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    Drinks, Guest Posts, Pop-up and Event reviews

    The Midlands Whisky Festival 2018

    Greetings, it’s been a while hasn’t it? And it’s not even me responsible for 99% of this blog post, but I’ll save you the sob story of where I’ve been and why I’ve not been blogging.

    Anyway, I couldn’t make The Midlands Whisky Festival 2018, despite being in one of my favourite conference venues, The Studio. This saddens me because whisky, whiskey and bourbon are all great, and festivals are a great place to try lots of ones you’ll probably never get a chance to.  But far be it for me to deny my loyal readers (if there are any of you left), so I put an ask out to friends and unsurprisingly lots of people came forward, but one of the suggestions what the talented Joe Beardsmore.

    Joe is a bartender and photographer, so frankly more qualified to be doing this sort of thing than I am.  You should definitely check out his website, – I’d highly recommend looking at his outdoor photography because it’s just beautiful.  Also his Instagram account is pun-tastic which instantly endears me to it @Joemans_Land.

    Over, to Joe…

    The Midlands Whisky Festival 2018 brought a collection of Scottish, Indian, Australian, American, Scandinavian, Japanese and many more whiskies into perfect harmony, providing an incredible tasting and learning experience, whether it was learning new world whisky with the likes of Starward, or cigars and malt with Dalmore.

    A few signature moments for me where trying the Glen Dronach 24 year old which was a rare surprise to find such a bold full bodied Scotch that imparted the flavours of the sherry casks that it had been aged in for all of its “life”. Furthermore the Cambus 31 Year Old 1964 exceeded expectations as a smooth, easy going dram considering the 31 year old age statement.

    But really, you’re here for the pictures and I don’t blame you because they’re great and this is just a selection of them. They all belong to Joe, he’s just kindly letting me put them on here so if you want to use them for something or hire Joe to take some photos then get in contact with him.

    The Midlands Whisky Festival has been running since 2010, and as well as a Birmingham event, there was a Stourbridge version back in March.  I’m not entirely sure when the next one is, but feel free to keep an eye on their website

    Guest Posts, Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Preview of Rebel Chicken in the Jewellery Quarter

    I couldn’t make it to the preview of Rebel Chicken because I was too busy eating Melbourne out of burgers visiting my sister and meeting my new niece. But I thought it looked cool and worth telling people about.  So I figured I’d ask someone who I pretty much only know on Twitter but I knew would have good opinions being he’s the King of Digbeth, which we know is the epicentre of street food in Birmingham. He once called me out on something which I can’t remember, but I remember thinking if I ever decide to pick on people to help guest blog on here, Andy will be on the list. And because you usually get plus ones to these things, Andy brought his friend Tim who I do not know, but if Andy rates him, I’m willing to believe he knows his stuff too.

    If you have no idea what I’m talking about, Rebel Chicken is a new chicken restaurant, cocktail bar and beer garden in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. They are, apparently, fanatical about chicken; we’re talking twice-marinated, spit-roasted, free range, locally sourced, and expertly prepared – they’ve even employed a charcoal sommelier. Which is a job title I bet no one’s careers teacher ever told them about.

    You can choose between stuff like a quarter, half or whole chicken; wings, including buffalo hot wings; and then things like veggie bean burgers or Caesar salad sharer if you’re the sort of masochist who goes to a chicken restaurant but doesn’t eat chicken.

    Anyway, enough of me, over to Andy to tell us about the food…

    “The main menu is a mix of either rotisserie chicken or the wings. You can choose a quarter, half or full roast chicken (I’d suggest the full is a sharer – it was massive) or a selection of coated and battered wings.

    “The roast chicken itself was my fave – I’m not good with wings (I’m crap with messy fingers), so was looking forward to this element. The chicken itself was moist and slightly salty with a good helping of delicious crispy skin on.  I must admit, I thought the whole Cuban coal/sweet cherry wood thing was a gimmick, but if it was responsible for the flavour then it’s well worth the money they must be spending on it. Easily the tastiest chicken I’ve had in a long time.

    “The wings were good though – once I’d dissected them with my cutlery!  We had a selection of the BBQ and ‘hot’ wings – the BBQ sauce was tasty and not overly sweet or smoky, just about right. The ‘hot’ wings were good too – made with birds eye chillies so not overly hot (though I am known for my ability to do the dorset naga), I’d say just about right for all palates with a nice after-heat. The chef mentioned he was thinking of doing a hotter sauce too though.

    “Then sauces for the chicken – aside from the hot sauce and BBQ, they had a really good chipotle sauce, a simple brown gravy (not mind-blowing but functional) and an aioli which I didn’t try.

