Duckinghell that’s tasty | The Vernon

You know the drill; there’s a family birthday, your brother lives somewhere ‘over that way’ and you’re thinking of a pub somewhere in-between to meet up for a meal and good old chinwag. Luckily for my clan, that place happened to be a beautiful 18th Century gastropub called The Vernon (aptly named after the geezer who owned the nearby Hanbury Hall according to the website), located somewhere in the middle of the quaint village of Hanbury. I’d been to the pub a few years back, again to meet my bro, and had enjoyed an incredible meal, so I was quite excited to be going back when I finally realised where we were going (I’d mistakenly chosen what three course meal I was going to have at a pub about six miles down the road – whoops).

The car park was pretty chocka upon arrival, which for a pub that is, in my estimation ‘in the sticks’ was a good sign. We were seated in a lovely old side room called Hogwarts for the evening, styled with heavy, carved wooden chairs, low hanging lights and old pictures of what the pub looked like back in the day. I of course went straight into eyeing up the menu and quizzing the waitress on what exactly on the menu was gluten and milk free, to which she went off to fetch the chef. He came back a few minutes later to ask me what dishes I was fancying and specifying what adjustments he could make to ensure I could eat it. I was over the moon to discover that they provided vegan butter and gluten free bread, so I opted for the homemade soup and a duck dish from off the daily specials menu.


The soup arrived with four slices of bread and lashings of vegan butter on the side. From first sight you could tell that it was homemade as it was so deliciously thick, and the taste was so good I managed to polish off every last spoonful. I have to admit I didn’t ask what flavour it was as I was so psyched for soup on such as cold night – could have been butternut squash but who cares, it was bloody lovely!

Next up came the fillet of duck, served with cherries, roasted baby tatties, green beans and what I believe was some sort of red wine jus. Now I’m quite picky with duck because it can so often be chewy, but this one was cooked to perfection, so much so, that I could have eaten it all over again after a couple of hours rest if given the chance.


Around the table everyone was over the moon with their choices. Some of the other dishes ordered included a Prawn & Crayfish Cocktail – which could have easily served as a main dish due to its ginormous size – Breaded Portobello Mushroom which looked delightful, as well as another gigantic meal of North Atlantic Cod & Chips, plus an 8oz Venison Steak with all the trimmings. An Eton Mess was also consumed by the very happy Birthday girl!



Overall, the service and food at The Vernon provided for a delightful experience and in fact, my brother even took his friends there for another visit shortly after we went and provided an equally impressive review of the Sunday dinner. If you’re in the area, needing a place to stay or simply fancy driving out into the countryside for the day, I’d recommend The Vernon without a shadow of a doubt.

Move aside Colonel, there’s a new chief of chicken in town: Bonehead

I’d heard the rumours long before – whispers from people making the bold claim that it was the “best chicken in Brum,” “simply phenomenal” and “KFC on steroids.” Alas, in a world of fake news I simply refused to believe until I had myself, bore witness to the wings behind the words.

Me and my work colleagues rocked up to Bonehead on a Tuesday night and at 6pm, it was already heaving. Although you can’t book tables, they did a tremendous job of fitting all 12+ of us in. There’s a good selection of drinks, from craft beers through to gins and the menu offers a choice of wings, strips, burgers and combos. Although the burgers and strips were off limits to me as they contained gluten and dairy, I could have most of the wings and so I ordered the sweet chilli & garlic with spring onion and seasame seeds option.

Now, many people will testify to the fact that I’m a bit of a wing addict. Truth be told, I’ve stunned many a waiter as they’ve seen me polish off a kilo of chicken wings without so much as batting an eyelid, so I wasn’t really expecting a ‘best ever’ dish here. Let me just say this: These wings were insanely good! See how I even used an explanation mark there and put aside my grammatical pet hate of shouting at people through words? Well, Bonehead made me do it! If I could list every filthy food porn word here I would – it was quite simply, the best chicken wings I have EVER had in my 28 years of eating, and as my friends know, that’s not a claim I make lightly when they’ve seen me consume somewhere in the region of 5,000 chicken wings in the past two years.

