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    Musings, Round ups

    International Women’s Day 2017


    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.

     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.

    Imogen Hudson, Jen Smith, Holly Smith and Jen Nadin (Cherry Reds). Picture, used with permission, by Jas Sansi

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Rosie Ginday, Miss Macaroon, promotional photo

    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.

    Kaye Winwood

    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.

    Opus Restaurant Irene Allen, photo used with permission

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Happy International Women’s Day ladies (and gents) – lets raise a glass to those women making Birmingham great!

    Drinks, Food and Restaurant News, News, Pub and Drinks News

    Argentinean wine dinner at Opus


    At a loose end tomorrow evening and like your wine? Opus on Cornwall St is hosting a dinner and drinks pairing with a range of wine from the vineyards of the Mendoza region in Argentina.

    During the evening, wine from Opus supplier Eduardo Pulenta’s prestigious estate will be expertly paired with five specially-prepared courses created by Opus’ chefs. Opus are notoriously proud of their suppliers and it’s a rare opportunity to meet and learn more about them. Eduardo will educate and regale diners with stories from his family vineyard in the beautiful but demanding landscape in the shadow of the Andes Mountains.

    Ann Tonks, managing director at Opus, said: “It’s a pleasure to have Eduardo in the restaurant and showcasing his beautiful wines. The Pulenta family have been growing grapes since 1912 and Eduardo’s passion shines through when he’s telling customers about their award-winning wine.”

    The dinner costs £75 per person and includes five courses, an aperitif, wine with each course and service. For more information call 0121 200 2323.

    Bar reviews, Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Yelp at Bar Opus

    I’ve been meaning to go to Bar Opus ever since they announced the opening.  I really have no excuse; I’ve enjoyed trips to their two sister venues and it’s round the corner from work, but yet somehow it was still on the ‘to visit’ list.  So when Yelp Birmingham announced they were doing a cocktail event there – I asked very nicely if I could go along.IMG_1326.JPG

    Two Snowhill, where Bar Opus is located, is an impressive building and the tall skyscraper feel is echoed in the venue.  It’s lofty and open plan with the bar and kitchen both open to curious customers.  Open from 7.30am for breakfast, I can imagine it’s an ideal place to go for a breakfast meeting, although they also serve light lunches and bar plates at other times of the day so it’s got every culinary mealtime covered.

    For Yelp’s Cocktail Opus (love the pun), we were graciously given a drink on arrival and a chance to catch up, before being treated to a gin cocktail masterclass by Langley’s brand ambassador, Carl Hawkins.  Carl helped found, and managed, the gin paradise that is The Jekyll & Hyde so it was clear that he knew his stuff and having seen Carl perform (honestly, it’s the only word for it, he’s a true showman), I knew we were in for a treat.  Balancing the story of gin’s evolution can be as tricky as balancing a cocktail, but Carl kept it humorous, interesting and full of things to taste, including a couple of cocktails; the classic Collins, which we made ourselves and contained rhubarb syrup; a Spanish-style G&T made by people who knew what they were doing; and finally we were presented with a twist on a White Lady – a carbonated version which was incredibly moreish.

    IMG_1337.JPGOnce we were suitably merry from all the gin it was time for some food.  Having dined at both Opus on Cornwall St and Cafe Opus in the Ikon Gallery my expectations were high and whilst I didn’t get to try a massive range it was good.  The fish cakes covered in sesame seeds were lovely and light and weren’t stingy on the fish and whilst the burgers weren’t my favourite in the city they were pretty decent.

    Sadly I had to skip off after that, although it would’ve been lovely to stay and check out their bar more, and order something from the menu. But on our way out we were presented with Opus privilege cards, which is a great excuse to go back – and I certainly intend to!

    Disclosure: I was invited to Yelp’s Cocktail Opus free of charge in exchange for writing something on Yelp about the event.  Rightly so Yelp are pretty keen on people being honest about their experiences and don’t require you to write anything positive unless you actually believe it.  Which I can totally get behind.  Thanks to Vicky, community manager for Yelp Birmingham for the invite.

    Events, News

    Birmingham Chilli Festival returns

    chillifestival2014The weather today might be a bit drizzly but thankfully Brindley Place’s Birmingham Chilli Festival is back again to put some fire in your belly!

    Themed ‘Celebrating Chillies around the World’ the Birmingham Chilli Festival takes place from 11am – 6pm, today and tomorrow (aka Friday 19 and Saturday 20 September).  In association with Sketts, the event will feature a number of stalls selling chilli plants, pickles, pastes and jellies, as well as some streetfood vendors selling chilli influenced dishes.

    In terms of entertainment, there will be live cooking demonstrations from Cafe Rouge, Thai Edge and David Colcombe from Café Opus, as well as a Chilli Eating Competition.  During the contest, each participant will be challenged to eat a selection of chilli varieties including Naga, Scotch Bonnet, Thai Red and Poblano, until only two are left to face the final chilli-off.

