Follow:
Browsing Category:

Musings

    Musings

    Here we go again

    Bureau’s gone
    Fressh has gone
    SmokeHaus and Rub have both gone
    So has Jailbird / Nosh & Quaff, despite the name change

    January is always a hard month for bars and restaurants. The overindulgence of December means some places cling on, buoyed up by the extra footfall, only to realise the game is over come the new calendar year. I’m not going to repeat the blog post I wrote calling on people to use their favourite places, because I think that should be abundantly clear now – if you like it, support it. Nor am I going to write a rant about why things like Dry January and “detoxes” are a bloody stupid idea.

    But it has left me thinking back on 2018, a year I despised for a great many reasons, none of which had much to do with the blog, but everything to do with why it has been pretty quiet around here.

    But 2018 wasn’t all bad. Sure, places trading off the street food craze, like Rub and Smokehaus, might’ve had a bad year, but street food royalty Digbeth Dining Club extended its opening, going to four days; alongside Baked in Brick finding their own permanent home; and of course the Andy Low ’n’ Slow’s kickstarter. Though we might’ve seen repetition of more of the same, the likes of home-grown talent have thrived, with Aktar Islam’s Opheem and Legna, and the provocateurs of the Birmingham hospitality scene opening Nocturnal Animals.

    Maybe more than most cities, Birmingham is changing – you only need to look at the sheer number of cranes in the sky, and building works in the city centre to figure that one out. Whilst it might see some places come and some places go, it’ll always be home. And there will always be new places to find.

    Round ups

    Festive Food (I forgot to tell you about)

    So yeah, sorry this is late and you won’t actually get to try and of these dishes because it’s January and everyone is regrowing their livers with a green juice “detox” or whatever BS people do in the New Year New Me cause.  But the point was really an aide memoire that there are places in Birmingham doing interesting things, and we should remember to check them out – because restaurants are for all months of the year, not just for December.

    Pigs in Blankets Eggy Crumpets from Wayland’s Yard

    Isn’t Wayland’s Yard great?  The first time we went in to this little cafe hiding on Bull St I thought it looked a bit like a Melbourne coffee shop, which is a compliment because Australians really know how to treat their coffee well and Melbourne has the best cafes in the world. So yes, the coffee in Wayland’s is good, but thankfully so is the food.  I say food, I always have the eggy crumpets, but if they’ half as good as that, you’ll be fine.  For Christmas this year, they had the above version, pigs in blankets eggy crumpets and It Was Good.  To be fair, you can order your eggy crumpets with chorizo and bacon all year round, so you can sort of get the same hit. And I highly recommend it.

    Wayland’s Yard, 42 Bull Street, Birmingham B4 6AF

    The Meat Shack’s Santa Shack

    Usually I’m a classicist when it comes to burgers and I think it’s hard to beat a bacon cheeseburger, but there are a few places I’m willing to deviate from my normal and The Meat Shack on Thorpe St is one of those.  And over December, they were selling the Santa Shack, a burger which tasted liked Christmas between a bun.  I know because I had it more than once.  A beef patty, braised red cabbage, camembert, candy bacon crumb, chipotle – cranberry, ketchup, deep fried greens and mustard mayo with parsnip crisps on the side, it was filling and hearty without putting you into a Christmas-style food coma, and that was just spot on.  Sadly it was only a December delicacy, but I’m hoping if we campaign enough, they might bring it back again for a special.  Christmas in July anyone?

    The Meat Shack, 17 Thorp St, Birmingham B5 4AT

    Deep & Crisp & Vegan pie from Pieminister

    When vegan-food explorer extraordinaire Tasha from NutellaTasha invites you to lunch, it would be rude to say no.  And it would be rude not to go native and order vegan too, so that’s what I did.  The Deep & Crisp & Vegan pie from Pieminister has one of the best pun-tastic names from the festive season, and it was delicious.  A creamy vegan turkey pie with celeriac, smoked garlic & sherry, on a bed of mashed potato and topped with stuffing balls and cranberry sauce. YUM.

