Category Archives: Midlands

I Was In The Express & Star!

E & S Article Jo's Kitchen 13th December 2014

 On Saturday 13th December, I was lucky enough to be featured in the Express & Star Weekend supplement showcasing three recipes for Sainsbury’s using their RSPCA Freedom Food Standard products.

An image of the article is above or you can read it online here. You can also download a PDF copy of the article from here until the next edition of Weekend comes out this Saturday.

You can also read my recipes regularly on the Express & Star ‘Trusted Voices’ section online. All my posts are here.

I originally submitted five recipes for the article and only three were used. Sainsbury’s have kindly said I can share them with you on here so you can read both recipes below.

Thank you as ever for your continued support. Jo’s Kitchen will be six years old in March 2015 and I am determined that next year is going to be my biggest yet! I hope you will stay along for the ride!

Tikka Chicken

Tikka Chicken Thighs & Drumsticks with Cucumber Salad and Mint Sauce
Indian Food is very popular in the Midlands. This is my take on one of our favourites, Chicken Tikka. By removing the skin from the chicken, it reduces the fat content of the dish and ensures all the flavour goes into the meat. This would make a great starter for a few people or a light main for a couple of people. It is easy to double or triple the quantities too so you can make it for a large gathering.

Ingredients (Serves 2 – 4 (depending on whether main or starter))
For the Tikka Chicken
● 2 tablespoons Tikka Curry Paste
● 250ml Natural Yoghurt
● 1 pack Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference RSPCA Freedom Food Approved Corn Fed Chicken Thighs & Drumsticks, skins removed
● Small bunch of coriander, chopped finely to garnish
● 1 chili, chopped finely to garnish
For the Cucumber Salad
● ¼ Cucumber, halved and watery centre removed (skin be removed to if preferred), finely chopped
● ½ red onion, peeled and finely chopped
● Small bunch of coriander, chopped finely
● 1 lime, juiced
For the mint sauce
● 2 tablespoons of Mint Sauce (the type you normally serve with lamb)
● 50ml Natural Yoghurt
● Few leaves of fresh mint, chopped finely to garnish
● 1 pack of poppadum’s to serve alongside all three dishes

1. In a bowl, mix the Tikka curry paste and natural yoghurt together. Add the chicken, turn over in the marinate a few times then cover with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for as long as you can, preferably overnight.
2. Preheat your oven to 200°C and remove your marinated chicken from the fridge about 30 minutes before you want to use it to allow it to come up to room temperature.
3. Place the chicken on a baking tray covered with foil and bake for 40 minutes (or until juices run clear) turning every 10 minutes and coating with any extra marinade that you have leftover.
4. Meanwhile, make the cucumber salad. Put the chopped cucumber, red onion and coriander into a small bowl and add the lime juice. Toss occasionally and leave to sit until everything else is ready.
5. For the mint sauce (this is hardly a recipe!), mix the natural yoghurt and mint sauce together. Garnish with fresh mint and leave until chicken is cooked.
6. Once the chicken is cooked, serve all together in a platter style with poppadums’, eat and enjoy with a beer or two!

Pork Meatballs

Pork Meatballs with Mustard Mash and Mushy Peas
Faggots Mash and Peas is a very traditional Black Country dish. It is not so popular now as it once was because it is made with offal, which has fallen out of fashion too. However, traditional butchers around the Midlands do still make them. My version is made with pork mince and sausage meat, making an easy weeknight version of this traditional dish. Mace was a spice found in traditional faggots so I have added it here but have also added fresh herbs to liven it up.

