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    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.

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Review: Sunny’s Soul Shack at the Sunflower Lounge


    There’s a quote on the coat of arms of Birmingham which reads “forward” and the city seems to have embraced this fully; the city centre is ever changing, much to the delight and displeasure of its residents.  Similarly, after a rather extensive – and badly needed refurbishment, The Sunflower Lounge on Smallbrook Queensway was greeted with open arms by the city and the food at the time was pretty good.  Fast forward a few months and gone are Big Papa’s, over to open their own place at the Mockingbird at the Custard Factory, and to replace them are Sunny’s Soul Shack.

    Sunny’s Soul Shack are doing much the same as what went before them; all-American comfort food, heavily inspired by the deep south of America.  It’s something which is becoming more represented in the city, but not so much that it feels saturated.  I went down to try out some of their dishes with some fellow bloggers, mainly because I wanted to know whether their buttermilk chicken would be as good as what came before.

    We started the evening with a series of starters to share.  Even after the refurb, The Sunflower Lounge isn’t my first thought to go for a sit down formal affair, but more likely somewhere to hang out with friends and grab a drink and maybe some light bites to share, ahead of seeing some live music there.  Thankfully this works well with the starter selection as the menu includes things like homemade nachos, sticky bourbon chicken wings, Sunny’s hash and blackened catfish…most of which lend themselves fairly well to sharing.sunnys_chicken_wings

    Generously loaded with cheese, the nachos had just enough guacamole and sour cream to give them flavour, without losing too much bite and were easy to share.  The blackened catfish was probably my favourite starter of the evening, although I always think the use of blackened as a description seems a bit strange, though Sunny’s is ‘blackened and breaded deep fried catfish’ – I’d have been really interested to try these as one of the burger options.  The slow-cooked beef brisket hash served with potatoes and runny egg was nice, but felt more of a light bite than a starter…and almost like it would’ve made a better brunch option.


    When I went the main options were a little limited, which didn’t really matter as I was determined to try the buttermilk chicken and chips, to get a handle on whether it was a wise move to replace like-for-like.  Firstly I appreciated the ability to be able to chose a side which wasn’t sweet potato fries…seriously Birmingham, is there some sort of sweet potato producer who is blackmailing you all?  I get that they’re a bit of a healthier option, but once you’ve deep-fried them that seems like a bit of a moot point.

    The buttermilk chicken breast I had a deeper colour than previously, but still very tasty – the menu describes it as dusted in their signature coating, and I’d be at a loss to compare the two really, both were lovely.  Served with chips and sweetcorn on the cob, the price is pretty feels pretty reasonable.  One of the guests at the table had the burger, which comes with two patties, sticky brisket and cheese and frankly looked fairy gluttonous, but the fashion for load-em-high burgers seems to be ride a never-ending wave at the moment.  After sharing all those starters between us, I’m not entirely convinced he finished it.

    burger_sunnys_sunflower_loungeSince my visit, Sunny’s Soul Shack seems to have upped its menu slightly with a Rueben sandwich and hot dog varieties.  With New St station now re-opened it feels like Smallbrook Queensway is now a little more integrated into the city and easier to get to now that you don’t have to navigate a load of building works.  It’s still just out of the hub bub of the city centre crowds, which is no bad thing in my eyes, particularly with silly season upon us and pubs and bars being full of festive drinkers.  Plus the Sunflower Lounge host some really cracking gigs, so it may be worth getting yourself down early and trying out Sunny’s Soul Shack.

    Disclosure: I was invited down with a few other bloggers to try their food, although frankly the other bloggers probably got round to posting their review in a much more timely manner. As usual, just because the food was complimentary, doesn’t mean I have to be.

    Pop-up and Event reviews, Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Henry Wong’s blogger’s dinner, Harborne Birmingham

    henry_wongs_blogger_event_birminghamI’ve pretty much given up keeping a list of all the places I want to eat, after realising it would probably be as long as Kerouac’s On the Road scroll.  But if I had been keeping a list, Henry Wong’s would’ve been on the list for sure.  Being a well regarded stalwart of the Birmingham food scene, before there was such a thing, it been somewhere I’ve been meaning to get to it for a while.  So when an invite for a blogger’s event landed in my inbox, I figured it was finally time to find out what the fuss was about.

