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Pop-up and Event reviews

    Cafe reviews, Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Turkey Dinosaurs at Edwardian Tea Rooms, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

    I was talking yesterday with fellow blogger friends about what would be your most ‘off brand’ thing you love.  And I was stumped, because I don’t really have off-brand; I’ve blogged about fast food chains and frankly lying means having to remember what fibs you’ve told and I can’t be doing with that mental gymnastics.  Essentially I have one rule: it has to be food and/or drink related and be in Birmingham…ish.  I’ll accept Sandwell, Coventry and the West Midlands at a push, but it’s also why I’ve not blogged about my Melbourne burger adventures.

    So it’s entirely on ‘brand on’ me to tell you that not only did I have turkey dinosaurs for lunch today. Actually, let me be entirely honest with you: turkey dinosaurs are my comfort food.  I have them when I’m feeling a bit sad and I just need a bit of child-like joy in my life; I had them once for Christmas dinner when my mum was flying out to see my sister and my housemate was a vegetarian.  They’re not fancy, they’re probably not very nutritious and they’re never going to end up on a Michelin-starred meal [the fools], but I like them.  Because sometimes what is good and what you like don’t have to be the same thing, and for me turkey dinosaurs are the latter.  So hunting down and ordering turkey dinosaurs from the kids menu was something I did without one ounce of embarrassment. In fact, I had them as part of a two course ‘Dippy children’s menu’.

    Turkey dinosaurs are not normally on the menu at the Edwardian Tea Rooms, as part of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, which is bitterly disappointing to me because I would go there for lunch more often if they were.  But they’re on a Dippy the dinosaur themed menu whilst the old lad is on an adventure having escaped the Natural History Museum.  I love a good menu tie-in, and I wasn’t going to let it being a kids menu stand in my way.  Turns out that the staff at the Edwardian Tea Rooms were completely unfazed by my ordering this for myself, which makes me think that maybe I’m not the first person over the age of eight to have done this.

    So, two turkey dinosaurs (they tasted very much like the Bernard Matthew’s variety, of which I have consumed a fair number), chips and peas.  And the turkey dinosaurs were as turkey dinosaurs always are, exactly the right amount of comfort food and two-fingers at a certain ‘Naked Chef’ (who I have not forgiven for the whole turkey twizzlers thing).  But lets talk about the chips. My god they were good.  Like proper classic chips with jagged edges that were crisp and golden in grease, without creating some sort of oily swimming pool for the dinos.  They were proper chips and there are not nearly enough of their kind in the city.

    The hot chocolate volcano with ice cream did not look particularly pretty, but it was gooey and chocolatey without being overly sickly. I was happy, my mum (who had appeared at this point) also helped me eat it.

    And whilst it was a kids portion it was surprisingly filling, especially as it was two courses – you could request the second one at your leisure, and it all came to about the same price of an overly fancy salad from one of those places that sell overly fancy salads.  And it was entirely more enjoyable that an overly fancy salad. To the point that my mother had wished she joined me for lunch than eating said salad.

    The Natural History Museum’s famous Dippy the Diplodocus is in Birmingham from 26th May – 9th September.  He’s going on tour to eight locations outside of his normal home, with the aim of 1.5 million people across the UK seeing Dippy in person.  Tickets are free, but you’re encouraged to book.  The Dippy children’s menu is available in the Edwardian Tea Room and they don’t care if you order it and are no longer considered a child.  If you fancy something a bit more grown up, they’re doing Dine with Dippy venue hire (you’ve missed the shared dinners), but I possess neither the attire nor desire to dress up fancy.

    And I leave you with the skeleton of a velociraptor, because they’ve been my favourite ever since I saw the first Jurassic Park (and yes I know they’re the wrong size in those films). And a request – go eat something you enjoy, not because someone told you it was technically ‘good’…

    Pop-up and Event reviews

    Summer menu tasting at Studio Venues, Birmingham

    It’s no secret that I think the Studio on Cannon Street in the city centre is a pretty ace place.  I’ve written about them a bunch of times (see here), and the time has rolled round for another seasonal menu tasting.

