The Plough, Harborne launches ‘Spit’ wine and spirit school. 


  

The award-winning team at the Plough in Harborne has launched a wine and spirit school with a difference. ‘Spit’ will cater for enthusiasts and those looking to secure industry-calibre qualifications alike and offer a range of recognised wine courses and tasting events, gin and whisky nights and other short courses in a simple, fun and straight talking fashion – with plenty of hands on tasting. 
‘Spit’ is an approved Wine and Spirit Education Trust program provider and the courses will take place ‘Next Door’ at The Plough which is home to two private dining and meeting rooms. The courses will showcase best-in-class, progressive wines and spirits. 

 The Plough has forged a reputation for its well-curated selection of craft spirits which takes in a 100+ strong whisky list and the courses will be designed to introduce delegates to exciting and lesser-known spirit and wine varieties. 
The Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) was founded in 1969 to provide high quality education and training in wines and spirits. Since then the WSET has grown into the foremost international body in the field of wines and spirits in education, with a suite of sought after qualificatIons. 
The Plough’s James Thewlis who is an approved WSET provider will lead the courses. James has over 20 years’ experience in the hospitality sector earning his stripes as General Manager at Circo, the first bar in Birmingham to secure a late license and then heading up cocktail bar and restaurant 52 Degrees North. An eight year stint in Melbourne followed before returning to Birmingham’s fine dining and michelin star scene as Sommelier at Turners, before joining The Plough four years ago. 
James said, “Our aim is to make wine and spirit tasting interesting, sociable and accessible. We’re thrilled to have been approved as a WSET provider, these courses are a great way for those in the industry to bolster their experience and credentials. Wine tasting has something of a stuffy reputation, we’re really keen to dispel that and the idea that you aways have to ‘spit’. We’re passionate about illustrating how much fun it can be whilst introducing some top-class spirits and wines to an many people as possible.”
Each WSET course includes lunch from The Plough’s popular sharing menu, which has been designed especially for ‘Next Door’, and will be followed by a glass of wine in The Plough bar afterwards. 
Course Details:

15th June 2016, 9.30am – 5pm
WSET LEVEL ONE, £140

22nd June 2016, 7pm – 9pm 
INTRODUCTION TO SPANISH WINES, £17

18th, 19th, 20th July 2016, 9,30am – 5pm 
WSET LEVEL TWO, £355

27th July 2016, 7pm – 9pm 
INTRODUCTION TO ITALIAN WINES, £17

ABOUT WSET LEVEL 1 AND 2 
WSET LEVEL 1
This course is a good starting point for the exploration of wine styles. No prior knowledge is required as the course is designed to introduce wines in an interactive, structured and concise manner. This course will suit a novice wine enthusiast or those wishing to start their career in the wine or hospitality business.
WSET LEVEL 2
The course covers the major grape varieties, regions of the world, food and wine pairing, sparkling wines, fortified wines and the major spirits. You will not need any formal qualification, just an enthusiasm for the subject and willingness to learn. This course is ideal for anyone wishing to be introduced to wine or spirits in an informative and structured manner. It is suitable for both the enthusiast and those looking to enter or already working in the wine and hospitality business requiring a good level of product knowledge.
About The Plough:
The Plough, Harborne has been serving fresh home-cooked food and the best coffee and Sunday lunch in the neighbourhood for 11 years. Established in 2003 The Plough has undergone extensive renovation since its launch boasting a quirky and eclectic interior and an ‘outdoor lounge’ that is airy, light and unrestricted by season. With a focus on quality and provenance, ingredients are carefully sourced locally to minimise the environmental ‘tread’ of the business where possible. No stranger to accolades The Plough has been recognised for its coffee, Sunday lunch and interior – named by the Independent as ‘best coffee shop’, celebrated by The Times for the best Sunday Lunch in the region and awarded the ‘Best Restaurant / Bar Design’ at the Northern Design Awards. 

The Plough, 
21 High Street

Harborne

B17 9NT

Follow Spit here: 
@spitwine

Follow The Plough story here: 
Instagram : @ploughstagram 
Twitter : @PloughHarborne 

Facebook : The Plough Harborne

Thanks for reading, 

Andy 😊

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Restaurant review: Rofuto, Broad Street, Birmingham. 