    For thirty years, Henry Wong’s has been challenging the notion that Cantonese food is something you enjoy as take out on a lazy weekend or in an oriental version of a greasy spoon cafe.  Personally I have a bit of an affinity with these ramshackle places where the food is tasty, the plates are plastic and you’re all but ignored once the transactions of money and food are done.  But having visited upmarket Cantonese restaurants elsewhere (once for a family wedding which was all kinds of impressive), I was keen to see if Henry Wong’s could match them and deliver great food along with ambiance they proudly boast about.
    henry_wongs_birmingham_prawnsWhilst waiting for everyone to arrive, I had a Citrus Summer Sensation cocktail; it was a pretty simple cocktail, but the fizz from the ginger ale complemented the gin and the hint of citrus was a nice touch.  I’ve recently been to another restaurant in Harborne with a bar, it was nice to find another with decent cocktails, although this had a more relaxed feel which I enjoyed.  Once everyone had arrived we were take through to an impressive table in a section of the restaurant which would be great for big occasions.

    We started with a trio of prawns; honey and pepper, wasabi cream, and garlic.  Whilst all three were good, the garlic was probably my preferred, but I always enjoy being able to try different things in one dish.  This was paired with Dr Loosen Red Slate Riesling which had floral and citrus notes which really worked with the prawns.
    henry_wongs_birmingham_lobsterWith such a large group, there were around 17 in total, the wait for the mains was understandably a little delayed but gave me a fine chance to catch up with everyone.  The presentation from all the dishes was outstanding and I enjoyed the sort of flamboyant reverie the lobster was displayed with and demanded, it was certainly a ‘look at me’ sort of dish. Thankfully we didn’t have to attack it as meat had been prepared for us, along with Longhorn sirloin steak in Teriyaki sauce.  Both were lovely, but of the mains for me the crispness of the sea bass skin contrasting with the glutenous sweet chilli sauce was a particular highlight.

    henry_wongs_iceballI can’t remember the last time I had dessert in a Cantonese restaurant (or cafe) but if the presentation for the mains was impressive, this was a real show-stopper.  A hollowed ice ball containing an array of fruits, along with a mixed fritter and vanilla ice cream, served alongside Laurent-Perrier Demi-Sec was a delightful ending to a fantastic evening.

    It’s hard to judge a place on an event, particularly when it’s for such a large group, not least a group of bloggers.  But the food, the drinks and the experience made me want to bump it higher up the scroll for a return visit and sample some more of their Cantonese cuisine…and on proper plates too.

    Disclosure: All drinks and food were provided complimentary on Henry Wong’s. As ever views remain my own and honest…much like the Laissez-faire lobster.

    Bar reviews, Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Aluna, The Mailbox

    “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

    When rumours of a new bar at the Mailbox bubbled to the surface and claimed it would have “a magical, mysterious allure” with molecular-mixology cocktails, I’m not going to lie I pretty much imagined walking into Diagon Alley and drinking a Butterbeer. So imagine my surprise when I walked into Aluna and spotted a quote from Harry Potter on the wall.

    passionfruit_mojitoSadly for me, but probably wisely for anyone who actually managed to grow up, Aluna is less Leaky Cauldron and more contemporary bar. They’ve moved away a little from the industrial-chic which seems to be standard at the moment and gone for eclectic glamour – orange crushed-velvet seating, studded with fake diamonds and gold frames everywhere. It’s sort of odd, but sort of works.

    The first night I went was a launch night and I tried a few of the cocktails. They’re definitely keeping with the magical theme with headings like Hubble Bubble, Vaccines & Potions and Midnight Madness. It’s refreshing to see that they’ve done something a little different with the cocktail listings too – sure there are some standard cocktails, and even smoked version of classics have been slowly appearing on some menus in Brum, but they’ve also gone down the molecular route a little. Some of this works better than others, and I’m wary of using dry ice in drinks, but good on them for trying something a little different – at least in Birmingham.


