Birmingham waitress achieves prestigious hospitality award

GABRIELLA MUREA1A talented waitress at city-centre restaurant Opus at Cornwall Street, Gabriella Murea, has achieved the celebrated Service Award at this year’s Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Annual Awards of Excellence.

The final, which took place on Saturday 16th May at Le Gavroche, London, saw Gabriella and 15 other finalists from some of the country’s finest restaurants and hotels serve a three course meal to two guests. As part of the service, Gabriella had to set up the table, decant and describe the wine, and fillet a dover sole in front of the diners. The awards, which have a high-profile judging panel, received an unprecedented number of entries and are designed to encourage young people within hospitality to achieve the highest possible standards in their profession.

Gabriella, 26, has worked at Opus for just over six months whilst studying hospitality and events management at University College Birmingham (UCB) and was the only finalist from the Midlands to be shortlisted for the award. Speaking about her achievement, she said: “I’m so happy to have passed and got my award. I prepared as much as I could for each stage of the process and it has really paid off. The standard was very high and I am delighted that the judges saw the quality of work that I can produce and felt it worthy of the award.”

Irene Allan, restaurant director at Opus restaurant, said: “This is such a fantastic achievement for Gabriella. She is an absolute perfectionist and always delivers superb service, so to have this award as recognition of that is a huge accomplishment. Pawel, our restaurant manager, has been an inspiring mentor for Gabriella and has supported all her hard work. We are committed to developing both our front of house and kitchen teams and encourage them to go for awards like this. Everyone at Opus is immensely proud of her and we’re privileged to have her working with us.”

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Pride: Streetfood, Running, Proms, Rubber, Music, Drag etc. – Preview

Birmingham Pride 2015 Main StageThere are just two days to go until one of the biggest party weekends in Brum – no not the Eurovision song contest – we’ve been getting the lowdown on what’s on where at Birmingham Pride 2015.  This year’s LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) celebration is themed on “Freedom – Forever United”, reminding us that though the weekend will be spent in revelry that so many people around the world don’t have the opportunity to be themselves and love who they want to love.

Every year the event gets slightly bigger and slightly better.  The program of acts and entertainment planned for this year is varied and impressive.  The two day event will kick off in flamboyant style with a carnival parade around the city centre streets starting at Victoria Square at midday on Saturday 23rd May.  Once that’s over you can head to the gaybourhood with your wristbands or tickets and catch Jesse Glynne, Heather Small, Ms Dynamite, Boney M, Fuse ODG, Union J and many more on the main stage.  Take a look at this programme of events to see where to be when to catch your favourite acts.

Alternatively if you’re not easily offended you can watch some outrageous cabaret like Rubber Pups Birmingham Pride 2013Sandra and Topping & Butch in the marquee.

If you’re feeling sedate you can sit with a Pimms watching the dog show.  Actual dogs, not the erm, rubberised kind, though the puppy pack will probably be sniffing around the place too, they were last year.

If you’re feeling cultured you can get yourselves to Birmingham Pride 2015 PromsBirmingham Conservatoire on Saturday evening to attend the Birmingham Gay Symphony Orchestra (BGSO) Pride Proms.

Obviously there will be the usual host of streetfood vendors for those who just want to party hard, but we know our readers are in to the finer foods in life, so you may want to check out a Brum Yum Yum event – Streetfood Speakeasy.  They’ll be popping up at Amusement 13 on Kent Street.  Brum Yum Yum founder Duncan Stanley Says: “The launch falls on Birmingham Pride Weekend, the UK’s biggest LGBT weekender. Streetfood Speakeasy will be serving throughout the weekend, 5-10pm on Friday, 12-10pm Saturday and Sunday. So festival goers can escape the mayhem, relax & refresh with real food & ravishing cocktails”.  You can find more info on Streetfood Speakeasy on Facebook here.

If you’re feeling particularly energetic ahead of Pride and want to take a proactive Birmingham Pride 2015 Entertainment Plannerstrike against the alcoholic calories you’re invariably going to imbibe then I’d suggest meeting up for a run on Thursday evening with LGBT running group The Birmingham Swifts (website here and also on twitter here).