Ingredients (serves 4)
For the meatballs
● 250g minced pork
● 6 Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference RSPCA Freedom Food Approved Ultimate Pork Sausages, skins removed
● ½ teaspoon onion salt
● 1 teaspoon mace
● Small bunches of parsley, thyme and sage, finely chopped
● 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs (dried is fine but can use fresh if preferred)
For the mashed potatoes
● 750g Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and chopped
● 50g butter
● 2 teaspoons English Mustard (or less if you do not like it to strong)
● Salt and white pepper to taste
For the Mushy Peas
● 250g frozen peas
● 25g butter
● Small bunch of mint, finely chopped
● Salt and pepper to taste
To serve
● 500ml onion gravy (instant is fine), made to packet instructions

1. In a mixing bowl, add in all the meatball ingredients and mix well to combine. I used my clean hands but you may be prefer to use a flexible spatula if you do not like touching raw meat. Roll the mixture into golf ball sized balls (makes 8-10 meatballs) and place on a greased baking tray. Cook in a preheated oven at 180°C for 30-40 minutes, turning occasionally until brown, golden and the juices run clear.
2. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in salted simmering water until tender. Drain them, then mash with the butter, add salt, and pepper to taste. Once mashed, stir through the mustard and set aside until serving.
3. Cook the frozen peas in salted simmering water until tender (around 5 minutes) then drain. Using a handheld blender or food processor, blend the cooked peas with the butter, salt and pepper until desired consistency is reached. Stir through the chopped fresh mint.
4. Serve 2-3 pork meatballs per person, with a generous helping of mustard mash and a dollop of mushy peas. Top with onion gravy and eat.



Tasty Tuesdays

Merry & White at Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill

A few weeks ago, I was invited to the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill in The Cube, Birmingham for an exclusive preview of their Christmas menu. Alongside me were a selection of Birmingham’s finest bloggers, including Full To The Brum, Word in Veg Ways, Out In Brum and A Much Prettier Puzzle.
The evening started with Prosecco in the bar with my fellow bloggers and then we were taken into the private dining room to begin our Merry & White Christmas meal. More Prosecco was served and soon our starters were served. I had the Potted Duck with Piccalilli and Sourdough Toast. The duck was rich, creamy and simply melted in mouth. The piccalilli was sharp in contrast and was one of the best I had ever tasted (I wish they sold it in jars!!) and the toast was perfect serving vehicle for the duck and the piccalilli.
For my main, I had Roast Turkey with Marco’s homemade stuffing, cranberry and port gravy with roasted potatoes. The turkey had only come from a farm 35 miles away and complimented by the stuffing, it tasted amazing! I usually find turkey boring but this was really tasty. I would definitely eat it again. My only minor issue was the lack of festive vegetables as it took me a while to find them on my plate. A couple of pieces of carrot, a few potatoes and a few bits of parsnip do not say generosity to me, which is the whole meaning of Christmas in my opinion! For £40 a head for four courses, a few extra vegetables would be appreciated! Everything else was good though and I wish my turkey would taste like that on Christmas Day!

For pudding, I had Double Chocolate Cheesecake with Mini Marshmallows. I am not usually a fan of cheesecakes, however this was different. It was full of chocolate and although the white chocolate and mini marshmallows made it really sweet, the dark chocolate centre was bitter enough to cut through it. My plate was clear at the end!

To finish the meal, we had coffee and a warmed mince pie and it was soon time to step back out into the cold with our full happy bellies. It was the most relaxing Christmas dinner, I am going to have this year!!!

I dined as a guest of MPW Steakhouse Bar & Grill. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.


A Day at Brompton Cookery School

Marcus, Daniel and I

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to spend the day at Brompton Cookery School in Shropshire. I was kindly invited by the BBC Good Food Show as I am part of their blogger community. The cookery school is run by Marcus Bean and his wife, Jenny. Marcus is hosting the supertheatre at the BBC Good Food Show Summer which starts tomorrow.

Marcus showing us around the garden

Marcus’ house and B&B

After arriving at the cookery school and meeting my fellow BBCGFS community bloggers along with Katy and Flo from the BBCGFS team, we were taken by Marcus on a tour of his very extensive garden. Unfortunately, Daniel woke up at this point so I did not fully hear everything Marcus was saying, however his house and garden are absolutely gorgeous and full of many inspiring and unique items that would encourage any cook to get in the kitchen.

