Time for Las Iguanas

I have been tempted many times by Las Iguanas, but have never actually got there until recently when I was in Birmingham.

Looking for a place to eat the choice available was a decision maker for the group of friends I was with. Las Iguanas as they have a large menu covering Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Cuba, and beyond.

The place was really busy, but despite not booking they found us a table.

I looked over the extensive menu and thought about what I wanted.  For my starter I went with the Calamares, crispy squid served with creamy aioli.

The squid was certainly crispy, overcooked in my opinion, but this was more than just squid rings, this was squid in batter with a rather garlicky aioli.

For my main course I went with the Xinxim. A classic recipe from North Brazil. Chicken and crayfish in our creamy lime and peanut sauce. Served with spring onion rice, shredded greens, coconut farofa and sweet plantain.

This arrived in two dishes, the spring onion rice, shredded greens, coconut farofa and sweet plantain on one plate, and a bowl with the Xinxim. 

Here is the plate with the rice and the plantain.

At first I didn’t think there was any crayfish in the dish, but it was hidden at the bottom. I added the bowl of Xinxim to the plate of rice. I did quite like creamy lime and peanut sauce and there was plenty of chicken. I would like to have seen more and bigger crayfish in the dish.

The rice didn’t seem to have much spring onion in it and the shredded greens were okay. I have to say I didn’t really like the sweet plantain, but having never had it before I couldn’t tell if this was representative of plantain or not. Something I might try again when I next visit the Caribbean Wrap in Bristol.

Overall I was a little disappointed. I think this was more down I had quite high expectations about the food, and it was just okay. I don’t think I will be going out of my way to visit Las Iguanas anytime soon.

Time for a tasty salad

Popped out for some lunch, it was late, so most of the street food stalls in Leather Lane were closing up. In the end I went to Birley Sandwiches and had a salad made up. Nice idea of choosing different ingredients.

It was a very tasty salad. I had a base of fusilli pasta with rocket, with crayfish, grilled Mediterranean vegetables, tomatoes, croutons and dressed with a Caesar salad dressing. There was a wide choice of things you could have.

Raking over the Coals

Cabot Circus

Out in Bristol and needing somewhere for lunch, we avoided the huge queue for Nando’s and went to the Coal Grill and Bar in Cabot Circus. I still can’t get over the popularity of Nando’s in Cabot Circus, everytime I pass it at lunchtime there is a queue of at least ten to twenty people wanting to eat there. It’s not as though there isn’t a choice as within literally spitting distance is Bella Italia, Giraffe, Frankie and Benny’s, La Tasca and Yo! Sushi. Within a few minutes are about another six to ten restaurants. However regardless of that choice and availability, people are still queuing for Nando’s. I think the other aspect that “confuses” me is that this isn’t some kind of area known for eating out, it’s a shopping centre, people are shopping and I would expect generally that most people want to stop for a reasonably quick lunch. Why would you then in addition spend anything up to half an hour queuing for lunch at Nando’s before you even sit down? Why? Okay I know it’s a place that serves chicken… but it’s chicken? It’s not even if the prices are that different then any of the other places around. Also it’s basically just chicken, whereas the other places have a little more choice on their menus. Ah well, one day I may understand… until then I will remain confused.

So we didn’t go to Nando’s, nor did we go to Yo! Sushi. In the main as the children were with us and though I know one of them loves sushi, the middle one would probably give it a go, the smallest of the three was adamant that she wanted pizza. I know for a fact that Yo! Sushi don’t do pizza, I am not even sure if they do any kind of kids menu. So we did consider Bella Italia, having had a fair few nice meals up in the Cribbs branch, but it was full. We did a quick look round at menus and decided to try out Coal.

We’ve never been before and though they have a few branches across the UK, they’re not that big a chain, so much so that all the branches they have, are listed complete with addresses on the back of a business card.

It was busy, but the polite and smiling manager found us a huge circular booth for the five of us. I forget sometimes that five is an odd number for eating out, it’s not two or four, which seems to be the norm for tables these days at restaurants. In the past it wasn’t too bad as the smallest member of the family would sit in a high chair next to us. She is now a little taller and “grown-up” so has a proper chair now.

We ordered drinks and perused the menu. I did feel that the kids menu lacked a little imagination, but my smallest was happy that they did pizza and the middle one was pleased to be able to choose Spaghetti Bolognese, one of his favourite dishes. Now in case you were thinking that my smallest is a little bit fussy, well she is in her own way, however having said that, she does enjoy linguine tossed with pesto and pancetta, and prefers mature cheddar cheese.

