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Breakfast and brunch

    Breakfast and brunch, Reviews

    Quick brunch at Coffee Residence, Cotteridge

    I nearly entitled this ‘blown away by beans’ but then I realised that I would spent the entire post trying to slip in as many fart jokes as possible, and if you had any illusions of me being a serious food blogger then they would be shattered.  But seriously, who knew proper beans could elevate a full English breakfast?  Coffee Residence in Cotteridge, that’s who.

    In a haze of having booked a day off work to go cycling, only to be overcome with the lurgy and thusly subjecting myself to a day of errands, I wandered up to Cotteridge to go visit the charity shops.  Now whilst its neighbour Stirchley might be getting all the kudos for being the ‘Shorditch of Birmingham’ (seriously, whoever invented that, you need to stop), Cotteridge is a lot less cool, but it is functional – its got a sorting office, and a butchers, and a green grocers, and a bunch of fast food places, and a strange looking Italian that keeps threatening to close but never does. There is a cake decorating materials shop with some fantastic cakes in the window, but it’s hardly worth the trip for.

    In fact, before today my only experience of Coffee Residence was that it was the only place nearby that will do a big disco coffee for me to take out if I’ve visited the sorting office before work. But today a combination of the lurgy, a rather overambitious plan to take something back to the shop and lunchtime meant I needed a large coffee and some food, and there seemed the best option.

    The place is fairly functional, but cosy, although if anything it was a bit too warm for my liking, but that could well have been the lurgy talking.  There’s lots of seating, and I was pleased to find that it was nicely busy, which is pretty unusual for a Monday lunchtime in an area which doesn’t attract yummy mummy types.

    I ordered the Residence Breakfast and a large vanilla soya latte.  We’ll get to the breakfast in a minute, but let me tell you about the coffee.  It was an excellent disco coffee, and reasonable priced considering their idea of a large is actually more of a bucket.  It was disco-sweet without being sickly and frankly a lot better than a lot of the chain places I usually go if I want a warm caffeinated hug of a drink. It also survived because drunk lukewarm (I was distracted by the breakfast).

    The Residence Breakfast consists of a butchers sausage, streaky bacon, scrambled egg, homemade rosti and beans, grilled tomato and sourdough toast, except I swapped out the grilled tomato for a mushroom which they were totally fine with.  For seven pounds it was a pretty good deal, although there’s a bigger breakfast if you fancy it.  And a bunch of other stuff – including hot dogs, which I saw a small girl trying to navigate trying to eat and she looked like she was having fun.

    Breakfast wise I was impressed.  Although the sausage was a little on the small side, but tasty nevertheless, the bacon was delicious – superbly salty and just what I wanted.  The mushroom was cooked well and I was pleased they let me substitute it, and the scrambled eggs were delightfully creamy and fluffy and utterly wonderful. The single slice of sourdough was sufficient and nicely toasted which gave it a crunch without making it too crusty.  But the absolute star of the show was the beans.  It was clear they were homemade and under normal circumstances I always want to see beans with my breakfast, but they’re there to make me feel a bit better about all the red meat, rather than any particular actual enjoyment.  Yet as I was munching away on the bacon I realised a plant-based lifestyle was never going to be something I’d achieve, I would honestly I’d come back here for beans on toast… they were that good.

    So there we have it, whilst Stirchley might have my favourite bakery, a vegan pie shop and a cracking couple of cafes…it turns out, up the hill isn’t so bad after all.

    Coffee Residence, 23 Watford Road, Cotteridge, Birmingham B30 1JB
    https://www.coffeeresidence.co.uk/

    Disclaimer: Paid for it all by myself, and though I didn’t tell them I was a food blogger, I don’t imagine they get many people who take out a camera to photograph their lunch. Then again this is Cotteridge, where stranger things have happened.

    Breakfast and brunch, Reviews

    Review: Brunch at Giraffe, Birmingham Grand Central

    Surf's Up Sarnie Giraffe

    There are plenty of reasons why I hold brunch to high ideals: mainly because it usually befits a lie-in, but still means you get to eat all the delectable options that a proper breakfasts provides.  Frankly if I can avoid it, I don’t want to get up early on a Saturday and I still have nightmares from when a café-that-shall-remain-nameless cruelly robbed me of a sausage sandwich because it designated them breakfast foods and stopped serving after 11am.  Brunch, brunch lets you have a lie in and a fry-up and that, my friends, is a pretty good start to the day in my books.

    Recently, I met my friend Erica in Birmingham Grand Central to check out Giraffe’s brunch offerings.  I’ve eaten lunch at the one in Solihull a few times and wondered why they’d never made it to Birmingham before now, but looks like Birmingham Grand Central is a pretty good spot.  There are a bunch of Giraffe restaurants around the country and they’re a sort of light, casual dining which is family-friendly but without feeling like a crèche.

