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    Events, News, Pub and Drinks News

    English Wine Week in Birmingham

    I’ll be honest with you, wine is not my first thought when it comes to quintessential English drinks, but I’m aiming to have this challenged with a bunch of events taking place in Birmingham for English Wine Week (yeah, I was pretty excited to hear that’s A Thing too).

    With locally sourced produce being big on a lot of agendas, it stands to reason that consumer demand for English wines is growing. And so, from 22nd May, there will be a series of events showcasing English wine at its finest. A number of English wineries including Biddenden, Hush Heath, Three Choirs, Bolney and Sixteen Ridges have already signed up to a range of events, from food matching (with British and international cuisines) to tutored producer-led tastings. There’s also Birmingham’s English Wine Takeover flagship event, The Producers’ Festival, on Saturday 23rd May at The Bond in Digbeth, which includes masterclasses, bubbly brunch and a canal-side afternoon tea.

    Julia Trustram Eve, marketing director of English Wine Producers, said; “The south of England is typically the hotbed of vineyards in the UK so it’s great to see events happening outside of the heartland. I’m delighted that Birmingham is embracing and celebrating English Wine and am even more excited about how the local trade have got behind it.

    “Sales of English wine are up year-on-year and acreage in the UK has doubled in the last 10 years so it’s fair to say it’s an exciting time for the industry now and in the future.”

    So basically if you’re looking for an excuse to check out some English wine (I hear the sparkling variety is very popular – and great for summer), then check out the website for more info…

    www.englishwinetakeover.co.uk

    Food and Restaurant News, News, Pub and Drinks News

    Botanist Birmingham first bite

    It doesn’t open officially until Monday, but I was lucky enough to be invited down to check out the Botanist Birmingham ahead of the opening of its wrought-iron gates to the public.

    I spent far too much of the evening exclaiming “isn’t it pretty” but it’s true.  There’s lots of lovely quirks and features; wrought iron, chemistry sets, ornate lighting, a variety of seating and a well stocked bar.  It’s definitely a space which will work well during the day for a coffee or crafty cocktail, but also in the evenings for a relaxed dinner and/or drinks.   Despite being in the heart of the city centre, Botanist Birmingham have cleverly managed to make an outdoor space which will be perfect for the warmer weather.

    The team, led by Julian Rose-Gibbs, previously of The Victoria on John Bright St, were attentive, polite and well informed.  It’s always nice to hear staff give recommendations, and even between when they feel genuine, which these did.  Bar manager Katie Rouse’s suggestions for cocktails were spot on.

    I tried a couple of their cocktails as well as a few dishes on the menu and was impressed with each of them.  I’m looking forward heading back to try out some more of their offerings and will report back soon.  In the mean time, here’s some photos from my evening…

    Botanist Birmingham, Temple St, Birmingham City Centre
    http://thebotanist.uk.com/location/birmingham

    Food and Restaurant News, News, Pub and Drinks News

    Coming Soon to Birmingham #3

    comingtobrum3

    It’s time for another of those Coming Soon posts, because it seems 2015 is THE year to open up in Birmingham.  With Gas Street Social already open and positive reports flooding in, it’s been joined by a few others I mentioned in a couple of my other Coming Soon posts – Amanita on Bennets Hill has just opened and The Botanist on Temple St is due to open in a couple of weeks.  So that means there’s space for some more names on the Coming Soon board…

    Rub Smokehouse
    With their first venue opening in Nottingham late last year, Rub Smokehouse and Bar are looking to expand to Birmingham in the summer.  All about American style smoked meats, think brisket, burgers, low and slow cooked pork shoulder, plus bourbon and a range of cocktails.  Given the city’s appetite for low and slow smokehouse style food it looks like an interesting addition, plus with a late night cocktail bar and a license til 4am it sounds like a night out in one venue.
    http://www.rubsmokehouse.com/

    Aluna
    I can find very little information about this, other than it’s going to be a bar and grill located in The Mailbox.  Their Facebook page went live end of last year, but they’re clearly not advertising it…however rumour has it there is some goings on.  It looks like Coventry-based 360 Commercial Interiors might be involved in the refurb and there’s a rather snazzy logo on their website’s holding page – could it be hinting to some molecular style cocktails, perhaps? EDIT: a little bird tells us it might be a Nuvo venture, but don’t quote me on that.  http://www.aluna.uk.com/

