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    Food and Restaurant News, News, Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Brum Breakfast Club at Nomad

    Kedgeree_pearl-barley_spelt

    Confession time.  I actually went to this meal on the same day as the St Patrick’s Day parade, but I’ve just been super lax at finishing the write up.  However with the news that Nomad is evolving, Pokemon-style, into The Wilderness, it seems a good time to post about it.

    Despite all my known heritage being Irish, I avoid going anywhere near the St Patrick’s Day parade because being up early on a Sunday, surrounded by crowds of (usually fairly) drunk people and not knowing what the hell is up with my bus home is not my idea of fun.  I totally get why other people like it, but I’m good with a cup of Barry’s tea and seeing the photos on Twitter.  So when I tell you I got up early, got on a bus and went to Digbeth on the Sunday of a St Patrick’s Day parade you better bloody well know it took a lot to get me there.  And that ‘a lot’ was a Brum Breakfast Club presents Nomad breakfast.

    cocktail_tea_nomad_brum-breakfast-club

    Firstly, I was a 45 minutes early, because it turns out, much like when it snows, the buses seem to work better when they theoretically shouldn’t; I assume this was down to most people leaving the cars at home (something they should do more of).  After a quick trip to Yorks for a coffee it was over to Nomad which has now found a home in BOM on Dudley St.  I’ve raved about various incarnations of Nomad before and I like that they’ve managed to create a rather chic place in what’s a bit of a bare-boned warehouse/workshop/exhibition space.

    On arrival we were given a cocktail.  Now pre-midday drinking isn’t something I generally do but I’m willing to make an exception for Nomad, because they rarely do me wrong.  This took the form of a drink they’re calling Viking Bubbles which contained mead, honey and cava.  It was lovely; sweet but not overly so and didn’t have that alcohol burn, which made it pretty perfect for a cheeky mid-morning tipple.  I paired it with black tea because I could and awaited the first course – apparently we were having a three course breakfast, which is entirely fine with me.

    nomad_eggy_bread_starter

    The first course was three nibbles: tansy eggy bread; reindeer moss with bacon, egg and coffee; Forest of Arden honey and homemade yoghurt.  The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice the distinct lack of yoghurt in the photo and that was because my ability to tolerate dairy that day wasn’t great, and I’m not about to inflict that on anyone, but I hear it was lovely.  The eggy bread had a nice crispness to it and the reindeer moss, as well as looking very pretty, had a nice crunch before disintegrating to create a lovely flavour along with the egg and coffee.

    sea-buckthorn_mimosa_nomadWe then had another cocktail, a sea buckthorn mimosa.  Now sea buckthorn is one of those slightly divisive ingredients, due in part, I suspect, to its tartness.  It’s not often seen on menus, but Nomad have used sea buckthorn before and it’s nice to feel like there’s something a bit different going on.  Given it’s a bit sour, it seems to work well with the sparkling wine and balances it out well.  This paired well with our ‘main’ course, which like the first course had elements of the drink incorporated into the dish.

    Kedgeree_pearl-barley_spelt

    The second course was a twist on Kedgeree, made with pearl barley and spelt, topped with poached eggs and smothered in sauce.  I have a soft spot for pearl barley so I was delighted at this and I think it gave it a meatier meal, particularly alongside the delicate fish and rich curry sauce.  Kedgeree is one of those dishes I think works well for any occasion but feels almost like a bit of a comfort dish, gently lulling you into a lazy Saturday morning at brunch.  This one still had that element of safety but the twists just lifted it to be a bit more interesting.

    apple_juice_nomad

    After a glass of freshly-pressed apple juice we were onto, what I think, was the real star of the show.  I’d been joking with Nomad over twitter earlier in the morning about them giving us Frosties for breakfast and I wasn’t entirely wrong.  Well only in so far as the last dish of the meal was a play on milk and cereal…but with bugs.  Yep, Nomad brought out the bugs again and I think, like previous times, this was a bit of a stretch for some people but they bought into the spirit of it and dove in.  I’m not sure you can see it in the photo, but there are roasted crickets in the mix and they had a delicious bite along side the crunchy cereal and caramel pieces.  It’s also worth noting that the ‘milk’ was actually caramelised milk mousse which you can’t see because it was presented to us first – putting the milk in first is usually a cardinal sin, but entirely forgivable it this time round.

    bug_cereal_nomad

    Yet again Nomad have delivered a dining experience that was both fun, inventive and a bit challenging.  Whilst this wasn’t from their ordinary menu, it included a lot of the same themes of seasonal, local produce without it being a marketing exercise.  The reimagining of three breakfast dishes along side drinks which worked as introductions to the next course gave a flow to the menu which is something often forgotten about.  All of the Birmingham Breakfast Club collaboration meals I’ve been to have been superb and this was no exception.

