Afrikana (Birmingham) Review

My Rating: 4.2/5

Family Friendly: Yes (but tight for pushchairs/wheelchairs)

Address: 355 Ladypool Road, Sparkbrook, Birmingham. B12 8LA (Next door to Sweet, opposite Chaiwalla)

Parking: None- limited on street parking. Ladypool road is busy, plan to park and walk.

Payment: Cash and Cards accepted

I went to Afrikana’s opening night having won their Instagram competition to win a complimentary meal for two. I must stress although I didn’t pay for the meal this is an unbiased review and in no way influenced by Afrikana or anyone who works there.

Afrikana is a restaurant offering a Afro-Caribbean cuisine with an emphasis on chicken, peri peri chicken to be exact. Already established franchises can be found in Walsall and Shrewsbury. It’s located on what is now (finally!) the one way section of Ladypool Road, for many of you familiar with the area it’s near Truburger, Toros and Fargos. Head that way, park considerately on a side street and enjoy the stroll to the restaurant.

interior

Interior

As we approached on the restaurant we could hear the live band playing outside the restaurant, a nice touch for opening night. We were greeted by a couple of members of staff and we were taken to a table for 2 deep inside the restaurant. Our seating was cramped and for me it was way too close to the couple to my left, my husband’s seat was squashed in as there was someone right behind him. The worst was the table, what is worse in a newly opened restaurant than a wobbly table?

I mentioned this to Muhammad, our waiter who had introduced himself, and he spoke to a manager and we were grateful to be moved straight to a booth. Much more comfortable, much more spacious. Fantastic.

Menus in hand we started to make our choices from the provided selection, settling on the lamb chops and tiger prawns to start with. To me the starter section seemed fairly generic, although they had an Afrikana twist in terms of sauces and flavours, but I was expecting more specific unique starters than those presented. In fact I was surprised not to find Mogo chips on the extras menu, you’ve got multiple types of fries but no Mogo chips! Yikes.

Starters

The tiger prawns were served with salad and a mayonnaise based sauce, they were really succulently juicy and smothered in a sauce containing sliced peppers. I was happy the prawns weren’t dried out as they often are, these were fantastic.

Tiger Prawn starter

The lamb chops were great and cooked as medium, a single starter consisted of 4 chops served on a (rather large) bed of salad leaves. Combined with the provided Afrikana sauce this was a good starter.

Lamb Chops starter

Mains

There was quite a selection to choose from for mains – from chicken, burgers & wraps, speciality range, sharing meals and even a good variety of vegetarian meals to choose from. We couldn’t decide what to chose and eventually ended choosing what we normally wouldn’t have. Although we loved what we had chosen, I wish I had chosen chicken instead! I could see into the kitchen as all meals were coming out to be served and the chicken platters looked absolutely amazing! I’ll have to visit again soon to try one.

I had the chilli with rice as my main – as you can see in the picture it was served in a rounded pot on a large plate together with some yoghurt and some flat bread. I did ask if you should eat from the pot or empty it out onto your plate and I was told either way is perfectly fine. If you do keep it in the pot it will definitely stay warmer for longer.

I liked the chilli a lot as it’s not something I find on menus very often and it was a joy to eat, the taste was consistent and the spices were balanced very well.

chillichilli

We Goat your back

A deliciously slow cooked, fall off the bone goat curry with Afrikana rice served with a side salad, olives and flat bread. Although it doesn’t seem like a lot of rice and meat is provided it works like a black hole, the deeper you go the more there seems to be. The meat was flavoured with Afrikana sauce and it was in chunky pieces, piping hot below the surface and was easy to bite into without much effort. The rice was again Afrikana style and was quite peppery in taste but went well with the meat.

We goat your back

Desserts

None on offer. Plenty of dessert options at Sweet next door, you’ve also got Icestone Gelato and Heavenly Desserts literally 1 minute away.

Drinks

Surprisingly just bottomless soft drinks available, nothing else on offer. This might be because we were there at opening night so the drinks situation may change over time. Tap water served.

