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    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    An afternoon at The Stable, Birmingham city centre


    It’s not often I find myself on a sunny Sunday afternoon drinking cider and making my own pizza, but that’s something I did recently after The Stable on John Bright St opened its doors for a bloggers afternoon.

    Allen Hogan from Hogan’s cider, based up the road in Alcester (at least if the 50 bus is to be believed) started the afternoon with a session talking about his company’s cider brand; he has been making cider for 30 odd years, but it has only been within the last ten that they’ve been selling to the public.  Hogan’s make what they call “authentic, fresh pressed ciders” and we started the tasting with more traditional style ciders, those slightly cloud,y still ciders which pack a bit of a punch.  I think was a bit of a shock to some of the other bloggers who were more used to the sparkling, fruity-flavoured stuff.

    After all the cider it was time to have a go at making our own pizza.  Now if I’m feeling particularly enthusiastic I’ll make my own pizza from scratch with a pretty basic dough, but at The Stable they use sourdough bases to give extra flavour.  We were given the option of adding our own toppings and I was very pleased to hear they had vegan cheese and although I didn’t go for it, others did and professed it some of the best cheese-alternative they’ve tried.


    True to form I failed to stick to any of the topping suggestions offered by their menu and freestyled it.  Which mainly means I can’t tell you what I added but it was a mix of black olives, ham, peppers and the like.  Once we’d loaded our pizzas we got to use one of the oven peels  (those things that look a bit like giant spatulas on sticks) to pick up the pizzas and transfer them to the oven.  If this had been a competition the group I was with would totally have floored everyone else with our oven peel using skills, which I’m weirdly quite proud of.


    And then it was a case of waiting for the pizzas to cook; usually the doors are closed and as we asked them to open then I began to understand why – they pack out quite a heat!  Thankfully the pizzas don’t take too long, which means that The Stable is a pretty good place to go for a quick bite and a pint – echoed by the informal banquet seating.

    Disclosure: It was a bloggers event, which should tell you that the cider and pizzas were complimentary. And we weren’t obliged to a) writer anything or b) be nice about them.

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    First Look: Rofuto at Park Regis, Five Ways Birmingham


    Just a quick one from me, but good news is there might finally be a reason for Brummies to go to Five Ways and it’s not just for the cinema.

    Roftuo, the izakaya-style Japanese restaurant opens soon and they invited a few of us up to take a look before the official opening.  Translating as loft in Japanese, Rofuto sits atop of the Park Regis, a new four star hotel which has risen from the ashes of a fairly unloved mixed use development (I say unloved, really there are huge swathes of Brummies who have a bit of affection for some of the dodgy nightclubs that used to be there).

    I don’t want to write too much, because I think trying to get an idea of a bar and restaurant on a preview night is a little unfair, but on first impressions Rofuto should be a much welcomed addition to the city’s food and drink scene – and not just for the people stopping over at the hotel.  With a £3 million investment, renowned restaurateur Des McDonald and interior designers Tibbatts Abel have clearly put the money to good use.  The venue feels fresh, modern and with a contemporary hint to its Japanese theme without feeling kitsch – and the expansive windows giving a great view of the city will make it a great spot for dining.


    I’m going back in just over a week to try out a full meal, so I think it’s only fair to leave most of the talk of the food until then – but of the samples I tried, I’m really looking forward to it.  Of particular note, and I’m saying this more as a reminder to myself to order them again, were the fried chicken and black cod.  And trust me, I really like fried chicken, so it has to be good.

    Yet, whilst I’d expect a restaurant with that much investment on top of a four star hotel to be able to pull a set of good dishes out of its kitchen on a preview night, I think the real highlight for me were the drinks.  Birmingham’s cocktail scene is on a massive up at rather than placate with sickly sweet drinks as has been the case in some places, Rofuto has the confidence to create a menu of drinks which don’t overcomplicate themselves.  Some will tell you a good cocktail keeps things simple and Rofuto’s signature drink, the Ronin Out of Time does just this; a nod to the Manhattan, it uses Nikka from the Barrel Japanese whisky, plum sake and bitters, and works wonderfully.


