Follow:
    Events

    What Would Elvis Eat?

    Part-play, part-tribute act This is Elvis is showing at the New Alexandra Theatre for the next few days and it made me think, if The King of Rock and Roll really were in town, where would he eat.

    Charting Presley’s monumental return to performing live for the first time in seven years via his ’68 Comeback Special’ and residency in Las Vegas, This is Elvis is a hell of a lot of fun, and I say that as someone who is probably more familiar with cover-versions of the King’s songs.  Award-winning tribute artist and actor Steve Michaels, who plays Elvis, looks the part but more importantly performs with such energy it’s infectious.

    I wrote a more in-depth review of the show over on my other blog, but as Elvis’ diet and weakness for food was mentioned in the performance, I thought it might be quite fun to come up with a list of places in Birmingham Elvis might’ve liked…

    Burgers

    Some claim that Elvis was found dead with half a cheeseburger in his hand, which is almost certainly not true, but his love of cheeseburgers throughout his lifetime is well documented.  If the King were after a proper cheeseburger in Birmingham then his best bet would be either Original Patty Men or The Meatshack. Or maybe both.

    The Elvis Presley Milkshake

    Rightfully so, nowhere in Birmingham is made enough to make this calorie-laden monstrosity of smoked bacon, bananas, ice cream, bourbon, and peanut butter. But if shakes are what you’re after then try the rather charming sister venue in the San Carlo group in Selfridges, Gran Cafe, where you can get an indulgent cake shake, but with a much coherent flavour combination.

    Southern Fried Chicken

    On the menu at his 1967 wedding to Priscilla, but if you’re after fried chicken in Birmingham then new-kid-on-the-block, Bonehead is definitely the place to try.  And bonus points are that it’s just round the corner from the Alex Theatre too.

    Breakfast

    In James Gregory’s 1960 biography of Presley, there’s a note for anyone interested in dating Elvis, it reads: “Note for his future wife: Elvis loves enormous breakfasts complete with sausage, bacon, eggs, fried potatoes, home-baked rolls, and coffee. He has a tremendous appetite at breakfast. His wife should never develop elegant or expensive tastes.”

    For a proper hearty breakfast Cherry Reds on John Bright Street or Gas Street Social in the Mailbox will do a good fry up, minus the airs and graces.  But if you’re after something bottomless but refined, then try the Electro Brunch at Gaucho on Church Street.

    The show is at the New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham until 24 March before it continues its national tour.  For tickets, visit atgtickets.com/Birmingham.

    This was a press event. Photographs were taken by Pamela Raith.

    Food and Restaurant News, News

    First Bite: Bonehead, Birmingham

    Finally – we have a fried chicken place in Birmingham that looks like it’s going to be great!

    I popped into a preview night for Bonehead, the new fried chicken place just off John Bright Street in the city centre. It’s a pretty simple concept or fried chicken and craft beer, with Beavertown on tap / in cans and a takeover planned.

    Lap-Fai Lee has been behind some of the most delicious fried chicken pop-ups in the city, and he’s chef consultant for Bonehead, as well as the man in the kitchen on preview night.  If that’s not the sign of good things, then I don’t know what is.  And the wings I tried lived up to expectations – I’m looking forward to returning and trying the burgers and waffle fries.

    With a seated area upstairs with 32 covers and no reservations, this is going to be popular, but if the preview night is anything to go by it’s going to be well worth a visit.

    www.boneheaduk.com

    Cafe News, News

    Cherry Reds Kings Heath is closing…

    Cherry Reds in Kings Heath is closing.  It hasn’t closed yet, but it is closing.  That’s the essence of this blog post and I want you to remember that it’s as simple as that.  A whole pile of things have closed or are threatened with closure and there are rumours swirling about, much like the current weather. But with Kings Heath’s Cherry Reds, it’s a lot simpler.

    Jen, the owner of Cherry Reds, asked to have a chat with me about this and honestly I thought it was going to be a therapy session because I bloody love Cherry Reds.  I love the Kings Heath Cherry Reds even though it took over the greasy spoon cafe I had an affinity towards because it served me sausage and bacon sandwiches when I first moved to Kings Heath.

    “People asked how I got started, and the simple answer is with experience and savings from running pubs for M&B, as well as help from friends and family” says Jen. And this comes through, Cherry Reds is the sort of low-key place that caters for a multitude of dietary requirements without having fifty-thousand menus to certify this; vegan cake sits alongside cake with lashings of buttercream and you can order a vegan full English just as easily as you can a meaty one. No one judges you for ordering tea and cake on a Friday night, and there’s a great selection of beers without being all holier-than-thou about its craft beer credentials. The staff are consistently lovely, from letting your pregnant friend queue-jump a sudden influx of people because you were saving the table, through to explaining the ins and outs of Pokemon Go.

    It might well be their Twitter handle, but it’s true. I do love Cherry Reds. But more importantly, so does Jen; “A few years back I was having a mini-meltdown, probably about some unconstructive negative review online, and one of the team tried to comfort me by saying that I take these things too personally. It occurred to me that she was right, I do take it personally.”

    So why is Cherry Reds in Kings Heath closing? Rumours have been going around for a while that it was going to turn into this, that and the other. Or with seemingly a new coffee shop opening in Kings Heath daily, has Jen had enough? Nope, it’s a lot simpler than that…it’s about putting down roots and making the painful decision to let something you love go, so it can become better. “Last year while still trying to find the money for a deposit on a house, I asked myself whether I had the energy and funds to invest in Kings Heath too, which seven years on needs a new lease of life. I feel a new owner could do it better and allow me to move on to other projects.”