    If you’re not aware, and I have rescued many confused looking people on Cherry St to suggest that not everyone knows about the place, The Studio is part of a group of venues around the country which offer conferencing spaces.  They also do small meeting rooms too.  I arrange a fair amount of events for work and The Studio is one of my favoured places, not least because of the seasonal menu changes, but also because the staff are really helpful, and having staff who have your back when you’re running an event is invaluable.  Also, the afternoon cookies are a friggin delight.

    Anyway, as per usual they invite down a bunch of people who have used their venue to check out and comment on the upcoming menu, to make sure it’s appealing to customers.  Because some people get a bit uppity about these things, let me be clear, they’re not fussed that I’m Full the Brum, they always email my work account and I ask politely if I can bring my camera and take some photos, and that’s why this post is here.  I was amongst 50-ish other guests and there is enough food to feed an army.  Those of us who have been to more than one of these are now sharing our tactical knowledge of trying as many dishes as possible (small portions, pick up the desserts and save them on your table).

    There were a lot of good options this time round, and The Studio emailed us all after to tell us the dishes which stood out for everyone; I was pleased to see that the dark chocolate torte with salted caramel & fresh raspberry, and kofta meatballs scored highly, because both were delicious.  I’m not normally a fan of chocolate things, but even I was singing the praises of the chocolate torte. I’m trying to think of good reasons to book the Studio just so I can have another one.  Anyone fancy an important meeting?

    They’re also bringing in salads to be more of a thing.  Salad is not my thing, I get bored before I’ve eaten enough and I rarely bother.  But if anyone could convince me that salad is actually worth caring about, then the guys at the Studio are in strong running, and they seem to have done it by combining two things that on their own I’m a bit meh about.  So, despite having two things I don’t like much (raw tomatoes and feta are two things which my digestive tract is not on board with), the watermelon, cherry tomato, rocket, basil and feta salad was a well deserved winner, and the veggie winner (that was actually vegan) of vegan harissa spiced lentils ratatouille with falafel cobbler was a good choice too.

    So, back to that very important meeting we need to book…

    You’ll find the Studio in Birmingham on Cannon Street in Birmingham city centre. Whilst they rudely do not have a restaurant that you can just visit, they do have nineteen different spaces available for meetings and conferences. For more info, visit the Studio’s website.

    Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Miss Saigon Summer Menu at Circle Restaurant, Birmingham Hippodrome

    Given where the Hippodrome is located, in the heart of Birmingham’s Chinatown, it would be easy for the Circle Restaurant to skip over the Vietnamese inspiration of its latest big blockbuster musical.  Sure, Birmingham is not particularly well served for Vietnamese food, but there are enough East Asian eateries within skipping distance of the restaurant that many theatre goers could be forgiven for being sidetracked.  However the Birmingham Hippodrome’s own AA Rosette Circle Restaurant has created a menu which combines a modern British menu with some surprising Vietnamese and East Asian inspired elements, in ode to Miss Saigon which is currently enjoying a run at the Hippodrome.

    Opening two hours before the show, with the option to reserve a table and enjoy dessert during the interval, the Circle Restaurant overlooks the main entrance of the Birmingham Hippodrome, absorbing just enough of the pre-show excitement to add a little buzz to the dining experience, but not so overpowering that it detracts from the meal.  But it has got an elegant, refined feel about it, the sort of thing you’d expect if you’re indulging in dinner and a show (as opposed to pick n mix and the latest blockbuster).

    We sat down to tasters of all all four of the Act I dishes, also known as starters.  A highlight for me was the white bean soup with basil pesto which was well seasoned and just the right density without being to heavy or creamy.  The Vietnamese prawn summer rolls with sweet chilli sauce worked well as both a dish inspired by the musical and the season (that is, if we’d had much sun this summer); light, fresh and crunchy with a nice kick from the sweet chilli sauce, it was a pleasantly different type of starter.