All you need to know about Pride is available on their website (  If you’re planning on attending do checkout how and where to get tickets, and note that ticket purchasing will be extremely busy between 10 and 3 on Saturday.

Happy pride!

Birmingham Pride 2015 Dog Show


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Brugal Rum LogoFrom the same stable as Rib Nights & UK Burger Battle, this month saw the launch of their slightly more civilised (at least at the start of the night) big brother, CocktailXChange.

Rib Nights & UK Burger Battle have been a great success in the city for forever boisterous Ahmed Kage, and his new event – CocktailXChange – offers more of the same grown-up fun. The first of the series of events was sponsored by Brugal Rum from the Dominican Republic, which will be followed by further cocktail evenings showcasing specific spirits.

The format of this first event was fairly simple.  After a welcome drink of a very tasty Dark CocktailXChange - Out In Brum - Tasting Card& Stormy, the man himself (this time thankfully without the air-horn though nonetheless with a microphone never far away) introduced us to Luke Todd-Wood from Maxxium who was there to promote and educate us about all things rum.

We were talked through the history and finer points of rum production, whilst being introduced to the range and brand of Brugal.

We were then led through a tasting of 5 different styles of rum that Brugal had to offer. After tasting each sample (some maybeCocktailXChange - Out In Brum - Smoked Mackerel Bon Bon CanapeCocktailXChange - Out In Brum - Smoked Mackerel Bon Bon Canape more than one sample but we won’t mention any name, eh, Nicky) we were then given a cocktail that had been specially prepared by the bar team at Bar Opus who were joined in the event from the Cosy Club’s new bar manager Andrew Hyman.

Each cocktail as well as being created to make the most of each rum’s characteristics was also designed to pair with a canapé created by the Bar Opus kitchen team.

We then had some time to enjoy each cocktail & canapé and discuss with others whilst being entertained by a couple of live numbers from duo David & Crystal.

The rounds we were treated to included:

  • The Maestro: Brugal extra dry, cucumber & mint water, fresh lime, ginger & chilli syrup.  Served with  smoked mackerel bonbon with limed salt.CocktailXChange - Out In Brum - The Maestro Cocktail
  • Pineapple & Coconut Fizz (a take on a Piña Colada & Ramos Gin Fizz combined together): pineapple & honey cordial, coconut cream soda, Brugal Anejo Rum, sprinkled with toasted desiccated coconut.  Served with Jerk chicken.
  • The Volcano: Dry Spiced Brugal rum (not yet released but undergoing trials in Bristol & Glasgow), black smoked Lapsang Souchong tea, cherry juice, mango, passion fruit, peach puree, lime juice served over a smoking bed of tea.  Served with king prawn & passion fruit, mango & ginger.
  • Brugal XV, prune liqueur, soda water served in a coffee pot and poured over a sugar cube coated in orange bitters.  Served with plantain crisp with guacamole & cubed mango salsa.

This was just the first in the series of events planed by the team.  The forthcoming events includes a special to celebrate world gin day. The CocktailXChange journey continues with a swap of bar tenders (mixologists if you prefer) from the Brum bar scene with other cities CocktailXChange - Out In Brum - David & Crystalboth in the UK and around the world.

Get following them on twitter for more information, and make sure you follow the brains behind all these events, Ahmed Kage, to keep up to date with his other food & drink projects and his soon to be announced return to the music scene with an upcoming release.

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Executive Chef promotion for Opus at Cornwall Street

Birmingham restaurant Opus at Cornwall Street, which is celebrating its 10th birthday this year, has promoted its head chef, Ben Ternent, to executive chef.

Having run the kitchen operations of Opus at Cornwall Street for some time, and having added Cafe Opus and Bar Opus for the last six months, the 30-year-old’s new role will see him managing a team of 11 chefs and three kitchen porters across the three venues, as well as developing menus, buying fine British produce from the company’s range of local and sustainable suppliers, and continuing to cook with the celebrated kitchen team.