    “Running it past Tim though, a wing pro, I asked him to compare it to the wings at Bonehead, and he without hesitation said these wings were a thousand times better. And he enjoyed Bonehead’s wings!

    “On an aside, in terms of comparing to Bonehead, I would say the two can co-exist nicely, since Rebel don’t offer any burgers and as a chicken burger lover, I could happily go to either – Bonehead’s burgers are insanely good.”

    [I asked Andy about the sides and desserts too and it seems that the chips/fries and charred corn are both fine, but pretty standard but the hero of the dish (sorry, too much Australian masterchef) is the slaw.]

    “the slaw was sensational. Was a simple red cabbage slaw with a delicious dressing, and if I’m right, a hint of coriander. I’d thoroughly recommend it and it went a treat with the roast chicken adding some much needed crunch.

    “Dessert wise, we tried a really decent cheesecake – was a caramel one as I recall, and the home made waffles in a caramel sauce which were good. Though after all that chicken there wasn’t too much room – fortunately these puddings weren’t too heavy though.”

    [I also wanted to know what the atmosphere and vibe was like, which is tricky to figure out on a preview night but it sounds good]

    “Vibe was very good. The décor in the upstairs dining area was stripped back walls with a clean and airy vibe with big windows (it reminded me a bit of the old Comida 21 room) and the bar downstairs whilst a wee bit cramped was smart and there were some nice armchairs at the one end.

    “The outdoor space is the one they’ll probably push as there was plenty of outdoors tables, and it’s a big big space to capitalise upon in the summer. Though conversely, how that will work in the winter remains to be seen.

    “It is good informal or last minute dining, or as an alternative to the multitudes of street food events, with friendly (albeit very new to the game) waitresses and Tim and I both agreed we would revisit for a Saturday night pre-night out meal.  Tim even said he would definitely use it for a first date as the food would impress, it wouldn’t be too showy or pricey and it would be a non-pressure environment.

    “Would be good for families that were on a day out in the JQ visiting the touristy bits or shopping for rings and so on, and they’re dog friendly too so that’s always a plus in my eyes!“

    People ask me about dog-friendly places a lot, which makes sense because they’re flippin adorable, so this is good to know. In fact I get asked so often that I decided to start a page to group them so I don’t have to keep trying to remember them.  Anyway, over to Andy for the summary of if Rebel Chicken is any good…

    “Overall, it was a very good first experience and I can imagine it’ll get better as it starts to come together and they gain more experience.  I think they pretty much do what they say on the box and they’re not re-inventing the wheel or anything but in terms of simple but quality chicken, they’re going to be hard to beat and I wish them well.”

    Sounds good to me. I’ll try and head down to check it out soon, once I’m over the sheer amount of burgers I ate in Melbourne.

    Rebel Chicken can be found at 5, 19 Pitsford St, Birmingham B18 6LJ, and from next month they’ll be joined by their sister venue next door, a Desi pub called Rebel Desi. Their website is

    Andy, who I roped into guest posting, is King of Digbeth, regularly eats burgers (which is probably why I follow him) and often posts pictures of dogs (that’ll definitely be the reason I follow him).  He also takes cool pictures around Digbeth and other bits of Birmingham, especially of the graffiti and such.  You should follow him on social media things like DJ Colatron on Twitter or Colatron on Instagram. I’ve no idea who Tim is, so if you want to follow him on stuff, ask Andy.

    Guest Posts, Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Bodega Birmingham

    At work this week we’ve had Isla in doing work experience.  She’s been a real help and has managed to cope with a pretty busy week.  To celebrate the end of what I thought was a great week (hopefully she did too), Isla and I went to Bodega Birmingham for lunch.  As Isla likes writing I thought it might be nice to let her guest post on the blog as an additional tick on the ‘IT skills’ box.  Over to Isla…IMG_2005.JPG

    As someone whose knowledge of Birmingham is even patchier than my knowledge of the working world, I was fairly surprised to find Bodega’s orange sign tucked away on a side street. For those (like me) who don’t know, Bodega is a South American style cantina, with big prints on the wall and a cocktail bar complete with a merry cluster of bottles. It was pretty quiet at 12:30, but as the meal went on the places filled up, giving Bodega a friendly, albeit slightly cramped, Friday lunch buzz.

    We started with the non-alcoholic cocktails; Laura had the Elderflower Fizz which she described as nice, but sweeter than she’d been expecting while I tried out Bodega’s Lemongrass and Ginger Tang, which was reminiscent of still ginger beer with a refreshing lemony twist. Perhaps the bottom was a little over syrupy, but I raced through my glass before the mains had hit the table, which I reckon is a great success.

