When you’re eating out, always, always read the menu properly. That’s the lesson of this blog.
Given how much I eat out, and how much I spend my time perusing menus, planning trips, and deliberating over what I’m going to choose, you’d have thought I’d have got this bit down to a tee. Not quite, as you’ll see if you carry on with this post…
If you live in the Midlands, you’ll have probably heard a lot about the recent opening of Resorts World Birmingham at the NEC. A collection of outlets, shops, restaurants, bars, a casino, a cinema. Everything all in one place.
Mr M and I spotted the signs when we went to the Good Food Show and decided it was somewhere we should take a look at. Only 25-ish minutes from Rugby on the train, so easy for us, and equally easy for plenty of other people in the Midlands, it could be a hit. Plus, any excuse to try some new eateries is always fine by us.
We’d planned to go ‘some time in the New Year’ once the madness of Christmas had passed (which thanks to Mr M’s illness actually turned out to be not so mad) but before we could think about making any plans I received an invite to try out one of the restaurants and spend an evening at Resorts World.
After a bit of consideration, we chose Andy Waters’ Restaurant. Resorts World has got plenty to offer, from chains like Las Iguanas and Pizza Express to Japanese-inspired Robata Bar & Grill, but I was curious to try the new venue from someone who’s been cooking in and around Birmingham for years.
Starting out at Halesowen Food College, Waters did a stint in France, worked alongside Jean-Christophe Novelli in Bournemouth, before coming back to the Midlands where he worked at Simpsons before taking on ventures the Bay Tree in Edgbaston, followed by the Queens in Belbroughton, and Waters on the Square back in Edgbaston.
Waters at Resorts World is a chic affair, all cream and sophisticated with a bar area at the front and busy restaurant towards the back. It’s got a nice ambience, with a fairly upmarket but not too stuffy feel. The staff are polite, efficient and friendly – something I think should be a given anywhere you go, but is so often lacking.
We started off with some freshly baked bread and butter – cue some lengthy debate over what the extra taste was. I tasted anchovy, Jamie got smoked salmon, it turned out it’s the smoked butter that comes with the bread. Apparently different people get different tastes from it, some even feel like they’re eating a bacon sarnie. A nice touch, once we knew what it was.
Poor old Mr M was still feeling a bit ropey from his awful Christmas illness but luckily his appetite was still intact, so we got going. To start he chose goats cheese bonbon two ways with beetroot, figs, grapes, toasted pine nuts and dressed mustard leaves.
One deep-fried crispy coated ball next to another ‘naked’ perfectly-formed sphere of goats cheese. The rich cheese was contrasted nicely by the peppery mustard leaves while the creaminess of the cheese came alongside crunchy pine nuts.
Let me say, the presentation at Waters is really rather fab. Each dish was pretty as a picture, delicately arranged on varying styles of crockery.
I was eager to avoid the guilt of piling on yet more calorie-laden dishes after consuming my bodyweight three times over during the Christmas period. So for starter, I took the unusual step of ignoring steak tartare, cured salmon, or duck liver parfait and chose a veggie-friendly starter of roasted mediterranean vegetable salad with toasted pine kernels, parmesan shavings and basil pesto.
Again, it was beautifully presented. Sweet, soft chunks of veg, still with a bit of bite, a crunch of lettuce, and a hit of parmesan and pesto. Refreshing and light, it was a nice change from my usual indulgent choices.
Now here’s where the lesson comes.
For main course, I was keen to stick to the slightly less rich side of the menu. So I skipped past slow cooked blade of beef, past fillet of beef with cannelloni of slow cooked beef, past duo of lamb, past duck breast, and found myself looking at fish.
I was torn between seared scallops and king prawns served with deep-fried red mullet and saffron cream sauce and fillet of turbot with peas, shiitake mushrooms, sage butter and Charlotte potatoes.
I chose the former. And it was only when it arrived that I realised I’d failed to acknowledge two of the vital words on the menu: ‘deep-fried’. Yep, not what I’d been aiming for when I was looking for a lighter option. But yes, ENTIRELY my fault.
