A cocktail Masterclass at Bar Opus

I really would struggle to think of a better way to spend a very cold and windy Saturday afternoon, than mixing gorgeous cocktails in the glamorous confines of Bar Opus, based at Birmingham’s One Snowhill. One of the city’s newest destinations when it comes to cocktails, Bar Opus is in a part of the city that is currently experiencing vast changes, as the Midland Metro route is being expanded through the business district.

Bar Opus has an extensive cocktail menu, and offers a one hour mixing masterclass for £15 per person, I was invited along to have a go at mixing two different cocktails, and must admit to being a little apprehensive, I’m far more used to drinking them than mixing them, and had visions of ice flying everything. Thankfully, I really enjoyed it and didn’t embarrass myself, although I don’t think The Bar Wizards will be losing any sleep.

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Bar Opus is a stunning place, bright and airy, with floor to ceiling windows perfect for people watching. There are plenty of tables perfect for drinks with friends or an afternoon snack.  I love the stylish decor, which has a black and white theme, complete with a Big Ben style clock face that should have Harold Lloyd hanging from it (check out 1920s film Safety Last if you think I’ve slightly lost it). The outside terrace is a lovely place to relax with a refreshing cocktail or two come Summer, and I will certainly be returning to do this when the weather is kind again. For now, I will have to be content with a cocktail that is a total taste of Summer…but more of that later.

The first cocktail we attempted was a delicious honey and vanilla concoction called the honey bee. This is a shaken cocktail that gave me the chance to channel my inner Tom Cruise, and consists of 50ml of Jim Beam Honey(even the smell is delicious), 25ml Monin Vanilla,1/2 Bottle Vanillalicious (sort of like a vanilla milkshake, and honey and honeycomb as garnish. This was a delicious, almost warming cocktail, perfect for winter days. Beware though, it has a slight milkshake flavour which may make you forget the hit of alcohol. I loved this and totally drained my glass.

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Ingredients

The mixing stage

The mixing stage

Not too bad at all.

Not too bad at all.

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The second cocktail is that taste of summer I was talking about. I love Elderflower, I find it one of the most refreshing drinks especially when topped with ice, and this cocktail, the Elderflower Spritz, is Elderflower overload. Made with  50ml of Chase Elderflower Vodka, this is a refreshing long drink that is a top up and stir cocktail that is reviving and refreshing. The rest of the ingredients are 25ml Elderflower cordial, 12.5ml Fresh lemon juice. The cocktail is then topped up with fevertree elderflower tonic. It is amazing. My new favourite drink.

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With Helen from Positive Friday’s

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With Tasha from Nutella Tasha.

The masterclass was super fun, and if this wasn’t enough, we were then treated to a delicious array of afternoon tea delights, both sweet and savoury, and a fruit punch served in pewter style tankards. It was a fantastic accompaniment to the diverse and delicious cocktails.

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*With thanks to Bar Opus and Clive Reeves PR for the invitation.

Cocktail Masterclass – Everyday
Amateur mixologists are being given the opportunity to learn how to create mouthwatering cocktails with an intimate masterclass at Bar Opus at One Snowhill. Whether you want to learn the classics or discover something new to wow friends, Bar Manager Sam Cross will teach how to mix, shake and stir drinks from the ordinary into the extraordinary. Classes are one hour and cost £15 per person. To book, call 0121 289 3939.
To find out more about events happening at Bar Opus at One Snowhill, visit: www.baropus.co.uk.

An Afternoon Picnic at The Balcony, Selfridges

Ever since I attended the opening party of The Balcony restaurant in Selfridges, Birmingham, last December, I have been itching to try out the Afternoon Picnic. The restaurant, part of the Searcy’s group, had shown guests their take on a traditional afternoon tea, but due to consumer copious amounts of food and scrummy cocktails on the night, I had not been able to sample any of the delights on offer. This was something I knew I had to put right.

So last Friday I took myself off the iconic Bullring Birmingham store with one of my favourite blogging ladies, the gorgeous Miss Emily Jayne, to sample the delights of an afternoon tea that promised to be a twist on the traditional. The Balcony’s afternoon Picnic certainly delivered on its promises.

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DSCN8197The Balcony offers a gorgeous modern fashion vibe for guests, with stylish table arrangements and a beautiful fashion mural which so suits the ethos of Selfridges as a modern, vibrant place to shop and dine. The dining experience began with a glass of Moet Champagne, the bubbles chilled and perfect for what was an exceptionally hot afternoon.