    Pieminister, 16 Waterloo St, Birmingham B2 5UG

    Mama Creaven’s roast pheasant

    Christmas even dinner is when my mum gets to have some fun, and so this year because she wasn’t cooking Christmas dinner, we had roast pheasant with bacon, onions and a red wine jus.  There was also vegetables, and the biggest surprise of all, potatoes. Whilst my mum’s idea of carbs is usually stealing mine when we go out for dinner, this delicious sauce warranted leaving nothing behind and spuds were just the ticket.  Sorry, you can’t book into my mum’s house for dinner, it’s hard enough for me to get an invite, but this was one of my favourite festive meals, so it deserved a mention.  If you want to know the recipe let me know and I’ll ask my mum.

    Nice try, I’m not telling you where my mum lives.

    Disclaimer: I call my mum mum, or Bernie if she’s not replying. We’re from Birmingham, I’ve never called her mom and I’m not about to start now. Also, I didn’t pay for dinner at my mum’s because that would be weird. I did pay for the burger and the crumpets and I was Tasha’s guest for pie but I don’t really think they cared who I was.

    Round ups

    Christmas gift guide

    I know, this is way later than I intended but if you’re running low on Christmas cheer and need some inspiration for Christmas gifts for your foodie friends and loved ones, here are five to get you started…

    This Cookbook Belongs To Us

    Hear me out, recipe books might seem like a naff idea for the foodie in your life but this one is actually good. Not only is it packed with recipes which actual normal humans could feasibly make on a regular basis, it also has fancier ones too. Better yet, the recipes feature personal stories about what the recipes mean to people, and the money raised goes to support refugees in transit. So really you’re buying double the gift, a present for your lovely one and goodwill to men (women and non-binary folk).

    Costs £12.50 from Bearwood and Kings Heath Action for Refugees website https://actionforrefugees.org/product/this-cookbook-belongs-to-us/

    Independent Birmingham card

    Yeah, I know I recommend this every year, but every year it continues to add good value. I’m pretty sure I’ve recouped the cost of one on trips to The Electric alone, which I then spend on tea and cake to eat before the film. The IB card gets you some great deals at a number of independent venues in the city and you will easily make your money back within the year, even if your memory is as crap as mine. It’s also a handy little reminder about some of the more off the beaten track venues that exist around the city.

    Buy from the Independent Birmingham website

    Cheese and wine from Grace + James

    This is a great gift because the chances are they’ll invite you round to enjoy the cheese and wine you’ve just gifted them, and so it pays to get something good. Kings Heath’s Grace + James have pulled together a number of cheese and wine offerings from a top notch hamper through to an array of wines for the big day itself. Their Christmas Day wine case will see you through your Christmas Meal, with two bottles of red, two bottles of white, a bottle of fizz and a bottle of dessert wine for afters.

    Prices range depending on items ordered, which can be done in store or via email.

    Byng Inc’s Daily Special 2019 calendar gift set

    Local artist Louise Byng has created a calendar which takes views on a culinary voyage to discover the weird and wonderful experience of cuisine and culture. With everything from historic honey through to a special edition Burger King Whopper, this A4 calendar will not only provide you with some interesting fact, but 25% of all profits are donated to Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity.

    Order from Byng Inc: http://bynginc.bigcartel.com/product/daily-specials-2019-calendar

    Gift Cards

    What do you get the person who has everything? Easy, get them an experience they’ll enjoy and, even better, you won’t have to wrap anything – better yet, they might take you along to share the joy.

    Musings

    Coming out of hibernation

    Crikey, it’s been a bit quiet on here recently hasn’t it?  On the off chance there’s anyone still looking here, then let me explain.

    There’s a line in a Piebald song that has stayed with me for years: “If you’re bored, then you must be boring too.” And dear lord, I’ve been bored.  This is partly my own fault because I’d stopped exploring, weighed down by a pressure about all these new places.  But how excited can you get over yet another Indian street food venue opening, when you’ve been eating thali and dosa for years?  And if I wasn’t feeling much love for what it is I’m supposed to be writing here, then I didn’t want to go around boring anyone left who might be reading the blog.

    So I just kinda stopped.

    And the break has done me the world of good.  It gave me the opportunity to do other stuff, like cycling and reading and less procrastinating because I was avoiding writing the blog when it felt like a chore.  I still did a lot of the types of things you do when you’re procrastinating, but it wasn’t layered with guilt.