    Of the Act II mains, the modern British with Vietnamese/East Asian inspiration theme continues.  The congenial pairing of the herbal and sweet from the honey-brushed confit of duck leg with celeriac purée, bok choi and star anise jus worked perfectly to create a delicious summer dish.Most surprising was the vegetarian yellow curry lentil scotch egg with asparagus & new potato salad, of which the lentils made up the traditional minced meat element, but worked surprisingly well.  Honestly, it’s hard to pick a favourite of the taster mains because each of them had a lovely finesse to them without being overly gimmicky.  But if I had to it would probably be the pan-seared fillet of coley with rice noodle, samphire, ginger and spring onion broth, because samphire is one of those things that ought to be on more menus, and as a sucker for sustainability seeing coley in place of cod makes me unreasonably happy.  The pan-searing was executed beautifully, crisp skin coating flakes of white fish, sprinkled with samphire, lazing on the ginger and spring onion broth.  It was simultaneously comforting and nourishing, whilst light and fresh.

    With starters and mains done, it was off to see the first half of the show that had inspired the menu.  Set in Vietnam, Miss Saigon tells the story of a doomed romance between a Vietnamese women and an American male soldier during the Vietnamese war in the 1970s, based on the opera Madame Butterfly.  I knew little about the plot of the musical going in, but the production is a blistering and absorbing portrayal, heavy and intense with emotion and utterly captivating.

    During the interval, instead of queuing up for the customary ice cream, we moved round to experience some of the  meeting rooms attached to the Birmingham Hippodrome.  Now I’ve used some of their rooms during my day job and I know they’re great spaces, but it was fantastic to see that they worked well for an evening meal – perfect if you’re looking for a spot of corporate hospitality.  Or if you’re dining at the Circle Restaurant, you can reserve your table and enjoy refreshments there.

    We tried tasters of the three dessert options on the Miss Saigon summer menu: matcha green tea panna cotta with kalamansi and sesame tuille; bitter chocolate tart with lychee, strawberry & mint compote; and poached peach & pistachio cake with raspberries and vanilla set custard.  Ordinarily I’m not one to favour chocolate-based desserts but the bitterness of the chocolate tart really worked well to counterbalance the creaminess.  The pistachio cake had a lovely bright green hue to it, with a nice nutty flavour but still pleasantly airy.

    I’d never have thought to eat at the Circle Restaurant before seeing a show, usually I’m more a grab a plate of something of char siu from one of the local Cantonese places nearby.  But with such an impressive show, like Miss Saigon, it’s worth the indulgence of making a night of it and treating yourself to dinner at the Circle Restaurant too.  I’m looking forward to seeing what menu head chef Melissa Menns comes up with for the next show.

    Circle Restaurant, Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre, Hurst Street, Southside
, Birmingham, B5 4TB
    https://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/plan-your-visit/food-drink/circle-restaurant/

    Disclaimer: The Hippodrome invited a bunch of Brum Bloggers to check out the Miss Saigon menu and show, in exchange for our thoughts on the menu. As ever all thoughts remain my own, including some pretty strong ones about sustainability…don’t ask me about transport.

    Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Original Patty Men grilled cheese pop up

    For very little reason other than I wanted to remind myself about this filthy, gorgeous grilled cheese AND rumours have it Original Patty Men are doing another pop-up soon, I figured it might be time to blog about the OPM grilled cheese pop-up.

    Back at the beginning of March, one of the best places for burgers in the city announced that they were going to do a pop-up.  And grilled cheese pop-up, at Quarter Horse Coffee on Bristol St, at that.  I dashed out of work, power walked down and immediately ordered a braised ox cheek with pickled fennel and red Leicester cheese grilled sandwich.  I promise you, there is ox cheek in that grilled cheese, it was just oozing so much cheese you might not see it.  Lactose intolerance be damned, this was a thing of beauty and I’m glad I rushed down because the queue out the door when I left suggested there wasn’t going to be many hanging around – and indeed they sold out pretty quickly.  There was a vegetarian option, if memory serves, and whilst I have nothing against ordering the veggie option, there is no way in hell I’m ordering it if OPM are involved…that’s just madness.  The murmurs I heard from people around me who had ordered it suggested it was very good indeed.

