Follow:
Browsing Category:

News

    News, Pub and Drinks News

    The Digbeth Dozen map launches

    I like food. I like Digbeth. And I like maps.

    So top marks to The Ruin, who have unveiled a massive big map on the side of their wall showcasing some of their great neighbours – and having the guts to effectively point out where the competition is.

    The map, a 16ft by 10ft graffiti-style map, created by local artist as Andy Mills (also known as Title, apparently, because I am not cool enough to know these things) points out twelve of Digbeth’s best independent places to eat and drink.  Commissioned by The Ruin’s owner, Richard Hughes, it’s an ode to Digbeth with its realism-meets-traditional graffiti-style embodying the industrial-past and cool, new future of one of Birmingham’s favourite suburbs.  I mean, I like a lot of Birmingham suburbs but Digbeth is definitely in the list of one of the good ones. Even if it is severely lacking in cash-points.

    The Digbeth Dozen title refers to twelve independent and unique neighbours, unsurprisingly in Digbeth, and includes The Anchor pub on Bradford Street; Ghetto Golf, The Mockingbird Cinema & Kitchen, Clink and Kanteen, all in the Custard Factory; new kid on the block Dig Brew Co’s brewery and taproom on River Street; Digbeth Dining Club, which everyone should really know about by now; Tucked away tapas joint Rico Libre; Birmingham’s oldest pub, The Old Crown; The Spotted Dog on Alcester Street; and Baked in Brick which is due to open in May – and of course, The Ruin itself. It’s an incredibly strong list of places, with pretty much something for everyone, and showing that whilst Digbeth might look a bit like it’s knocking around waiting for HS2, it’s actually a hive of activity, you just have to know where to look – which is where a map comes in pretty bloody handy.  Someone really should make some nice postcards of this thing so we can put them in tourist information.

    The Ruin’s owner, Richard Hughes has this to say about the map; “Since opening The Ruin, Digbeth in September 2017, its been exciting to get to know our neighbours in the area and to check out each unique spot to eat, drink or socialise in. From Spanish tapas with a Brummie twist to delicious vegetarian brunches, 18 holes of crazy golf to blockbuster and arthouse film screenings, and new craft beer spaces as well as traditional city boozers, the Digbeth Dozen offering really is as varied as it gets in this exciting and creative quarter. We wanted to mark the exciting new period in the area’s history – and what better way than with an exclusive mural-style map to help people find their way!?”

    If you’re not familiar, The Ruin is situated on the corner of Floodgate Street and Little Ann Street in Digbeth.  Some readers may be familiar with this Grade II listed building formerly known as The Eagle, Horan’s Tavern and The Floodgate Tavern.  Offering local ales, coffee roasted in nearby Shropshire, and a heart European menu using regional ingredients, The Ruin also has a packed listings of events including live music, DJ sets and open mic.  It’s basically what you want in a modern pub – and pretty spot on for Digbeth.

    www.theruindigbeth.com

    Events

    What Would Elvis Eat?

    Part-play, part-tribute act This is Elvis is showing at the New Alexandra Theatre for the next few days and it made me think, if The King of Rock and Roll really were in town, where would he eat.

    Charting Presley’s monumental return to performing live for the first time in seven years via his ’68 Comeback Special’ and residency in Las Vegas, This is Elvis is a hell of a lot of fun, and I say that as someone who is probably more familiar with cover-versions of the King’s songs.  Award-winning tribute artist and actor Steve Michaels, who plays Elvis, looks the part but more importantly performs with such energy it’s infectious.

    I wrote a more in-depth review of the show over on my other blog, but as Elvis’ diet and weakness for food was mentioned in the performance, I thought it might be quite fun to come up with a list of places in Birmingham Elvis might’ve liked…

    Burgers

    Some claim that Elvis was found dead with half a cheeseburger in his hand, which is almost certainly not true, but his love of cheeseburgers throughout his lifetime is well documented.  If the King were after a proper cheeseburger in Birmingham then his best bet would be either Original Patty Men or The Meatshack. Or maybe both.

    The Elvis Presley Milkshake

    Rightfully so, nowhere in Birmingham is made enough to make this calorie-laden monstrosity of smoked bacon, bananas, ice cream, bourbon, and peanut butter. But if shakes are what you’re after then try the rather charming sister venue in the San Carlo group in Selfridges, Gran Cafe, where you can get an indulgent cake shake, but with a much coherent flavour combination.

    Southern Fried Chicken

    On the menu at his 1967 wedding to Priscilla, but if you’re after fried chicken in Birmingham then new-kid-on-the-block, Bonehead is definitely the place to try.  And bonus points are that it’s just round the corner from the Alex Theatre too.