    So where does that leave Full to the Brum?

    Honestly, I was playing around with shutting the whole thing down.  But I still took photos of food, I still enjoyed hearing about people’s dinners, and I still liked the surprise of finding somewhere new to me.  But the food scene felt pretty unwelcoming and the more I felt like this, the more I just thought maybe it’s time to call it a day. I did what I set out to do, I got people sitting up and taking notice of the Birmingham food scene on a national stage.

    But then a few seemingly unconnected things happened: I started reading Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, I read this tweet by Ruby Tandoh about needing different voices in food writing, and I had a few conversations about straight white men cliques in the Birmingham food scene.  And my delightfully screwy brain clicked in all together, my stubbornness kicked in and I realised I’m not quite done, but it’s time for a change.

    Full to the Brum has allowed me to do some pretty cool things, from being on telly to writing for national magazines.  But being female, fat and not earning enough to be able to afford big fancy meals are an excuse some people use to try to discredit what I do.  But that piece I did for International Women’s Day was far more popular than I expected; I want to do more of it.  And whilst Full to the Brum isn’t going to become some overly political blog, I am going to actively start encouraging and lending my platform to other people whose voices are traditionally ignored – if this is you and you fancy writing something, let me know.

    I’m also tentatively playing around with the idea of starting a podcast, which is something I’ve been thinking about for months.  I love that people give me recommendations, tell me stories about food…if you forgive the cliche, I hunger for it.  And I figure that it might be kinda cool to try and do something with this.  I have no idea where I’m going to start or from a technical point of view how I’m going to do it, but it’s an idea I’m playing around with and if you’d be willing to let me interview you, let me know.

    So, Full to the Brum is coming out of hibernation.  For the meantime it might look like it always did, but I’ll be trying to make a change.  It’ll still be about food and drink in and around Birmingham. It’ll just be better.

    Round ups

    Creating a cycle/cyclist-friendly venue page

    In honour of Velo Birmingham and my new-found enthusiasm for cycling, I’ve put together a page of some cycle/cyclist friendly cafes that I’ve found in Birmingham, Solihull and a bit beyond.  It’s not a comprehensive list and I’m totally happy to take suggestions (especially if it means I get an excuse to get on my bike and go and eat cake somewhere new). You’ll find it at the top of the page, if you hover over ‘Birmingham UK reviews’. But also, because I like to make things easy, you can just see it here…

    Cycle-friendly in Birmingham and beyond

    As seen in

    Chatting with Gizzi Erskine

    I am way more the girl in the back of the room making sure things run to time and tweeting about them than sitting up front where people can see me.  Effectively that’s part of the reason this blog exists, it was never about me it was because I want people to know about the cool stuff and talented people mixing drinks and cooking up fantastic food in Birmingham.  But ever one to laugh in the face of her own comfort zone, when Square (more about them later) asked me if I fancied being in conversation with chef and TV personality Gizzi Erskine, I waved goodbye to my comfort zone and started thinking up some questions.

    Gizzi was in Birmingham as part of a series of events being held at a pop-up shop in the Great Western Arcade.  Square is the brainchild of Jack Dorsey, founder and CEO of Twitter, and is a payment service which aims to make it easier for independent traders to accept card payments by using a reader that connects to smartphones or tablets.  As something which is designed to appeal to independent traders, Square invited Gizzi Erskine, creator of wildly popular pop-ups, to come and have a chat with us Brummies.

    Talking to Gizzi is a wonderful whirlwind of conversation, which gave me some insight into what it must be like for my friends when I’m all excited about something and trying to get my words out at the same speed my brain goes.  Honestly, I could’ve happily sat up there and prompted her to tell us more stories about her life and fantastic food career, ranging from a bohemian childhood full of exotic food to being at the forefront of the pop-up scene, her time at Leith’s Cookery school, and being on TV.  I really enjoyed her candor, particularly around the topic of authenticity and believing in your passions.  And all the talk of Korean fried chicken.  My friend Amy summed up Gizzi well; “We could all imagine getting s***-faced with her on a Friday night down the Hare & Hounds.” – and turns out she’d lived in Moseley for a few years, so that’s not entirely impossible.