    “I never really intended to do Cherrys on a bigger scale, but the momentum kicked in and when thing started clicking into place and I thought I’d see how much I could borrow. John Bright St opened in September 2014, again things were tight, a few months in a row I was late paying people which was definitely the lowest point, but they stuck by me, which I’ll never forget” admits Jen. “I may have done it the hard way, but the whole point was to be my own boss, make my own mistakes and trust my own long game, so an investor was out of the question for me.”

    “Growth for the sake of growth, take more money, spend less every year. Kudos to those people who have built big businesses from nothing, but it’s not a road I think ends well for staff or customer experience.” And whilst so many other places might bang on about customer experience, people are at the heart of Cherry Reds – both the customers and the staff. Jen is thankful for both; “I have been fortunate enough to work with and serve some awesome humans over the last seven years, as well as working alongside great businesses made up of more great humans. I thank them all for truly caring, helping me build my little business and making the tough times worth getting through.”

    Cherry Reds in Kings Heath is closing because Jen wants it to become more, to flourish. And we’re not losing Cherry Reds entirely; “John Bright St Cherrys will continue to bring a little bit of the Kings Heath spirit into the city centre.” Jen tells me. And for that I’m thankful, because in a sea of chain coffee shops, pre-ripped wallpaper and overly complicated menus, there still sits a corner of the city where Cherry Reds stands out as the kind of place which welcomes everyone, without any fuss. And there’s nothing more Brummie than that.

    Cherry Reds in Kings Heath is currently up for sale and will close when a new buyer is found – which means you still have time to go. I’ll keep you updated.

    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.

    Breakfast and brunch, Reviews

    Quick brunch at Coffee Residence, Cotteridge

    I nearly entitled this ‘blown away by beans’ but then I realised that I would spent the entire post trying to slip in as many fart jokes as possible, and if you had any illusions of me being a serious food blogger then they would be shattered.  But seriously, who knew proper beans could elevate a full English breakfast?  Coffee Residence in Cotteridge, that’s who.

    In a haze of having booked a day off work to go cycling, only to be overcome with the lurgy and thusly subjecting myself to a day of errands, I wandered up to Cotteridge to go visit the charity shops.  Now whilst its neighbour Stirchley might be getting all the kudos for being the ‘Shorditch of Birmingham’ (seriously, whoever invented that, you need to stop), Cotteridge is a lot less cool, but it is functional – its got a sorting office, and a butchers, and a green grocers, and a bunch of fast food places, and a strange looking Italian that keeps threatening to close but never does. There is a cake decorating materials shop with some fantastic cakes in the window, but it’s hardly worth the trip for.

    In fact, before today my only experience of Coffee Residence was that it was the only place nearby that will do a big disco coffee for me to take out if I’ve visited the sorting office before work. But today a combination of the lurgy, a rather overambitious plan to take something back to the shop and lunchtime meant I needed a large coffee and some food, and there seemed the best option.

    The place is fairly functional, but cosy, although if anything it was a bit too warm for my liking, but that could well have been the lurgy talking.  There’s lots of seating, and I was pleased to find that it was nicely busy, which is pretty unusual for a Monday lunchtime in an area which doesn’t attract yummy mummy types.

    I ordered the Residence Breakfast and a large vanilla soya latte.  We’ll get to the breakfast in a minute, but let me tell you about the coffee.  It was an excellent disco coffee, and reasonable priced considering their idea of a large is actually more of a bucket.  It was disco-sweet without being sickly and frankly a lot better than a lot of the chain places I usually go if I want a warm caffeinated hug of a drink. It also survived because drunk lukewarm (I was distracted by the breakfast).

    The Residence Breakfast consists of a butchers sausage, streaky bacon, scrambled egg, homemade rosti and beans, grilled tomato and sourdough toast, except I swapped out the grilled tomato for a mushroom which they were totally fine with.  For seven pounds it was a pretty good deal, although there’s a bigger breakfast if you fancy it.  And a bunch of other stuff – including hot dogs, which I saw a small girl trying to navigate trying to eat and she looked like she was having fun.

    Breakfast wise I was impressed.  Although the sausage was a little on the small side, but tasty nevertheless, the bacon was delicious – superbly salty and just what I wanted.  The mushroom was cooked well and I was pleased they let me substitute it, and the scrambled eggs were delightfully creamy and fluffy and utterly wonderful. The single slice of sourdough was sufficient and nicely toasted which gave it a crunch without making it too crusty.  But the absolute star of the show was the beans.  It was clear they were homemade and under normal circumstances I always want to see beans with my breakfast, but they’re there to make me feel a bit better about all the red meat, rather than any particular actual enjoyment.  Yet as I was munching away on the bacon I realised a plant-based lifestyle was never going to be something I’d achieve, I would honestly I’d come back here for beans on toast… they were that good.

    So there we have it, whilst Stirchley might have my favourite bakery, a vegan pie shop and a cracking couple of cafes…it turns out, up the hill isn’t so bad after all.

    Coffee Residence, 23 Watford Road, Cotteridge, Birmingham B30 1JB
    https://www.coffeeresidence.co.uk/

    Disclaimer: Paid for it all by myself, and though I didn’t tell them I was a food blogger, I don’t imagine they get many people who take out a camera to photograph their lunch. Then again this is Cotteridge, where stranger things have happened.

    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.