    It’s not the cheapest of places but of what I’ve seen of the execution of the food and drinks, plus that view, it’s definitely worth a try.  I’ll report back again when I’ve been a second time…because I’m good like that.

    Disclosure: It’s a preview night, invite only…of course the drinks and nibbles were complimentary. Also, I’ve spent the entire of writing this up with Muse’s Time Is Running Out in my head, so thanks for that.

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    wagamama Birmingham Bullring has had a refurb


    I spend about eighty percent of the time with my camera being surprised at the results it comes out with.  I’m never going to be a food photographer, but I think that dear little camera does a good job at making it look like I know what I’m doing.  I really don’t.  And if you’d like any evidence of this, ask me to take photos of things that aren’t food or drinks – I really struggle.  So when wagamama invited me down to check out their newly refurbished Bullring venue, I really did try and take some photos of the new refurb but I’ve just got a series of strangers making weird faces as they try and eat noodles. And I’m not mean enough to subject them or you to that.

    tori_kara_age_wagamama So yeah, wagamama, I don’t really need to introduce them do I?  I mean even my mum knows them; admittedly she calls them “that place I have noodles” whenever we’re thinking about lunch in Solihull but I think that says more about the scarcity of my mum eating carbs than anything.  Anyway, back to Brum.  Turns out the Bullring branch was the first wagamama restaurant to open in the UK outside of London, which I didn’t know, and has had a refurb, which I did know because I had an email telling me.  On the surface it doesn’t look like anything massively structural has changed; the seating is much the same although there are now some little semi-booth like tables to the side and it feels distinctively less like a canteen (I think the official term is ramen bar), which is always a good thing.  I think its the inclusion of darker wood on  the tables and walls, plus the lighting feels more ‘mood’.  The kitchen is still open, the long tables are there but overall if feels less functional and more pleasant.  It’s definitely a change for the better.

    Food wise I had convinced myself I was going to go for something a bit different.  But I was having one of those days when it All Gets a Bit Much and was moments off making a fort under the nearest desk and staying there.  On days like this comfort food is an absolute must and, for me, chicken katsu curry covers that pretty well; fried chicken, carbohydrates in the form of rice, a small but tasty salad to absolve you any guilt and a mild curry sauce.  And that’s what I got.  It was chicken katsu curry, it was exactly what I wanted and tasted like every other chicken katsu curry I’ve had a wagamamas – you’ve got to give them credit for consistency on their part.  And that’s what I wanted, a familiar favourite when I couldn’t handle more choice.  Had it been another day I may well have gone for something else, which does occasionally happen, and there is a nice selection of ramen, curries and teppanyaki.

    For starter I went for another well known favourite, the duck gyoza with dipping sauce.  These were possibly a bit over done for my liking, but this time round I actually remembered to try the sauce and it whilst it was very sweet it did have a nice fruitiness to it that complimented the duck.

    Oh and I’d also dragged along my friend Jo-ann, who I’m pretty sure ordered tori kara age and some sort of donburi.  I’m always a bit wary of putting words into people’s mouths but she seemed to enjoy them both, which is the mainly thing really.

    donburi_wagamamaSo there you have it, the wagamama in the Bullring has had a refurbishment.  It’s a good refurbishment, you don’t spend ages wondering where the hell everything is, but it looks different enough that you know they haven’t just out a lick of paint on the wall.  In fact, there’s a bit on their ‘about us’ page (see I do do research) which talks about ‘kaizen’, meaning ‘good change’ and I think the refurb certainly adheres to that.

    Disclosure: I was invited down by wagamama to check out their newly refurbed restaurant. The lack of ability to remember names of anything is an inherited trait, so I blame my mother, the eccentricity is largely my father’s fault.