    The menu has always interested me, because I can never quite work out what they’re going for.  The dishes span a range of cuisines from Turkish bread to Tuscan meatballs, Japanese gyoza to TexMex burritos but without getting too experimental.  It’s a sort of introduction to world food without the more ‘out there’ stuff, but all from sunny climates meaning the plate usually looks fairly colourful.

    english_breakfast_giraffe

    For brunch I figured it only right and proper to try the Full Brunch, which comes with smoky bacon, herbed pork sausage, baked beans, eggs (fried or scrambled), potato wedges and sourdough toast.  As far as Full Brunches go it’s a good one, the bacon and sausage were both tasted like they were good quality and the sausage was suitably dense and meaty.  I was also pleased to see that the baked beans arrived in a separate dish, so as not to make everything else soggy.  The scrambled egg was delicious, but the presentation of them sat on top of the sourdough toast meant it was a little soft by the time I’d excavated it and this was a shame as the flavour was delicious.  The potato wedges were nice, but a little unnecessary; there was plenty of food that didn’t need bulking out by them, although mushrooms or more space for the toast would’ve been preferable.  But all in all, a good brunch.

    Erica went for the Surf’s Up Sarnie, which I half expected to be something with smoke salmon or fish fingers, but turned out to be smoky bacon, avocado, fried egg, baby gem, tomato and mustard mayo, nestled between sourdough toast.  It looked messy but Erica enjoyed it and that’s the main thing really.

    Shakshouka_giraffe_brunch

    And because one brunch dish each isn’t enough, and they’d added a few new dishes onto the menu we also tried the Shakshouka, a classic Middle Eastern breakfast dish of spicy egg and tomato which is ideal for brunch.  It’s a relatively simple one pot dish, and Giraffe’s arrives in that said one-pot, which means it is made up fresh.  And it’s delicious; sweet tomatoes, slightly spicy with baked eggs whose yolks beg to be popped by the Turkish bread its served with.  It feels like a healthier brunch option, if that’s your thing – or you can add chorizo to it, which I think would be an entirely great idea.

    By this point Erica and I had sat nattering and eating too much food, so we thought we’d try out some of the cocktails Giraffe offers.  As someone that’s drunk too many cocktails to keep count of I’m always a bit wary of places that serve cocktails as an add on, as I tend to find the technical ability isn’t always there.  We had a couple of issues with the Mango Colada that Erica ordered, but I was impressed by how the staff handled it, replacing it with no fuss.  Actually, I’d been people watching whilst we were there and the staff seemed on point the entire time, which is refreshing to see as they were very busy.

    giraffe_cocktails_tin

    Overall it was a pleasant experience, one I’d be fine to return to.  I always think the food court at Birmingham Grand Central was an odd choice, design-wise, but sat in the booth at Giraffe it feels less like a canteen and the buzz of the shoppers gives a night background hum.  Sure I’m not sure it’s somewhere you’d want to go on a date, but for a brunch with friends, food with the family or a quick bite before your train home it works and it’s handy.

    Giraffe Restaurant, Dining Terrace, Birmingham Grand Central, Birmingham, B2 4XJ.

    Disclosure: I was invited down to check out the brunch offerings and the food was complimentary but this doesn’t affect my opinion.  Previous visits to Giraffe in Solihull were paid for by my mum, as compensation for dragging me round clothes shops.

    Breakfast and brunch, Reviews

    Simpsons and Brum Breakfast Club

    simpsons_full_englishI’ve already admitted how much I don’t like getting up early on a Saturday, but after the last Michelin-starred breakfast, organised by the Birmingham Breakfast Club, I knew it would be worth sacrificing my lie in for.

    This time round it was the newly refurbished Simpson’s who were serving up breakfast.  The Grade II listed building in Edgbaston has undergone an extensive change, some ten years after their previous major refurb.  The main dining room has been extended to one big room rather than a collection of smaller ones, and the interior is crisp and contemporary.  Nathan Eades, formerly of Epi at The Courtyard, has also recently become Simpson’s new head chef, under the guise of chef owner Andreas Antona and chef director Luke Tipping.

    simpsons_toastIf the previous Michelin-starred breakfast at Adam’s was the best version of a fry-up I’ve ever had, then Simpson’s went for a completely different tack – but equally good.  Nathan and his team created a three course breakfast, where each dish an example of a typical breakfast; kedgeree for a starter, full English as main and granola for pudding.