Other

There is disabled access from the street but seemingly no separate disabled toilet. It is cramped inside with booths and tables/chairs in close proximity so a wheelchair user may have issues manoeuvring in.

There are a large number of booths which can probably sit a maximum of 5 comfortably and an area towards the back right side with tables and chairs. The chairs are very comfortable, the kind you can sit in for many hours.

There’s a single toilet for males and a single one for females. That’s it. No other facilities.

The venue plays themed music over a sound system and it is quite loud, it was sometimes difficult to heat each other.

My Rating

My 4.2 rating for Afriakana is based mainly on 3 criteria, but I factor in additional observances such as cleanliness, location etc.

Food: 4.3/5

Service: 4.4/5

Atmosphere: 4.0/5

 

Farro’s (Birmingham) Review

My Rating: 4.5/5

Family Friendly: Yes

Address: 402-406 Stratford Road, Sparkhill, Birmingham. B11 4AD

Parking: Yes – but limited. Easy street parking available nearby; try Beach Rd, Alfred Rd or Fulham Rd for proximity.

Payment: Cash and (thankfully) Cards accepted

Farro’s is new to Birmingham and the 2nd restaurant of its branded Grillhouses, the first being in Nottingham. Opened on the 16th August 2019 it serves a blend of Portuguese and Italian inspired food – and they do burgers and steaks too.

Farro’s is located in an imposing converted pub right at the junction of Warwick Road and Stratford Road in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham. For those of you familiar with Brum you might recall the once mighty ‘The President’ buffet restaurant was on this site for many years before it closed and dereliction followed. I’m glad to say the site has been refurbished and the blight of broken windows and dumped rubbish is gone. The exterior is bright & breezy with a large new courtyard complete with a Birmingham Bull, a kindred spirit to the one outside the Bullring perhaps?

farros board

We parked on a side street as the main car park is relatively small and was already full. As we arrived into the lobby we were swiftly greeted by the front of house manager who took our name and advised us that being a Saturday evening and having requested a table for 5 we’d have to wait up to 30 minutes. Happily the wait was shorter than expected but it did give us time to absorb the atmosphere and observe the hive of activity represented by the waiting staff flitting from kitchen to service to tables and back again.

Once ushered to our table we were provided menus and quickly realised that ordering was exactly Nando’s style. Bottomless drinks as standard with a single refill area.

farros menu

Menu

Starters

We had the lamb chops which were succulent, perfectly cooked if a little towards the rare side on parts but still downright tasty. Served with a nice mint sauce.

farros lamb chops_

lamb chops

We also punted for the garlic bread with mozzarella, which was generally well received but seemed to lack a bit of garlic for something with garlic in the name!

Mains

Avoiding the build your own burger and steak options this time around we opted for the following:

The Sizzler (mixed chicken & beef in small strips), presented on a hot platter and cooked with onions and peppers it was literally sizzling when it arrived on our table and remained piping hot for a good while afterward. I

farros sizzler chicken beef

sizzler – chicken & beef

found the beef to be lovely (although my husband complained he had to work at it) and like the chicken it was flavoured nicely with the juices from the onion and pepper mix.

The Sizzler menu has great flexiblity as there were chicken, beef, lamb & prawn only options with the ability to mix any of them.

The peri peri chicken we had was also piping hot and we had to let it cool a little before tearing into it. We opted for medium spice (I would go up a spice level next time if eating with the family, it simply wasn’t a medium for us) however the flavour from the rub was excellent and gave it the edge over many other peri peri restaurants.

farros peri peri full chicken

peri peri chicken

I would have preferred if the chicken skin was crispier, but that’s my personal preference. It came with a side of chips but we also ordered an extra side of sweet potato fries which were the best ones I’ve had so far. They were perfectly cooked. Delicious.