    The event schedule for the two days is listed below.  For more information, visit


    FRIDAY 19th SEPTEMBER 2014       11.00am – 6.00pm

    11.00am Chilli Festival Opens
    11.00am – 11.30am Chilli Chat – Introduction to the world of Chillies
    11.30pm – 12.00pm Kitchen School making an Italian-inspired Chilli dish
    12.00pm – 2.00pm ENTERTAINMENT: Synergy Live (Mediterranean)
    2.00pm – 2.30pm Café Opus at IKON making a British-inspired Chilli dish
    3.00pm – 3.30pm Café Rouge making a French-inspired Chilli dish
    4.30pm – 5.00pm Afia’s Samosa Shop making an Indian-inspired Chilli dish
    5.00pm – 5.30pm ENTERTAINMENT: Eternal Taal Bhangra Entertainments Team
    5.30pm – 6.00pm Bank vs. Piccolino – Cocktails at dawn (well 5.30pm…)
    6.00pm Chilli Market Closes


    SATURDAY 20th SEPTEMBER 2014       11.00am – 6.00pm

    11.00am Chilli Market Opens
    11.00am – 11.30am ENTERTAINMENT: Someone at the Door Samba Band
    11.30am – 12.00pm Coast2Coast making an American-inspired (Louisiana) Chilli dish
    12.30pm – 1.00pm ENTERTAINMENT: Latin Motion, offering free Latino dance lessons
    1.00pm – 1.30pm City Cafe making a Moroccan-inspired Chilli dish
    1.30pm – 2.00pm Thai Edge making a Thai-inspired Chilli dish
    2.30pm – 3.00pm ENTERTAINMENT: Fire Eaters, Stilt Jumpers & Eternal Taal Bhangra Entertainments Team
    4.00pm – 4.30pm Sharian’s Cuisine making a Caribbean-inspired Chilli dish
    4.30pm – 6.00pm ENTERTAINMENT: Rudie & The Revolvers (Caribbean)
    Pub and Drinks News

    Two new bars for Birmingham – Bar Opus and Botanist

    Bars are like buses, it seems.  You don’t have a new one open for a while and then two come at once – or at least before the year’s end.

    The Opus family will be welcoming their third venue at the foot of One Snowhill.  Opening in November, Bar Opus will be open for breakfast and lunch, but it’s the after-work concept which is where the bar will really come into its own.  Drawing inspiration from Barcelona and Copenhagen, the team have created a concept which sees their chefs creating a selection of sharing plates in an open kitchen.

    Centred in the heart of the Business District and with a pedigree which is already well respected in the city, Bar Opus is likely to be an excellent addition to the city.

    The Botanist has also slowly been making some noise, albeit very quietly.  Eagle-eyed Brummies will have noticed the licensing application that went up on Cheltenham House, Temple St a couple of months ago.  The application belongs to Northern-based New World Trading Company, who are said to be bringing their popular brand to the city; with the Botanist concept already proving popular in Leeds and similar venues in Manchester.  Julian Rose-Gibbs, previous general manager of The Victoria, is set to be involved…a pairing which is sure to see it succeed in the city.

    Pop-up and Event reviews

    Colmore Business District Food Festival 2014

    This time last week I was heading back to the office full of all the delights from the Colmore Business District’s Food Festival…and what a great event it was!  The CBD food festival has been running for a few years, but this year really felt like it’s best one yet – the sun was shining, there were plenty of people for a great atmosphere but the queues were minimal and moved quickly.

    With stalls spanning the breath of Colmore’s fine food and drink offerings, there was everything from fine dining to coffee shops, gin parlours, real ale, dim sum, hot dogs and more.  Most of the stalls were selling items for the £3 mark, which was a great move and seemed to add to the quick turn over in people waiting.  There was also a demonstration stage and a live music stage with a great band playing when I attended – though sadly I didn’t catch their name.

    Feeling a bit spoilt for choice I opted to start with sweet chilli chicken from Jojolapa, a place I’ve heard really good things about.  The chicken was well cooked but I found the sauce too sweet without enough kick to it for my taste, which was a little disappointing but not enough to put me off visiting.

    I stopped off at Urban Coffee for a taste of a Yipsy Macaron which was light, chewy and lovely.  Then after a short wait whilst men with clipboards inspected the stall, it was The Bureau’s Deli Dog for main…a lovely meaty sausage with fresh bread bun.  I wasn’t overly keen on the onions, but then I rarely am on hot dogs, but overall a very nice and easy to eat dish – perfect for a food festival!

    After some time watching the band on stage I headed to Opus Restaurant, based on Cornwall St in the Colmore Business District.  I fancied something sweet and their Strawberry Bombe did not disappoint.  Desserts always seem to get a bit forgotten about in restaurants, but this sphere of meringue with a strawberry and mascarpone filling and strawberry sauce was just stunning.  Fresh, light and a perfect summer pud, it made you want to scoff it down and savour it all at once.  The meringue was crisp and chewy and just perfect.  I enjoyed my trip to Opus last year, but this made me want to return sharpish.

    The Colmore Business District is a fine showcase of the delicious food on offer in the heart of Birmingham city centre.  It runs for two days once a year, and already, I can’t wait until next year.