Rob showing us how to make bread

Back at the cookery school, we were given a bread making demonstration by Rob Swift, of Swifts Bakery who regularly teaches classes at the school. He had brought a large amount of bread dough with him and much of the session was spent with Rob showing us the many different types of bread you can including rolls, tin loaves, and Twist breads. I hope to make one of these soon to show you how to make a simple and impressive bread.
Once Rob had completed his demonstration (and we had asked a million questions!) it was time for us to do dirty work and make some bread ourselves. I decided to make a ******** (I have forgotten the name! – baby brain! I will update the post as soon as I remember) as I am a great lover of pizza and this seemed to be great alternative and would be perfect to share at a picnic or BBQ. It was also simple to make which was good for my sleep deprived brain!
After our bread had baked and was cooling, we sat down to a delicious lunch kindly provided by the cookery school and a selection of producers who will be at the BBCGFS this year. While Rob had been doing his demonstration, Marcus had whipped up two asparagus quiches with wild garlic pastry, a glazed ham and a chocolate mousse with honeycomb for pudding. We also had a selection of breads from Swift’s Bakery, some Cheese from Mr Moyden’s, some Great British Sauces, a selection of products from The Garlic Farm and lots of tomatoes from The Tomato Growers Association to name a few. Lunch was amazing and it was wonderful chatting to so many like minded people.
As it was Marcus’ birthday, we had a mini blogger bake off and I made a rather large chocolate cake for you. Unfortunately I did not win the bake off but it was still a great chocolate cake. More to follow in my next post soon. At the end of a fun and busy day, we left with full tummy’s, heavy goodie bags and enough bread as we could carry.

Rob and Daniel

Duscosure: I was invited to the cookery school as a guest of the BBC Good Food Show. We received samples of products in a goodie bag at the end of the day. All opinions are my own. If you use the code above to purchase ticket(s) to the BBC Good Food Show, I will earn a few penny’s.











BBC Summer Good Food Show 2013 – Part One

BBC Summer Good Food Show

A few weeks ago, it was the BBC Summer Good Food Show at the NEC in Birmingham. I had such a fabulous time there but have been so busy recently I have not had chance to tell you about it until now. The day started with the show being opened officially by James Martin (pictured above).

Northern Dough Co.

Tan Rosie

Orchard Pigs Products

As part of the BBC Good Food Show Bloggers Community, we next had exclusive talks from three of the show’s most innovative producers: The Northern Dough Co., Orchard Pigs and Tan Rosie. It was interesting to hear from the producers and find out how the show had boosted their businesses and give them a wider audience to sell their producers.  I have been using Northern Dough pizza dough for the last couple of years and I am a massive fan. Orchard Pigs and Tan Rosie were both new to me. I loved the game pies from Orchard Pigs and chilli fudge from Tan Rosie.

Orchard Pigs Stand

Next, we had an exclusive tour of some of the show’s best producers by Katy Truss who helps bring producers to the show and is a very friendly face to them when they are there. We saw Rob on the Orchid Pigs stand, then we went to the British Tomato Growers Association. They had an amazing British flag made out of tomatoes on their stand.

From there, we went onto Edible Ornamentals who earlier on in the year, supplied us Good Food Show Bloggers with some dried chillies which I used to make the Hairy Bikers Gourmet Chilli. I brought a chilli plant and am longer forward to first lots of chilli’s from the plant soon.

Northern Dough Co

Next we went to the Northern Dough Co. stand who had just cooked a fresh pizza for us when we arrived. The base of the pizza was their rosemary dough which is my absolute favourite.

The Chocolatier

Our next stop was The Chocolatier who makes the most fantastic chocolate and the best of it is that, it has no cream, no butter, no eggs or gelatine in it. I loved his coke flavoured chocolate with popping candy in and was surprised at how good his curry chocolate tasted too.


For our last stop, we went to Demijohn where you can buy oils, vinegars and alcohol in whatever sized bottles you would like. My fellow bloggers had great fun trying the rhubarb vodka. I could not try as I am pregnant. I did try and fall in love with their extra virgin olive oil. I brought a bottle home with me and will be using it for salads and for dipping.

