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Camden Town Brewery

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Review: Byron burgers finally bounce into Birmingham

    byron_proper_hamburgersMy first Byron experience was in 2013 on one of my many trips to London, which I claimed was about seeing friends, but was really about going to go eat burgers.  So, shame on Byron for taking this long to get to Birmingham.  Salisbury has one and it only has a population of 45,000; York, Harrogate, Exeter and Camberley all have ones.  Manchester’s got three Byron’s…but, you know, no Michelin stars, so we’re clearly still winning in that respect.  I can only imagine that with a Birmingham-born burger chain already here, they figured they’d come back to us later.

    So what of the Birmingham one?  Located on New Street, the fact that it means that lovely old building is no longer some sort of gambling-machine arcade is major plus points.  Inside the space is well used; there’s an open kitchen it doesn’t feel forced into being the centre of attention and there’s enough interior design that it doesn’t feel like a canteen.  Apparently they’ve gone for a Cuban-inspired ‘Havana Good Time’; I’ve no idea quite what that is supposed to mean but the warm, tropical colours are used well. The exposed brickwork and relics of the old cinema knocking about if you know where to look too.  It feels like a nice space to be in, warm and inviting, not too gimmicky.

    Byron's smoky burger with Byron sauceFood wise it’s all about the burgers.  Okay sure there are some wings and chicken nuggets and things for starters, but this about the burger.  It’s a simple menu, with a regularly-changing special, but there’s enough to keep you interested and back to try different things.  And my mum will be pleased because they already specify that you can order a burger without the bun, or a salad if you really must.

    I’m re-evaluating my friendship with Jo-ann after she ordered the Smoky burger and swapped the smoked chilli BBQ sauce for Byron sauce…because seriously, BBQ sauce.  She did say it was really good although did feel there might’ve been a bit too many crispy onions, but I think that’s just because for once I wasn’t the one who made the biggest mess.

    Byron burger from Birmingham with friesI had the Byron burger because I’d hope that if you’re going to put your name on something it should be good; dry-cure bacon, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion and Byron sauce, cooked medium in what they call a squishy bun, with a pickle on the side and then I added some fries.  The fries managed to survive being left to go a bit cold as I took photos and didn’t seem to suffer, still holding a crunch.  I liked the burger, it is simple but a nice mix of flavours and was cooked medium as standard, which makes me happy.  But, I wasn’t blown away by it, and maybe that’s my fault for ordering what’s akin to the house burger. And I’ve been spoiled for burgers.

    Drinks wise, there’s something for everyone with milkshakes and soft drinks, as well as beers, wines and cider.  They have a couple of own-brand beers, made specially for them by Camden Town brewery, and I thought I ordered a Byron pale ale, but I’m pretty sure what arrived was a lager. I didn’t mention it to the staff because it was actually quite drinkable, even though I don’t often choose lager, which I think is a positive sign.

    byron_beer

    I’ve warmed to Byron since 2013, largely because I stopped expecting them to be the best burgers in town.  Instead, I realised that what they do well is providing somewhere you can go for dinner, that does simple burgers, but feels like going for dinner.  Over the years I’ve had some amazing burgers, but they’ve nearly all been in places where it’s all about the burger, and less about the experience.  Byron is where I could meet non-food-obsessed friends for dinner and a catch up and not be disappointed, but I doubt I’d convince them to trek to a sketchy part of town, queue for ages and then try and balance a beer and burger, no matter how out-of-this-world that burger is. Byron is about satisfyingly simple comfort food that’s burger-shaped, and I think there’s room for that in Birmingham.

    Byron burgers, 92 New Street, Birmingham, B2 4BA

    Bar reviews, Drinks, Reviews

    Botanist ale tasting

    botanist_beer_menu

    I’m a total sucker for a pretty drinks menu, so when I sat down at the table to hear about the new ales at the Botanist on Temple St I was already curious, and that was just because of some snazzy stationery.  Usually if I got to The Botanist, or anywhere really, I’ll stick to sprits and preferably in cocktail form.  It’s nothing personal, I’ve just never really spent the same amount of time learning about beer and which ones I like.  But then I got an invite to a tutored tasting from Kieran Hartley, one of the beer gurus at New World Trading Company, Botanist’s parent company, to hear about the 13 need beers and cider on the menu.  So I figured what the hell…

    beer_tutorial

    As one of the early birds, I ended up chatting beforehand with Bob and Sarah from Midlands Beer Blog, which is frankly a much better guide to beer drinking in the city.  For some reason we ended up discussing a Millionaire by Wild Beer Co.  On hearing our conversation, Kieran swapped out one of the beers to let us try this and I’m so glad he did, because it was so different from other ales I’ve tried.  Using lactose, which yeast can’t process so remains in the beer, it was designed to mimic salted caramel millionaire shortbread and did a pretty good job with an immediate salt hit, developing into dark chocolate.  Personally I’m not sure I could finish a whole bottle of the stuff, but I’d be willing to give it a try – or share it with a friend for a liquid pudding.

    botanist_beer_notes

    I really enjoyed the variety of beers we tried, which suggested that there was something for everyone.  The Camden Town Brewery’s Gentleman’s Wit is an award-winning Belgian style white beer made with slow-roasted lemons and bergamot.  It was a light, almost summery beer with not much aftertaste but very drinkable and would be good with dinner.  The Goose Island Honker’s Ale is an American take on English bitter, with dominant hops and a malty backbone whereas Thwaites Crafty Dan 13 Guns is an English take on an American style IPA – confused yet?

    I should probably point out that we were trying sample sizes of the beers along with hearing some history of the production of beer.  I’m a sucker for a good story so I always enjoy hearing the folklore surrounding drinks and there are plenty around beer.  The story Kieran told about the possible origins of India Pale Ale which accompanied us trying the Vedett IPA was entertaining, as was hearing that the samples of wheat grains that were passed round to get us to understand the history of beer had accidentally been eaten as a snack by another group!

    guinness_porter_botanistHonestly I couldn’t tell you what state The Botanist’s beer menu was before the new addition, but it now feels like a fairly comprehensive menu which had a wide variety of styles from IPAs to Belgian white beer, dark porters and a few oddballs.  Birmingham is quickly becoming a bit of a haven for beer drinkers and the Botanist’s new beer menu certainly makes it feel like it should be included on any ale trail.

    http://thebotanist.uk.com/location/birmingham

    Disclosure: I was invited to the tasting and drinks were complimentary, but that didn’t mean I had to be. One day I’ll get better at remembering names and I might remember what styles of beer I like.