    Ahead of the first course we were given juice, tea or coffee and delicious, delicious toast.  Seriously, toast is entirely underrated but if you get it right, it can make a great start to breakfast.  Service was impeccable, which is typical of a Michelin-starred restaurant, admittedly, but this wasn’t over the top either – don’t you just hate it when you feel like you’re on show whilst trying to eat?  Thankfully this wasn’t the case, but everything was tended to as needed.

    simpsons_kedgereeThe first course of kedgeree was re-interpreted as smoked haddock risotto, with capers, parsley and quails egg.  The risotto element meant it was a wetter version than usual kedgeree but a lovely twist on it.  In fact the twisted on a classic was echoed in the main course of full English too, which was a crispy duck egg, chorizo and coco bean, confit tomatoes, walnut puree and smoked bacon emulsion.  I loved how the duck egg was wrapped in a nest, ready to be cracked open with a deliciously oozing egg yolk.  The chorizo and coco bean were a clever alternative to baked beans and their twist on brown sauce was delightful.

    simpsons_granolaAnd to finish we had breakfast pudding.  I’m really coming round to the idea that all means should have some sort of pudding to them.  For the Simpson’s breakfast pudding we had granola – English apples (and some blueberries, I think), yoghurt and toasted almond granola.  I went through a bit of a phase of granola about a year ago and for some reason haven’t eaten it since, so this was an excellent reminder.  The sweet yet slightly tart fruit with the creamy yoghurt and crunchy granola was a superb end to a great meal – and definitely worth getting up early on a Saturday for.

    The Birmingham Breakfast Club have organised another of the Simpson’s breakfasts, but I think tickets are sold out.  However, if you’re interested in attending one of their special event breakfasts (and I’m really hoping there’s a third version) then it’s worth keeping an eye on their twitter account @BrumBrekkieClub.

    http://www.simpsonsrestaurant.co.uk/

    Disclosure: I paid for my own ticket to the Simpson’s and Birmingham Breakfast Club event. So there.

    Breakfast and brunch, Reviews

    Brunch at Gas Street Social

    scrambled_eggs_bacon_toast_brunchBrunch is great isn’t it?  It’s like breakfast only without the wake up call.  One day maybe I’ll grow up to be one of those people that sets their alarm at weekends and does all they need to do before 10am.  But for now I love not having to set my alarm, rolling out of bed whenever I please and finding food to carry on a laid back approach to the day.

    Ordinarily I wouldn’t think to go to the Mailbox for brunch; it’s in the city centre and I’m usually straying into lunch territory by the time I get to town, but I’ve managed to get to Gas Street Social a few times for brunch now.  Despite confusingly not being on the road it’s named after, Gas Street Social opened in the Mailbox earlier in the year and has become popular ever since.  Decor wise it has that sort of industrial look that seems to be pretty popular and toilets which have been built with enough wood (though thankfully not the loo seats) it looks like a carpenter’s dream.  Given that it’s a venue brought to you by the Shaker Consultancy lot, there is understandably a decent bar and cocktail offering and well as lunch/dinner menus.  They’ve also been doing brunch there for a while, I know because I’ve been a few times now – and an all day breakfast for lunch once too.  You can’t say I haven’t thoroughly tested this one!

    brunch_drinks_mimosaOne of the selling points for Gas St Social’s brunches is their bottomless Bellini or Mimosa offer.  For £15 you get two hours worth of refillable prosecco cocktails; with orange juice as a Mimosa, it’s basically the fancy name for a Bucks Fizz; or peach puree, also known as a Bellini, or possibly apricot puree if, like my friends managed, you drink them out of the peach stuff.

    If a champagne brunch isn’t your thing then they also offer non-alcoholic drinks.  Listed under restorative drinks is a half pint of Berocca, which is appearing on a few city brunch menus, and seems a clever choice particularly if you’re feeling a little delicate from the night before.  There are also cold pressed fresh juices, which are listed as freshly made in Shropshire and whilst these are tasty and packed with flavour there’s something which a little disappointing about a cocktail bar not making them up fresh on site.

    gas_st_full_english_breakfast_brunchAnyway, the food!  The menu has pretty much most things you want from a brunch menu, from pancakes and pastries to granola and various sizes of English breakfasts.  I particularly like the concept of the social breakfast, which serves four and looks like it has plenty of food.  My mum was pleased to see granola and a fruit platter on there, which is pretty much what she has for breakfast daily…the idea of treating yourself when going out for brunch is lost on her.