My eldest wasn’t quite sure what to have. He’s ten now and in many ways is too old for the kids menu and often prefers to have something from the main menu. After looking over the menu, he seemed to not know what to choose, so I suggested the Chimichanga (£9.95). This was a flour tortilla stuffed with spicy chicken, tomato salsa and cheese with a side of guacamole, sour cream and garlic rice. He does like this kind of thing and he had missed it when looking over the menu. He really liked it and finished the plate off. Personally I thought it lacked colour and looked a little drab, white tortilla on a bed of white rice with sour cream, with only a little guacamole and salad leaves for colour! Yes the inside of the tortilla had tomato, but that was offset by the white chicken!

Chimichanga flour tortilla stuffed with spicy chicken, tomato salsa and cheese with a side of guacamole, sour cream and garlic rice

My wife went with the Crayfish Salad (£9.65), crayfish tails and avocado mixed leaves, toasted croutons, sundried tomatoes. Though she enjoyed it she wasn’t too impressed with the sundried tomatoes as they lacked vitality and flavour. It did look very nice and certainly there were generous servings of both crayfish and avocado.

I was quite impressed with the range on the menu, but looking over it , and in the end, I decided on the Classic Burger (£9.45).

Classic burger tomato, lettuce, coal-slaw, spicy relish and chips

I really did fancy something from the grill, but likewise didn’t want to spend too much money. I liked how you could choose between having chicken or beef in your burger. I also think that a classic dish such as this gives you a really good idea on the quality of the ingredients and the effort that has gone into food preparation. Presentation was different, but looked impressive. The burger came in a good looking bun, a large slice of tomato and a single lettuce leaf. This was a very good burger, great texture, delicious and cooked to perfection. I also enjoyed the burger bun. The chips came in a miniature deep fat fryer, they were crispy, partly as they had been cooked twice, something I don’t always like, as they can be a little too greasy. Accompanying was some coleslaw and a spicy relish. I enjoyed the whole dish and it worked very well.

The service was excellent, just right, not too over the top that you find at some places, and likewise neither the unavailable kind you get at others. It was friendly and professional and family friendly.

Overall I was really pleased with the whole experience at Coal, it was a nice environment, comfortable atmosphere, great food, excellent service. All in all I enjoyed the meal, and would certainly visit again.

Crayfish & Salmon Salad

The other week I was lucky enough to have dinner at the Mustard Seed Restaurant in Inverness.

For my starter I had what the menu described as the Crayfish tail, smoked salmon and vegetable egg noodle salad with an oriental dressing and roasted sesame seeds.

Now though I think the sesame seeds were missing, it was an interesting combination of oriental and Scottish, the noodles with smoked salmon. The salmon was great, the crayfish tails were okay though the noodle salad was somewhat bland, even with the oriental dressing.

Overall it was nice starter, refreshing and some nice ingredients, but I think it could have been better, though I don’t think that the missing sesame seeds would have been the solution.

Yo Sushi

I have had Yo Sushi before, I had some time to wait before my train so decided to sit down and eat rather than buy the takeway that I normally buy.

The concept of Yo Sushi may be familiar to anyone who has been to Japan it certainly is a weird concept for many in the UK.

Sit down and watch as little bowls of sushi pass you by on a conveyor belt. Help yourself to the ones that you want. After you have eaten they count the bowls you have eaten and charge you accordingly. Not all the bowls are the same price and range from £1.70 to £5.00. The price depends on how much is in the bowl and what ingredients are used.

As well as the cold dishes on the conveyor belt you can order soup and hot dishes from the waiting staff.

I looked at the menu and the first two items I chose were not available. So I ordered Chicken Yakitori, char-grilled chicken skewers with a soy-mirin glaze and Prawn Katsu, crispy fried prawns in Japanese bread crumbs, with a fruity sauce. I had wanted to order Prawn Tempura and Chicken Teriyaki .

While I was waiting for the hot food I started off with a crayfish salad which was very pleasant. The hot food then arrived (quicker than anticipated). The prawns were good and the chicken skewers were sticky.

I then picked a Salmon Nigri from the belt. The salmon lacked flavour but the rice was okay.

My final dish was Spicy Pepper Squid which was very nice and a good finish to my meal.

Still think it was cheeky that they charge £1 for water!

I will go again.