    So what’s with the name change?

    I mentioned that Nomad are changing their name and whilst this might be largely due to legal reasons, I think it’s a positive step.  Having moved around from south to central Birmingham, they’re now putting down roots in a part of the city centre largely forgotten about.  And sure, The Wilderness isn’t about how Dudley Street has been lost amongst the regeneration of Grand Central, but more that they seem to be wandering out into a drinking and dining experience that the city hasn’t really seen before.

    The Wilderness retains some of the previous team, but also is expanding with chefs coming from rosetted and Michelin-starred backgrounds, as well as an award-winning bartender curating the cocktail menu and a well respected barista from some of the city’s local indie coffee shops heading up the hot drinks programme.  Theatrical set designers Stax Creations are transforming the restaurant into a dining experience, with The Wilderness will be open to the general public from 25 May 2016.

    Disclosure: Paid for this all myself. Although some might say I didn’t get my money’s worth because that whistle totally didn’t work. Just kidding, it was an amazing meal.

    Musings, Round ups

    April round-up

    I seem to start a lot of these round-ups with the realisation that the month was busy, like that’s some sort of new revelation.  Which is silly really, because nearly everyone I talk to these days is busy.  You know, even those people who think having a dental appointment as their only engagement counts as busy (yeah mum, totally looking at you here).  So if we’re all busy then doesn’t the word stop having any real meaning?  And a lot of the time I should be busy but I’m avoiding doing things and instead doing things like binge-watching iZombie on Netflix instead.

    rofuto_lychee_cocktail

    Anyway, you’re not here for a quasi-philosophical exploration into the nature of busy.  In fact, you’re probably here to get an idea of what happened last month, because that’s sort of what I bill these posts as.  And last month was busy kinda awesome.  Two exciting things happened; the first was that I was shortlisted in the Birmingham Food, Drink & Hospitality Awards in the blogger category and the second was I did a presentation to a bunch of digital communications enthusiasts about building a brand as a blogger.  I’ll write up the presentation, because strangers said nice things about it which means it might be of further interest to people.  Oh and a third thing, which I nearly forgot to mention, was that Ting (of The Ting Thing) and I are attempting to revive Brum Bloggers, because there are lots of ace bloggers in the city shouting about cool stuff.

    dessert_in_a_cup

    Anyway, back to this blog.  I tried to do a few more round ups of news things this month, and I’m not sure how successful they were, but I don’t really have the time to re-write every food related press release going, and given there’s enough places doing that, I figure rounding them up so I’m sharing the news but in a less time-consuming way.  I also did a sort of mid-month round up, with the intention of doing it weekly, but frankly my life is not that interesting and some weeks my food adventures are defrosting turkey meatballs and sneaking off to KFC on a Friday.   But I did do a quick post about Peel & Stone’s Harborne venue pop up at their JQ location, because it looked kinda awesome and I was gutted I couldn’t get to any, but I will be jumping on the bus to check out the new store when it opens.

    That said, whilst I didn’t do so many out and out news pieces, I did do a bit of a rant editorial about something the local newspaper put out that irked me a bit about the nature of chain restaurants versus independent ones.  I’m quite liking doing posts which are more thinking about the city’s food and drinks scene as a whole, and I might inflict a few more on you, as and when I can come up with ideas for them.

    donburi_wagamama

    Back to the actual food blogging itself, I went to a bunch of new places, some of which I’m yet to write up.  One place I did get to was Rofuto, which a lot of people were very excited about and so was I.  In fact, I’m so excited I’ve done two trips, and the post about the food will follow.  On a Japanese-ish theme I went to have a look round the new-look wagamamas and had everyone’s favourite chicken katsu curry.  And after all that raw fish and battered chicken, it was nice to head to 3 Three’s in Martineau Place, which is Birmingham’s first mainly-vegan café.  Finally, one of my favourite things about the change in season (I feel like I can say this now we’ve actually had some sunshine) is that The Studio switch up their food menu and they’ve been nice enough to invite me along to sample the dishes, which form part of their package for people hosting events there.