    Bistrot Pierre
    Serving up provincial French cooking in a relaxed atmosphere and established in 1994, the privately owned family company has 12 bistrots located around the country, including Stratford upon Avon and Leamington Spa, and it looks like they’re coming to Birmingham (and Bath and Newport).  They’re aiming to open in a former tollhouse on Gas St, not far from Broad St and the Mailbox, although there are no dates confirmed as of yet. http://lebistrotpierre.co.uk/

    Nomad
    Focusing on memory, place and nature, Nomad is a three month residency run by Alex Claridge, previously of Bistro 1847 and Warehouse Cafe.  It’s being held at the Kitchen Garden Cafe in Kings Heath from the beginning of April with two fixed menus on Fridays and Saturdays, ranging between four and twelves courses, with menus changing regularly to incorporate ingredients as and when they’re ready from foragers and their allotment. www.foodbynomad.com

    Soho Rooms
    Set to open on 24 March in an ex-strip club, the Soho Rooms on Holloway Head  are aiming to be a luxurious steak restaurant, bar, Shisha lounge and karaoke. http://www.sohorooms.co.uk/

    Nosh and Quaff
    I’ve tweeted and facebooked about this a lot already but managed to miss it off the previous Coming Soon posts, and as the name for 130 Colmore Row’s newest occupant was finally announced recently and the signage has gone up it seems worth mentioning.  From the group that brought you Lasan, Fiesta del Asado and Raja Monkey comes Nosh & Quaff, lobster and beer focused -a venue no doubt aiming to attract the afterwork crowd.  Expect to see them opening around May time. http://noshandquaff.co.uk/

    Woktastic
    Ever since they closed their doors to make way for the new Paradise Circus development, Woktastic have been teasing us with the prospect of a new venue…and then they announce three!  Along with the re-opening of a city centre Woktastic in spring (exact location to be confirmed), owner Ali Karakaya has also announced Yaki Nori, a fast food concept which will open in Selly Oak and Grand Central Birmingham. http://www.woktastic.co.uk/

    Praza by Pushkar
    Broad Street based restaurant and cocktail bar is expanding out to the Hagley Road in Edgbaston.  Praza will continue Pushkar’s North Indian cuisine, but also hopes to bring a more international flavour to its dishes all headed up by head chef Bishal Rasaily. http://praza.co.uk/

    La Tasca at Barclaycard Arena
    Was I the only person not to notice La Tasca quietly close their previous Birmingham venue?  Well they’re returning to the city with a new location in the Barclaycard Arena and are due to open at the end of the month.  The Spanish tapas restaurant joins Ed’s Easy Diner as the second restaurant in the newly refurbished arena. http://latasca.com/

    Fiddle and Bone
    Okay, so this one is already open by I missed it off both lists last time and was rightly berated for it.  I’m yet to go down, but the sympathetic restoration and return of live music to this well loved pub has drawn some positive reports. http://fiddleandbone.co.uk/

    Any that I’ve missed? Feel free to email me, send me a tweet or drop me a Facebook message!

    Drinks, Events, News, Pub and Drinks News

    Cocktail round up

    cocktail news

    2015 is proving to be a very exciting year for Birmingham’s food and drink scene.  There’s a bunch of news that’s filling my inbox, so I’ve collected it up to share…

    Birmingham Association of Bartenders turns 10
    You might not have heard of the Birmingham Association of Bartenders, but chances are you’ve had a drink made by one of them.  Set up by Julian Rose-Gibbs (of The Botanist) and Carl Hawkins (of KitchInn), they’re a group of bartenders “who give a ****” and have been meeting semi-regularly to improve their knowledge through tastings and talks by brand ambassadors.  The group turned ten years old this month and as drinkers in the city we should raise a toast to those bartenders who’ve turned up to learn more about their craft. Congrats on Raising the Bar since 2005 guys – here’s to another ten!

