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…
- Gin lovers might like a bottle of HOCKLEY TONIC. It’s a Birmingham-made tonic syrup, which added with some sparkling water, will lift your gin and let it taste its best – no more metallic aftertaste of cheap tonic for your friends! Also, it’s a good gateway to get the gin-phobics in your life imbibing the stuff because most people who say they hate gin hate tonic. Get Hockley Tonic at Loki Wines.
- If you want to get something that’s sweet for the recipient but leaves you with the warm fuzzies about doing some good, then head to social enterprise MISS MACARON in the Great Western Arcade. They sell delicious macarons but also employ long term, unemployed young people, training them up to make the delicious macarons you nibble on.
- So if your stockings are more figurative then what about a five litre mini-keg from FIXED WHEEL BREWERY? Choose any of their beers you like, and prices start from £20 plus it means you’ll have something good to drink on the big day. I’m a big fan of their Pope of Dope, a lemon and hibiscus saison.
- Combining a classic card game (sort of) and mother’s ruin, check out JUST GIN, the world’s first gin top trumps, on sale by Birmingham’s own Gintleman for £8 plus postage.
- On spotting this I was unreasonably excited, but CHERRY REDS do gift vouchers which means you can buy a friend brunch, beer…or halloumi (which is a cornerstone of Cherry Reds, surely). With one on John Bright St in town and one in Kings Heath, there’s double the excuse to get one.
- What about giving someone the gift of the ‘water of life’? The always excellent BIRMINGHAM WHISKY CLUB have an array of vouchers, from Whisky Tasting Gift Vouchers available in £5 and £10 or how about a voucher for their annual Whisky Birmingham 2017 festival? Or if you want something year round, there’s also their annual membership. Whisky fans rejoice!
- For the vegetarians and vegans in your life then gift vouchers for 1847 in the Great Western Arcade are a great shout. Buy them a sum of money or a voucher for a three course meal for two, because surely you should get in on the fun too. Here’s what I made of their latest menu.
- Ever wanted to treat your friend to a Michelin-starred meal? Then check out CARTERS OF MOSELEY who do amazing food and let you buy gift vouchers. My sister bought me a voucher a couple of years ago, which was a total surprise when the email landed in my inbox, and proves that she is rather excellent.
- If you’ve got a friend who loves food but you never know where they’ve already eaten, then why not get them an OPENTABLE voucher? I tried it out using it at El Borracho de Oro earlier in the year and it was super simple.
- I entirely adore the team at LOAF COOKERY SCHOOL and having done three of their masterclasses now, I highly recommend them. Whether it’s learning to make macarons, bread or a full day of learning some of the art of butchery, whoever attends one of their masterclasses is guaranteed to go home with plenty of food – you never know, they might share. Buy a gift voucher here.
- If you know someone who always orders wine but knows nothing about it, why not send them to a beginners guide to wine class at LOKI WINE? This two hour wine course will give them the basics to start exploring the world of wine.
- If you’re looking for a group gift, then why not buy your friends a cocktail masterclass? There’s plenty on offer in Birmingham from the likes of Island Bar, All Bar One, Bodega…check out the one I did at Revolution here.
- Chocoholics should head down to the CHOCOLATE QUARTER in the Jewellery Quarter who do several chocolate related masterclasses. I mean generally you should go there anyway, but if you’re looking for a present for a friend, I tried their truffle making masterclass earlier in the year and it was a lot of fun.
- How about an INDEPENDENT BIRMINGHAM card? This will get you some excellent discounts at the likes of Fiesta del Asada, several Michelin-starred restaurants, Peel & Stone and the Hippodrome theatre. Because they’re up on the festive goodwill they’re on offer with one for £12 or two for £18, which is ridiculous bargain given how much you can save.
- For coffee lovers, the team behind YORKS BAKERY CAFE have started Birmingham’s very first Birmingham-born coffee roastery. As well as an array of brewing equipment, they do a coffee subscription whereby they’ll send a bag of 300g coffee every fortnight.
- What do you get the person who has everything? What about something a bit more left-field and a subscription to LOVE BRUM, a Birmingham charity who supports the local community to build an even better Birmingham. Buy your loved one a membership for £20 and let them help supporting the projects they choose.
- Eden, a new café in Erdington opened recently and it looks worth checking out
- There’s a musical about food crime on Sat 14th May outside St Martin’s in the Bullring at midday and 2.30pm, which sounds crazy enough to be fun.
- James Bowker Head Bartender of the Edgbaston Boutique Hotel is through to the Diageo Reserve World Class GB final and is a pretty flipping big deal
- Be at One Bar opens this month, I spoke to one of the founders and it’s sounds like it’s going to be ace.