   
 

‘As the wind does blow

Across the trees, I see the

Buds blooming in May’ 

Japanese. Haiku example (modern) author unknown.

get in lifts quite a lot for work, but the joy of reaching my destination their provides no comparison or fun than getting in a lift at Rofuto. 

There’s something about going up a lift to the sixteenth floor to eat food thats carries more anticipation, more hope, more adventure. I suppose when you have a view from the restaurant then that makes it even more exciting, and we’ve not even eaten yet. 

Rofuto resides in the new Park Regis Hotel at Five Ways/Broad Street. An area that previously so underwhelmed me that that it was unmentionable when it came to visiting. This though has changed. With bells on in fact.

Rofuto is a Japanese restaurant. Japanese food isn’t something I know well and have only just discovered that Vegetarians can eat with gusto. Better late than never. In fact Rofuto ticks many boxes for me. It concentrates on the ethos izakaya or small sharing plates in English. Sharing plates are a revelation and for vegetarians the holy grail of cooking and eating, because it means we have choice. Yay! 

Going Up.

Its not offered on arrival that you get greeted and are shown to the lift   And sent on your way to the 16th floor. Certainly in Birmingham City Council tower blocks that doesn’t happen. A Nice touch. 

Arrived.

Inside Rofuto is an eye catching space. The decor paired down, stylish fittings, fitted with elegance glinting in the late evening sunshine. It’s modern, clean and well lit with a fitted bar in the centre and a 360 degree view. It’s sophisticated city dining. 

Initially we thought it lacked atmosphere and it’s vastness was a hinderance to our enjoyment.Eventually the restaurant filled up and the atmosphere became livlier and much more fun. Though the pop music been played over the speakers was slightly annoying and we felt unnecessary.

Ruth and I were sat at a lovely table, decorated with flowers and with a superb view over the city. Watching the sun set from our vantage we looked at the menu and had a warm relaxed feeling about our evening. Very romantic. 

The menu involves a mixture of sushi (including veggie under Maki) starters, tempura, Robata, mains, and grills. With plenty of Vegetarian options to tempt a return visit.

   Lovely View from our table. 

And bar area below. 

 

Whilst we looked at the menu we ordered two Sake Martini’s (we had to with the view) which was pitch perfect with a nice Japanese twist. Superb. 

    
  Perfect Sake Martini at Rofuto. 

  
   
  Sake Martini, soy, view.  

For our food I ordered a mixture of three dishes to try together. I chose the Asparagus Kushiyaki, Butter Soy, Aubergine Kushiyaki, Nesu Dengaku, and Tempura Vegetables from the Robuta and Tempura sections. 

We also drank some delicious Sake (Japanese rice wine) 

All three dishes together proved to be plentiful in size and complimented each other perfectly. I also chose a large glass of Malbec to have with the dishes. 

The Aubergine Kushiyaki, Nasu Dengaku: A two part dish. A Miso glazed aubergine (Nasu Dengaku), perfectly meaty, fleshy aubergine providing the perfect foil for the intensely flavourful Dengaku sauce. A mixture of sweet and savoury with a potent earthy feel. Lovely. 

The Aubergine Kushiyaki (skewered grilled veg) was delicious. Again well grilled aubergine, not greasy, but firm and juicy. Delicious. Together a perfect demonstration of fresh aubergines. 

  Aubergine Kushiyaki, Nasu Dengaku

The Tempura Vegetables were set in perfecly fried batter, a light, crisp coating that hadn’t absorbed the oil when fried. The veg maintaining a freshness of flavour. A healthy sin of delight. 

  Tempura Vegetables The Asparagus Kushiyaki , Butter Soy was exceptional. As a massive English asparagus fan, the fresh vivid green indulgence were perfectly cooked morsels of delight. Perky, firm and full of flavour. The jewel been the Butter Soy which Raised the dish to new heights and gave an elegant, warm and luxurious rich savouriness to a perfect dish. As a threesome a pleasurable combination of top drawer Japanese cooking. 

  

    
    
  Soy and Sake (Left) Interior

  
    
   

For dessert we chose to share the Matcha Green Tea Tiramisu.  