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Original Patty Men again, because I can

    Big_Verns_Krispy_Ring_burger_OPMI think I’ve pretty firmly nailed my colours to the mast when it comes to how much I think Original Patty Men are absolutely flipping amazing. So if you want a review you’re better off reading the previous post about them because this is pretty much just an excuse for burger porn.  But as I’d spent the day in Digbeth attempting to take photos of things that aren’t food (in short, I failed), I figured it would be rude not to go to OPM and as I had my camera with me anyway I figured I might as well take a photo and share it.

    So yeah, I stumbled down to Shaw’s Passage ready to eat all the food. And thankfully I’d arrived just in time as there were only ten burgers left in the venue and, for a Sunday evening, there were a decent number of equally committed-to-the-burger-cause diners.  I ordered a Big Vern’s Krispy Ring donut, and yes your eyes are not deceiving you that is a burger nestled between a Krispy Kreme donut.  The salt from the bacon, the creaminess of the cheese and the sugar from the donut make this everything you could ever want in a burger.

    So, Original Patty Men, have you been yet? And more importantly, have you tried the Big Vern’s flavoured beer by Siren Craft Brew that I keep hearing about but get too distracted by burgers to ask if there is any on tap.

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Pie at The Botanist Birmingham

    botanist_pieOkay so I don’t really pay much attention to whatever national food stuff week it is because frankly it would be exhausting.  But there are a few exceptions.  And when National Pie Week rolls round and one of the Pierateers asks if I want to go and eat pie the answer is pretty obvious.  I mean pie, it’s pretty great isn’t it?

    I headed off to The Botanist on Temple Street with Rob from the brilliantly named pie review blog Pierate – yes there’s plenty of pies, puns and pirate related shenanigans.  The Pierateers take their pie rating pretty seriously, rating pie on everything from colour to content.  Rob had a ‘Pierateer in Training‘ pack for me and as much fun as we had chatting all things pie food and blog related, I think it’s safe to say I would probably make me a pretty rubbish Pierateer!

    That said, we both tried the Botanist’s chicken and chorizo pie, which came with gravy and a choice of either chips or mash.  The gravy was a bit of an odd choice, as the pie had a white sauce and they didn’t seem to go – and the pie didn’t really need it either.  It was a good all round pie, I thought, the meat in my pie had been cut into bite-sized pieces, although I think some bigger chunks would’ve been preferable, and I liked the pastry to filling ratio which doesn’t always happen.

    I’m keeping my final score to myself, because a girl’s gotta have some secrets (actually I’m just pretty indecisive at scoring anything, which is why I don’t do ratings on the blog).  But it was a lot of fun pretending to be a Pierateer for a lunchtime.  And thank you to The Botanist for helping us to celebrate National Pie Week!

    Disclosure: I totally wasn’t expecting it, but the Botanist gave us complimentary meals in celebration of National Pie Week, although I figure that was more to do with my dining companion being a Pierateer and it pretty much being like their version of Christmas.

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    First bite: Original Patty Men & Siren Craft Brew, Digbeth

    OPM_venue_cornerSunday 16th December 2012 was when I had my first Krispy Kreme burger from Original Patty Men.  Ever since, I’ve been hoping and wishing that they would open somewhere permanent, a nice little slice of our own burger paradise in Birmingham – because I’ve had enough with feigning excuses to go to London (really for burgers) or being forced to queue for hours.  Finally my prayers have been answered; Original Patty Men have managed to add one more to the long list of new Birmingham venues in 2015.  It may well be the most exciting yet.

    Earlier today I headed down to a preview of the new Original Patty Men and Siren Craft Brew venture.  Siren Craft and OPM have been teaming up for a few years now, and it’s easy to see why – beer and burgers are a classic pairing.  And Siren Craft share the same enthusiasm for their product as the OPM guys do – in fact they’re brewing up a special beer which takes inspiration from OPM’s Big Vern’s Krispy Ring burger, in that it involves actual donuts. Yeah, you heard right.  It’s an exciting collaboration generally, Siren Craft Brew have been making more of an appearance in the city and it’s great to see them have an established base, further cementing the idea of Birmingham as a craft beer haven.

    siren_craft_beer_OPMWhere is it?!