The sauce was incredible and a perfect combination of sweet and spicy, plus the fresh kick coming from the spring onion and crunchy texture on the seasame seeds gave it a rather pleasurable texture. The chicken was coated in a melt-in-your-mouth batter, sizzling with juice and filled with the most tender pieces of chicken that I’ve ever experienced in wings. The whole dish was sensational.

I had made the error of thinking the five wings would be small and so I asked the waitress if I could double up. After realising how big and filling the wings were, I would have been quite okay with just the one portion, but hey ho, God loves a trier and so I made it my mission to finish the 10 wings spread out before me. I was filthy after polishing them off, with chicken juice all over my hands and mouth, but at the end of the day, the best food always requires you to get stuck in. Bravo Bonehead, bravo.

All I can say now is; Nandos what, Nandos who, get yourself down to Bonehead too!

Chill, chat and tapas at Ambiente, Fossgate

I’m going to start by saying that this place was cool, and I mean Nordic style steak house cool with a great buzz, friendly staff and incredible tapas. The only downside; I’d eaten a big breakfast beforehand which I rather regretted on arrival at Ambiente Tapas, as the menu was so extensive that I automatically wanted to sample as much as possible along with copious amounts of red wine. Sadly for me, I had the unfortunate task of choosing which four dishes I was going to order before I  simply burst as a result of over eating. So here goes, my choices are as follows:

Bistec De Arrachera – to translate, this was a long plate of dry rubbed skirt of beef served with roasted onions and chimichurri. I chose this dish simply because, who the hell can go wrong with steak and chimichurri? At £6.95, it was the most expensive of the dishes I ordered and personally I would have liked a slightly larger portion for the price, but the steak was succulent, nicely flavoured and enjoyable as my only meat dish on the line-up.

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Mejillones A La Marinera – AKA, mussels steamed in white wine & garlic cream (the cream was omitted for me for obvious reasons). You can’t go far wrong with a big bowl of mussels when they’re swimming in a delicious broth. Despite the fact that I couldn’t have the cream sauce, the juice left behind at the end was absolutely beautiful. Once I’d munched my way through the meaty mussels, I scooped up every last morsel of the broth – very tasty indeed.

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Aceitunas Gordal – that is Queen Gordal olives for us Anglo-speaking specimens. Were they the best I’ve ever tasted? Nope, but they sure weren’t the worst either. I’d happily order them again. Add some black olives and red peppers to the bowl and Bob’s your uncle.

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Judias Verdes – in other words, green beans pan fried in garlic with sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts. Wow, wow, wow! Don’t be fooled by the fact that this dish sounds healthy as hell, because I really did save the best until last. This concoction just goes to show what can be created with just a few simple ingredients and really justifies why we love the simplistic food of the Mediterranean so much. In fact, I have thought about whipping this dish up at home countless times since as it’s so darn easy. The sweetness of the tomatoes mixed in with the crunch of the pine nuts, hint of garlic and juicy beans married together like a symphony. If someone gave me a mahoosive bowl of this then I would be in heaven. Divine with a capital D, people!

Overall, would I come back to Ambiente Tapas? Hell yeah! I’m only sorry I’d eaten a big breakfast that morning. If you’re in York and love tapas, chill and good wine, there’s only one place to be.

Gurkha goodness at Yak & Yeti

I stopped in my tracks as I passed down Goodramgate on a recent trip to York when I spotted The Yak and Yeti. I’d never passed by a Gurkha restaurant before and I was surprised to see one situated down the cobbled streets of this ancient city; so much so that I snapped a photo as a reminder to book a table for the next evening. I shamefully know very little of the Gurkha’s apart from short snippets passed down via my Nan and Mom from my Grandad who served in Burma; who told me of the sacrifice they made for Britain and their fierce fighting spirit. I booked a table mostly for the new experience and because I wanted to get just a little snapshot of the far-flung land that my Grandad had landed in all those years ago in World War 2 – even if army rations would never have allowed him the pleasure of tasting local cuisine.