Now this Dessert intrigued me.asca person who loves tiramisu, this Japanese version was worth trying. It was lovely. Different, but still. creamy, airy and soft. Very light and with a lovely green tea underbelly from the sponge below been soaked in the matcha green tea. A clever and delicious pud. It also looked pretty and was very distinct. 

    Matcha Green Tea Tiramisu.

We were also given to share some  White Chocolate Martini with homemade marshmallows which was the perfect after dinner drink. 

A delicate and light martini. Not creamy or full of chocolate sweetness, but vodka based, and very easy drinking, but potent cocktail. Vodka heaven. 

Ruth said the marshmallows were sticky with subtle indulgent flavours and well presented. A perfect end to the meal. 

    White chocolate Martini with marshmallows.

 
 Espresso 

Afterwards we spent awhile in the comfort of the adjacent Kurabu Bar (Sy Bar) which has giant windows with a panoramic outlook. It has a relaxed vibe and worthy of been a destination for drinking and socialising in its own right. It also plans to serve bar like food.

Here we were given samples of the Japanese Whiskies on offer. We tried shot portions of in particular The Hakushu single malt, The Yamazaki single malt 12year old, Hibiki 17 years. All outstanding and worthy of further drinking. In fact Japanese whisky has a reputation now of been award winning and Rofuto are rightly proud of their whisky range.

Rofuto is a class act. Proving to be one of the best meals I’ve had in Birmingham in recent years. From the attentive and informed service which never wavered and was filled with charm and helpfulness around the menu To the delightful Vegetarian dishes, that were superbly made and presented beautifully. 

Rofuto has the power to be a game changer in Birmingham, it has a special vibe about it and with its cocktails, whisky, views and varied menu it’s a quality experience. 

Sometimes you pay for the view in restaurants and findcthecfood lacking somewhat. Not at Rofuto

It ticks a lot of boxes and is one of the best places for Vegetarians in Birmingham, no mistake with food to be repeated especially keen on the veggie sushi. 

Power of five to Rofuto.

Going Up!

  
    
 Rofuto interior. Courtesy of Rofuto. X4 photos.

  

  Kurabu bar (Skybar) AH

  
  View from Kurabu bar AH

  
  The whisky challenge.

 

Thanks for reading,

Andy 😊

Our food and drinks were complimentary. This doesn’t affect my opinion of my experience and the honesty of my review.

Thanks to Neil Reading PR for the invite and four photos of the interior of the restaurant. All other photos are my own.

Rofuto Restaurant, 160 Broad Street, Birmingham, B15 1DT.

http://www.rofuto.co.uk/

Rofuto Restaurant

https://m.facebook.com/Rofuto-1693857547503031/

https://twitter.com/rofutotweets

For the love of whisky: Whisky club invites Birmingham to create its own. 


I’ve only been a fan of whisky for about ten years. It was my Aunt and Uncle that introduced me to the temptations beneath the shadowy dusk. The ‘water of life’ transfixed me and now I’m hooked by the complexities and innovations of this temptress called whisky. 

The whisky market is widening. It’s not just Scotch that leaps out from distilaries. 

The World whisky award winner comes from Japan.

 Ireland, Wales, and California America are popular as is the Czech Republic. Then of course there are the blends Jameson, Grants, Bells including the divine Johnnie Walker Black Label aged 12 years. 

For me though there is no better place to begin than with Malt Whisky from Scotland. I remember a few years ago visiting the Scotish Whisky experience in Edinburgh and marvelling at Whiskies that came from small distilleries miles from anywhere that were thriving and innovating the industry. So whether it’s regions Speyside, Highland, Lowland, or Islay, the choice is comprehensive. 

Whisky need not be complicated the five steps for me in appreciating whisky are: 

Colour: is your whisky light, gold, bright, copper or rich Amber in colour?

Body: does your whisky have a light, medium or full body? 

Nose: Which aromas do you recognise when you nose your whisky- is it malty, smoky, fruity, chocolatey? 

Palate: what characteristics do you notice on the palate- is it softly sweet, rich and fruity or peppery and spicy? 

Finish: Does the flavour remain for a long time or does it disappear quickly? 