    However this time, my friend and fellow blogger Roz invited me along to be her plus one and try out their food options.  I can’t help but feel that the food menu itself is a bit of a let down. I wanted chocolate frogs, dragon milk cheese or at least soup served in cauldrons. Instead it’s all too familiar – burgers, steaks, ribs and classic dishes like fish and chips.

    For a starter I had the buttered black tiger prawns, which were actually fried in a buttermilk batter. The batter was suitably light and complimented the prawns well. It seemed strange that they didn’t already come with a dipping sauce, although I quite enjoyed them without, but the waitress recommended a garlic mayo and this worked well enough.  Odd as it is, my only real complaint with this starter was that with seven prawns it was a bit much.


    For main it was a pretty simple choice; I went for the Aluna Burger which is an 8oz beef patty, topped with bacon, cheese, jalapeno peppers, lettuce, tomato and mayo in a brioche bun, served with chunky chips and coleslaw – and because I didn’t realise everything was super-sized, I’ve ordered some seasonal veg too.  The burger itself was juicy and pleasant enough, although I think the patty could’ve done with a little more seasoning, but the brioche bun was one of the better I’ve had recently.  I did remove the jalapeno peppers from the burger, which I think was a wise move – I tried them later and they would’ve overpowered everything entirely.  The chunky chips were more like potato wedges, so didn’t really have the crunch I expect from chips and there were an awful lot of them.

    Roz had gone for the ribs, which were also super-sized, though sadly consisted of a lot of fat.  The manager did explain that they’d had a few issues with the ribs and were looking to change them.  The sauce had a good colour and was sticky and sweet, so it wasn’t a complete loss.

    aluna_seaonsal_vegThe seasonal vegetables should’ve been a riot of colour; aubergine, beetroot, broccoli, carrots, courgettes and beans, to name a few.  Instead what I could identify felt more like the leftovers from a Sunday roast – carrots and parsnips, roasted, I think, without any of the crunch you’d expect and a lack of colour.  I’m not sure if it was the portion size or just how they’d been treated, but I didn’t manage much.

    I found the pudding choices a bit limited, although frankly I was quite full by this point.  Roz went for green apple sorbet, which she said was lovely and refreshing but again at four scoops was just too much.  I went off menu and asked for some vanilla ice cream, which I noticed they served along side some of the other dishes, and I found it was fairly bland, so I could see why it wasn’t on their main menu.


    Whilst I found the food to be pretty underwhelming, the service throughout was excellent.  Our waitress was speedy, attentive and ready to recommend things.  I’d spoken to one of the managers on the launch night about their ethos on hiring staff and he said they’d gone for people with excellent customer service that they could train up, particularly on the cocktail side of things.  If the waitress serving us was anything to go by, they’d certainly chosen well.

    I couldn’t help but feel a bit deflated by Aluna.  I wanted it to be so much more; something different for the city and as much as I dislike the word mixology, I wanted it to force the city to up its game with cocktails and with food which followed suit.  And whilst the cocktails are certainly trying something new, variable as that may be, I found the food to be generic and uninspiring.

    The ‘choices’ quote from the mirror on Aluna is spoken by the Hogwarts headmaster Dumbledore, but there’s another one from him which sums up my experience “We must all make the choice between what is right and was is easy” and sadly, I feel Aluna went for easy.

    Disclosure: My meal was complimentary as I was a guest of Roz who was, in turn, a guest of Aluna.  As a Ravenclaw (I totally did the Pottermore test), I say it as I see it and my views remain my own and honest. Quotes are fro JK Rowling, obvs.

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Strada set menu, Mailbox


    My mum is pretty awesome and generally a good sport, even if she is a little bemused by this whole me writing about my dinner.  So she didn’t seem to mind too much when I hijacked one of our evening meet ups to check out the Strada set menu in the Mailbox.

    On arrival we tried some samples from the new menu, which I didn’t photograph – or rather didn’t photograph well at all because I was busy trying to work out how to eat pasta with a spoon.  They were tasty, which is always a good start I find.  But we were here to try the Strada set menu, which is a pretty reasonable deal; served Monday to Friday from midday to 7pm, you can get two courses for £9.95 or three for £11.90.