The restaurant, which claims to be ‘York’s first family run authentic Gurkha restaurant,’ was lovely from the offset – painted pictures of Mount Everest and little hill villages adorned the walls, colourful prayer flags draped down from the ceilings and some small tables were lined up by the staircase with cushions for customers to sit on – I suppose if they wanted to dine in true Nepalese fashion.

The menu featured Gurkha lagers and a selection of meat and vegetable curries and noodle dishes. Allergens were clearly displayed on the menu next to each dish and there was a wide array of gluten and dairy free dishes – ordering had never been so easy!


For starters I opted for the Chicken Choila, which derives from the Kathmandu Valley and consists of spiced grilled meat. The menu didn’t lie when it said it was spicy, but the tender chicken and intense flavour was very enjoyable, even if I did have to swig back half a glass of wine to cool my mouth down.

Next up for mains I ordered the Everest Lamb – fresh from the foothills of Nepal as the menu stated. The lamb came served in a beautiful brass cup looking like a big scoop of delicious ice cream. Adorned with fresh tomato and herbs on the top to finish, the dish looked impressive before I’d even dug my spoon in. The lamb was plentiful and so very tender, the spice was just right and the sauce was exquisite. I had never tasted anything quite like it and I really persevered to eat every mouthful.

Overall, the experience was a great one and I felt really chuffed to have discovered a Gurkha restaurant on my stay in York. Before I’d even paid the bill, (the price was very reasonable by the way), I was already Googling if there were any Nepalese restaurants in the Birmingham area. If you’ve never tried Nepalese food and want to transport yourself away to the foothills of the Himalayas, do it – it’s an experience not to be missed!

Mambo Italiano at Marzano

With the exception of a gluten, dairy free pizza at Zizzi, I’ve always hated chain Italian restaurants. I’ve paid £15 before for a bowl of pomodoro with no seasoning or flavour in general. Many people are a dab hand at cooking pasta dishes at home, and so the thought of paying over the odds for it at a restaurant disappoints me massively. Although I admit they have probably got a lot better at catering for a gluten and dairy free diet in even the past five years, my negative experiences have meant that I always walk right on by when I see a Bella Italia or Prezzo.

On a recent trip to York, I discovered that the city is literally a haven for foodies. In fact, during the whole five days of being in the historic hub, every restaurant that me and my fella ate at was one that we’d walked past and decided looked good. I even took a picture of each one to ensure that we remembered to check out the menu online. We stumbled across Marzano late one evening when taking a stroll through Fossgate looking for somewhere to enjoy a tipple. With a sign outside that said they could cater for gluten and free diners, we booked a table for the next evening.

We were met with a cosy decor inspired by the sights and sounds of Italia as we entered the restaurant. After ordering a bowl of olives and a nice bottle of Merlot for the table, I got to work quizzing the waitress on the menu choices, to which I was delighted that they could whip me up a traditional Bruschetta for starter and more incredibly, a Linguine Fruit Di Mare for main – for some reason, adding seafood to gluten/dairy free dishes at chain Italians has always proved much harder than pulling teeth from a lion.

The Bruschetta featured a nice mix of marinated and oven roasted tomatoes, basil and fresh rocket, alongside olive oil and salad. The tomatoes were incredibly juicy, flavoursome and the perfect accompaniment to the wine. Simplicity is key here and the whole taste sensation served to remind me of how much I absolutely love tommies!


Next came the Linguine. On first look, I was a little disappointed that I was served pasta spirals instead of spaghetti, as quite frankly, not only do I enjoy twizzling my spaghetti around my spoon and fork, but also, a Linguine in my opinion should be served with long strands of pasta. Hesitation aside though, I tucked in to probably the best pasta dish I’ve had at a restaurant.

