I’m not a big gambler. I’ve got involved in the occasional sweepstake, I think I put a bet on the Grand National once and needed help actually placing the bet, and I’ve been in casinos a few times. But even then, I’ve rarely done more than watch mouth agape as other people bet huge amounts of money in games I don’t understand.
So when Mr M and I were invited to try the food at the Grosvenor Casino on Broad Street in Birmingham plus a little ‘Learn 2 Play’ session afterwards, we thought it would be a good chance not only to see what kind of food you can get in a casino (I mean, it’s not your first port of call for a meal out is it?) but to perhaps learn enough that we can hold our own if the opportunity arises.
There are actually two Grosvenor Casinos in Birmingham – one near the station and another at the top of Broad Street in the Five Ways Leisure Complex, the one we tried. After signing in (not your usual entry to a restaurant I know, but it kind of added a bit of drama to the occasion) we were led through some doors and down a sweeping staircase with views across the gambling floor. As you might recall, I went to Las Vegas last year with work and this vista kind of reminded me of some of the views across casino floors there – but on a much, much smaller scale.
As well as the tables for blackjack and roulette and various gaming machines, there’s poker rooms, online gambling where you can connect to other Grosvenor Casinos, and of course, the bar and restaurant.
It’s not really occurred to me before, but since the casino’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it’s actually a bit of an untapped resource when it comes to somewhere to have a late-night drink when you don’t quite fancy a nightclub (which at my age, you rarely do) but you’re not ready to go home. Apparently you don’t have to gamble just to go in and have a drink or a bite to eat, so you can add it to your list of nocturnal venues.
The restaurant isn’t huge, but was nicely situated at the edge of the casino, with some tables overlooking the floor and others tucked further back in the corner. It was modern and simple, with the low lighting and view across gaming tables making for quite a moody atmosphere (in a good way).
The menu is pretty varied and clearly aims to cater to a wide audience. From grill classics like burgers and steaks to slightly lighter fish dishes and salads, there’s lots on offer. There’s a fair bit of Asian influence in there too, from an ‘oriental sharer’ starter to Singapore noodle main courses. They do a bar menu too if you want a snack, as well as tapas, and have plenty of regular events where they put on buffets in the middle of the night, or breakfasts for the all-night crew. Something for everyone then, it seems.
Since oriental dishes make a relatively frequent appearance on the menu, I decided to try one. I went for crispy duck with hoisin and pancakes. Yep, just like the one you see on the Chinese takeaway menu and one of my faves. Rather than pre-shredded, it came with the leg still whole which was a bit of a difference and did add a bit of finesse to what is usually my go-to takeaway choice.
The duck was tender and well-flavoured with hints of five spice. It was easy to shred and the usual flavour combinations of the duck with the sweetness of the hoisin, tang of spring onions and refreshing cucumber, all wrapped up in my somewhat messily constructed pancakes, made for a light but tasty starter.
Mr M went for the Stilton stuffed field mushroom – a huge baked mushroom stuffed with Stilton and spring onion with herb breadcrumbs on top. It was nicely presented, piled on top of sweet onion marinated toasted brioche with mixed leaves and a tomato and basil dressing artfully surrounding it on the plate.
Again, tried and tested flavours did the job. The mushroom was tender but meaty and the cheese wasn’t too overpowering. Jamie thought the slightly crispy breadcrumbs added a nice bit of crunch, while the basil dressing didn’t just taste good, but gave a nice bit of colour to the plate.
As you might have seen, I opt for fish main courses quite a lot (when I’m not tempted by steaks and ribs and all sorts of yummy meatiness). This is usually because I’m trying to be a tiny bit healthy, but also because it’s quite difficult to get fish cooked interestingly yet still properly and I’m always a bit curious to see how it’ll come out.
The pesto crusted halibut had caught my eye on the menu, and it was mainly because I knew I was having this that I went for a duck starter rather than something veggie or fishy. I wasn’t disappointed with my choice. A big chunky bit of halibut, topped with pesto crumb and served on sauteed potatoes, roasted peppers, tenderstem broccoli and peas, plus a nice lake of lemon butter sauce around it.
If anyone tries to tell you that fish courses are the ones to have when you’re not hungry, please use this as an example for why this isn’t always true. This was one substantial plate of food. But not just that, it was good too. The fish was well cooked, tender and cooked through yet still easy to separate its firm chunky flakes.
The pesto crumb, like Jamie’s breadcrumbs on his starter, added crunch, while the potatoes, peppers, broccoli and peas added more substance but also extra flavours and a rainbow of colours. The lemon butter sauce was delicious – colourful and rich yet with a slightly lemony tang that not only complemented the fish but added a nice tang to the other sweet elements on the plate.
Mr M did his best to stick to the deal we made where he doesn’t ALWAYS order steak, but only made it as far as the smoked boneless beef rib, slathered in a bourbon glaze, complete with chips, onions rings, mushroom, tomato, slaw. Yes, a massive plate of food! He was more than happy with his beef rib though – slow cooked, falling apart, moist, and not too fatty. All that makes for a happy Mr Manning.
After dinner (no we couldn’t manage dessert – not this time!) we headed over to the training table for our lesson. I liked learning on a table away from the pros, it saves the embarrassment of not having a clue what’s going on in front of a bunch of seasoned gamblers.
We learned blackjack first and despite a few false starts I ended up winning enough in our fake chips to pay off the whole mortgage. Hurrah for imaginary gambling hey.
Next up was roulette, the one that always appeals most to me because it’s a) simple and b) always seems to ooze that James Bond glamour. We caught on to this slightly quicker than we managed to get our heads round blackjack but we’re definitely a long way off any Bond-like nonchalance when it comes to our gambling behaviour – imagine the excitement of small children winning on penny arcades and we were a bit more like that.
As tempted as we were to gamble away some of our real money, we decided to hold fire and calm down and plan a return trip. Turns out you can do all sorts of packages including a bite to eat, drink, some chips for the tables etc for set (and quite reasonable) prices which seemed to me to be quite a good way of visiting for good value. Seems Mr M thought that too, as he’s already planning a boys’ excursion.
And so, sensible kids that we are, we left after a rather enjoyable evening of unexpectedly nice food and a new experience under our belt. Yeah, so you might not choose the Grosvenor over some of Birmingham’s better-known restaurants for an evening out or a special occasion, but I’d suggest you don’t overlook it.
Whether you’re planning an evening that involves the casino, you need somewhere late to eat, or you just want to try somewhere a bit different, it’s pretty good and worth a look. Plus, you may just win back the money you spend on your supper!
We were invited to try the menu at the Grosvenor Casino in my capacity as a Citylicious blogger.