    To start my mum, predictably had salad, or rather the Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, which was simple but she said it was tasty.  I struggled a bit with the starters as I didn’t want anything overly cheesy but everything had cheese in, so in the end went for the Prosciutto Involtini, which were towers of  prosciutto di Parma and mozzarella with rocket and sticky balsamic.  Again, nothing too fussy but was a perfectly pleasant, light starter.

    As suggested, I went for a glass of La Cavea white wine, which is a mix of Garganega and Pinot Blanco varieties, which was light-bodied and worked well with the uncomplicated starter.


    If my mum managed to have salad for a starter, it was almost certain she was going to go for a fish dish for main and she did – the Fish Fritti.  This was made up of battered squid, salmon and seabass.  I’m not convinced my mum was expecting it to be fried and I though the batter could’ve done with being a little lighter, particularly on the salmon and seabass, but it sort of worked out like being a but like fancy scampi.  Being on a bit of a pesto kick, I went for the Cavatappi Genovese, which included pasta, basil pesto, pine nuts, green beans, new potatoes and Grana Padano cheese.  I personally prefer my pasta a little more al dente and I’m not convinced it needed the new potatoes too, but the flavour was good and the green beans cooked well.


    And then there was the usual dance of can I goad my mother into ordering a dessert.   I think the dessert menu is pretty limited with tiramisu, ice cream and affrogato (which is basically coffee and ice cream) so you’re only really presented with two options.  I do think adding a third, non-ice cream option would be better than the affrogato/ice cream choices, and just offering those as choices within the dish.  But hey ho.  I went for some vanilla ice cream because I find it’s a really good indicator of whether a place really cares about their ingredients and the Jude’s artisanal ice cream I was presented with was creamy, with specks of vanilla and really enjoyable.


    Despite a few niggles, the set menu at Strada really is a bargain at around £12 for three courses.  Whilst I do think another dessert option would be a good idea, it’s a neat menu which does offer value for money, plus dishes change on a regular basis to reflect seasonal produce and to let the chef show off his creativity.  Overall, the Strada set menu is a reasonable option for budget-conscious shoppers looking for an indulgent lunch or early supper.

    Disclosure: Mum and I were guests of Strada and so our meals and drinks were complimentary.  As ever, my views remain honest and I wasn’t obliged to write anything positive. However, if you want to win my mum other, seafood and salads are the way to go

    Pop-up and Event reviews, Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Harvey Nichols refurb and menu launch

    harvelnichols_prIf ever there was need for an example to show the new-found confidence in Birmingham, both as a destination in itself and as a burgeoning food and drink destination, the new concept-store Harvey Nichols would be it.

    The 45,000 square foot Harvey Nichs, as it’s affectionally known, was designed in partnership with Virgile + Partners to present the a concept store offering customers luxury retail – and it feels like it, particularly as you descend down the stairway into a store where everything is lit in a luxurious golden hue.  roasted_scallops

    In the old Harvey Nichs the food hall and cafe felt like a bit of an uncomfortable fit amongst the high end fashion, handbags and associated lifestyle.  But descending down the stairs, from the third floor, into the belly of Harvey Nichol’s new concept store, it finally felt like a venue which had found a way to make food and fashion fit seamlessly.  The restaurant is enveloped by the food market and bar, giving it a sense of belonging but without feeling like you’re dining in a clothes shop.  The bar, which has a fairly extensive selection of spirits, is ripe for people watching without feeling voyeuristic.

    The food hall retains some of the old favourites, but has increased its selection, including a number of items which will suit people with certain dietary requirements – the no cheese pesto was indulgent and fresh enough that the lack of cheese was no loss.  The bar and dining area are separated by a wall of alcohol – with an extensive selection of wines, including a lovely English sparkling wine and a carefully selected range of spirits (the whiskies were of particular interest).


