Saturday, 26 November 2011

The M Kitchen Pop-up Restaurant

If posts become ever fewer and far between from me, it is because since October this year I have started studying for an MA in History with the Open University. I have cut down my hours at work to accommodate this, but I am still pretty busy. And I am trying to plan a wedding (trying being the operative word, there...).

Wednesday afternoon I was supposed to be studying, but I went to the M Kitchen pop-up restaurant instead. This was a promotional event to market a new range of products from Morrisons. I went to the one in Birmingham at The Custard Factory.

As it says on the website, "Five of the UK's leading chefs – Pierre Koffmann, Aldo Zilli, Nigel Haworth, Atul Kochhar and Bryn Williams – have each contributed a classic dish to the delicious menu at the M Kitchen."

The picture to the right shows the five dishes that each chef has contributed. Theses dishes will be available to buy in ready-meal form from Morrisons M Kitchen range. But enough of that for the minute - onwards with the meal I had on Wednesday!

I had never been to a Pop Up Restaurant before and haven't ever really shopped at Morrisons, therefore I had no idea what to expect from a pop up restaurant run by Morrisons and a complimentary one at that. (Incidentally, this was the first time I have ever dined out alone too!)

First of all, the staff were wonderful. Very polite and attentive and helpful. Upon being seated I was greeted with a glass of Morrisons champagne. Now, I am not a champagne expert and to be honest can't massively tell the difference between the cheap stuff and a bottle of Bolly, so perhaps not the best judge; but, the Morrisons stuff seemed nice enough to me.

Then I was brought some bread and olives. The marinated olives were lovely and I ate most of them, which turned out to be a mistake given how much food was to come...

For my starter I chose Roast tomato soup with Chorizo and Manchego. I was interested to see what the chefs had managed to do with a tomato soup. It was very tasty and I loved the addition of the spicy chorizo to a classic soup.

I was then brought another starter, compliments of the chef! It was scallops with broad beans and peas. Hardly seasonal, but, this was the first time I had ever tried scallop (yes, I know, I am a rubbish foodie) and oh. my. god. The scallops melted like butter in the mouth and the soft, sweet, warm scallop was offset nicely by the fresh, slightly bitter (but also slightly sweet) broad bean and pea accompaniment. This was definitely a highlight of the entire meal.

For my main, I ordered the beef bourguinon with creamy mash. This dish was created by Pierre Koffman, who is apparently head chef of Koffman's at the Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge. The blurb says of this dish: "The rich, opulent and sticky flavours of Pierre's Bourguignon come from premium British ox cheeks, along with his unique cooking method." Not sure what his unique cooking method is, but again, this was very tasty. I agree that it was rich and sticky, but 'opulent' is perhaps going a bit far. The beef was lovely and tender and falling apart and the sauce was, as I say, rich and sticky. The carrots were perfectly cooked. The best part, however, was the creamy mash. The creaminess of the mash complimented the richness of the sauce very nicely. I can't quite imagine how this is going to translate into a ready meal, but I plan at some point to find out. If it's approaching as good as it was in the restaurant, I will be a happy lady.

For dessert I had the cheesecake. It was gooood. Very creamy and served with sharp, sticky berries. Yummy. I polished off the lot, despite all the food I had already consumed. Unfortunately, looking at the promotional material I was given, starters and desserts do not feature in the ready meal range - clearly, these were given to us to sweeten the deal.

I didn't try any of Morrisons range of wines because I was planning to do some studying once I got home; and I needed to make sure I could find my way back to the train station after the meal.

I very much enjoyed my meal courtesy of Morrisons and was very impressed with the quality of the food. I will definitely be trying their new range of ready meals. More details about the M kitchen range can be found here.

It was also lovely to bump into Jo of Jo's Kitchen and her adorable 1-month-old son! I look forward to reading Jo's review of the experience, as she ordered different things than I did.

Disclaimer: This meal was complimentary for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review, and all views are of course my own.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Antigua part 1 - The Sandals resort

I arrived home from a holiday to Antigua this week, and while still really rather jet-lagged (over-night flights are punishing!) I wanted to tell you about some of the lovely food I had.

Firstly, I should explain that I was lucky enough to win the holiday to Antigua. I won an all-inclusive 7-night holiday to Sandals Grande Antigua, and we paid to stay on another 7 nights to make a lovely long relaxing holiday.

This is the first time I had ever been on an all-inclusive holiday before and, boy, did I take advantage of it. (I didn't realise quite how gluttonous I'd been until I got home and got on the scales...). Not only were breakfast, lunch and dinner included, there were snacks and plenty of drinks to be had too (including cocktails, 'mocktails', beer, house wines and soft drinks).

The various bars did a wide variety of cocktails unique to Sandals as well as all the old favourites. I discovered a penchant for pina coladas, but also very much enjoyed the Sandals Banana Sip Sop, which was like a banana milkshake but with alcohol in it.

This bird enjoyed the cocktails too...

One of the swim-up bars at the resort.

Breakfast was a buffet-type affair. I was impressed with the range of items available. There was everything from fresh fruit to sausages and bacon to pancakes. I was a fan of the baked beans, which tasted homemade rather than from a tin, and the same with the hash-browns. I also enjoyed the nods to more local cuisine, including Jonnycake, Escoveitch fish and fried plaintains.

There were a number of different restaurants open for lunch and dinner. Our favourite lunch spot quickly became Barefoot by the Sea, as it did a variety of salads, sandwiches and some more local foods such as Antiguan Jerk Chicken. We also liked the pizzeria, which had a wood-fired oven, and served some very tasty pizzas. We tried the lunch buffet once, but found it a little uninspiring.

For dinner there were three restaurants which required you to book a table, and a few which you could just turn up at. Out of all the restaurants for dinner, two stood out for us, both of which you had to book.

Firstly, there was Eleanor's, serving Caribbean cuisine. I liked this restaurant for obvious reasons. When I am holiday, I do like to try some of the local cuisine. Highlights for me were the lamb curry (I love Caribbean-style curries - there's something about the mixture of sweet, savoury and spice which is very appealing) and the starter of Red Bean Soup, which was the perfect blend of meaty and salty - I could imagine eating a large bowl on a cold evening. I will have to try and find a recipe.

Next, there was Kimono's - a teppanyaki restaurant.
The food here tasted amazing. You chose a starter and a soup or salad and then were served a small(ish) portion of each of the three different mains on offer by the teppanyaki chef who cooked the food in front of you. The chef's name was Suga (pronounced 'suger') "aka Mr Lover Lover" and not only did his food taste wonderful, he was also a great entertainer. His talents also extend to singing, using his spatulas as percussion instruments and generally cracking jokes and making everyone laugh. This is a restaurant with great atmosphere as well as great food. I loved the salmon with garlic butter and lime and the orange chicken.

Other restaurants weren't quite as memorable but they all served pretty good food. The Bayside restaurant sometimes did themed nights, and Steak Night was truly excellent - I've never had a better Ribeye - and it was massive too! No wonder I gained so much weight...

My next post will be about food and drink that we consumed outside of the resort (which wasn't a huge amount given that the all-inclusiveness of the resort, but definitely worth its own post.)

Help! All this food is ruining my figure!