    And because it was on sale, I had a bottle of Siren Craft’s siren Calypso, a dry hopped Berliner Weisse.  Given OPM have partnered up with Siren Craft for their Shaw’s Passage venue, it’s not surprising to see the two paired together. In my head, I’m a little wary of sour beers because I think I don’t like them, but turns out I’ve had a few now and this isn’t actually the case and I need to remember this – or check untapped before I order beer.  Anyway, Calypso and grilled cheese were a perfect match; the sourness from the beer cutting through all that oozy, melted cheese, complementing and contrasting each other superbly. Perfect.

    I totally know what the next OPM at Quarter Horse pop-up is and it’s a doozy, so you’re not going to want to miss this one (unless it means you get there before me and then there aren’t any left, then you should forget I said anything).  As ever, well worth keeping an eye on Original Patty Men’s twitter account to find out more https://twitter.com/OriginalPattyM

    Disclosure: Paid for it (and the subsequent pain from eating all that cheese whilst being lactose intolerant) all by best. So there.

    Musings, Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    The Studio’s spring 17 menu tasting

    I’m not going to bore you with lots of words about how delicious the menu tastings are at The Studio, because if you’ve been reading the blog you’ll know how much I enjoy them – or you can read past menu tastings here.  But here are some pictures from the Spring 2017 menu tasting, because who doesn’t enjoy a nice excuse to look at pictures of food?!

    Also, that’s the apple and sultana strudel with custard in the first picture.

    Chicken and mushroom pie with flaky pastry and garden peas

    Chicken and Cajun sausage gumbo

    Hot smoked salmon salad with lime and chive dressing

    Salted caramel cheesecake

    Cajun belly pork with new potatoes, shallots and butterbeans

    The Studio, 7 Cannon St, Birmingham B2 5EP

    Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Chick-fil-A pops up in Birmingham

    It is oh so very typically British of me, but I have a soft spot for a queue; it’s the anticipation, the idea that this must be good because that many people have decided to give up their time to hang around instead of going elsewhere.  I bloody loved midnight releases for Harry Potter, not just because I needed to know what happened next, but that shared excitement is dizzyingly moreish.

    So, as I stood inside The Cube, where American premium fast food group Chick-fil-A had organised a while-stop pop-up, listening to the excitement of everyone around me was addictive.  What’s more, it had a distinctly American accent.  Word had gotten out to the American ex-pat community and several groups of people had traveled the length of our fair country just to get a taste of home.  One American boy, who was probably about eight, could specifically recount the last time he’d had a Chick-fil-A sandwich, which is dedication you can’t buy.  And apparently journeying to get a Chick-fil-A meal isn’t all that uncommon; I was recounting my visit to my American friend Erica who told me she often travels and hour and a half when she’s back in the states just to visit one of their branches.

    And it turns out that it isn’t just the food that inspires loyalty amongst the Chick-fil-A fanatics.  The food and drinks industry is pretty transient by nature, people pick up part-time jobs tending bar or waitress throughout school and college.  But, as Vice President – International, Rich Matherne, told me, Chick-fil-A’s retention rate for staff who want to stay with the family is impressively high.  Their venues lead in the US average sales per restaurant, beating the likes of McDonald’s, and with a relatively small amount of money needed to become a Chick-fil-A operator, they often see staff who have come up through the ranks secure a position.  This is even more impressive because they’re quite particular with who they’ll partner with and have a high number of franchisee applicants every year.

    At the pop-up in Birmingham, the whole atmosphere has a real wholesome family feel about it, not just because they’re family-owned, but because the staff are so polite (they respond to thanks with “My pleasure”, something which Erica confirmed is a consistent thing) and they close on Sundays.  Closing on a Sunday sounds like a mad idea but in an industry where you’re at the mercy of a rota, knowing you’re guaranteed the same day off every week must be a godsend.  I know it would make it easier for me to make plans with friends and family.