I’m a huge fan of seafood and so the combination of king prawns, clams, mussels and squid, thrown into a pomodoro sauce with white wine and chilli went down very well with me and my belly. The portion sizes were good and for the first time in many years, the thought of eating out once more at Italian restaurants was starting to seep back into my mind.

Although the restaurant was busy on a Friday evening, the waiters didn’t rush us out at full speed – a nice touch as we got to enjoy the meal at a pace we liked in true Mediterranean style.

All in all, would I go back to Marzano? 100% yes! My advice to them would be to stock gluten free spaghetti for such dishes as Linguine and Bolognese, but on the whole, Marzano has restored my faith in Italian restaurants – a feat that is quite incredible for any premises outside of good old Italia.

Beef on the Block: Keeping it simple with steak & chips

Anyone who knows me well would agree that I’m partial to a nice, slap up steak dinner. In fact, there was a run in joke at my old workplace about how many times a month I ate at Miller and Carter as I talked about it so frequently. It’s my ultimate treat night meal, whether it’s a £20 ribeye from a nice restaurant or a £4 sirloin from Aldi. I love a juicy steak and salty chips.

I was delighted therefore to learn that Beef on the Block were going to be coming to the latest Longbridge Dining Club. These beef loving, blue cheese grating foodies really are the new kids on the block, and it was with great anticipation that I headed down to their stand in the Longbridge Life car park for a taste.

The long queue at the stand was the first good sign that something incredibly delicious was being whipped up in the van. First things first, I quizzed the Beef on the Block guys on what I could eat. What came next was a generous portion of Aubrey Allen Bavette Steak with chimichurri sauce and crispy chips. Let me tell you, this dish was absolute perfection!

The steak was medium rare, flavoursome, extremely tender and melted in your mouth. Both the steak and the chips were nicely seasoned, in fact, the chips soaked up the juice of the steak creating a really moreish finish. I adore chimichurri sauce and so I knew this was going to sit well alongside the steak. Drizzled over the chunky meat, the herby sauce provided a refreshing addition to the dish.

Overall, my first experience of Beef on the Block was top notch. My only regret was that I didn’t order a second portion – always my downfall! If you like simple, no thrills grub that is tasty and filling, then Beef on the Block will be right up your street.

The Giggling Squid has the last laugh: Thai food at its best

Like many a British person, I shamelessly admit that my first experience of Thai food was out of a jar. Served alongside sloppy rice and with an overpowering pong of lemongrass, which by the way I absolutely despise, I wasn’t really feeling this new cuisine, despite the fact that Thai restaurants were popping up left, right and centre in towns and cities across the UK. Countless Instagram pictures of colourful broths, noodles and seafood convinced me that maybe I hadn’t really made time for authenticity, and so my Thai foodie trail began.

On a trip to Portugal last October, I went to my first, and what I so gullibly claimed to be the best, Thai restaurant in Europe. Language barriers aside, I opted for a green curry, which tickled the taste buds and allowed me to come away with a new appreciation for this far flung corner of the world cuisine.

It was then with great excitement that I booked a table at The Giggling Squid in the historic town of Stratford-upon-Avon recently. Tripadvisor reviews were good, they did a gluten free menu and a suitably large range of options, plus, I couldn’t fault the drinks menu…always a key priority!

We were sat at a nice cosy table by the window and I was given the gluten free bible, which contained not one, but three pages of options for me. To be quite frank, I am now so unacquainted to having a large option of dishes, that in the end Mr Eeny Meeny Miny Moe had to step in and choose for me.

To kickstart the show, I opted for the Roast Duck & Pomelo Salad, combined with Jicama, fine beans, coriander and lightly fried Pak Maew, which they claim to be a ‘newly discovered ingredient,’ by the chefs or moreover by the world, I’m not sure, but hey ho they’d thrown it in the mix for good measure. The duck, in my opinion was to die for. Despite the fact that I absolutely adore duck, I often find that chefs can over cook it, undercook it, not fry the fat enough, or simply forget to add depth of flavour in. This on the other hand, combined with the sweet ingredients and a spicy chilli kick, was a taste sensation.