Many thanks to Ginny, Katy and the team for a fantastic day at the Good Food Show. Look out for part two where I interview Galton Blackiston and part three, where I meet even more amazing producers. :-)

Good Food bloggers logo

Disclosure: I attended the BBC Good Food Show as a guest of Haymarket and gained entry to the show with a press pass. Some items I received from the producers were complementary or in some cases I received a discount from them. All opinions are my own. 

I am a BBC Good Food Show Blogger!!

Good Food bloggers logo outline-page-001

Earlier on in the year, I was contacted the BBC Good Food Show asking if I would like to be a member of their new Good Food Bloggers community. Having been going to the Good Food Shows for many years, I jumped at chance to be involved and get the inside scoop. As part of the community, we get sent products from producers who will be appearing at the shows. So far we have received, some dried Edible Ornamentals Chipotle Chilli and some Farmer’s Fayre Rose Veal escalopes.

Hairy Biker's Gourmet Chili

With the smoked dried chipotle chilli, I made the Hairy Biker’s Gourmet Chilli with bitter chocolate. The Hairy Biker’s make regular appearances at the good food shows and being huge fans of theirs, it seemed the most appropriate thing to make. I adapted the recipe as I only used steak mince and also did not add any beans into my chill. It was gorgeous and the smoky chili really came through. I will definitely be making this again!


With the veal, I just served it simply griddled with new potatoes, green beans and carrots. It was yummy and has veal is really good for us, I will be definitely eat it in another way soon.


A few weeks ago, most of the good food bloggers community went to Purnell’s Bistro and Gingers Bar in Birmingham for lunch and some cocktails. We were treated to a cocktail making demonstration where we learn that cocktail making and creating recipes are actually very similar. We got to try a few cocktails too. My favourite was the roast lamb Provençal cocktail (basically roast dinner in a glass) It is very strange tasting at first but after a few sips I really enjoyed it.   I want to go back again to try more cocktails. For my lunch at Purnell’s Bistro, I had;

Starter: Black Pudding – Potato Rosti – Poached Hen’s Yolk – Bacon Dressing

Main: Blade of Beef – Seasonal Vegetables – Mustard Jus

Pudding: Seasonal Crumble – Vanilla Ice Cream

It was lovely to meet my fellow bloggers and I cannot wait to see them all again at the summer show :-)

If you would like to go to the BBC Summer Good Food Show from 12th to the 16th June 2013 at the NEC and have not got your tickets yet, then I have an exclusive discount code for Jo’s Kitchen readers, giving you 15% off normal standard ticket price.

The discount code is: JK15

This entitles Jo’s Kitchen readers to 15% off standard tickets. The discount is not valid on VIP Tickets. The ticket will include a seat in the Supertheatre in a session of their choice.

Thank you to the Ginny and the BBC Good Food Show team, Claire, Purnell’s Bistro, Edible Ornamentals and Farmer’s Fayre for the wonderful experience of being a good food show bloggers community member so far. It is much appreciated :-)

Disclosure: I was sent the products to taste free of charge. My meal at Purnells was complementary from the BBC Good Food Show Team. If you use the code above to purchase a ticket, then I will earn a few pence from it. 

Birmingham’s First Ever Street Market Launches This Saturday!

BYY LOGO 170x170

The official launch of BRUM YUM YUM’S Kings hEATh Streetfood Market is taking place on Saturday April 13 at 12noon. Birmingham’s first ever authentic streetfood market will bring together 15 of the country’s hottest streetfood traders, rare street music and an urban circus troupe to create a truly unique dining experience.

Most dishes are in the £3-5 range with lots of snacks and sharing plates on the menu. A selection of quality beer and wine will be served at very reasonable prices (£2 bottle/glass) and if the weather disappoints, visitors can soak up the atmosphere from covered dining areas.

Streetfood Market

Streetfood is the hot trend in dining. The rare combination of quality and value has sparked a huge, vibrant streetfood scene in London. Now Birmingham will see the streetfood revolution roll out across the city. Kings hEATh will be at the Village Square on the second Saturday of every month from 12noon until 6pm, with more markets at various locations across the city due to be announced.