One thing that links the massive market of whisky is the passion and individuality which makes it deeply rooted and dynamic simultaneously. 

Some of the best places in Birmingham to try ‘The water of life’ are:

The Prince of Wales-Moseley- over 40 Malt Whisky’s in stock.

The Victoria-City Centre (home to the Birmingham whisky club). 

The Plough-Harborne, with a good choice of rare and Japanese  Whisky’s. An expanding tasting room is been developed. 

Hotel Du Vin-City Centre. The only bar in Birmingham to stock Whisky’s from the Scottish Malt Whisky Society.  

The Wellington-City Centre. An excellent whisky list. 

The Bureau-City Centre, good for whisky cocktails. 

Purnells Bistro/Gingers Bar: good for old fashioned bourbon cocktails with a decent whisky list. 

If you keep an eye on the Birmingham Whisky Club website events are published frequently. 

The Birmingham Whisky Club is the city’s only whisky tasting events company, and one event its hosting is an exciting new event with global whisky brand, Chivas Regal. 

The upcoming event, ‘A Blending Masterclass With Chivas Regal’ takes place on Wednesday 4th November at Vivaanta, and will see whisky-lovers taste through and learn about a number of blends and single malts before trying their hand at making their own.
The evening event will be hosted with whisky expert, Whisky Club supporter and Pernod Ricard Brand Ambassador, Phil Huckle, who will taste people through a number of whiskies before guiding guests in making their own bespoke blend to take home. Included in the ticket price will be a meal from one of the city’s newest Indian restaurants, Vivaanta, which guests will be able to enjoy together while their blends are tasted by Phil and other experts from The Birmingham Whisky Club. A prize for ‘best blend’ will go to the winner to take home.

Amy Seton, founder of The Birmingham Whisky Club, comments: “We are really excited to host this event in Birmingham and add an interesting element to the Whisky Club offering. Blends are big business and it’s not every day whisky-enthusiasts get a chance to make their own. We look forward to introducing Phil Huckle and Chivas Regal to more whisky enthusiasts and learn about the fine art of blending.

Tickets for the event are priced at £35 each (plus booking). For more information and to book a place, head to the ticket page. For other information and upcoming events, visit their Facebook page. 

The Birmingham Whisky Club is Birmingham’s only dedicated whisky tasting events company. They offer a diverse range of tutored tastings and whisky-themed events in and around Birmingham, including themed and rare whisky nights, events with distilleries, whisky and food matching, and private and corporate events. They welcome everyone, from complete beginners to the more hardened whisky buff.  

 Visit their webpage:

http://www.thebirminghamwhiskyclub.co.uk/

http://www.thebirminghamwhiskyclub.co.uk/events/4569005395

http://www.thebirminghamwhiskyclub.co.uk/about/4557718945
 

You can also buy whisky in Birmingham at specialist whisky shops such as the Hard to Find Whisky Shop in the Jewellery Quarter and the Whisky Shop in the Great Weatern Arcade. 

Supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s also stock a Good supply of whisky locally. With many good bottles reduced frequently. 

http://www.htfw.com/

Thanks for reading 

Andy 😊
  
Whisky at The Plough Harborne. 

   
   

A selection of my Whisky’s from home. 

Hotel La Tour and La Tour Grill. A modern twist on the classic


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Late last year Ruth and I booked a staycation in Birmingham at Hotel La Tour via the Secret Escapes website. Worth checking on for good deals.

Hotel La Tour is in Birmingham City Centre, on the Digbeth side and is an excellent spot to stay if in the city to shop or take in Brums sights.

Hotel La Tour is a modern designed hotel that has a chic and quite sophisticated bar called Alvar which is brilliant for cocktails and a brasserie style restaurant called La Tour Grill which leans towards seasonal produce and is a steak specialist and serves a menu of classic British dishes. Presented with a modern twist.

La Tour Grill is also excellent for vegetarians as I surprisingly found out.

The Hotel has 174 stylish bedrooms which are modern in style and facilities, and on the whole are all you would require for a night away in the city or short break. Though our rooms was more basic than some it was comfortable and had all we required.

We had ordered dinner at Grill La Tour. I didn’t expect much to be honest, as a veggie, but I’m a bit cynical sometimes.