    Located in a railway arch on Shaw’s Passage, it’s the sort of perfect place that marries accessibility and authenticity.  If you’ve never heard of Shaw’s Passage, and frankly there’s not much reason to, it’s just the other side of the railway arches to the Selfridges Moor St car park.  Unlike most other cities who’ve gentrified their railway arches, it’s a largely forgotten about place, near an adult cinema and next to a car garage and gaming centre, the Warehouse Cafe is probably it’s most well known neighbour.

    staff_at_the_pass_OPMWhat’s it look like?

    The look of the place is distinctly industrial.  This is a look that Birmingham is becoming all too familiar with, but between the location and the idea of bringing street food vendors indoors, it works. Exposed brickwork, untreated wood and huge sheets of metal which will rust over to give a great aesthetic, it echoes OPM’s previous unfussy incarnation, where diners are used to no airs and graces, just good grub.  The venue seats 33 people, but there’s also the option for take out and possible plans for outdoor seating – burger picnics, anyone?

    pulling_pint_siren_craft_brewWhat’s there to drink?

    At the moment there are four taps for Siren Craft Brew, the final menu yet to be confirmed, although I’m looking forward to trying that special donut beer, which is likely to make an appearance soon.  And whilst beer is a focal point, it’s not the only thing on the menu.  For those that want something else there are other options, canned beers, spirits and soft drinks from indie retailers (the ginger ale is lovely).

    original patty men burger_friesTell us about the Original Patty Men menu?!

    The food menu is short, simple and to the point – burgers, fries and sides.  There are five burgers, one of which is vegetarian, served in fresh yoghurt & buttermilk buns unless specified – the Big Vern’s Krispy Ring still comes in a Krispy Kreme donut (pretty sure there’d be a riot if it didn’t).  One of the benefits to no longer being just street food vendors means the option of sides are available; three types of fries and two sides – slaw and slow cooked beans…and you know, chairs to sit on.

    For the preview we were given the cheeseburger and Darron’s Fancy burgers to try and I can attest to them being the usual high quality  we’ve all come to know and expect from Original Patty Men.  Oh good lord, I love their burgers.  The fries are equally good and don’t feel like an after thought.  The ODB fries, with OPM spice mix, Sriracha mayo, crisp friend onions and fresh spring onion look as good as they taste.

    Original_patty_men_friesI’ve made many jokes about the opening of this venue being like an early Christmas present to the city and I feared that just like advent being better than the reality of Christmas day, this might be a bit of a let down.  I have unashamedly been a big fan of Original Patty Men since that burger back in December 2012 and this has been my most hotly anticipated venue of the year.  It didn’t disappoint, it was just what I hoped it would be (well I’d also like to be able to book, but you can’t have everything).  It’s great to see a local street food venue take the plunge, branch out to their own space and team up with a well respected brewery, in an interesting part of town.  For all the places that have opened in the city this year, this, along with a few others, makes me feel like maybe the city is starting to believe in itself.

    The venue opens this Friday and will be open from Thursday through to Sunday thereafter.  Keep up to date via

    Disclosure: I was invited to a media preview and the food and drinks were provided complimentary, but that didn’t mean I had to be. Plus OPM had three years of my hopes to match, which was never going to be easy. Go, please, just save me a seat.

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Loy Krathong bloggers night at Sabai Sabai, Moseley

    sabai_sabai_scallopsFirstly, lets get this out of the way, I had no idea what Loy Krathong was until I got invited to a blogger’s evening to celebrate it.  Turns out, or according to Wikipedia at least, it’s an annual celebration which takes place in some Asian countries on the full moon of the 12th Thai month (which is roughly around November, by Western calendars).  It sounds pretty cool to be fair; traditional krathong (crowns/boats/decoration) are launched along and river and people make a wish.