For mains, I strayed from the ever so popular Red or Green Thai curries and chose the Massaman curry with Jasmin rice, alongside what I can only describe as being really tender cuts of fresh beef. The dish combined coconut milk and dry spices such as cumin, cinnamon and star anise. After gobbling up a large plateful of spicy duck, the sweet and mild taste of coconut milk came as a welcoming relief to my fiery palate. Any more spice from my starter and I’d have had to down a jug full of water. I was so full from the large quantities that I couldn’t even finish my curry, but two hours later I was regretting my decision to not find extra room in my belly for it.

Overall, the Giggling Squid was a delight from start to finish. In fact, I’ve already told everyone I know about it and am planning a second visit. Question is, what do I order next time? There were so many tempting dishes on the menu that I’m not sure I could choose just one!


Fish, Chips & Curry Sauce: English Indian

Question any Brit on what their favourite national dish is, and chances are curry or fish & chips will feature high up on their list. I mean seriously, are you even British if you don’t roll out of work on a Friday night craving either a large cod and chips or chicken bhuna? So surely putting them together would be a winning combination, right?

Last weekend, I dropped by Longbridge Dining Club. It was the 2019 launch event and an incredibly sunny day, and being only 15 minutes away from my house it would have been rude not to pop along for a cold cider and a bite to eat in the sun.

A good selection of the Digbeth Dining Club regulars had pitched up for the day, including Andy Low ‘N’ Slow, Urban Cheesecake, Baked in Brick and of course, The English Indian. I’d first come across English Indian back in summer 2018, at a Peaky Blinders Live event in Digbeth. I’d been eyeing up their stand all day and had decided that as I’d just eaten a big dinner, I’d pop along later on in the evening for fish and chips. Unfortunately, by the time me and my fella arrived at the stand around 9pm they had run out of fish and were packing up, but they did offer us a free portion of the chat masala chips, which were bloody delicious. Ever since then, I’d been eager to get to a Digbeth Dining Club on a date when they were there.

The great thing about The English Indian is that everything is gluten free and the fish & chips in particular are dairy free. I opted for what is arguably their most popular dish, pakora battered cod with chat masala seasoned chips, madras chip shop curry sauce, fresh mint & chilli mushy peas, dressed with lime and coriander. The batter was crispy and flavoursome, the chips had a delicious coating of spicy chat masala seasoning, which dipped into the curry sauce and seasoning provided a medley of incredible flavours.

The fact that the queue never went down all day at The English Indian proves their popularity and by the time I got home, I was wishing I’d have gone back to the stand for a second portion. Maybe there is something spectacularly weird about us Brits in that we love throwing curry spices and sauces onto our fish & chips, but boy if you haven’t tried combining your Friday fish night cod with masala chips yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s simply a brilliantly clever reinvention of Britain’s most classic dish and once you’ve tried it, you’ll never want to go back to cod, chips and ketchup again.

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Bob Got Big Boy Burger Back to eating locally

Anyone that lived through the great gluten free drought of the nineties and noughties will relate to the years spent dribbling over burgers, pizza, garlic dough balls and freshly baked bread. The demand for gluten free products was minimal and the poor ‘free-from-ers’ such as myself had to make do with gluten free prescription goodies, naked burgers and the cardinal sin of onion rings without the batter – believe me, they existed!

It is then no surprise that I bloody love a burger when I know I can get a gluten free bun. On a recent visit to my old childhood holibobs destination of Dartmouth, I tried and tested what my Dad would refer to as ‘THE BEST EVER!’ Now I know I recently boasted about Burger Theory being the bees knees, but let me tell you, I’ve loved and left since then.

After stumbling, sorry, walking out of the oldest pub in Dartmouth, The Seven Stars, me and my boyfriend were looking for somewhere where we could both eat like a horse as both standard and gluten free diners. Kendricks was busy and being a Saturday night, we assumed we wouldn’t be able to get in. Thankfully, we were placed at a small window table, perfect for watching the hammering rain come down inside safe in the knowledge that we were safe and dry.