Born and raised in Birmingham, Ben studied at the Birmingham College of Food (now UCB) during which he did a placement year in Denver, Colorado, where he got his first taste of a la carte cooking. He then joined Opus as one of the original team shortly after its launch in 2005 as a commis chef, and has gained 10 years’ worth of experience working in almost every section of its kitchen, to become one of its youngest members of management.

Opus chef Ben Ternent pic 1During his time at the restaurant, Ben has achieved a number of prestigious awards including being crowned the British Culinary Federation’s Young Chef of the Year in 2006 and achieving his Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Award of Excellence in 2009.

Speaking of his appointment, Ben said: “It’s now my job to develop our ever-growing team and motivate them to keep pushing the quality of our dishes and menus forward. It goes to show that hard work pays off and it’s a privilege for me to  be working with such talent. I’m now looking forward to delivering our new summer menus and organising some trips out to our suppliers.”

Ann Tonks, managing director at Opus, said: “Ben is so young and passionate, and his new position truly recognises the work that he’s been doing for some time now. He has built strong relationships with his team and our suppliers and is much loved by Opus’ staff and customers . We can’t wait to see what he and his team will be cooking up for us in the future.”

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A Celebratory People’s Banquet from Aktar Islam at Lasan

To celebrate Lasan’s 13th year in the city chef Aktar is preparing a feast fit for a Great British Menu judge!

For two days, he will be recreating the flavours of his winning menu “The People’s Banquet” from the popular BBC television series.

The menu, in keeping with the theme of the 6th series of the show, has been designed to bring people together to enjoy an unrivalled food celebration.

Banquet Details

Sunday 26th April 2015: 1pm – 9pm

Monday 27th April 2015: 6pm -9pm

To begin – A selection of Indian bites to get things started…

Crisp onion & spinach pakora, Rajasthani style chicken drumsticks, tandoori sweetbread, green pea and potato patties and mutton gilouti kebabs.

Francois Dulac, Brut NV

Fish – Flavours from the Konkan coast

Roasted wild Cornish bass marinated in Kokum and curry leaves, crisp caraway batter fried soft shell crab, wilted greens, raw mango infused coconut milk sauce and steamed rice cake.

Chateau Tanunda, Three Graces

 Main event – Raan

Slow roasted smoked shoulder of lamb, nigella cauliflower, lentil and pumpkin, aubergine  caviar accompanied by yakhni pilao and breads.

Alamos, Malbec

Pudding – Mitai, Something sweet to finish

Shrikand; mango & cardmon yoghurt brulee

Secua Chardonnay Dulce, Finca La Estacada

 Followed by…

Chai scented pannacotta & iced coconut cream

Plantation Barbados Grande Réserve 5yo Rum

Prices are for £45 per person with the wine flight adding an additional £16.95 per person

 To book call the reservation line on 0121 212 3664 or

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Tapas at Amantia Spanish Restaurant

Out In Brum - Amantia - Cured MeatsAmantia is the latest in a line of Tapas joints to open in recent years and sits next to one of the busiest restaurants in town serving sharing dishes and small plates – the much applauded Bodega. I was therefore expecting it to be rammed full of people on Easter Saturday at 6pm given that, surely, the hordes of people who get turned away from Bodega because it’s too busy (it’s a lot, and I’m regularly one of the departing disappointed) would simply go there instead. But no, there were only about six people in the large restaurant. Why, I wondered? Was this a bad sign?

I strongly suspect that people are put off by the aesthetics. The frontage is a bit stark with Out In Brum - Amantia - Salt Codlettering that can easily be missed, a grey colour on a cream painted background that needs another coat or two. The unfinished feel continued inside with bare cables hanging from walls, a missing staircase bannister, and large unframed photos not quite perfectly hung. I’m not sure whether it was the black too-high ceiling, the small tables, the colour scheme (purple!), or the harsh lighting, but it felt uninviting. Now I was worried.