The latest boost to Birmingham’s reputation as a centre of food culture is produced by local promoters BRUM YUM YUM. Director, Duncan Stanley learned his trade in show business as a touring apprentice with local reggae superstars UB40.

Duncan Stanley, director said: “I have a creative vision of what makes a really great streetfood market. A complete experience; a ‘streetfood show’ with quality food, drink and entertainment combined to create a special and unique vibe.

“People want to eat food that is sourced and produced with care and sold at an honest price. Streetfood ticks all the right boxes, so the initial response to our vision for the food events has been overwhelming. Our online following just keeps on growing and the BBC Good Food Show producers are in talks with us about featuring streetfood at their shows.

“Thanks to the support of Birmingham City Council, BRUM YUM YUM’S streetfood markets will be regular foodie fixtures.”

Highlights from the menu for the Kings hEATh launch include; local baby back ribs from the filing cabinet barbecue, the ultimate dry aged Hereford beef burgers, 10 hour roast Cotswold lamb, authentic Neapolitan woodfired pizza, south Indian pure vegetarian masala dosa, handmade Moroccan falafel and hummus, Bradford-Kashmiri halal curries, freshly made hot Belgian waffles, and Middle Eastern salads created by ‘The Deli at Edgbaston’.

Duncan Stanley adds: “If you love great food and drink come early & come hungry. Whatever the weather we will keep you and your family comfortable and entertained. We want our markets to create a family fun atmosphere, a family affair with lots to eat, drink and enjoy whatever your age. I guarantee you will leave happy.”

Find BRUM YUM YUM on twitter @brumyumyum or & get down to Kings hEATh on Saturday 13 April and every second Saturday of the month.

Stuart, Thomas and I will be there soaking up the atmosphere on Saturday and we hope you can join us too :-)

Restaurant Review: Fleet Street Kitchen, Birmingham

Image by FSK

Image by FSK

A few weeks ago, Stuart, Thomas and I were invited to lunch at Fleet Street Kitchen. Fleet Street Kitchen is a new restaurant on Summer Row/Fleet Street in Birmingham, specialising in farm to plate British cooking with a relaxed contemporary edge. The restaurant has the only ‘Barbacoa’ Grill in the UK, which is a barbecue cooking method popular in Northern Spain using American lumpwood charcoal.

Image by FSK

Image by FSK

Image by FSK

Upon arriving at the restaurant, we were seated promptly and given a few minutes to sort ourselves out. Once we were all settled, our drinks order was taken (they have a wide range of real ales, proper ciders and an excellent wine list) and left to browse the menu. Fleet Street Kitchen do not have a children’s menu but are happy to make any dish on their menu a half portion for children.

For a shared starter, we had Freshly Baked Bread Oil & Balsamic and Kalamata Olives Marinated pepper. The bread was excellent with a crisp crust and a lovely chewy middle. The olive oil was slight bland and could have been better quality. The olives and the peppers were so delicious that we had to fight Thomas for them as he ate them like they were sweets. He is a proper little foodie already!

For our mains, Stuart had the 12oz Dexter Chop with FSK #1 Meat Sauce. The Dexter chop had been aged for 35 days and was served with a flat mushroom and roasted cherry tomatoes. The portion size was amazing. It reminded me of something Fred Flintstone might eat. It was cooked to the perfect medium and was very juicy and tender. The sauce was absolutely gorgeous too. My main was a corn fed Poussin cooked in a rotisserie and served with chips and homemade coleslaw. The chicken was juicy and the meat flaked easily off the bone. The coleslaw cut through the creaminess and was a great compliment to the poussin. Thomas had the Minted Pea Risotto Truffle Oil which was very fresh and zingy. Thomas really enjoyed eating it as the picture below shows.

For pudding, Thomas and Stuart shared the Soft Whip Ice Cream with Flake and Strawberry Sauce. I am not quite sure who ate the most but it was gone very quickly. For my pudding, I had Spotted Dick with Custard which was dense and very rich. The custard was beautiful with lots of vanilla seeds in it. My plate was soon clear too.