The menu stated that burgers could be ordered with a gluten free bun and so I opted for Bob’s Big Boy, containing not one, but two 6oz steak patties with crispy pancetta, gherkin, tomato, lettuce, red onion and seasoned fries. I knew I was on to a good thing when the plate arrived and my burger stood proudly atop like the Grand Canyon, confident in its ability to impress. The gluten free bun was out of this world and I guessed that it had probably been freshly baked in a local bakery rather than shop brought. The beef patty, which apparently was made on site, tasted fresh, flavoursome and plentiful – in fact, it was possibly the best patty I’ve ever tasted in a restaurant.

Kendrick’s motto is ‘Think Global Eat Local’ and after tasting both the meat and the bread, I do believe that where possible they source locally. I ordered a Plymouth Gin to wash my burger down with, after all, I’m all about tasting local produce, whether in food or drinks form.

The menu at Kendrick’s isn’t extensive, but it doesn’t need to be. If you’re passionate about eating quality sourced burgers, steaks, ribs, fajitas and the like, this place is for you. Quite frankly, Kendrick’s is a true foodie paradise and offers up an opportunity to take some seriously Instagrammable patty pics. Now tell me Kendrick’s, when are you coming to Brum?

From Punjab to Birmingham: The Indian Streatery

Having grown up on the outskirts of the Balti Triangle, the love of a decent curry is in my DNA. Catching up with friends on a weekend and ending the night with a curry is tradition and I always have a favourite curry house of the month. After all, when there’s so many curry houses in Birmingham, the competition is fierce and there’s no room for favouritism, for long anyway.

People had been raving about The Indian Streatery for yonks. Beginning their foodie roots at Birmingham’s very own Digbeth Dining Club under the name ‘Indian Rasoi,’ the eatery soon became a firm favourite amongst diners and eventually set up permanently at a premises on Bennett’s Hill. As with many Digbeth Dining Club regulars, the ‘family foodies’ brought with them a loyal following of locals already converted to the concept of ‘Indian tapas.’ Though relatively new to the food scene, Indian tapas takes traditional dishes and gives them a makeover, much like the Deconstructed Samosa Chaat and homestyle chicken kindly created by The Indian Streatery. The idea is to bring Punjab’s food markets to the people of Britain, using tried and tested family recipes, old memories, plus a side order of added ingredients to suit British palates – Indian Hotdog anyone?

On my visit to The Indian Streatery, I was excited to find out what all the fuss was about. I was damn sure I liked my curry in a bowl with pilau rice and poppodoms, no messing around, no food antics. It was then with great delight that I found myself enjoying a Fresh Spinach & Lamb Curry, marinated overnight with a host of spices, alongside what I can only describe as ‘bangin’ Masala Fries.  Both dishes far exceeded my expectations and in fact, the lamb curry was one, if not the best curries I’ve tasted in a good 12 months. Normally I’d cringe at the thought of throwing in a portion of chips with a curry, but here, with a mix of fenugreek chaat masala and tamarind on the fries, blended in with succulent slow cooked lamb, I was on the verge of dribbling.

The menu comes with a listing of gluten free, dairy free and vegan dishes, easily identifiable and ranging in choices. The waiter was extremely helpful with my allergens and offered to accommodate any requests that I had regarding the menu. By the time I had finished my curry and fries, I was already dreaming of another portion. In fact, it’s pretty much all I talked about all week.

In an age where some are predicting the death of the Balti, I feel a sense of confidence in the future of curry houses in Britain. Rather than admitting defeat, establishments such as The Indian Streatery are building on existing foundations, adapting and recreating traditional recipes to bring them into an ever expanding modern day street food market. Whether it’s slapping a curry onto a burger, or giving an Indian twist to the classic chicken and chips, there’s no doubt that these Masala fries making, Pakora transformers are here to stay, and we love them for it!