    Breakfast

    In James Gregory’s 1960 biography of Presley, there’s a note for anyone interested in dating Elvis, it reads: “Note for his future wife: Elvis loves enormous breakfasts complete with sausage, bacon, eggs, fried potatoes, home-baked rolls, and coffee. He has a tremendous appetite at breakfast. His wife should never develop elegant or expensive tastes.”

    For a proper hearty breakfast Cherry Reds on John Bright Street or Gas Street Social in the Mailbox will do a good fry up, minus the airs and graces.  But if you’re after something bottomless but refined, then try the Electro Brunch at Gaucho on Church Street.

    The show is at the New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham until 24 March before it continues its national tour.  For tickets, visit atgtickets.com/Birmingham.

    This was a press event. Photographs were taken by Pamela Raith.

    Food and Restaurant News, News

    First Bite: Bonehead, Birmingham

    Finally – we have a fried chicken place in Birmingham that looks like it’s going to be great!

    I popped into a preview night for Bonehead, the new fried chicken place just off John Bright Street in the city centre. It’s a pretty simple concept or fried chicken and craft beer, with Beavertown on tap / in cans and a takeover planned.

    Lap-Fai Lee has been behind some of the most delicious fried chicken pop-ups in the city, and he’s chef consultant for Bonehead, as well as the man in the kitchen on preview night.  If that’s not the sign of good things, then I don’t know what is.  And the wings I tried lived up to expectations – I’m looking forward to returning and trying the burgers and waffle fries.

    With a seated area upstairs with 32 covers and no reservations, this is going to be popular, but if the preview night is anything to go by it’s going to be well worth a visit.

    www.boneheaduk.com

    Cafe News, News

    Cherry Reds Kings Heath is closing…

    Cherry Reds in Kings Heath is closing.  It hasn’t closed yet, but it is closing.  That’s the essence of this blog post and I want you to remember that it’s as simple as that.  A whole pile of things have closed or are threatened with closure and there are rumours swirling about, much like the current weather. But with Kings Heath’s Cherry Reds, it’s a lot simpler.

    Jen, the owner of Cherry Reds, asked to have a chat with me about this and honestly I thought it was going to be a therapy session because I bloody love Cherry Reds.  I love the Kings Heath Cherry Reds even though it took over the greasy spoon cafe I had an affinity towards because it served me sausage and bacon sandwiches when I first moved to Kings Heath.

    “People asked how I got started, and the simple answer is with experience and savings from running pubs for M&B, as well as help from friends and family” says Jen. And this comes through, Cherry Reds is the sort of low-key place that caters for a multitude of dietary requirements without having fifty-thousand menus to certify this; vegan cake sits alongside cake with lashings of buttercream and you can order a vegan full English just as easily as you can a meaty one. No one judges you for ordering tea and cake on a Friday night, and there’s a great selection of beers without being all holier-than-thou about its craft beer credentials. The staff are consistently lovely, from letting your pregnant friend queue-jump a sudden influx of people because you were saving the table, through to explaining the ins and outs of Pokemon Go.

    It might well be their Twitter handle, but it’s true. I do love Cherry Reds. But more importantly, so does Jen; “A few years back I was having a mini-meltdown, probably about some unconstructive negative review online, and one of the team tried to comfort me by saying that I take these things too personally. It occurred to me that she was right, I do take it personally.”

    So why is Cherry Reds in Kings Heath closing? Rumours have been going around for a while that it was going to turn into this, that and the other. Or with seemingly a new coffee shop opening in Kings Heath daily, has Jen had enough? Nope, it’s a lot simpler than that…it’s about putting down roots and making the painful decision to let something you love go, so it can become better. “Last year while still trying to find the money for a deposit on a house, I asked myself whether I had the energy and funds to invest in Kings Heath too, which seven years on needs a new lease of life. I feel a new owner could do it better and allow me to move on to other projects.”

    “I never really intended to do Cherrys on a bigger scale, but the momentum kicked in and when thing started clicking into place and I thought I’d see how much I could borrow. John Bright St opened in September 2014, again things were tight, a few months in a row I was late paying people which was definitely the lowest point, but they stuck by me, which I’ll never forget” admits Jen. “I may have done it the hard way, but the whole point was to be my own boss, make my own mistakes and trust my own long game, so an investor was out of the question for me.”

