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    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.

    Events, News

    Kings Heath Action For Refugees present Eat & Greet

    I’ve sort of stopped doing events notifications on here because there’s just so frigging many going on in Birmingham that I can’t keep up, but my friend is helping out with this one and it is for a really good cause.

    Eat & Greet is taking place on Saturday 20th August from midday to 5pm at the New Life Baptist Church on Kings Heath High Street (it’s pretty much opposite Asda, you can’t miss it).  It promises to be an exciting foodie experience, with contributions from some cracking local restaurants and eateries including Peel & Stone, Damascena, The Real Junk Food Project and more.  And if you fancy it, feel free to bring a dish of something delightful to share too.

    As well as some great food, there’s live music from the likes of Anna Palmer of local band Dorcha, Balsall Heath’s David Benjamin Blower and Amit Dattani.  And if you’re feeling a bit creative, there’s a craft corner – with activities for both children and adults; Paperdoll Handmade Market will be delivering a lovely crafty activity for children and for adults, the Birmingham Craftivists will be there with their subversive bunting…which is the best kind of bunting in my eyes.

    They’ve also got some great raffle prizes donated from the likes of PlayStation, Cosy Club,The Electric Cinema, Connolly’s Wines, 40 St Pauls, The Vegan Grindhouse, The Botanist, CircusMash and more.

    The whole shindig is in aid of raising money for Leros Solidarity Network, who support refugees fleeing conflict.  Leros is a small Greek island which has seen huge numbers of refugees from fleeing the brutal war in Syria.  LSN is funded purely through donations and provides critical initiatives to help provide a humanitarian response to the crisis.  There will be people from LSN, as well as volunteers who have spent time volunteering in refugee camps in Calais at Eat & Greet, but for more info on LSN head to; http://www.lsn-uk.com/

    Tickets are £5 for adults and £2 for children over five, plus you can also buy a ticket for refugee and Asylum Seekers living in the city.  To purchase tickets, head to http://www.wegottickets.com/event/363530

    Cafe reviews, Reviews

    Lunch at Black Lab, Kings Heath

    latte_black_lab_kings_heath

    Usually I wait till I get home until I write up a review, think about the experience overall and uh, digest stuff. But I’m sat in the window of Black Lab, a coffee bar and lounge in Kings Heath, where I’ve been waiting for half an hour for a sandwich and if I don’t focus on something then I’m going to start eating the potted plant I’m sat next to.

    Frankly I probably should’ve expected this when I tried to go earlier and it was inexplicably closed. And then I went to do some errands and walked past and it was open.  So I went in.  It’s has this nice shabby chic look to it, a bit grungy and mismatched furniture, exposed brickwork…you know, very Kings Heath.

    The drinks menu has some nice inclusions on there, particularly the spirits menu which has about four bottles per category and not just the same old typical ones. Compared to its sister suburb Moseley and a few notable venues aside, Kings Heath feels like more of a daytime place so it seems promising to have somewhere else nice and interesting to go in the evening.

    And the coffee menu is fairly to the point, which is what I’d expect from a coffee bar and lounge. But it seems to do it a disservice because whatever they’re doing the coffee is good. I went for a soya latte and it was deliciously sweet and creamy, with a nice head of foam. In hindsight it didn’t need the sugar, but the cube I dropped in suspended nicely.  Frankly if I wasn’t so annoyed at having to wait over half an hour for a toastie I’d have ordered another.  But I’ll be dammed if I’m going to buy a second drink because it takes so long for my food to arrive.chorizo_sandwich_black_lab_kings_heath

    Initially I’d tried to order the Serrano, mozzarella and spinach toastie, only to be told it wasn’t on the menu…despite being in the actually menu I ordered from. Something about causing too many accidents, so I went for its sister version with chorizo. After an age it finally arrived and whilst it wasn’t worth the half hour wait, it was delicious. The bread had been well toasted but still retained a buoyancy that meant you didn’t fear any accidents biting into it and the ratios of  Serrano, mozzarella and spinach were spot on.

    Black Lab looks like a great little space and certainly feels a lot more Kings Heath than the odd little cafe there before. What they’re serving is very good, and diversifying a bar/lounge to be useful during the day is a sound idea, but if they’re going to do this they maybe need to rethink their approach.  Kings Heath isn’t exactly known for good places for coffee and Black Lab should probably make more of a song and dance about theirs. But they should probably buy another sandwich press too.

    Black Lab, 100 High Street, Kings Heath, Birmingham, B14 7JZ

    Disclosure: the sandwich, the coffee, me paying for it and the epically long wait were all real. Pretty sure they didn’t know I was writing this up.