    And I think that’s about it in terms of things I need to tell you – and this post is way longer than it needed to be.  This month is looking equally enthusiastic, I just need to find some time to write everything up, but if I can there will be steak, chocolate, cocktails and maybe pizza.

    Quick news round up

    • Eden, a new café in Erdington opened recently and it looks worth checking out
    • There’s a musical about food crime on Sat 14th May outside St Martin’s in the Bullring at midday and 2.30pm, which sounds crazy enough to be fun.
    • James Bowker Head Bartender of the Edgbaston Boutique Hotel is through to the Diageo Reserve World Class GB final and is a pretty flipping big deal
    • Be at One Bar opens this month, I spoke to one of the founders and it’s sounds like it’s going to be ace.
    • Bagels, beer, cocktails and more, Peaky’s finally announced their new location and they’re going to be on John Bright St
    • Celebrating local and sustainable produce, Opus has a cracking new Friday deal – two elegant courses, half a bottle of wine and a selection of homemade bread for £25 per person
    News

    Shortlisted for BFDHA 2016

    shortlisted_BFHA

    I’ve been shortlisted under the Food & Drink Blogger category at the Birmingham Food, Drink and Hospitality Awards!

    I was entirely surprised because I hadn’t realised I’d been nominated, but there’s always the warm fuzzy feelings when people recognise the blood, sweat and tears time and effort I’ve put into the blog.  I love all the interaction and generally nerding over food, but a side effect of the whole sarcastic irreverence is that I’m entirely incapable of knowing what to do with people being nice to me.  I know, I know, someone call the therapist.  But seriously, something that started because  I wanted to write about my food and drink adventures in the city has led me to some weird and wonderful adventures – and they say no one cares about what you had for dinner!

    Public voting is open until the 8th May and I would very much appreciate your vote – just head over to the BFDHA website and vote for me!

     

    Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    The Studio Spring 2016 menu tasting

    apple_tarts_studio_spring

    Due to the day job, I end up at quite a few conference venues in the city centre and so if I were ever to do a Buzzfeed style listicle it would likely be on conference lunches in Brum. Most of them are fairly uninteresting to be honest, but one that is less bland sandwiches and more restaurant quality food is The Studio on Cannon St.

    Rather than just roll out trays of beige, The Studio offer delegates a proper meal at lunch time; and they switch up their menu seasonally; and they invite regulars along to give them feedback on the menu. And so being as I’m there so often the staff seem to know me, and clearly liking my food, I went along to their spring menu tasting.

    salad_selectionMoving into spring this is transitional menu which balances the heavier winter food with something a bit lighter for those few sunny days we get in Birmingham. As well as the meat and vegetarian options, there are puddings and a range of salads. Now personally I struggle a bit with salad because I usually get bored before I’ve eaten enough but these salads have been thought through enough that they keep you interested as well as sated, and can be added as a side dish to your main.  I’ve since been back to The Studio for a conference and had the vegan Caesar salad alongside the Philly cheese ciabatta sandwich and worked really well as a tasty, nourishing meal in between a series of talks!

    spring_vegetable_casserole_dumplings

    A lot of the dishes are proper main meals which are part of what makes The Studio an ace venue (the staff are also great and they have a colouring in wall, no seriously).  Given that it’s spring, there’s a nice mix of fresh flavours and they’ve gone for a good range of cuisines from Chinese through to Cajun, Thai and something a bit more on the classic British.  I really liked the Chinese belly pork with spinach and pak choi, a brave option for a conference venue when you need to serve thirty odd people at once. Belly pork can sometimes be hard to cook well, but this was delicious, a perfect balance of crisp and chewy.  Another great dish was the pan-seared chicken on a bed of new potatoes, black olives and oven-roasted tomatoes, which sounds like a pretty simple dish but was executed well – one of the other testers on my table went back for seconds of that one!

    green_thai_curry

    But what really impresses me about The Studio menu tastings is that they’re genuinely looking for people’s opinions on what works and what doesn’t.  I really liked the Thai green vegetable curry with basmati rice, but it was a little on the spicy side for me – it would certainly blast away any winter cobwebs! It’ll be interesting to see if it makes it onto the final menu…though I suspect not.

    And just a note about the desserts, oh yeah every lunch has a dessert.  The French apple tart with caramel sauce (the first photo on this post) was delicious, sweet, fresh and with the sauce was sweet without being too sickly.  There were also delicious Victoria sponge sundaes, trifles, cheesecakes and a zingy lemon & lime eton mess with passionfruit.  Frankly I think every meal should have a pudding, and if they’re as good as this then even better.

    dessert_in_a_cup

    Sadly, The Studio isn’t a restaurant that you can book into, but it is an excellent event space for meetings and conferences and worth a look if you’re booking  something – just invite me for lunch, yeah?