    Brugal Spiced rum competition
    Congratulations to Jason Ballantyne of The Bureau on Colmore Row for winning first place at a Brugal Spiced rum competition, held at the Vaults earlier in the month.

    CocktailXChange
    From the man who brought us Ribs Nights and UK Burger Battle comes a series of events which promises to bring together some of the world’s finest bartenders, drinks brands and bars.  The first event will take place at Bar Opus, with a limited number of tickets and the first brand to be announced shortly.  Keep an eye out on the Twitter account @CocktailXChange for more details.

    The Drinks Bus
    Whilst they might’ve had their launch night in Leicester, the Drinks Bus is likely to be a regular sight in Brum so feels worth a mention.  Another Ahmed Kage concept (seriously, does he ever stop), it’s a converted 1977 Bristol Bus, available for hire and will no doubt be rolling into the city soon. Check thedrinksbus.com for more details

    Bar Opus introduces cocktail masterclasses
    Bar Opus at One Snow Hill has introduced Saturday afternoon cocktail masterclasses.  For £15 per person, participants will be trained to make two seasonal cocktails by Bar Opus’ expert bartenders and an info sheet with the specs and overview of products to recreate them at home. http://baropus.co.uk/private-hire/

    Birmingham Cocktail Weekend
    Info on this one is a little scarce, but what we do know is that it’ll take place between 10 – 12 July 2015.  Venues taking part in the weekend are yet to be announced, but wristbands and guidebooks will be on sale to direct you towards participating bars. To hear more when it’s announced, sign up at http://www.birminghamcocktailweekend.co.uk/

    And not forgetting cocktail consultants Shaker group’s Gas Street Social has opened, and early next month The Botanist finally flings open its doors…

    Food and Restaurant News, News, Pub and Drinks News

    5 new openings for the city centre?

    comingtobrum

    2015, it’s the beginning of a new year and already I’ve been hearing some pretty substantial rumours about a raft of openings in the city.  It seems a shame to keep them to myself, so here are some of the stronger rumours I’ve heard – and where possible, links to more info!

    Bitters n Twisted’s 7th Birmingham venue

    Birmingham bar and restaurant group Bitters n Twisted are set to open their seventh Birmingham based venue next month with Marmalade, a bistro bar in the Birmingham Rep Theatre on Broad St. Their website is more of a holding page at the moment, but there is an example pre-theatre menu on their website which looks pretty tasty – seems seasonal, homemade dishes will be the order of the day. I’m looking forward to hearing more!

    Gas Street Social

    From the ashes of Bar Room Bar in the Mailbox?  From the team behind Shaker Group, Gas Street Social restaurant and bar is set to launch mid-March on Wharfside Street in the Mailbox. With 250 covers, this venue is set to serve simple, seasonal and modern European food, described as an urban neighbourhood kitchen. Given the Birmingham-based Shaker Group also run Shaker & Co bar and BarSchool in London, and run a consultancy for bars and restaurants internationally, Gas Street Social’s drinks list, containing cocktails, regional and international beers and fine wines should be something well worth checking out too.

    Mailbox Tavern

    John Bright St has rediscovered it’s roots as an entertainment hub; with The Victoria, Cherry Reds and Brewdog joined by Turtle Bay last year, it’s rapidly becoming a dining and drinking hotspot once again. But rumour has it the old Rosie O’Brien’s (the building in between Turtle Bay and Brook, with the red railings outside) has been snapped up by a Staffordshire based pub group and if all goes through, will be known as the Mailbox Tavern.

    The Botanist

    New World Trading Company’s first foray into Birmingham was announced last year, but I’m patiently awaiting it’s first offering to the city; The Botanist, due to open on Temple St – in March, if rumours are to be believed. Already proving popular in Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle, their deli and BBQ inspired food menu and selection of botanical cocktails, craft beers and ales, sounds pretty tempting!

    Spanish restaurant for Bennetts Hill

    And hot on the heels as another contender for food paradise is Bennetts Hill, with everything from fine dining to real ale, curry and South American cuisine. But rumour has it there’s a Spanish and Mediterranean restaurant that might be joining them.  Details are very scarce but there seems to be something cooking up at 9 – 10 Bennetts Hill in the shape of Amantia.