Overall, we had a fantastic time at Fleet Street Kitchen. I think it is an excellent addition to the Birmingham food scene. I am already planning my next visit on an evening when I can have a fantastic meal, then go downstairs to their bar for a cocktail and then party the night away!

Image by FSK

Disclosure: Stuart, Thomas and I dined as guests of Fleet Street Kitchen at a pre-restaurant opening press event. I was not required to write a positive review.

Birmingham Food Festival 2012

The Birmingham Food Festival is returning this coming Friday. I am planning on visiting with Thomas on Monday afternoon. Hope to see you there. Here is some more information about it :-)

The city’s tastiest festival Birmingham Food Fest will take place on 13-19 July 2012, returning after last year’s inaugural success with a week-long menu of food-filled events and restaurant offers throughout the city centre.

This year sees Visit Birmingham, the city’s leisure tourism programme, join forces with partners and leading chefs to showcase the very best of Birmingham’s culinary offer. Birmingham Food Fest kicks off with CBD Food Festival in Victoria Square on 13-14 July, a celebration of the diverse food and drink venues found in Colmore Business District, the city’s commercial heart. Brindleyplace’s super-spicy Birmingham Chilli Festival, which last year attracted thousands of foodie fans from across the region, will also be part of the fiery festivities.

Birmingham Food Fest will feature a mouth-watering line up of fringe events and irresistible restaurant offers as part of Visit England’s 20.12% campaign, promoting the UK’s visitor offer in the lead up to the Olympic Games. Last year’s festival saw an estimated 70,000 people tuck into food and drink offers from over 80 restaurants, leaving visitors hungry for seconds.

Emma Gray, Director of Marketing Services at Visit Birmingham, which is managing Birmingham Food Fest, said: “Last year’s Food Fest really helped put Birmingham on the map as a culinary destination and a haven for food lovers.” The festival saw 70,000 visitors descend on the city to sample our gastronomic delights, attracting nearly £1 million of media coverage and plaudits from influential international titles such as The New York Times, which named Birmingham number 19 in its ‘2012 must-see destinations’ shortlist due to its foodie credentials.

The Birmingham Chefs Alliance, which includes some of the city’s top culinary stars such as Glynn Purnell of Purnell’s, Aktar Islam of Lasan and Richard Turner of Turners Restaurant, have again stepped out in support of Birmingham Food Fest. David Colcombe, Head of The Birmingham Chefs Alliance and Chef Director of Opus Restaurant is currently flying the flag for the city’s foodie reputation stateside at Chicago’s Culinary Crossroads, an event showcasing the food and drink of the NATO nations ahead of the diplomatic summit in May. He said:

“Birmingham has long been home to some fantastic restaurants and chefs that have helped catapult the city into the gastronomic spotlight.

“The underground cooking scene taking root in the city and home-grown talent that continues to push the boundaries of culinary creativity, means Birmingham is quickly gaining recognition as an international haven for food.”

Guest Post From Eat The Midlands: Exclusive Interview With Marcus Wareing

Following on my recent visit to Hotel La Tour, I am pleased to bring you an exclusive interview with Marcus Wareing, the inspiration behind Aalto Restaurant. The interview was conducted by my friend and fellow Midlands foodie James Day of Eat The Midlands. Following a discussion on Twitter, I suggested that James ask the ‘guilty pleasures’ question below. I hope you enjoy reading the interview and thanks to James for letting me share it with me :-)

Being invited to a press lunch is always an honour, never a chore, but some don’t warrant an afternoon smoshing, and saying how wonderful a place is, when you know there is a long way to go. But when  the team at the new Hotel La Tour in Birmingham invited us to attend a lunch, joint hosted by Marcus Wareing, one in my position would be a fool to turn down – Marcus is the chefs chef – the man who helped Gordon Ramsay get to where he is (er was) and the very same man who told him where to go (in no uncertain terms) when they famously fell out in 2007 and parted their ways  via the courts – the result? Marcus retained his status at The Berkeley in London, at what was Petrus, and it was shortly renamed afterwards ‘Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley’ achieving Marcus 2 Michelin stars and a lot of industry acclaim thereafter – so what is he doing on a  cold day in May at a hotel in Birmingham?