    Over to the dining area.  The menu has been designed in collaboration with one of Birmingham’s Michelin starred chefs, Glynn Purnell, who was on hand during the preview evening to tell us about the concept. The menu itself is fairly small; designed to be all day dining there are six options labeled under brunch and an all day dining section with sixteen dishes, which include a number of items that can be scaled up or down depending on whether you want a light bite, sharing dishes or a main meal.

    The food preview night offered a taste of a number of dishes (although sadly not the burger, which is an excuse to go back).  First up we tried the roasted scallops, with piperade and scorched baby gem lettuce, and the scorched provencal squid, Oxsprings ham, oliver tapenade, sundried tomatoes and red pepper – both of which can be served as lighter items or main dishes.  The scallops were beautifully sweet and speaking to one of the chefs later, he mentioned he’d shuck the fresh scallops that morning, having sourced them from someone he had previously trained and trusted.  The squid too felt lovely and fresh, cutting well without being too rubbery.


    Next was the spiced smoked haddock with sour crème fraîche potato and poached free-range egg yolk, made to look like a fried egg.  It was a whimsical concept and a clear mark of a Purnell dish, but had the wonderful balance of taste to back it up with.


    I’d heard a lot about the pork belly dish and once it was presented I could taste why; the Hampshire pork belly cooked in Chinese spices and served with pak choi and sesame glazed noodles really was utterly delightful.  The sweetness from the Chinese spice glaze balanced well with the pork and the cut itself was flavoursome and delicate.


    The Himalayan pink salt-seared fillet steak and fries was an incredible popular dish on my table and it’s easy to see why.  The dish arrives with pink meat, but we were told as it’s placed down on the table, that should we wish it cooked further to leave it on the hot sea salt slab.  This did feel like a bit of a gimmick to me, and I wasn’t about to ruin a delicious piece of beef to test out how well it worked, so I’ll take their word for it.

    Ordering a salad when out for a meal always seems like an absolute waste to me, but it’s often my mum’s number one choice so it was nice to see that the Harvey Nichols’ menu had three to choose from.  I tried the Thai green salad which was a riot of colour and taste, and had the option to add scallop, should you wish.thai_green_salad

    For dessert there was a large bowl of Glynn’s famous chocolate mousse with a mango sorbet and chocolate crumble – this is apparently similar to one of the dishes on the menu at Purnell’s, although not on the menu I tried earlier in the year.  I’m not a massive fan of chocolate, but the contrast of rich warm chocolate against the cool, refreshing mango really was superb – although sadly did not photograph well.

    Have strategically placed myself near the kitchen, I was able to go and chat to the chefs whilst they were plating up some examples of their afternoon tea.  It was refreshing to hear such enthusiasm for the menu and to hear about the provenance of the ingredients – the raspberries for one of the petits fours was sourced up the road in Tamworth and likely to change, once they were out of season.  The afternoon tea also includes sandwiches on beetroot bread and a coronation chicken which has a lovely smooth flavour.afternoon_tea_treats

    After dinner it was over to the bar (after I got a sneaky preview of the store because come on people), where I tried some of the tinctures and syrups created in-store for the cocktails, including a curry sugar syrup which would’ve been amazing over ice cream.  Chatting to Sam, the bar manager, it’s clear that there is a real passion to help push forward the city’s cocktail scene and bring something a little different.

    2015 is a hell of a year for the drinks and dining scene in Birmingham, with more places opening and rumoured to open than I can remember in a long time.  It’s a testament to the city itself, to the bartenders and chefs who’ve been faithfully working away and pioneering to put Birmingham on the map.  And when a national, well respected name like Harvey Nichols adds to that, it’s hard not to think that maybe that faith isn’t going unrewarded.

    Disclosure: HN invited me down to their preview…although I’m still trying to fathom out why. Scrubbing up and making sure I didn’t spill anything took a lot of focus and so everything here remains my own honest opinion because I wouldn’t have had the energy to lie, even if I’d have wanted to.

    Pop-up and Event reviews, Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Nomad at the Kitchen Garden Cafe


    It’s fairly typical of me to do things arse about face and go to a wacky side project event before getting round to the real deal.  Which is exactly what happened with Nomad – I went to the first No Rules event back in April (I’ll get round to reviewing it eventually), which is when Alex Claridge and his team also started their residency at the Kitchen Garden Cafe.