- Bagels, beer, cocktails and more, Peaky’s finally announced their new location and they’re going to be on John Bright St
- Celebrating local and sustainable produce, Opus has a cracking new Friday deal – two elegant courses, half a bottle of wine and a selection of homemade bread for £25 per person
- A nutrition talk at in the Great Western Arcade. It was an interesting overview on ways to overcome bad eating habits. They’re looking to run some more sessions looking as specific areas of nutrition, so once I hear more I’ll let you know.
- Ikea as part of the Live Lagom project – there was a bit of an update, a chance to meet some of the others taking part locally, see some new products Ikea are bringing in which have sustainability in mind, and eat some meatballs.
- Slow cookers can make pretty decent curry for lunch. I’d blog the recipe, but whilst it tasted good, it looked a bit oddly coloured.
- Cherry Reds and Waterstones Birmingham cafes for tea and cake. I’m not doing a write up of them as that seems a little silly, I can heartily recommend the rainbow cake at Cherry Reds and red velvet cake at Waterstones.
I know, on the face of it, International Women’s Day might not have a lot to do with the food and drink scene in a city in England. However, for anyone who has been paying attention you will have noticed that it’s a bit of a sausage fest, and most of the well known names are distinctly male. So I figured today was a good day to celebrate some badass women doing cool stuff in Birmingham – apologies to all those who I missed off the list, I ran out of time!
Amy Seton and Victoria Osgood, Whisky Birmingham festival and Birmingham Whisky Club
Whisky has this reputation for being a bit of an old man’s drink so if you’re young and female then you expect a bit of confusion when you turn up to whisky events. But imagine being a woman and the organisers of the best whisky festival in the city and a whole raft of great whisky events too? Yeah, that is not going to be the easiest thing ever, but Amy and Vicky know their stuff and put on some great events highlighting some great whiskies from around the world with some top-notch speakers. http://thebirminghamwhiskyclub.co.uk/
Holly Jackson, Carters of Moseley
I’ve been lucky enough to visit Carter’s a few times over the years and whilst there is no doubt about how fantastic the food is, that Michelin star was well deserved; but it was the relaxed, friendly but entirely on point service that drew me back in. And for that, Maitre d’ and proprietor Holly must be congratulated. Thank you for creating a place that feels like a real treat, but somewhere you can relax and not feel like you’re being observed like a specimen in a lab. http://cartersofmoseley.co.uk/
Jen Nadin, Cherry Reds
I bloody love Cherry Reds. This will come as no surprise to anyone who interacts with me on social media; it’s often my most recommended place because it covers nearly all dietary requirements without making a song and dance about it, has a great beer selection and a really nice, relaxed atmosphere. And no one minds when you order tea and cake on a Friday night. Jen is the brains behind Cherry Reds and for that I salute her. http://www.cherryreds.com/
Marverine Cole aka Beer Beauty
Marverine is Birmingham’s first Beer Sommelier, as accredited by the UK Beer Academy, in another industry typically associated with men. As well as winning award for her beer videos, she has appeared on a bunch of TV shows promoting Britain’s national drink. http://www.marverinecole.co.uk/beer-expert.html
Martha and Molly, Loaf
I think all the staff at Loaf are great but special mention to Martha and Molly who put up with me every Saturday morning after I’ve rolled out of bed and headed to Loaf, pre-coffee and still half asleep. As well as starting my day with one of their delicious croissants, a quick chat with them is a great start to the day. http://loafonline.co.uk/
Rosie Ginday, Miss Macaron
Rosie trained as a high-end pastry chef at University College Birmingham and worked at the Michelin-starred Purnell’s restaurant before founding Miss Macaroon. As well as making these sweet treats, they provide employment and training programmes aimed at young people who have left care, slipped through the education system or find themselves homeless. https://missmacaroon.co.uk/
If you’ve been to any slightly out there events in Birmingham that fuse food and art together, chances are that Kaye has been behind them. From her work with Companis through to last year’s Diabolical Roses and the upcoming Expanded Intimacy, Kaye has been producing immersive dining experiences, which are a highlight in Birmingham’s calendar. http://kayewinwood.com/
Irene Allen, Opus
Director of Opus on Cornwall St and Bar Opus in Two Snowhill, Irene and her team have been doing some stellar work supporting young people in the hospitality trade with their links with University College Birmingham and their commitment to sustainability. And their prix fixe menu is a really good deal. http://www.opusrestaurant.co.uk/
Pip, Pip’s Hot Sauce
I recently marinated some chicken in Pip’s BBQ sauce and it was bloody delicious, which is hardly surprising as Pip’s sauce has a cult following in the city. Often found manning her own stall at various markets in the city, Pip’s Hot Sauce is made in small batches and can even be made up as wedding favours, which sounds like a superb idea. http://www.pipshotsauce.co.uk/
Katie Rouse of Crushed & Cubed
Katie has spent a good deal of time making sure that Birmingham’s independent scene has some decent drinks. As a bartender she has been seen slinging cocktails behind bars at The Victoria, Jekyll & Hyde and The Botanist. But taking the step up, she’s currently managing director of Crushed & Cubed, making sure that there are some interesting bottles on the city’s independent back bars so we punters have something good to drink. https://twitter.com/CrushedandCubed
Happy International Women’s Day ladies (and gents) – lets raise a glass to those women making Birmingham great!
Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la…it’s almost Christmas! Hopefully you’ve all been good boys and girls and are sitting down to write your letters to Santa about all the loot you want for Christmas. If that’s the case, then let me help you out. Last year I came up with ten food and drink gifts you might want to indulge in, but this year I’ve got oh so much more ideas to share.
This list is long but it is by no means exhaustive, I could’ve rambled on for days, but by then you’d have opened all your advent calendar doors and Rudolph would’ve come and gone. But I did get a little overexcited with ideas, so I’ve split it into four categories; stocking fillers, gift cards, DIY and gifts that keep giving.
So we don’t really do stockings in my family, the only one I’ve ever had was a Nightmare Before Christmas one handmade for me by my friend Beccy…it’s ace. BUT, I hear they’re kinda a thing and rather than lumps of coal and oranges you might want to add something a little more exciting.
If you ask me, money as a Christmas present suggests a lack of imagination, that is unless the person really needs the money…in which case this entire post is a bit frivolous. But if you want to get someone something but are crap at wrapping things, then gift cards are totally the way to go. Because experiences, they’re often better than things…and this way you get the best of both.
If you’ve got a friend that’s a dab hand at cooking up a storm, then why not buy them something that means they’ll improve their culinary expertise even further? Better yet, buy them a cooking or drinks masterclass and then ask them to show you what they’ve learnt…that way you get to enjoy the gift too!
Who wants to get all their presents at Christmas? I mean you could be as rubbish as I am and end up not seeing friends until a few days after Christmas so you get to extend the gift giving season…but what about extending it even further, say for the whole year? If that sounds up your street, here are a few ideas…
So there we have it, just a few Birmingham food and drink inspired gifts you might want to give your loved ones this festive season. Tell me, what are you hoping Santa leaves under the tree for you this December?
Disclosure: No one gave me anything to be included in this gift list because I’m a terrible blogger. I just did this for the goodwill.
I seem to start a lot of these round-ups with the realisation that the month was busy, like that’s some sort of new revelation. Which is silly really, because nearly everyone I talk to these days is busy. You know, even those people who think having a dental appointment as their only engagement counts as busy (yeah mum, totally looking at you here). So if we’re all busy then doesn’t the word stop having any real meaning? And a lot of the time I should be busy but I’m avoiding doing things and instead doing things like binge-watching iZombie on Netflix instead.
Anyway, you’re not here for a quasi-philosophical exploration into the nature of busy. In fact, you’re probably here to get an idea of what happened last month, because that’s sort of what I bill these posts as. And last month was
busy kinda awesome. Two exciting things happened; the first was that I was shortlisted in the Birmingham Food, Drink & Hospitality Awards in the blogger category and the second was I did a presentation to a bunch of digital communications enthusiasts about building a brand as a blogger. I’ll write up the presentation, because strangers said nice things about it which means it might be of further interest to people. Oh and a third thing, which I nearly forgot to mention, was that Ting (of The Ting Thing) and I are attempting to revive Brum Bloggers, because there are lots of ace bloggers in the city shouting about cool stuff.
Anyway, back to this blog. I tried to do a few more round ups of news things this month, and I’m not sure how successful they were, but I don’t really have the time to re-write every food related press release going, and given there’s enough places doing that, I figure rounding them up so I’m sharing the news but in a less time-consuming way. I also did a sort of mid-month round up, with the intention of doing it weekly, but frankly my life is not that interesting and some weeks my food adventures are defrosting turkey meatballs and sneaking off to KFC on a Friday. But I did do a quick post about Peel & Stone’s Harborne venue pop up at their JQ location, because it looked kinda awesome and I was gutted I couldn’t get to any, but I will be jumping on the bus to check out the new store when it opens.