A delightful waitress made us feel at ease. I’m fairly sure she was Spanish, otherwise she Out In Brum - Amantia - Gintonicwas doing a very good Spanish accent. There were four of us eating tapas and the waitress took us through some dishes and advised us how much we needed and told us which was her favourite. She also convinced us to try the signature gin cocktails. We tried an Apple & Cinnamon gin and tonic and also a Strawberry one (£6.50), which were both very tasty. I didn’t realise that G&T was particularly Spanish but apparently in recent years these “gintonics” as they’re known have taken off in Spain. Gintonic bars have sprung up that serve these refreshing flavoured and spiced G&Ts in large balloon glasses. They were moreish so I can see why they’re popular. We also had some spanish beers – pints of Alhambra, and bottles of Estrella.

So I had ascertained by now there was no problem with the service nor the drinks. How Out In Brum - Amantia - Calamariabout the food then? We had manchego with honey and almonds and a red pepper dip (£5.95), cured meats (£9.95), calamari (£6.95), Rioja cooked chorizo (£6.50), meatballs (£5.95), Spanish omelette (£4.95), aubergine chips (£5.95), black pudding and goats cheese pastries (£6.50), salt cod and mushroom croquettes (£5.95), and aubergine chips (£5.95). It was all good quality and I’d say it was all prepared well, and that the calamari and chorizo were very good. I don’t think anything was outstanding. Given the price point though I don’t think anyone could complain about amount or quality.

The tapas plates were all quite safe dishes I think, nothing too adventurous. Then again I’m used to the excellent Comida in Harborne whose tapas is as good as any you’ll eat. Out In Brum - Amantia - Manchego and HoneyDespite not being thrilled by the décor of Amantia I will go back and try the larger plates which seemed a little more exciting including octopus salad, Iberian pork in a cider sauce, and salmon steak with orange and taragon. I’m mildly confused why a Spanish restaurant has on its menu a Greek salad but I’m trying not to worry about it.

So in summary: décor a bit weird and homespun, food good, service good, price point reasonable. Give it a go!

Out In Brum - Amantia - Exterior

Posted in Area: Central Shopping, Area: Colmore Business District, Cuisine: Spanish, Cuisine: Tapas, Price: Average, Price: Cheap as Chips - Inexpensive, restaurant review, Venue type: Restaurant | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Restaurant duo reach semi-finals of prestigious hospitality awards

Two catering professionals at city-centre restaurant Opus at Cornwall Street have been announced as semi-finalists in this year’s Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Annual Awards of Excellence, the most prestigious award available to young people in the industry today.

Opus Kevin Steele and Gabriella Murea pic 1This year has seen the awards receive an unprecedented number of entries of an extraordinarily high standard and Gabriella Murea, waitress, and Kevin Steele, sous chef, have reached the semi-final stage of the service and kitchen awards respectively, alongside candidates from celebrated London restaurants such as Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Claridge’s. With a high-profile judging panel including celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, the awards are designed to encourage young people to achieve the highest possible standards in their profession.

Gabriella, 26, has worked at Opus for just five months whilst studying hospitality and events management at UCB, and has already taken part in the service semi-final, which took place at The Ritz on Saturday 21st March. Speaking about the day, she said: “I spent two weeks preparing and studying hard for the semi-final. I sat a written test of 75 questions, which asked everything from which countries different bottles of water are from to which glasses to use for various wines, it was very thorough. I think it went well and now I’m just waiting to hear if I’ve passed.”

Kevin, also 26, has worked at Opus for nearly three years and will be taking part in the regional kitchen semi-final on Wednesday 8th April at UCB, where he will be required to undertake a challenging theory and practical skills test.

Ann Tonks, managing director at Opus restaurant, said: “To have Gabriella and Kevin shortlisted is a huge achievement for them both. The majority of their competitors are from top London restaurants and to have the pair flying the flag for Opus, Birmingham and the industry as a whole is fantastic. We are committed to developing our kitchen and front of house teams and this competition gives them a great opportunity to develop their skills further. We couldn’t be more proud that they have reached this stage in such a demanding competition and they have the support of all of their colleagues.”

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