Don’t get me wrong. It was a nice dish. A bed of spinach in a silky smooth saffron sauce, packed with prawns and pieces of seared scallop, with a battered piece of red mullet perched on top. The fish was light and flaky, and the batter clean-tasting and crispy. And again, rather pretty on the plate. It just wasn’t quite what I had imagined from my massively inaccurate reading of the menu.
So there we go – read the menu peeps, especially the bit where they helpfully include how the dish is cooked!
Jamie, unpredictably, went for something off the grill menu – the 14oz T-bone steak. This was cooked just right (he has it rare) and was tender, good quality meat. It came with mushroom, tomato and some big, fat, crispy chips. Perfect for dipping in the pepper sauce he had.
We also tried a flight of seasonal vegetables for two people – three mini cast iron dishes grandly presented on a wooden board, full of carrots, new potatoes, and peas and beans. I’ve said this before, but so often vegetables are treated like second-class citizens – limp, overcooked afterthoughts languishing in a bowl, left to be ignored in the corner like Baby in Dirty Dancing.
No, not here. This veg had been treated well – cooked so it was tender yet still had a bit of bite. All sweet and fresh, and tossed in butter. I don’t think Mr M managed much veg after he’d tackled his steak and chips, but I worked through most of them single-handedly.
Once I’d stopped kicking myself over my own failure to read some words properly, we moved on to dessert. It was here that Waters really impressed. The rest of the food was good, but in my opinion these really are a cut above.
Jamie chose the Waters’ Signature dessert – a delice of chocolate, with marmalade ice cream and chocolate shortbread crumble. These simple words in no way sum up the piece of art that appeared in front of him. A beautifully-crafted white chocolate rose, on top of rich, smooth, chocolate delice, itself on top of a white chocolate bowl filled with marmalade ice cream, with a luscious smear of chocolate sauce and crunchy chocolate crumble decorating the plate below.
It looked fabulous, it tasted just as good. For me (yes, I tried it all, obvs) the marmalade ice cream was the best. I’d kind of expected it to just taste a bit chocolate orangey, but it had that slight bitterness that marmalade has, as well as a deep orange.
Still on my quest for something a bit lighter and refreshing, I went for mango ice with peppered pineapple, sweetened mango and coconut cream. It’s not something you’d see often on a menu, and certainly not something I’d choose usually, but my gamble was completely rewarded when it arrived. If I’d kicked myself for making the wrong main course choice, it was the complete opposite here.
Again, beautiful to look at, but a great, imaginative combination of tastes and textures. The mango ice was sweet yet still refreshing with fresh chunks of mango alongside. The seared peppered pineapple was juicy and sweet yet with an almost spicy taste, and the coconut cream gave the rich creaminess to add that tiny hint of indulgence. And let’s not forget the tiny golden orbs on top that exploded with sweet fruity juice when you bit into them.
It’s another one of those moments where I wish I was a bit better with words, but seriously folks, this was a great dessert and rounded off a rather nice meal at Waters.
At £7-10 for a starter, around £15 for an average main (more like £20 for a steak), and around £7ish for a sweet, Waters isn’t cheap as chips, but I think for the food you’re getting it’s pretty reasonable. They also do a tasting menu and a ‘menu rapide’ which at £14.95 seems to offer really good value to me.
But come on, let’s be honest, if you want cheaper food there’s plenty of other options. You’re not coming here for that. You’re coming here because you want to try something a bit different, something you won’t find elsewhere, and make a bit of a night of it at Resorts World. We managed to, heading from Waters up to the Sky Bar with it’s endless array of cocktails and views across the skyline, before trying out the cinema to finally catch up with the rest of the world in watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The whole combination made for a great evening, and something we’d quite fancy repeating. Who wouldn’t fancy the idea of shopping and lunch, or maybe dinner at Waters again followed by cocktails and a trip to the casino (yes, it was rather tempting while we were there)? I know I would. And who knows, maybe I’ll read the menu properly next time………
Our meal at Waters was complimentary, as was my cocktail and Jamie’s coffee at the Sky Bar, and our cinema tickets. I wasn’t asked to write a positive review.