We also ordered the lasagne which was not as creamy as you normally get in other places which is a good thing, often the béchamel sauce overwhelms everything else layered into a lasagne. The kids found it easier to eat as it wasn’t too heavy.

farros lasagne

The margherita pizza was stone baked and it was enjoyed by all. We didn’t try any toppings on it but the kids rated the pizza as one of the best they’ve had so far, next time we’ll go all out! We always prefer the stone baked pizzas to the usual you get from your local pizza joint, which is one of the reasons we miss La Favorita so much.

farros margherita pizza

The general atmosphere of the restaurant was nice and buzzing, it is quite spacious overall with plenty of seating and good separation between areas. The music was in the background so you could easily hold a conversation without shouting at each other. Male and female toilets are in separate areas but below ground level down a flight of stairs, they were clean and had a dedicated wudu area as well as a separate prayer room for men and women. There is a disabled toilet available on ground level.

Desserts

Although we didn’t order any desserts this time, the options to chose from were quite limited. The usual waffles, sundaes and old school desserts feature on the menu. It would have been nice to see Portuguese and Italian desserts on the menu such as Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese custard tart) or Tiramisu.

Drinks

Bottomless drinks to choose from as well as juices and mocktails. Cold water, ice and a mixed option available too. I had the Pina colada which is my favourite mocktail and it did not disappoint.

My Rating

My 4.5 rating for Farro’s is based mainly on 3 criteria, but I factor in additional observances such as cleanliness, location etc.

Food: 4.6/5

Service: 4.0/5

Atmosphere: 4.8/5

 

farro's steak options

farro’s steaks options

farro's exterior

farro's ordering

farro’s ordering

farro's entrance

farro’s entrance


English Curry Awards 2019

Last night I attended the English Curry Awards event held at the Birmingham Conference and Events Centre. Now in its 9th year, the evening event honoured those who work their hardest to perfect every meal and provide the best possible dining experience.

English Curry Awards

English Curry Awards

It was a well organised event by Oceanic Consulting. The atmosphere was fun and buzzing, and the host Tommy Sandhu kept us entertained.

The food on the night was catered by Saffron Events UK and it did not disappoint. Everything was delicious.

Saffron Events UK

Saffron Events UK

Thank you to the team at Oceanic Consulting for inviting me to the event, I’ll love to be there again for the next one!

Below are the winners for all the different categories, some that I’ve not heard of before but will be visiting at some point for sure. Have you visited any of them? Do you agree with the winners? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Be sure to check out my highlights of the night over on my Instagram page @rahema_m

Huge congratulations to all the winners:

  • Outstanding Restaurant of the Year – Prana Indian Restaurant (Cambridge)
  • The Best of Manchester Award – Asha’s Restaurant
  • The Best of Birmingham – Pushkar Cocktail Bar and Dining
  • Best Team of the Year – Indique (Manchester)
  • Best Restaurant Design & Ambience – Taj Tandoori (Cambridge)
  • Vegetarian Restaurant of the Year – Chai Paani (Leicester)
  • Nepalese Restaurant of the Year – The Great Kathmandu Restaurant (Manchester)
  • Bangladeshi Restaurant of the Year – Little Bangla (Oldbury)
  • Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year – Navadhanya (Cambridge)
  • Street Food Restaurant of the Year – Dhaba at Fifteen (Norwich)
  • Best Customer Service – Rumi by Bukhara (Liverpool)
  • South Indian Restaurant of the Year – Tharavadu (Leeds)
  • General Manager of the Year – Heritage India (Leicester)
  • Special Recognition Award – Calcutta Club (Nottingham)
  • Pakistani Restaurant of the Year – My Lahore Cafe (Birmingham)
  • New Restaurant of the Year – Dehli 6 (South Shields)
  • Curry Entrepreneur of the Year – Sam Alhuwalia (Horley)
  • Curry Queen of the Year – Bollywood Junction (Milton Keynes)
  • Critic’s Choice Restaurant of the Year – Shikara (Whitley Bay)
  • Takeaway and Home Delivery of the Year – Chutney Express Takeaway (Birmingham)
  • Chef of the Year – The Original Third Eye (Manchester)
  • Caterer of the Year – Anu Caterers (Basingstoke)
  • Most Wanted Restaurant of the Year – Urban Tandoor (Bristol)
  • Restaurant of the Year – Spice Lounge Restaurant (Mildenhall)

