of coffee flavour and certainly ‘picked me up’. It was very cool, dreamy and light. It had a classic image and was nicely layered. Delicious, it passed the test and was one of the best I’d tried in Birmingham. 

We also enjoyed an after dinner Liquor    and two double espressos. 

   
 
The Vegetarian dishes at Amantia are excellent. I highly recommend it for veggies in Birmingham.

 I would like to see more in particular in the tapas section of the menu for Vegetarians (tapas and summer go well together) how about a veggie paella? On talking to Marta I know they are rolling out a Vegan menu at some point and are working on new veggie dishes which will be introduced dependent on seasonality of the ingredients. 

Amantia though has many strengths, it’s in a good location just off New Street and has a warming and cooling (at the same time) kind of atmosphere. 

The service is charming and aims to please. It’s friendly and demonstrates that it cares. 

Amantia is a good Authentic place for a lunch whilst shopping in Brum or for a delicious evening meal With a group or  with a partner. It ticks all the foodie boxes. 

Maybe some live music would be nice, some Spanish guitar or flamenco or a pianist would help fill the space. That’s Always good for atmosphere (Maybe live music nights). 

I liked Amantia, it’s a gem in the city and the type of authentic mid price restaurant that Birmingham needs more of. Good Solid cooking without the gimmicks, independent and with a good heart. 

And as Feargal Sharkey sang in 1985 that’s hard to find. 

Thanks for reading. 

Andy 😊

Thanks to Amantia (Marta and Silvia) for the invite to the restaurant. Our food was complimentary, though we paid for our drinks in full. My review is honest and has my own opinions as always. 

http://www.amantiarestaurant.co.uk/

Amantia, 9 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham, B2 5RS. 

0121 643 3647. 

  

Amantia do an after work social from 4-7pm with a free Pintxo with your drink and £2 for all cocktails weekdays. 

It also has a children’s menu for £6.25. For a main, desert and a drink. 

  
Facebook: Amantia restaurant

Twitter: @RestAmantia