    The first time I headed down (and when I took these photos) I went with my friend Beccy who had the bacon and scrambled egg on toast, which she enjoyed.  I went for the Gas St Works which comes with two rashers of bacon, two Cumberland sausages, eggs (I went for scrambled), roasted plum tomato, Gas Street Social beans, black pudding, flat mushroom, sautéed potatoes and toast.  On paper it seems like a heck of a lot of food but in reality it felt managable.  The sausages and eggs were all lovely; the eggs had a nice creamy texture and the meat had a good texture and they seem to have given up on the idea of streaky bacon with a full breakfast – good, leave that to Americanised pancake breakfasts, if you have to.

    Whilst on the whole it was a pretty decent breakfast there were a couple of disappointments.  The baked beans have herbs in them, I forget which ones because frankly I want to block that memory…it just didn’t work for me at all, and I wasn’t the only one.  Also, black pudding featured quite regularly in fried breakfasts in our house growing up (it might be an Irish thing, my dad loved it) so I appreciate the stuff but this one just felt powdery to me and I wasn’t overly keen.  That said, there are certainly more hits than misses on this breakfast and I’ve happily eaten it again since.

    Gas Street Social’s brunch is an extensive and well thought out offering.  There’s almost certainly something there to suit everyone and the setting is such that it is an ideal place to meet friends for a catch up over brunch (can we still mention Sex and the City, it totally has that sort of vibe).  Whilst I wasn’t overly keen on all elements of the full breakfast it’s somewhere I’ve been back to for brunch several times and would be happy to continue.

    http://www.gasstreetsocial.co.uk/

    Disclosure: I was invited down to Gas Street Social to try a complimentary brunch when it first launched and as usual wasn’t required to be nice about anything. It has taken me so long to write this up that I’ve managed to subsequently get there twice since – I’d say I’ve paid both time but in reality my mum paid for once…don’t judge me.

    Breakfast and brunch, Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Sunday Brunch at The Victoria

    Whilst the rest of you were tucking into chocolate for breakfast on Easter Sunday, I headed off to The Victoria on John Bright Street for their inaugural Sunday Brunch.

    Not the most obvious place for brunch, I’ll give you that, but the team at The Victoria decided to try something a little different for the Bank Holiday.  And being a whisky bar and a long weekend, it seemed only fitting to go for something which married the two.  Now whilst I’m not unfamiliar with the concept of ‘breakfast whisky’ I did wonder how this might work as, even for me, whisky is a bit much first thing.  But work it did, and surprisingly well.

    Pancakes bacon and poached eggs on rosti copy

    Initially, the offering looked like a pretty standard range of breakfast / brunch dishes, including American-style pancakes, eggs Benedict and a breakfast sandwich.  But The Victoria’s chef had put his own whisky-infused twist on them with Jack Daniels syrup for the pancakes, a whiskey hollandaise for the eggs and spicy BBQ beans for the sides.

    The overall experience was a nice bourbon flavour without being too overpowering.  The Eggs Tennessee were a nice twist on Eggs Benedict, with two poached eggs on a potato rosti.  The eggs were well cooked and the whiskey hollandaise had a lovely balance of richness from the egg and butter with the whiskey flavour cutting through.

    A special mention needs to go to the pancakes which were probably some of the best I’ve tried in the city; light and fluffy with a slightly crisp outside, they were delicious and it’s a wonder the Vic doesn’t do them more often.  The JD syrup was a nice alternative to maple or golden syrup but they would have been great with either of these too.

    eggs tennessee copy

    Of course for those who wanted something a little more celebratory, they were also doing a beef jerky infused Jack Daniels Bloody Mary.  Though I’m not enough of a fan of tomato juice to try more than a sip, the spice mix and bourbon would’ve been enough to clear the cobwebs of any hangover, I’m sure.  More to my taste was the Citrus Cooler, which was made of muddled citrus fruit and sugar syrup topped with soda, for a lovely refreshing drink with just the right amount of tartness to it.

    Whilst I was initially a little sceptical of brunch at The Victoria, each of the dishes I tried exceeded my expectations.  The whiskey theme was interesting and did bring something new, but what struck me most was that for a venue I don’t necessarily associate with daytime they really pulled off a relaxed but tasty brunch.

    After the success of the first brunch at The Victoria, they will be bringing it back as a regular (standard non-whiskey) Sunday Brunch on the last Sunday of the month – which means your next chance to give the pancakes a try is on Sunday 26 April.  There are also rumours they might do them for the Bank Holiday weekend, but probably worth keeping an eye out for more info on this.

    http://www.thevictoriabirmingham.co.uk/

    pancakes row of breakfast copy

    Disclosure: I was invited as a guest of The Victoria to try their Sunday Brunch, which meant I had to get up early on a Sunday which is one of my least favourite things so that tells you how good those pancakes were.  Whilst the food was complimentary it didn’t mean I was required to be and as usual all reviews remain honest and my own.