    From Warehouse Cafe via Bistro 1847, Alex has finally gone it alone set up his own pop up restaurant, Nomad…with the help of some talented collaborators.  Building on the idea of using fresh, locally sourced ingredients, Alex and his team have made this less about a new fad and more about binding the evening’s menu with its location.  If nomads roam from place to place, taking little with them and living off what the land has to offer, then Nomad aims to do this with its menus.  It’s an incredibly simplistic concept, at heart, but it takes a brave chef to throw themselves at the mercy of mother nature – particularly in Birmingham.

    In some ways the Kitchen Garden Cafe is pretty perfect for Nomad’s first incarnation.  The earthy, secret garden venue in the heart of a suburb lends itself to a menu that relies heavily on locally sourced ingredients.  In fact, as the night goes on we’re told that one of the dishes will not be on tomorrow’s menu due to the integral ingredient dying back in the summer heat.

    nomad_tomato_soupThe first dish is listed simply as tomato, which worries me because the texture and flavour of raw tomato is just something my brain can’t quite reconcile.  Thankfully we were presented with a small bowl and a teapot with what can only be described as a clear liquid which tasted more tomato than most tomatoes I’ve eaten – in a good way.  The broth had a love salty acidity to it which really brought out the flavour of the tomato, without overpowering it and counterbalanced the sweetness perfectly.


    The next dish was hay smoked rabbit and carrot cake. For me these were two delicious ingredients, the subtle sweetness of the carrot cake and the smokiness of the rabbit were delightful separately but just didn’t work as well for me together. To remedy this, I ate the cake first and then finished off the rest of the rabbit. Which was delightful.


    By far the simplest dish of the night was the globe artichoke, seared lettuce, egg yolk and nasturtium.  But simple dishes require the most precision and this dish had perfectly balanced flavours.


    The main course, as far as tasting menus go, was wild sea trout with broad bean, pea and pearl barley risotto.  Pearl barley is a criminally underused ingredient, in my mind, and the lovely vivid green colour of the risotto with the light flavours really complimented the fish.  It was the perfect summer dish.


    If you’re not used to eating anything you’re told is food, then the palette cleanser of sorrel and raspberry with wood ant massacre might’ve put you off.  I’ve (knowingly) eaten ants a couple of times before and their pepperiness has always been an interesting flavour.  Along with the sorrel and raspberries this made for a nice crisp, yet tart set of flavours to reinvigorate the taste buds for pudding.


    Until this dish arrived I was ready to call the trout and risotto my favourite dish of the night.  But this for me was just something else.  It’s the first time I’ve ever eaten sea buckthorn, a miracle ingredient if some naturopaths are to be believed, but for me this is one, if not the, best puddings I’ve ever eaten.  Our waitress, who had been brilliantly helpful all night, recommended we try a little of everything together and this was without a doubt the perfect way to eat this dish.  The slight sweetness from the carrot and cumin terrine with the creaminess from the meringue and crunchiness from the cocoa nibs satisfied all textures and the flavour was just something else entirely.


    Just as I thought we were done, we were presented with chocolate soup and a doughnut.  The soup was light and full of delicious bitter chocolate flavour, teamed with a lovely simple sugar doughnut.  One one hand it felt like someone’s nan making sure you weren’t leaving hungry, but in some sense it also entirely played up the idea of fine dining’s notorious small portions.  Or maybe I’m over thinking it.  Either way, it was a lovely end.

    It’s clear the Nomad team are passionate; from the kitchen team presenting unusual yet well considered dishes, to the waiting team who are attentive, friendly and knowledgeable.  Nomad won’t be sticking around Kings Heath for long, they’re due to move on at the end of August and tables are booking up quickly, so get in whilst you can – you won’t regret it, Nomad are producing some of the most interesting dishes you’ll find in the city at the moment.

    Disclosure: I was invited down by Nomad as their guests to try their food. I think it was an ruse to see if I’d eat ants; frankly the thought of raw tomato was more horrifying. As ever all opinions are products of my own twisted little mind and remain honest.