    Disclosure: Oh god, this again? It was a menu tasting for a conference venue, of course it was complimentary. But given how often I seem to be there between work and conferences I think they just assume I live there and feed me anyway.

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    First Look: Rofuto at Park Regis, Five Ways Birmingham

    rofuto_bar

    Just a quick one from me, but good news is there might finally be a reason for Brummies to go to Five Ways and it’s not just for the cinema.

    Roftuo, the izakaya-style Japanese restaurant opens soon and they invited a few of us up to take a look before the official opening.  Translating as loft in Japanese, Rofuto sits atop of the Park Regis, a new four star hotel which has risen from the ashes of a fairly unloved mixed use development (I say unloved, really there are huge swathes of Brummies who have a bit of affection for some of the dodgy nightclubs that used to be there).

    I don’t want to write too much, because I think trying to get an idea of a bar and restaurant on a preview night is a little unfair, but on first impressions Rofuto should be a much welcomed addition to the city’s food and drink scene – and not just for the people stopping over at the hotel.  With a £3 million investment, renowned restaurateur Des McDonald and interior designers Tibbatts Abel have clearly put the money to good use.  The venue feels fresh, modern and with a contemporary hint to its Japanese theme without feeling kitsch – and the expansive windows giving a great view of the city will make it a great spot for dining.

    rofuto_cocktail_making

    I’m going back in just over a week to try out a full meal, so I think it’s only fair to leave most of the talk of the food until then – but of the samples I tried, I’m really looking forward to it.  Of particular note, and I’m saying this more as a reminder to myself to order them again, were the fried chicken and black cod.  And trust me, I really like fried chicken, so it has to be good.

    Yet, whilst I’d expect a restaurant with that much investment on top of a four star hotel to be able to pull a set of good dishes out of its kitchen on a preview night, I think the real highlight for me were the drinks.  Birmingham’s cocktail scene is on a massive up at rather than placate with sickly sweet drinks as has been the case in some places, Rofuto has the confidence to create a menu of drinks which don’t overcomplicate themselves.  Some will tell you a good cocktail keeps things simple and Rofuto’s signature drink, the Ronin Out of Time does just this; a nod to the Manhattan, it uses Nikka from the Barrel Japanese whisky, plum sake and bitters, and works wonderfully.

    rofuto_lychee_cocktail

    It’s not the cheapest of places but of what I’ve seen of the execution of the food and drinks, plus that view, it’s definitely worth a try.  I’ll report back again when I’ve been a second time…because I’m good like that.

    http://rofuto.co.uk/

    Disclosure: It’s a preview night, invite only…of course the drinks and nibbles were complimentary. Also, I’ve spent the entire of writing this up with Muse’s Time Is Running Out in my head, so thanks for that.

    Musings, Round ups

    This week: 11 – 17 April 2016

    I’ve realised there’s a lot going on and I don’t always get time to write up everything; so I’m trialling out a sort of weekly round up of good places I’ve been to (that may or may not be blogged about later), news I’ve stumbled across and anything else short and snappy. Let me know what you think of the idea…

    Went to / discovered

    • A nutrition talk at in the Great Western Arcade.  It was an interesting overview on ways to overcome bad eating habits.  They’re looking to run some more sessions looking as specific areas of nutrition, so once I hear more I’ll let you know.
    • Ikea as part of the Live Lagom project – there was a bit of an update, a chance to meet some of the others taking part locally, see some new products Ikea are bringing in which have sustainability in mind, and eat some meatballs.
    • Slow cookers can make pretty decent curry for lunch. I’d blog the recipe, but whilst it tasted good, it looked a bit oddly coloured.
    • Cherry Reds and Waterstones Birmingham cafes for tea and cake.  I’m not doing a write up of them as that seems a little silly, I can heartily recommend the rainbow cake at Cherry Reds and red velvet cake at Waterstones.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 15.25.39

    News

    Rofuto, the new Japanese concept bar and restaurant at the top of Park Regis at Five Ways is offering early birds keen to try them out with 50% off food as part of their soft launch offer running from Friday 22nd April to Saturday 23rd April.  Reservations can be made via email – reservations@rofuto.co.uk

    Deliveroo Birmingham turned one this week!  The on-demand delivery service delivered via a fleet of delivery mopeds and bicycles and can often be spotted in the city, covering more than 3,000km a week and providing more than 60 jobs, as well as food to your door.