    Any that I’ve missed? Feel free to email me, send me a tweet or drop me a Facebook message!

    Drinks, News, Pub and Drinks News

    Joule’s Brewery opens pub in Sutton Coldfield

    Birmingham beer lovers, your Christmas has come early as Joule’s Brewery has just opened their flagship tap house in the area.

    IMG_4154The Boldmere Tap in Sutton Coldfield, formally known as the Boldmere Oak, has been carefully restored, which is nice to hear as the pub needed a bit of love.  It will serve a number of the brewery’s ales which are already incredibly popular in the city, including Joule’s Pale Ale, Blonde and Slumbering Monk, plus some seasonal offerings.  The pub will also be offering home cooked food using fresh locally sourced produce and I hear the Sunday Roasts will be worth heading down to check out.

    The tap house on Boldmere Road (and within stumbling distance from Chester Road station) is themed around an Old Curiosity Shop, with a display of historic beer bottles, which will no doubt pique the interest of beer geeks as much as the ales.  It’ll also retain a friendly, village feel or as their marketing person put it “a pure ‘real ale’ pub, a bit old fashioned, but in a really good way – just our kind of pub”.  As someone who used to live nearby, I’m pretty pleased to hear the pub has had a new lease of life!

    For more information, check out their website http://www.joulesbrewery.co.uk/ or Facebook page.

    Drinks, News, Pub and Drinks News

    Starbucks Red Cups come early to Brum

    Starbucks_056There are certain signs that Christmas is on its way; Cocoa Cola TV adverts, Christmas lights switch ones and the return of festive mugs in coffee shops.  So when I heard Starbucks in Birmingham’s Selfridges was launching their red cups a little early to coincide with the department store’s Christmas launch, I couldn’t help but go find out more.

    With Selfridges choosing a treasure theme for this year’s Christmas display, Starbucks have followed suit in their two in-store venues (the other being in London).  This means that as well as the red cups making a return early, the store has some exclusives including gold merchandise and gold sprinkles, which I was a bit too enthusiastic about (glittery sprinkles make everything better).

    Now I consider coffee to be two different things; stuff I’ll drink neat with nothing added to it, and what I call ‘Disco Coffee’ – coffee, mainly lattes, with flavoured syrups.  If I’m in Starbucks it’s nearly always because I’m ordering a Disco Coffee.  So trying their new Christmas blend coffee neat was a new experience for me.  I found it a lot more drinkable than their regular filter coffee (which I’ve tried once and instantly vowed never again); it doesn’t taste as bitter and unusually tickles the sides of the tongue, which was kinda fun.  I’ve been given some to take home, so I’ll be giving this another try.

    Hot choc with gold sprinklesTheir new drink this year is the Honey and Almond Hot Chocolate.  I had mine with soya milk and for someone who’s not overly keen on hot chocolate, I managed to drink the lot – the sweetness offset by my lack of lunch.  There’s a definite and delicious nuttiness from the almond syrup which is complemented by the honey.  It wasn’t too rich or sickly sweet either, which made it a nice little indulgence, though I don’t think you’d want to drink too many unless you were looking to gain a Santa style belly.  Also, mine was covered in gold sprinkles which are always going to help win me round.

    There were some other Disco Coffee drinks returning; Eggnog, Toffee Nut and (my personal favourite) Gingerbread lattes.  I was surprised to hear that Starbucks estimate there are 80.000 different ways to customise their drinks, so next time I find myself in one I’m going to try a gingerbread hot chocolate.

    The red cups return to Starbucks UK stores officially on 4th November, with reward card holders being able to get them from the 30th October if they ask nicely.  This means I just need to see a ‘Holidays are Coming’ advert and Christmas is officially on its way.

    http://www.starbucks.co.uk/

    Disclosure: I was invited down to Starbucks in Selfridges and given products to try, free of charge, in exchange for an honest review.  I wasn’t obliged to give a positive review, which you’ve probably realised from my views on their filter coffee.  Photos belong to Starbucks and/or their PR people.