Marcus, welcome to Birmingham – is this your first time?
No, far from it – I have been up and down the M40 or London-Birmingham train many times in recent months – since I got involved with the team and MD Jane Schofield at Hotel La Tour last year, it has been non stop – really exciting stuff – this is really out of the norm for me, but I was introduced almost by accident by a  mutual friend, and I loved their ethos, passions and focus, and before I knew it, I was involved in a privately owned new build Hotel in the centre of Birmingham!

So, the Aalto restaurant we are sitting in is ‘Inspired by Marcus Wareing’ Explain
The food you have tasted today has been born out of over 20 years hard graft from me, yes, but the menu, and creation has come from my protégée Chef Alex Penhaligon – I met Alex last year, he went for an interview as a head chef with Hotel La Tour, and not until the final interview did he know he would be working with me – I think he was a little shocked! Alex has spent 3 months in my kitchens in London – both The Berkeley and The Gilbert Scott – he is a real inspiration to me, and my team. I saw the same ethos and passions in him that I also have, and despite spending some years working in branded hotels, which though taught him systems, discipline, structure and good buying, he had lost some of his spark when he came to us, but I could see it was there, deep down – all I did was bring it out of him, and now he is here doing an incredible job.

So what is the Marcus Wareing ethos you mention?
It’s what makes us what we are, and what makes my food what it is. To me it comes from deep within – a drive, a passion, and a vision and above all a comfort in your own skin – You have to do this job for the right reasons, there is no point in thinking you will be the next TV chef – that’s not important, and it does not reward the soul – believe me I’ve seen it. Getting up at the crack of dawn, seeing fine produce arrive in your kitchen, and creating something from it is what the ethos is – and doing it for the customer, not some food critic or a camera, that’s what is important to me. When Alex started with us, I told him to watch, listen, learn and follow – he did just that, and absorbed every bit of it, and look at him now – lunch was incredible, and for almost 90 covers, is a real achievement – when critics like you are watching with your eyes, and cameras, it ain’t easy. {laughs}

So what is Marcus Wareing style food?
Its hard to say…very hard. My own food at The Berkley, where I am most services, and has my name above the door, comes from within – My life growing up in Lancashire, my family cooking, my dads passions, and my training for many years – The Gilbert Scott, which I love, is more influenced by the history of the building and the classics, more brassiere in  style, much like Aalto Restaurant at La Tour. But overall I try and understand what customers want these days – most people are well travelled, have experienced food from all over the world, know what they like, and are prepared to experiment, but in recessionary times like we are in, chefs like me need to appreciate that firstly, the meal may be more of a treat than it was a few years ago, money is tighter, so the experience is key – the front of house staff have never been more important – so you have to respect that, and share your passions with them, so they then instil it on the customer. Gone are the days of the big expense account – it’s now more about value – not discount, but added value in the ingredients the service and the memory they go away with. We have tried to carry that to the Aalto restaurant menu – its excellent value, and classic dishes, such as stew’s, pies, great cuts of beef, fresh fish,  and other ingredients, largely from local suppliers – you have excellent producers in the region including Aubrey Allen Butchers, and Mr Moydens cheeses, both appearing on our menus – not just because they are local, because they are good – I use Aubrey’s in my restaurants in London for that very reason. Select buying means we can keep the prices keen. Customers  will respect that and then hopefully come back.

What are your plans for La Tour Hotels and working with them?

The owners are a great, progressive and passionate – coming from good hospitality stock – originating from Hayley Conference Centres and they have big plans – and good backing. To me their first venture in Birmingham is a huge achievement –a  great investment – and I am proud to be involved. Hotel restaurants are not easy  – they have a stigma. So marketing such places to the potential audience is key – it’s a long game, but as long as the message and the offering is consistent, and the customer receives excellent service and quality sustainable value, then there is no reason why a good destination food venue such as this would not succeed.  Seeing the team today underlines that – you can see it in their eyes. I will continue to oversee the menu development with Alex and the team – they are all very hands on, as am I, and work with them to ensure the diners of the Midlands, and those who are staying in the hotel, enjoy what we have created, and bring their friends and colleagues – it’s a long game and I enjoy playing it.