    Moseley is getting a new upmarket wine bar thanks to Prince of Wales’ Keith Marsden.  The Cheval Blanc will be next to the Dark Horse, one of Keith’s other venues, and is due to open in May.

    The worst kept secret in Birmingham is that Langley’s are going to be opening a bar in the city. I tweeted a photo of the licensing application stuck to the Great Western Arcade, but lets keep that between us, right?

    Did I mention Brum Yum Yum are going to be opening a permanent city centre Hawker style venue on Pershore Rd, near the Arcadian.  It’ll give street food vendors a chance to have a bit of a permanent base, without the costs associated with it.  I’ll get more info when it’s closer to opening.

    Shaanti’s Holi Rave Festival is back on city on Saturday 16 April 2016 at the Digbeth Gardens with daytime and evenings shows so everyone gets a chance to go.  Taste & Liquor will be curating the food area, and there’s more info on http://www.holirave.com

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    wagamama Birmingham Bullring has had a refurb

    chicken_katsu_curry_wagamam

    I spend about eighty percent of the time with my camera being surprised at the results it comes out with.  I’m never going to be a food photographer, but I think that dear little camera does a good job at making it look like I know what I’m doing.  I really don’t.  And if you’d like any evidence of this, ask me to take photos of things that aren’t food or drinks – I really struggle.  So when wagamama invited me down to check out their newly refurbished Bullring venue, I really did try and take some photos of the new refurb but I’ve just got a series of strangers making weird faces as they try and eat noodles. And I’m not mean enough to subject them or you to that.

    tori_kara_age_wagamama So yeah, wagamama, I don’t really need to introduce them do I?  I mean even my mum knows them; admittedly she calls them “that place I have noodles” whenever we’re thinking about lunch in Solihull but I think that says more about the scarcity of my mum eating carbs than anything.  Anyway, back to Brum.  Turns out the Bullring branch was the first wagamama restaurant to open in the UK outside of London, which I didn’t know, and has had a refurb, which I did know because I had an email telling me.  On the surface it doesn’t look like anything massively structural has changed; the seating is much the same although there are now some little semi-booth like tables to the side and it feels distinctively less like a canteen (I think the official term is ramen bar), which is always a good thing.  I think its the inclusion of darker wood on  the tables and walls, plus the lighting feels more ‘mood’.  The kitchen is still open, the long tables are there but overall if feels less functional and more pleasant.  It’s definitely a change for the better.
    duck_gyoza_wagamama

    Food wise I had convinced myself I was going to go for something a bit different.  But I was having one of those days when it All Gets a Bit Much and was moments off making a fort under the nearest desk and staying there.  On days like this comfort food is an absolute must and, for me, chicken katsu curry covers that pretty well; fried chicken, carbohydrates in the form of rice, a small but tasty salad to absolve you any guilt and a mild curry sauce.  And that’s what I got.  It was chicken katsu curry, it was exactly what I wanted and tasted like every other chicken katsu curry I’ve had a wagamamas – you’ve got to give them credit for consistency on their part.  And that’s what I wanted, a familiar favourite when I couldn’t handle more choice.  Had it been another day I may well have gone for something else, which does occasionally happen, and there is a nice selection of ramen, curries and teppanyaki.

    For starter I went for another well known favourite, the duck gyoza with dipping sauce.  These were possibly a bit over done for my liking, but this time round I actually remembered to try the sauce and it whilst it was very sweet it did have a nice fruitiness to it that complimented the duck.

    Oh and I’d also dragged along my friend Jo-ann, who I’m pretty sure ordered tori kara age and some sort of donburi.  I’m always a bit wary of putting words into people’s mouths but she seemed to enjoy them both, which is the mainly thing really.

    donburi_wagamamaSo there you have it, the wagamama in the Bullring has had a refurbishment.  It’s a good refurbishment, you don’t spend ages wondering where the hell everything is, but it looks different enough that you know they haven’t just out a lick of paint on the wall.  In fact, there’s a bit on their ‘about us’ page (see I do do research) which talks about ‘kaizen’, meaning ‘good change’ and I think the refurb certainly adheres to that.

    http://www.wagamama.com/

    Disclosure: I was invited down by wagamama to check out their newly refurbed restaurant. The lack of ability to remember names of anything is an inherited trait, so I blame my mother, the eccentricity is largely my father’s fault.