Carrot & Walnut Halwa Cake

This is a recipe inspired by the super talented Saliha Mahmood Ahmed (Masterchef Winner 2017) from her latest recipe book ‘Khazana’. The original recipe contained a variety of different nuts as well as sultanas but I have adapted this slightly and used only walnuts in this recipe. The original recipe also asked for the cake to be cooked in 2 tins but I am quite lazy so ended up using only 1 deep cake tin (10′ round tin), which meant that the cooking time for my cake was a lot longer. If you split your cake batter into 2 tins, remember to reduce the cooking time accordingly.

Overall this was quite an easy cake to bake and it was enjoyed by everyone!

Carrot & Walnut Halwa Cake

Carrot & Walnut Halwa Cake

 

Ingredients

  • 200g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 250ml sunflower oil
  • 50ml milk
  • 300g plain flour, plus extra for coating cake tin
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 400g finely grated carrots
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 100g walnuts, roughly chopped (plus extra for decorating)

Icing

  • 300g cream cheese
  • 125g icing sugar
  • 100ml double cream

Method

Pre heat the oven to gas mark 4 and grease a cake tin with spray oil and flour. Set aside till needed.

Mix the muscovado sugar, eggs, sunflower oil and milk in a large bowl and whisk until all ingredients are well combined. In a separate bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and set aside.

Melt the butter and the caster sugar in a pan till all the sugar has dissolved. When the butter has foamed, add the grated carrots and mix thoroughly. Cook for about 5 minutes till the carrots have softened and add the spices, mixing it well into the carrots. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped walnuts and let it cool slightly.

To finish the cake batter, mix the bowl with flour into the bowl of wet ingredients alongside the cooked carrots. Mix it thoroughly with a wooden spoon and pour the batter into the prepared cake tin.

Bake in the oven for around 75 minutes. After that time is up, check if the cake is done by inserting a wooden skewer into the middle of the cake. The skewer should come out clean if its done, if it doesn’t, then bake for a further 10-15 minutes till it is done.

Once the cake is baked, let it rest in the tin for a few minutes before removing it from the tin and let it cool completely on a wire rack before icing it.

To make the icing, put the cream cheese in a bowl and mix till it is smooth (this only takes a few seconds, try not to be tempted to over mix it or you could end up with runny cream cheese!). Add the icing sugar and the double cream and mix till it starts to thicken and it is smooth. Again don’t be tempted to over mix as you could quickly end up with a very runny mixture and you won’t be able to ice your cake.

Once your cake is completely cool, cut it in half and add some icing to the middle. Sandwich the cake together and use the rest of the icing to spread all over the top and sides of the cake. Use a palette knife to create a smooth finish. Use more chopped walnuts to decorate the cake.

Kheema Biryani

I love a good biriyani and this recipe is so easy to make and perfect for us slimmers. All the taste without any of the syns!

Serves: 4

Syns: FREE

Time Taken: 45-60 minutes

Difficulty: Moderate

Ingredients

  • 1 kg chicken mince
  • 2-3 onions, chopped
  • green chillies, to taste (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp garlic/ginger paste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • Food colouring deep orange or yellow, just a few drops
  • 4 cups of white rice
  • Low calorie cooking spray

Method

Put mince and all the spices in pan, add enough water to cover mince meat and cook for around 30 minutes.

Boil the rice separately. In a pan of boiling salted water, add your rice and cook for about 8 minutes. You do not want to cook the rice fully at this stage. Once cooked, drain the water off the rice and place the rice in a colander.

In the pan you cooked the rice, spray the bottom and sides of it with a low calorie cooking spray. Put in a layer of the rice at the bottom of pan then layer some keema on top and layer again with rice and sprinkle with both food colours then keep repeating the method until rice/keema finishes ending with rice.

Cook for about 20 minutes on low heat.