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Independent Birmingham

    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

    Where independents lead, chains will follow…

    img_5712Brummies, we’ve got to stop being so harsh about our city.

    This morning I awoke to a headline in the Birmingham Post’s daily bulletin “Restaurants being ‘pushed out’ of Birmingham city centre by big chains” and of course it was the first thing I read (before coffee, rarely a good idea).  And I wondered if I was living in another Birmingham.

    Whenever I head to Manchester, I jump off the train, swing a right and make a bee line for the Northern Quarter and all its fab little indie hot spots; I’ve been to Bristol several times and yet to find any shops, but I know several streets with some great eateries; but Birmingham, we’re a bit messier than that.

    We don’t have a maze of streets, a Northern Quarter or such ilk.  In fact, I saw a similar discussion unfold about the city’s creative sector and where our ‘Northern Quarter’ was, because good lord to we like to compare ourselves to Manchester.  But even then I pointed out that we don’t have a quarter, we have Digbeth and the Jewellery Quarter and Moseley and Kings Heath.  We don’t have a quarter, because our independent scene is a lot more scattered than that.

    As I see it, independent venues are usually risk takers, leaders if you will, doing something a little bit different in the city.  And without the purse of a large chain behind them, they opt to go on the outskirts where rent is cheap.  Take John Bright St for example.  For nearly five years there was nothing worth visiting there except The Victoria.  It took years before Brewdog (its indie qualities debatable), followed by Cherry Reds and now the chains – Turtle Bay, The Stable (51% shares of the company belong to Fuller’s brewery), easyhotel is looking to build, rumours of a pub chain too.  And Moseley seems to be going the same way.

    Independents lead the way, more often than not the chains follow.

    And that must be incredibly frustrating for some; just as an area is beginning to get a reputation for being worth going to, those chains with buying power can use their reputation and wallets to beat the places that made it worth going to in the first place.

    useitloseit

    Another post I wrote recently on a similar topic

    So are Birmingham’s independents being pushed out of the city centre?  I’d argue it was never really their playground to start with.  I’ve never considered Birmingham city centre to be a haven for independents, but then again neither have I Bristol nor Manchester.

    And I’m not belittling the need for more centrally located independent venues, because I don’t want Birmingham to become a homogeneous version of every other city centre.  But I also don’t expect to see Grand Central Birmingham awash with them either (that said the excellent Yaki Nori, a Birmingham independent, is in there).  Rents in the city centre are high, of course they are, they’re prime locations and as city on the up it’s hard to see this stopping.  And landlords want the safe bet of a national chain they know will pay.  It’s massively frustrating as someone that wants to sit in an Andy Low ‘n’ Slow or The Meatshack venue, but can’t because they can’t find space.

    And it’s not all doom and gloom: Original Patty Men have managed to find a great location tucked around the corner from the Bullring; Nomad are right by New Street Station; the Jewellery Quarter is awash with places; suburbs like Moseley, Kings Heath and Harborne have got some great indie eateries; and of course we can’t forget the likes of Sparkhill and Sparkbrook where the majority of the Balti Belt in indie.  Hell, get an Independent Birmingham card, show there is an appetite for independent venues in the city.

    Don’t be fatalistic; demand better, support what we’ve got, and don’t give up.

    Events, Pop Ups and Streetfood

    Seaonal Markets – Winter Market

    finally made it down to one of the fantastic Seasonal Markets that I’d been meaning to go to all year.

    Held last Saturday in The Bond in Digbeth, the Winter Market had a fantastic line up of street food vendors and craft sellers, plus a lovely chilled out atmosphere.  Despite not being able to feel my feet for most of the visit, I braved the poor choice of footwear and had a great time.  Awaiting a friend, who was running late, I bumped into the lovely Vicky from Yelp and Joe from Independent Birmingham and chatted with them about some of the great stalls at the event.  Which basically meant we all talked about food.  After that it was late friend be damned and I went for a Meatshack burger before the crowds got too much.  That said, although it was pretty busy, whilst I was there, the queues for all the street food vendors were never too bad.  I had the standard Meatshack burger and my first bite reminded me that it had been too long since I’d indulged in their filthy goodness.

    After my friend arrived she too went for a Meatshack burger and then it was time to look round the craft stalls.  I’d seen the newsletter from I Choose Birmingham the day before which showcased some of the stuff on sale, including some lovely notepads from Sparrow & Wolf, and the giant stationery nerd that I am had to have them – better yet, an offer through Droplet meant that I essentially got one for free!

    Lenny from Lenny Loves had recommended the mince pie toastie from Jabberwocky so I claimed this as pudding and was lucky enough to get the last one.  Such a simple yet ingenious idea of a toastie filled with mincemeat, this was deliciously rich which really complemented the brandy butter (my, that had a kick to it).  I couldn’t eat a whole one, so lucky my friend was on hand to take some off my hands.  A gingerbread cupcake for later, some dinosaur chocolates for my friend and it was time for us to head off.

    Thankfully the Winter Market wasn’t the last of it and the Seasonal Markets will be back at The Bond next year, so it’s a case of watch their Facebook page for the dates.

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