    Anyway, my cultural ignorance aside, I headed off to Moseley for an evening of Thai food at Sabai’s Sabai’s original restaurant.  They opened another one about a year ago in Harborne entertainingly, because if there’s two suburbs in Birmingham with a sort of middle class rivalry, Harborne and Moseley are it for sure.  Cleverly though, the interior of the two matches the characteristics of the location; the Moseley venue is cosy, a little bohemian and dimly lit for real intimacy, whereas the Harborne one feels much more modern and chic.  My personal preference is for the Moseley one, because I’m not really a smart and modern sort of person and the low lighting means you can easily hide something when accidentally spill sauce on the table.  Little things people, little things.

    sabai_sabai_starter_selectionThis time round I met up with a few other bloggers to celebrate the aforementioned Loy Krathong by trying out some dishes, most of which are featured on Sabai Sabai’s Christmas Menu.  This is a three course menu where diners can choose one starter and main and pudding is a trio of desserts.  Of course we tried a bit of everything in order to be able to write about it – the things I do for this blog, I tell you.

    First up was a selection of starters; scallops, chicken satay ribs, crab cakes and ribs.  I’m a bit of a sucker for scallops and these were delightful, with a warm butter-like texture that my knife slipped through with ease.  The garlic and pepper sauce and colourful sprinkling of vegetables was a welcomed accompaniment – in fact they could’ve just brought me a bowl of this dish and I’d have been happy.  The chicken satay had a nice balance of flavour, particularly with the peanut sauce which have a nice creamy savoury angle to it, without being cloyingly sweet.  The rib was nice enough but not particularly enthralling, particularly compared to the rest of the dishes.


    For main course the table was positively filled with an assortment of dishes.  The first one to land was roast duck, and who amongst the meat eaters of us can say no to roast duck? Not I, that’s for sure.  With crispy skin and sweet meat, the tangy but sweet tamarind sauce elevated to a dish worth of a celebration and the bed of pak choi and cranberries alluded to just a little hint of Christmas cheer.

    The sea bass was served in a similar garlic and pepper sauce as the scallops, which almost made me think someone had heard my silent calls for more of the starter.  Sea bass is one of those items I find myself choosing more and more – the versatility of the fish means it’s nearly always a pleasant dish and this certainly was, and more.  Between the sauce, which had a nice punchiness to it, and another bright array of vegetables this didn’t feel like a stodgy indulgent Christmas dinner, but a fresh, light and yet still a flavoursome one.  Of all the dishes, it was the one I kept coming back to.

    Clearly I was a bit over excited by the sea bass and some of my other photos suffered.  The pan fried monkfish served with bamboo shoots and fine beans, wrapped in chargrilled aubergine was another fresh, light dish and the heat from the Thai green curry sauce gave it a good kick.  Personally I found the sirloin steak cooked a little more than I would’ve liked, but the Panang sauce rescued it.  I’d imagine if you were ordering this for yourself you’d get an option to request how it ought to be cooked.

    I was sat next to a fellow blogger Emily, who is pescatarian and with the array of superb fish dishes wouldn’t have been short of things to eat, but the staff created an array of vegetarian friendly dishes, namely a tofu which looked good and a yellow curry, also with tofu, which I tried too.


    For pudding there was a trio of desserts; a square of brownie, scoop of ice cream and panna cotta.  Given the amount of food and the spice of some of the other dishes this was, the words of goldilocks, just right.  The square of brownie was chocolatey but not sickly and the refreshing cool ice cream maneuvered into the few remaining gaps left after a large meal.  That’s one of the things I like about Thai food, you know you’ve eaten a lot but the fresh flavours and vegetables mean that you rarely feel stuffed.

    Lovely company, delicious food and learning about a new celebration – it was a good night overall.  If this is whetted your appetite then it’s worth having a look at their website for more info on their Christmas menu.  Or you know, just menu, because who needs Christmas as an excuse to go for dinner?
    Disclosure: I was invited down by Sabai Sabai and Delicious PR for a complimentary meal with fellow bloggers in return for an honest post. More importantly, who do we talk to about getting a Loy Krathong celebration down one of the canals next year – it was be epic.