And then the tea was presented…on what is, quite possibly, the sweetest picnic table you will ever see. The benches were home to the sandwiches, which, in this case, were actually deep filled buns. There were three in total, Coronation Chicken, traditional cucumber with creme fraiche and smoked salmon. Each was flavoursome and delightful, with the Coronation Chicken my personal favourite – packed with flavour but not too spicy.

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DSCN8198With the buns finished it was time to turn to the cakes. This was also the perfect time for tea to be served. I opted for my usual English breakfast tea, which I love served very strong with just a dash of milk. Emily went for the fresh mint option which is very refreshing. We were both super impressed with the presentation – the fabulously rustic ironware teapots were so unusual and kept the tea piping hot. I enjoyed the tea so much I asked for a second pot, which was not a problem.

In terms of cakes/pastries, it has to be said that if you are a fan of macaroons, you are in for a treat. The thick chocolate inside the macaroons was rich and delicious. These were the best macaroons I have ever tasted, well worth the chocolate smears left all around my mouth. There was also a deliciously light lemon drizzle cake which was moist and had a real summery taste of citrus. And, of course, there were scones, with clotted cream and little pots of jam. I must admit I am not always a fan of jam served in the jar, but as this was part of a picnic, it fitted perfectly with the theme of the tea. The scones were large and so soft and fresh they crumbled when cut. They were so tasty they could’ve been eaten without any cream or jam, they were that good.

DSCN8204The whole picnic experience was a sheer delight from start to finish. The service was impeccable, and the staff professional; attentive, butnot to the point of being intrusive. The food was of a high standard and gelled well together as an afternoon tea. I loved this twist on the traditional and will certainly be paying another visit very soon.

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*With thanks to the staff of The Balcony, Birmingham and Alex Mansell of Waa agency for the review opportunity.


Afternoon Tea at Essington’s Old School Tea Rooms

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Traditional afternoon teas have made a huge comeback in recent years and you can now sample them in a host of settings, from hotels to restaurants and in the most modern of settings. But it is always wonderful to find a place which takes you back to a time when tea was served in a parlour, in a real china cup, and cakes came stacked up on beautiful stands. The Old School Tea Rooms in Essington do just that.

Since it was launched earlier this year, The Parlour at The Old School Tea Rooms have been a resounding success, offering an Afternoon Tea which is great value (just £11 per person), along with the refined ambiance of the Edwardian Era. Entering the Tea Parlour is like taking a step back into the time of Edward VII, with the shabby chic of mismatched china cups and teapots, walls lined with vintage photographs and paintings and an elegant chaise longue taking pride of place. Classical music plays quietly in the background to add to the mood, and the no-children rule just adds to the atmosphere that this is a very grown up experience, one where you can sit, relax and chat with friends whilst enjoying some gorgeous food. And I do mean gorgeous.

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Such a wonderful setting for afternoon tea.

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The Afternoon tea is made up of all the traditional components. There are crustless sandwiches which come with a variety of fillings, from ham and cream cheese to cheese and pickle. These were all delicious, and diners are encouraged to ask for more if they require them. I can confirm that my savoury mad husband Peter did, and received another plate full of cheese and pickle very quickly. We were also asked if we would like a salad bowl with our sandwiches. I declined, but Pete accepted, and a small side salad was presented in a china bowl – a really nice touch.

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DSCN8219[1]Of course, as fabulous as the sandwiches are, afternoon tea is all about cakes, and I have to say that I truly enjoyed the cake selection. As well as the usual scones and petit fours, The Old School Tea Rooms always has a home-made cake selection, one which changes daily. On this occasion I was thrilled to find one of the choices was my favourite cake, Coffee and Walnut. This was as soft and moist as it could be, with a delicious coffee cream icing on the top. The second choice was equally delicious, a delightful Lemon Drizzle cake which was light, with just the right amount of zesty lemon to make this a real citrus treat.

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I was really pleased with the amount of cream and jam that we were given with our scones. So often lately Jam has been a tiny pot, but here the jam and cream came on beautiful vintage glass plates that totally fitted the era that is being recreated – another lovely touch. I also loved that the tea came in a beautiful china pot, with the first cup poured by our waitress Tammy, all lovely aspects to the whole experience.

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We had a lovely time at The Old School Tea Rooms. The food was lovely, and the service was impeccable, particularly from our waitress Tammy, who was efficient and professional whilst remaining warm and friendly. The Old School Tea Rooms are a little gem, perfect for hen parties, celebrating birthdays, or just enjoying a catch up in beautiful surroundings with added cake!

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Booking is advisable – please visit The Old School Tea Rooms Facebook page for further information.

With thanks to Diane Huntbatch, Dee Clift and all the staff of The Old School Tea Rooms.