    Food and Restaurant News, News, Pub and Drinks News

    Coming Soon #5

    comingtobrum5

    So this latest edition of Coming Soon (see editions one, two, three and four) is also a list of places that opened but I was too busy moving house and pretend to have a life to tell you about them.  Here are a few more soon to open and at the bottom are a few ones that you might have missed, as well as a goodbye to an old favourite…

    Vivaanta

    In the venue that used to be Kinnaree, opposite the Cube, Vivaanta is due to open at the end of July.  An Indian restaurant which will feature familiar dishes, there is said to be a fairly extensive seafood menu, and they’re also planning on specialising in cocktails.  They’re pretty active on Facebook, so worth having a look for updates; https://www.facebook.com/vivaanta

    Eli’s Restaurant in Bearwood

    Whilst nearby Harborne might be claiming the area’s culinary crown, Eli’s restaurant might just make diners trek a little further.  Calling themselves an artisan restaurant, Eli’s aims to put itself at the heart of the community, welcoming diners to become part of the family and allowing them to discover and support local artists and crafts people.  From the looks of it, they’re aiming to open towards the end of August. http://elisrestaurant.co.uk/

    Harvey Nichols

    With a fairly extensive refurbishment going on, Harvey Nics’ new look will include a large food market area and their restaurant is a collaboration with the Yummie Brummie himself, Michelin-starred chef Glynn Purnell.  Whilst I haven’t seen any official details on the place, a little bird did let me sneak a peek at their menus and it looks like it’s going to be pretty exciting.

    Mockingbird Bar & Bistro

    The cinema and theatre space in the Custard Factory has always seemed a little quiet, but fresh off the back of their success at the Sunflower Lounge, Big Papas are relaunching it as a bar and bistro.  The focus will be on fresh seasonal produce, with locally sourced produce and a drinks menu which takes inspiration from cocktail bars in Harlem but focuses on independently crafted drinks and the local breweries.  The bar and bistro is set to launch in August.

    Viva Brazil

    This award-winning restaurant and authentic Brazilian-style steakhouse is heading to Bennetts Hill in September, taking over the former Isaacs on the corner of Waterloo St.  They’re certainly going big with this are the two floors are set to seat 200 people, with 15 kinds of meat and 20 choices of salads on offer to hungry diners.  A variety of other Brazilian dishes will also be served and a menu which puts the Caipirinha at the heart of its cocktail menu is going to make it an interesting neighbour to fellow South American bar and cantina, Bodega. http://www.vivabrazilrestaurants.com/

    Adam’s is on the move

    This is more of an FYI, as Michelin-starred Adam’s restaurant, which always claimed its Bennetts Hill location was a temporary space, is set to move round the corner to Waterloo St. If proposals get the go ahead, their new home will be the locally listed art deco building, New Oxford House.

    Eagle and Ball

    Birmingham City University have been building like demons on the Eastside of the city centre.  Thankfully though, they’re incorporating the Grade II listed pub on Gopsall Street as part of their student hub.  It’s due to reopen in September this year.

    Celebz diner

    Currently based in Longbridge, Celebz is branching out to the old Sound Bar near the Children’s Hospital for its second venue.  They bill themselves as an All American Diner, with milkshakes, build your own burgers, peri-peri and southern fried chicken, and an extensive waffles and sundaes list for dessert. http://celebz.co.uk/

    Meating Birmingham

    Taking over the old Mono bar in the Arcadian, Meating calls itself a steakhouse on Facebook.  It also says to “expect rare breed steaks, the best burgers, kebabs, all cooked on our bespoke charcoal BBQ” along with an in-house “Gelato parlour serving waffles, sundaes and shakes”. Due to open in September. http://thatmeatingplace.com/

    Opened recently…

    Sunny’s Soul Shack at Sunflower Lounge

    With Big Papas moving on to the Mockingbird, Sunnys Soul Shack has taken over the kitchen and is keeping with the soul food cuisine.  Think rump steak beef mince burgers with rough cut chips, buttermilk chicken breast in a brioche roll and their signature Sunny’s Hash. https://www.facebook.com/Sunnyssoulshack

    Umami in Harborne

    This Indian kitchen and cocktail bar opened last month in Harborne with ex-Itihaas chef, Mandeep Bajwa at the helm.  I’ve already reviewed it here.

    El Borracho de Oro in Edgbaston

    I haven spectacularly failed to mention this new tapas restaurant in Edgbaston on any of the coming soon posts, which is an utter shame because their previous venture Don Diago had rave reviews. Also they’re now doing breakfasts called the ‘Full Spanglish’ which are available throughout the week and on the third Sunday of the month too. www.elborracho.co.uk

    Vegan Store for Kings Heath

    It’s a wondered it took South Birmingham so long to acquire one of these, but they’re finally open in the cluster of shops just a bit further up the Alcester Rd from Kings Heath high st. Whilst they’re still a bit of a work in progress they seem to be stocking a fairly decent range of vegan products. http://www.theveganstore.co.uk/

    Java Lounge in town

    After ten years, Independent Moseley based coffee shop has expanded to the city centre to take over the well-loved Hudsons tea house.  They have freshened the place up and whilst it doesn’t have the old world charm Hudsons used to, it has a nice nod to the history of coffee and the wide selection of cakes, milkshakes, sandwiches and coffees as their South Birmingham branch. http://www.javaloungecoffee.com/

    Goodbye to…

    Yorks Bakery Cafe recently announced the closure of its Newhall St venue in a slightly bizarre news item on the website.  However it doesn’t seem all bad news at their Colmore Row venue is due to stay open and from their twitterings and article, it seems like it’s more of a Doctor-Who style metamorphosis into something new and exciting. www.yorksbakerycafe.co.uk

    Have I missed somewhere?  Birmingham seems to be awash with new venues this year so most likely!  If I have, please drop me an email hello @ FulltotheBrum .co.uk or send me a tweet or Facebook message.