    Gizzi warned me she has a tendency to go off on tangents, but they’re so utterly fascinating that it was worth letting her to hear more about her career – in fact I think we went well over the time allocation, but still managed a few questions from the audience, as well as a few I’d picked up from friends earlier.

    Being up front meant I was mainly trying to practice some active listening, which makes it pretty tricky to commit to memory much of what we chatted about.  And because I was busy being the ‘hostess with the mostess’, you might find these write ups by the lovely Brummie Gourmand and Gastronomic Gorman contain a bit more information.  Ryan from Brummie Gourmand was an absolutely star and audio recorded the whole thing, so once I’ve worked out how to do sound editing, I’ll put the conversation up here.

    Gizzi appeared at the Square pop-up shop in Birmingham’s Great Western Arcade. Square enables millions of small and medium sized businesses around the world to take credit and debit card payments without monthly fees or long term commitments. There are only a few days left to visit Square’s first UK pop up in Great Western Arcade (between Colmore Row and Temple Row). Running until the 16th September, local business owners can get a free Square Reader worth £39 if they visit the pop up shop and sign up for Square in September.

    Musings, Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Akrams, Stirchley

    I kinda think the whole Balti Triangle thing in Birmingham is a bit of a marketing gimmick.  It’s one I’m totally fine with, because Birmingham on the whole never seems to do very well at claiming its rich heritage, but we totally claim the balti, check wikipedia.  Because if there’s one thing Brummie love, it’s a good curry.  And the reason i think the Balti Triangle is a gimmick is because whilst there might be a whole pile a cracking curry houses around the Ladypool Rd, Sparkhill, Balsall Heath area, I kinda think it’s pretty hard to find bad curry in Birmingham.

    You see, Travelodge wanted me to talk about the Birmingham Balti and whilst it would’ve been easy to bang on about the Balti Triangle, I’m gonna be lazy and tell you about a balti house down the road from me.  To me, this is one of the great things about Birmingham…you never have to go far for a good curry.  And, my friends, the balti at Akram’s in Stirchley is properly good.

    Akram’s pride itself on Kashmiri cuisine, which means lots of meat and rice and I can tell you they do both well.  Rogan Josh is probably the most well known of the Kashmiri curries, especially round these parts, and the traditional lamb version at Akram’s is delightful – and if you ask nicely they’ll add a whole pile of vegetables to it, because a girl’s gotta get her greens. I’ve been to Akram’s few times now, owing to it being one of my nearest curry houses, but on my last but one visit I discovered their spinach and chicken balti.  And whilst my food photography skills are passable at best, I cannot get a good photo of this, but trust me it’s good. Popeye would be happy with it because there’s a load of spinach, rightly so, and lovely tender chicken.  In fact, there’s so much spinach that it’s not so much a wet sauce as wilted spinach carrying some extra liquids.  It also means you rarely leave any behind, which is totally worth it.

    I like to do the duo of rice and naan, because carbs give me life.  They do those giant table naan at Akram’s and one day I will order it, but my love of bread is so strong that I will probably try and eat the whole thing myself.  So for now I stick with the standard naan which is lovely and fresh, but still nicely doughy round the edges.  They do all the fancy types of naan you’d expect, and some you wouldn’t, but the quality of the simplistic plain naan is so good I’m yet to move on.A special mention has to go to the music, which I’d totally not noticed on previous visit but I got to fully absorb the soundtrack this time round.  And the cover version of such classics like Careless Whisper and I Believe I Can Fly were so notable that I Whatsapped my friend to arrange a visit next time she’s in town.  If the good curry doesn’t convince you to make a trip, then the music choices should.

    Birmingham is the best place for Balti and whilst I’d recommend any visitors to the city to visit the Balti Triangle, but south Birmingham locals or those sticking around a bit, Akram’s is totally worth a visit.  And if you’re staying at the Maypole Travelodge, the food offerings for dinner nearby are fast food so come to Akram’s instead – it’s less than a 10 minutes taxi ride away.

    Akram’s, 1526 Pershore Rd, Birmingham B30 2NW.

    Disclaimer: Travelodge paid for my meal but all views remain my own, as ever. The restaurant didn’t know why I was taking photos of my dinner and giggling at the music, until they asked me if I used TripAdvisor and I thought I better own up.