That said, whilst I didn’t do so many out and out news pieces, I did do a bit of a rant editorial about something the local newspaper put out that irked me a bit about the nature of chain restaurants versus independent ones. I’m quite liking doing posts which are more thinking about the city’s food and drinks scene as a whole, and I might inflict a few more on you, as and when I can come up with ideas for them.
Back to the actual food blogging itself, I went to a bunch of new places, some of which I’m yet to write up. One place I did get to was Rofuto, which a lot of people were very excited about and so was I. In fact, I’m so excited I’ve done two trips, and the post about the food will follow. On a Japanese-ish theme I went to have a look round the new-look wagamamas and had everyone’s favourite chicken katsu curry. And after all that raw fish and battered chicken, it was nice to head to 3 Three’s in Martineau Place, which is Birmingham’s first mainly-vegan café. Finally, one of my favourite things about the change in season (I feel like I can say this now we’ve actually had some sunshine) is that The Studio switch up their food menu and they’ve been nice enough to invite me along to sample the dishes, which form part of their package for people hosting events there.
And I think that’s about it in terms of things I need to tell you – and this post is way longer than it needed to be. This month is looking equally enthusiastic, I just need to find some time to write everything up, but if I can there will be steak, chocolate, cocktails and maybe pizza.
Quick news round up
I’ve realised there’s a lot going on and I don’t always get time to write up everything; so I’m trialling out a sort of weekly round up of good places I’ve been to (that may or may not be blogged about later), news I’ve stumbled across and anything else short and snappy. Let me know what you think of the idea…
Went to / discovered
Rofuto, the new Japanese concept bar and restaurant at the top of Park Regis at Five Ways is offering early birds keen to try them out with 50% off food as part of their soft launch offer running from Friday 22nd April to Saturday 23rd April. Reservations can be made via email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Deliveroo Birmingham turned one this week! The on-demand delivery service delivered via a fleet of delivery mopeds and bicycles and can often be spotted in the city, covering more than 3,000km a week and providing more than 60 jobs, as well as food to your door.
Moseley is getting a new upmarket wine bar thanks to Prince of Wales’ Keith Marsden. The Cheval Blanc will be next to the Dark Horse, one of Keith’s other venues, and is due to open in May.
The worst kept secret in Birmingham is that Langley’s are going to be opening a bar in the city. I tweeted a photo of the licensing application stuck to the Great Western Arcade, but lets keep that between us, right?
Did I mention Brum Yum Yum are going to be opening a permanent city centre Hawker style venue on Pershore Rd, near the Arcadian. It’ll give street food vendors a chance to have a bit of a permanent base, without the costs associated with it. I’ll get more info when it’s closer to opening.
Shaanti’s Holi Rave Festival is back on city on Saturday 16 April 2016 at the Digbeth Gardens with daytime and evenings shows so everyone gets a chance to go. Taste & Liquor will be curating the food area, and there’s more info on http://www.holirave.com
Park Regis on Five Ways now open
Well okay, it opened last week and so this is sort of old news, but given occupancy rates in the city (and how bloody difficult it is to find meeting rooms), I for one am excited about a new hotel in the city and this one sounds fancy. It’s up on Five Ways and they spent £50 million on this bad boy, which has 253 bedrooms, the largest presidential suite and ‘Shakina’ Urban Dry Spa as well as two restaurants. I’m totally tempted to book in for a night; I hear the views are fantastic.
Rofuto opens this month
Due to open on the 26th April, up on the top floor of Park Regis is Rofuto; a concept by former Ivy head chef Des McDonald, which has panoramic views of the city, with an izakaya-style restaurant, serving a high quality modern Japanese menu. There’s also the Kurabu Cocktail Lounge, which will serve fresh Sake from Takashimizu Brewery in Northern Japan, alongside Koshua aged Sake from Shiraki Brewery, unusual wines, a rather tasty sounding cocktail list and around ten Japanese whiskies from the likes of Nikka and Suntory.
Also, Des McDonald, the guy behind the concept said some pretty nice things about the city: “I am delighted to be opening my first modern Japanese restaurant Rofuto, with my partners at Park Regis Birmingham. I love rooftop spaces, having opened four successful restaurants on the roof of Selfridges in London. I fell in love with the unparalleled dramatic views from the 16th floor, Birmingham is a great, vibrant city and I’m excited to become part of it’s dynamic and diverse dining scene.”
Glynn Purnell’s Friday Night Kitchen is back for 2016
Michelin starred ‘Yummie Brummie’ chef Glynn Purnell will be bringing his Friday Night Kitchen back to Villa Park on 7th October to raise money for Cure Leukaemia.