    Laura and I both went for dishes off the ‘Street Food’ section of the menu. My Roasted Sweetcorn, Pepper and Tomato Quesadilla was small but mighty. The tortilla crunch offset the gooey cheese centre well, and the vegetables gave it a lovely lift. Delicious, although there’s a reason it didn’t make it on to the light bite section of the menu, as the cheese filling is the main component and is as heavy and comforting as they come. Laura said her burrito was nice and had lots of flavour, the meat in particular, but the second half was a little soggy by the time she went to eat it.

    When in Rome, do as the Romans do. As Bodega is a South American cantina, it seemed criminal not to try out their Churros for desert. Cinnamonny, chewy and again, immeasurably comforting, my Churros disappeared at an alarming rate of knots (along with my entire pot of toffee sauce – much to my amazement).

    As Friday afternoons go, stopping for lunch at Bodega Birmingham is a great way to have a break, whether or not you’re lucky enough to be under the wing of a lovely food blogger. The service was fast and friendly, the atmosphere upbeat and the food sunny and satisfying.

    by Isla Chaplin

    Guest Posts, Pub grub, Reviews

    One Trick Pony Club, Moseley

    I love writing the blog, but occasionally I like going for dinner and not having to try and formulate a blogpost in my mind whilst eating.  Recently I was invited down to One Trick Pony Club, Moseley’s latest hot spot, which has replaced O’Neills but remains in the M&B family.  The venue is retro-meets-industrial decor with lots of exposed brickwork and seating booths, with a focus on American diner style food – in particular burgers.  Given that it was burgers there was one person I knew I had to take with me to check out the place, my friend Andrew, who also agreed to write the review this time.  Over to Andrew…IMG_1024.JPG

    We started with a portion of chicken wings in BBQ sauce. The wings had a generous amount of tender meat and the sauce lived up to its name with a clear smokiness in a tomato base providing the right amount of non-sickly sweetness.

    Our Mains had to be burgers. Laura naturally came up with a customised option our server hadnt heard of before. The Wafkin is normally a chicken with smoked bacon and maple syrup in a waffle bun, but Laura went off-menu with the Beef Wafkin. The waffle was a toasted, making it harder than one would want as a bun.IMG_1032.JPG

    I chose the pulled pork & chipotle jam burger, and for the sake of nostalgia I added some pickled onion Monster Munch. The pulled pork was just that – tender pieces of deep pink pork, unlike the pork mush in sauce found in many establishments. The chipotle jam was a disappointing, just as a slightly sweet sticky mesh around the base of the burger. The Monster Munch was a unique combination, but the nature of the product means it lost its crunchy. The dishes were nice overall, but we both found the beef to be a bit dry, more well-done than we would expect.IMG_1027.JPG

    On the side we had fries, in addition to two dipping sauces – a moreish Louisiana Hot Sauce and the rather hot (but not the hottest) Rubys Hot Lips – and a portion of fried pickles. The fries were spot on, the right textures and flavour, especially when teamed up with the Louisiana Hot Sauce. The fried pickles were crunchy strips coated in light Tempura style batter that was not overly greasy. An excellent dish, I think someone will have to remind me I cannot deep fry all my vegetables this year.

    A meal is not complete without a pudding. To make it easier we asked our server to bring us whatever he recommended. Shortly after we were presented with a Chocolate Brownie Sundae and a trio of cookies & ice cream, salted caramel & chocolate cheesecake and a brownie.

    Laura dug right in to the Sundae, the ice-cream was flavoursome and not overly sweet, and Laura enjoyed with brownie cold with a slightly firm texture. This worked out well for me as I enjoyed the soft warm brownie more, crisp on the outer with slightly sticky in texture in the middle without being claggy. The cheesecake had a nice caramel note and perfect for those who want a chocolate cheesecake with a twist, but it was a bit on the rich side. Lastly the cookie and ice cream probably worked better as a separate dish, however it was a bit on the crunchy side for my liking.

    We would both definitely return, but would go for different main meal options; something we can put down to going off-menu rather than the dish itself.

    And there you have it.  I’m looking forward to checking out more burgers at One Trick Pony, and definitely more of those delicious chicken wings!

    Disclosure: Our dinner was complimentary and I’d like to thank the PR lady for recommending the friend chicken – she was absolutely right.  I wasn’t obliged to say anything nice and I didn’t even tell them Andrew was going to be writing the review, so he definitely wasn’t either.  All our views remain honest, although this is massively edited because Andrew likes to talk about food a lot.