We began our evening as we do in a bar. The spacious and sophisticated area know as Alvar is a very relaxing and cool space. We ordered Gin Martinis. A check of quality, perfectly made, classy. It hit the spot.

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The bar area is comfortable with sofas and though quiet for a Friday evening still had a lovely atmosphere and is a must when staying at the hotel. In fact it’s lovely when in Birmingham full stop, with a huge cocktail, wine and drinks list including many many Whiskies 😊

We had booked dinner at La Tour Grill. A lovely space, with perfect lighting, and though large it felt more intimate than on first impressions. A real grower.

La Tour Grill uses seasonal ingredients. Sourced locally with some produce grown on their roof top garden allotment, Jardin La Tour, supported by
Edible Eastside in nearby Digbeth that I’ve championed before on this blog.

The Brasserie caters well for vegetarians with some options on the menu but on discussion with the waitress they had many more unseen and un menued veggie jewels that can be made upon request.

The waitress brought some excellent assorted breads to the table to eat whilst looking at the menu. These were varied, crisp and presented well. Always a good sign if the bread is of high standard.

I decided to order off the main menu.

I began with The Heritage Tomato and Burrata cheese salad. A lovely starter.

The tomatoes were fresh, grown on the roof, had a beautiful flavour and were both yellow an red in colour. Against the Burrata cheese you could imagine you were in Italy it tasted so fresh. The dish was also impressively presented. A simple dish, done well. Sounds easy, but rest assured i’ve had some rotters in my time.

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For my main course I ordered the delicious sounding
Asparagus, Pea, Courgette and Ricotta Risotto
.

This dish surprised me with its gentle flavours and perfectly creamy texture. Throughout the dish the flavours of the fresh peas against the slightly charred courgette felt warming and surprisingly indulgent. A lovely risotto, one of the best I’ve had for years anywhere. I was pleasantly surprised. I also ordered some lovely hand cut chips because I have to Im afraid. I love chips. Beatutiful.

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So far so good.

For pudding I chose a dish that I had heard rave reviews about, the pudding to have, the signature dish.

The Jaffa Cake Pudding, candied orange.

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It wasn’t a cake at all, but was the elements that make up one.

The pudding was a joy. The orange served as a little mound of sponge with a candied orange on top and a pot of melted hot chocolate to pour over the top (as much or as little as you like) that was served with pistachio ice cream.

A winning pud. At a winning restaurant, which if I’m honest surprised me. Grills are usually not great for veggies.
La Tour Grill bucked the trend for simple well made dishes using well sourced ingredients, some home produced in their edible garden and a smart, relaxed dining room.

The quality of the ingredients did show through. I think this element made the real difference to the vegetarian dishes which at face value seemed simple but on taste much more complex.

I expected La Tour Grill to be a bit pretentious, but found the service friendly, professional and relaxed. All served as I’ve said in a lovely dining room.

The eating was the pleasure, and though the Brasserie wasn’t anywhere near full, it felt intimate and romantic.

The hotel and restaurant are ideal for dates, a night away, or a romantic drink in an excellent hotel bar. A sophisticated treat. Try it.

We headed back to the bar to sample the Whisky’s and brandy’s. A long list but someone had to do it. We sat next to the piano, no one was playing, but we could hear the gentle music swish through our minds like soothing harmonies.

I’ve also heard rave reviews from fellow bloggers about the afternoon tea. Bring it on.

La Tour Grill has also a chefs table near the kitchen. We had a view of the kitchen without the chefs table service. The table there seemed to be enjoying their experience.

Next morning we took breakfast in the Brasserie- a hot and cold buffet, of numerous breakfast items. The veggie breakfast items were good, though no veggie sausage. Very pleasant, without been overwhelming.

We enjoyed once again lovely service and it was a good way to end our short but very sweet stay.

Hotel La Tour
Albert Street
Birmingham
B5 5JE

A short walk from new street and Moor Street Stations.

0121 718 8000

http://www.hotel-latour.co.uk

Facebook: Hotel/la-tour

Twitter: @hotel_latour

We paid for our stay and meal in full all opinions are my own and honest.

We thank the hotel staff and restaurant staff for helping us to have a lovely one night stay.

@andydhare

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