Award-winning presenter Suzanne Virdee and Heart West Midlands presenter Ed James will host the evening, with Glynn assisted on stage by Sam Bailey (X Factor winner? I don’t know, I don’t have a TV). With on-stage guests discussing and cooking their favourite dishes with Glynn before the audience tuck in – presumably not all to the same dish as I doubt they’d be batch cooking on stage. There will also be a live band and DJs after an a raffle for one lucky person to win a meal for six, cooked at home by Glynn and his team – and they’ll clean the kitchen up before they leave!
Tickets are now on sale for the fun-filled, live show-cooking event via www.GPFNK.co.uk
Opus’ Source Dinners are back too
If eating food isn’t enough, Birmingham food enthusiasts can now meet the suppliers Opus use, hear their stories, learn why sustainability is at the heart of everything they and Opus do – and have dinner showcasing the produce.
Ann Tonks, director at Opus at Cornwall Street, said: “Ethical and sustainable sourcing really is at the heart of our menus. Not only does sourcing our produce from great British suppliers mean that we are supporting the local farming and fishing industries as well as reducing our carbon footprint, but we believe there is a direct link between ethical, quality sourcing and the astonishing flavours of the finished dish.”
Source Dinners include a fish dinner with M&J Seafood on Friday 17th June, vegetarian dinner with Worcester Produce on Friday 19th August, champagne Dinner with Laurent Perrier on Friday 30th September and rare breed beef dinner – Friday 21st October. Each tickets includes an aperitif, a five-course dinner and matching wines. To book, please call 0121 200 2323
And Foodies Festival returns with Bake Off winner from 3-5th June
Foodies Festival returns to Cannon Hill Park for its second year, serving up a lip-smacking feast 3rd to 5th June. As well as Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain, local chefs will be sharing their insights, including; Richard Turner from Turners, Brad Carter from Carters of Moseley and Nathan Eades from Simpsons. There will also be a Feel Good Foods theme at Foodies Festival this summer, as well as a Vintage Tea Room and a special focus on Brazilian street food this year to celebrate the Olympic host’s cuisine and plenty more.
So March Madness…that’s a thing. I’m trying to get out of the habit of saying it was a busy one, because, frankly, they all seem to go that way and after a while the philosophical part of my brain kicks in and I start wondering about the nature of the phrase.
So yeah, March happened. It was a busy kind of month generally and I’m still having some sort of blogging existential crisis, so I was pleasantly surprised to find I’ve actually posted six times this month, which was about four more than I expected. Okay, okay most of those posts weren’t exactly very long, but it’s the thought that counts right?
Actually it was a bit of a reflective month for me, and I’d finally gotten round to summing up my concerns about the spate of venue openings last year and what it means going forward. It seemed to get a good reaction (well on Facebook, no one leaves me comments unless I make them for competitions) so I’m tempted to do a few month food related pondering. Don’t worry the necessary and sufficient conditions of cake won’t be one of them.
The lovely Dave at BrumHour guest interviewed me for his radio show and whilst I refuse to listen back I’m pretty sure I blathered on about how complimentary meals aren’t really ‘free’ given the pay off of work that goes into them, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like giving away actual free things to people who read the blog…which I got to do thanks to hungry house and their Top Takeaway awards. Talking of new places, I wandered down to Friska, a Bristolian cafe which has come to Brum and located itself in Brindley Place.
I ate out way more than I actually got round to posting (they’re coming soon, honest) but one of the things I had to do ASAP was when I finally met one of the Pierateers and we ate pie at The Botanist for National Pie Week. I’m kind of tempted to see how many of these things I can jump on board with, along with fellow bloggers in the city.
I spent one Sunday at the awesome ImpactHub in Digbeth, attempted to a) pretend I know what I’m doing with my fancy camera and b) taking photos of things that aren’t food. I rapidly concluded that it’s probably best for everyone if continue taking photos of my dinner and being surprised by what my magic camera produces. But it did provide me with an excellent excuse to go back to Original Patty Men.
And then at the end of March, well near enough, was Easter. Religious stuff aside, I know for most people it’s all about the chocolate but for me it’s the hot cross buns. I’d been entirely meaning to do an in-depth comparison of Loaf Vs Peel & Stone hot cross buns but frankly they were both great and I can say this with great clarity as I ate a lot of them.
So April; well I’m off to Bar & Block tomorrow, Beefeater’s near steakhouse concept, so that’ll be going on the blog; as will my ode to chicken katsu curry (or chicken cats curry as my spell check keeps trying to autocorrect) at the newly refurbished Wagamama in the Bullring; a return to Benugo in Grand Central; Brum Breakfast Club at Nomad…and err, hopefully some other stuff.