    “Growth for the sake of growth, take more money, spend less every year. Kudos to those people who have built big businesses from nothing, but it’s not a road I think ends well for staff or customer experience.” And whilst so many other places might bang on about customer experience, people are at the heart of Cherry Reds – both the customers and the staff. Jen is thankful for both; “I have been fortunate enough to work with and serve some awesome humans over the last seven years, as well as working alongside great businesses made up of more great humans. I thank them all for truly caring, helping me build my little business and making the tough times worth getting through.”

    Cherry Reds in Kings Heath is closing because Jen wants it to become more, to flourish. And we’re not losing Cherry Reds entirely; “John Bright St Cherrys will continue to bring a little bit of the Kings Heath spirit into the city centre.” Jen tells me. And for that I’m thankful, because in a sea of chain coffee shops, pre-ripped wallpaper and overly complicated menus, there still sits a corner of the city where Cherry Reds stands out as the kind of place which welcomes everyone, without any fuss. And there’s nothing more Brummie than that.

    Cherry Reds in Kings Heath is currently up for sale and will close when a new buyer is found – which means you still have time to go. I’ll keep you updated.

    Events, News

    Quickly – Vote for Birmingham’s best take away

    curry_night_inI’m crap at playing favourites, I blame having one of those minds that overthink a lot, but really I think it’s because context is king…sometimes I’m willing to overlook crap service for great food, other times I just need alright food that does the job from kind staff and no washing up. So when the British Takeaway Awards asked me to nominate my favourite takeaway, I nominated a few.  Because I could. More about that later.

    First, I need you to go to http://www.thebtas.co.uk/ and nominate your favourite takeaway in Birmingham. Or maybe Solihull, or Sandwell, wherever you live. Basically, I want to see us flying the flag for the B postcode. It’ll take you a minute or so (it’s really quick) and you’ll be in with a chance to win £1000 or some takeaway vouchers – and who doesn’t love free food?

    Here are a couple of the ones I’ve voted for…

    Cherry Reds – other
    I have a total soft spot for Cherry Reds – their fish finger sandwiches, but also the sausage sandwiches and their classic Diddy English breakfast. And anything involving halloumi. The Kings Heath cafe supplied the sustenance on a house move years ago, to which I will forever remain grateful, and the one in town provided many working lunches over the years – plus a bonus game of how high could I stack the cartons like a fort in the office.

    Original Patty Men – American (I guessed)
    Okay, confession time.  I’ve never actually ordered ‘to go’ from OPM, because frankly I’d only ever get as far as the kerb outside…who wants to wait to eat OPM’s glorious burgers?!  But take out they do, and the BTAs want to hear about take out, so nominate I must.

    Now, go go go nominate!

    Events, News

    Kings Heath Action For Refugees present Eat & Greet

    I’ve sort of stopped doing events notifications on here because there’s just so frigging many going on in Birmingham that I can’t keep up, but my friend is helping out with this one and it is for a really good cause.

    Eat & Greet is taking place on Saturday 20th August from midday to 5pm at the New Life Baptist Church on Kings Heath High Street (it’s pretty much opposite Asda, you can’t miss it).  It promises to be an exciting foodie experience, with contributions from some cracking local restaurants and eateries including Peel & Stone, Damascena, The Real Junk Food Project and more.  And if you fancy it, feel free to bring a dish of something delightful to share too.

    As well as some great food, there’s live music from the likes of Anna Palmer of local band Dorcha, Balsall Heath’s David Benjamin Blower and Amit Dattani.  And if you’re feeling a bit creative, there’s a craft corner – with activities for both children and adults; Paperdoll Handmade Market will be delivering a lovely crafty activity for children and for adults, the Birmingham Craftivists will be there with their subversive bunting…which is the best kind of bunting in my eyes.

    They’ve also got some great raffle prizes donated from the likes of PlayStation, Cosy Club,The Electric Cinema, Connolly’s Wines, 40 St Pauls, The Vegan Grindhouse, The Botanist, CircusMash and more.

    The whole shindig is in aid of raising money for Leros Solidarity Network, who support refugees fleeing conflict.  Leros is a small Greek island which has seen huge numbers of refugees from fleeing the brutal war in Syria.  LSN is funded purely through donations and provides critical initiatives to help provide a humanitarian response to the crisis.  There will be people from LSN, as well as volunteers who have spent time volunteering in refugee camps in Calais at Eat & Greet, but for more info on LSN head to; http://www.lsn-uk.com/

    Tickets are £5 for adults and £2 for children over five, plus you can also buy a ticket for refugee and Asylum Seekers living in the city.  To purchase tickets, head to http://www.wegottickets.com/event/363530

    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.