Your wife famously helps you at the Berkeley, has she been involved with this?
Yes, she is over there. My wife is great, she operates a lot of the back of house business in my own restaurants, taking care of bookings, systems and staff development – I enjoy figures, and systems, and processes, which I agree, is unusual for a chef, but I still focus my attentions onto what goes out of the doors of my restaurant kitchen – I am at every service, and if I am not my customers are told – You can’t pretend anymore with the advent of Twitter – ‘cause someone will tweet they have seen you out with your kids somewhere maybe enjoying a pizza, when hard working customers are spending a lot of money thinking you are preparing  their meal – it’s not on. Saying that – I also prioritise my family, so if I need a service off with them, then I will take it.

What do you do to relax – Any guilty pleasures?
Yeah, I close my front door! I live for my family, my wife and my kids – that is my reality check, and what I work for – In 20 years I want to have a good life, nice holidays and a happy healthy family – you need to keep I touch with that so whatever we are doing together – a night in, a nice meal out, a pizza, great burger, or just a day in the house, it’s my escape – guilty? No, just pleasures I reward myself with.

How does your cooking at home – have your children shown any gourmet-credentials?
{Laughs} We all cook, and I enjoy it at home, simple dishes, but real good ingredients. Family meals are important. It’s funny,  my son had his 7th birthday at the Berkeley, he got all suited and booted, and the family turned up and I cooked for them – I was so proud – “this is what daddy does” – they could see what I was doing when I was not home, and he loved it, they all did. I saw that he really grew up that night, he was even in the kitchen afterwards watching everything go out off the pass to other customers and pointing out what he had had, and watching the brigade and front of house service. I was so proud of him

Did he tip?
No he didn’t, tight bugger! {laughs}

So what will be Marcus Wareing legacy?
{Thinks…} I am not striving for a legacy, I am striving to be involved, fulfilled, and successful in what is our relatively new business, but I don’t strive for TV, fame and media, I just strive for respect, earned, not demanded, that’s all.

Marcus Wareing thank you.

More on Hotel La Tour and Aalto restaurant

Interview exclusive by James Day of &’  © ETM & 2012.

Discover Ireland with Selfridge’s

From the 10th-29th April, you can discover more about Ireland and its food at Selfridges Birmingham. This week I was lucky enough to be invited to try it and I was certainly not disappointed. They have a wide range of Irish produce available to purchase in the food hall and they even have a special menu to celebrate in the fourth floor Gallery restaurant.

I went to the Gallery Restaurant early on a Monday evening when the restaurant was quiet. It was lovely to see into the Bullring below and see people shopping/getting on with their day. I was greeted warmly by the staff and given their Discover Ireland menu to peruse. As I was with my partner we were able to try both starters and main courses on the menu.

To start, my partner had potato and thyme soup served with soda bread and I had a ham hock terrine, served with white pudding and an Irish Whiskey Jus. The soup was light and creamy with a lovely background note of thyme. The ham hock terrine was rich and sticky. It was complimented beautifully by the velvety white pudding and crisp salad leaves.

Our mains were Guinness Braised Beef Brisket served with Colcannon and Sausage and Potato Pie served with cabbage and bacon. Both portions were very generous. The brisket was rich and full of the flavour of the Guinness.  The pie was topped with crispy pastry and filled with large chunks of sausages and lots of lovely vegetables. One minor flaw in both dishes was the over seasoned cabbage. It was a disappointment for both of us as the cabbage would have been an excellent accompaniment otherwise.

For pudding, I had Apple and Raspberry Crumble served with Buttermilk Ice Cream. The crumble had lots of texture in it and the fruit was not too sweet. The ice cream was creamy and delicious too. Overall we had a good meal at the Gallery Restaurant and look forward to return there soon to try their normal menu.

Many thanks to Emma at the Bullring and Selfridge’s for a lovely meal. It is much appreciated :-)

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