    We tried their famous chicken sandwich and waffle fries.  I’ll admit, I was a bit sceptical about the waffle fries, they looked a bit light and like they may have been cooked in a rush.  Turns out, I need not have worried, they were delicious – crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside but not oozing in fat.  I dipped them in the Chick-fil-A sauce that is available to dress the sandwiches, should you wish.

    Ah, the sandwich.  Ordinarily I roll my eyes at the idea that a burger is called a sandwich, but I’ll accept if from Chick-fil-A.  Their chicken sandwich doesn’t feel as heavy as a burger, and whilst it’s a chicken breast lightly spiced and fried, and encased in a bread bun with two (or three) pickles, that’s it.  There’s none of the extra faff that usually comes with a burger and it’s up to the diner to decide if they want to add sauce or not.  I’m what Rich called a ‘purist’, because although I did try the sauce and ended up using it for my fries, the sandwich was good enough that I didn’t need to add the sauce to it.  The food really doesn’t have the same run-of-the-mill fast food feel; the chicken breast is actually chicken, the fries aren’t overly greasy. As Rich puts it, it’s the kind of food mum’s don’t mind buying for their kids and I can totally see that, I’m pretty sure it would be the kind of place I could convince my mum to eat at.

    In the interests of science, I had a second chicken sandwich that had remained wrapped in the insulated bag and it did indeed remain fresh.  Rich mentioned that they’re often told stories about how some people who drive a distance to get their burgers actually like them at a cooler temperature and I could understand that – the flavours subtly changed when it was slightly cooler but worked just as well.  Had they been two burgers, I’d probably have needed to crash out on the floor, but the lightness of the sandwiches meant that I was definitely full but it didn’t feel like weighed down by it.

    Chick-fil-A haven’t decided where they’re opening outside the US, but they’re doing their research thoroughly, and they’re being supported by their friends who dropped in for food and to pose with the ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ mascot.  And if I needed any more convincing of the affection customers have for Chick-fil-A then the amount of adults who wanted their photo taken with the cow would’ve swung it – I think they might’ve been in equal measure with the children.

    I’m just hoping I’m not going to be like that little boy and have to wait two more years for another Chick-fil-A sandwich – fingers crossed they make it across the pond soon.

    Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    The Studio’s autumn menu tasting

    studio_curryIf you’ve been following the blog for a while, you’ll know how much I like the seasonal menu tasting at The Studio.  We use a lot of conference facilities at work at the food at the Studio makes them one of my favourite venues in Birmingham – and I have a lot of feedback comments to prove I’m not the only one!

    chicken_skewers_studio_autumn

    One of the things that makes the food so good is that it’s not a platter of sad sandwiches, but a proper hearty meal – and pudding.  If you’re in an all day event, having a proper meal at lunchtime is a good way to perk everyone up.  I know we’re well into the colder months now, but I went along to the menu tasting a couple of months ago and wanted to share a few photos of the autumnal menu tasting because the food was delicious.

    bacon-potato-chickenThere were some lovely dishes, with everything from hearty Italian chicken wrapped in bacon through to sweet potato curry, lasagne and a vegan shepardess pie.  Each day there are meat and vegetarian menus as standard, with other dietary requirements covered as and when.

    bakewell_trifleAnd then there is pudding.  My favourite was the churro popover dipped in cinnamon sugar and chocolate dipping sauce, because sugar doughnuts are a total weakness of mine, but the Bakewell sundae was a lovely light pudding too, as was the dark chocolate and mint mousse with mini marshmallows.

    churros_studio_autumn The Studio is a conference facility and training room hire venue, and sadly not a restaurant.  But if you want to book a meeting so you can have lunch, then I totally wouldn’t blame you.

    The Studio, 7 Cannon St, Birmingham B2 5EP