Birmingham Cocktail Culture – It’s a proper thing!

Out In Brum - The Balcony - CocktailToday the Birmingham Mail have published a list of five cocktail establishments in Birmingham which I don’t think much of.  It annoys me because invariably people visiting the city will type in to Google “Birmingham Cocktail Bars” and will come up with that list of mediocre venues.  So to try and make amends here’s a list of cocktail bars I would recommend.

So in no particular order…

  • Bank - Restaurant in Brindley Place catering for the business set.  Think suits, smart frocks, and after work Manhattans and Martinis.  No Woo Woos here.  Actually the well trained staff probably would make you a Woo Woo if you wanted one, and it would be the best you’d ever had.  Around £8 a drink.
  • Fumo – Classic Cocktails in this cicchetti (Venetian tapas) bar and restaurant are served by brooding Italian bar staff on the marble bar.  You’ll find the well healed set here who have just popped next door to Louis Vuitton and have their Ferrari outside the door.  Around £9 a drink.
  • Gingers Busy easy going bar with interesting concoctions, although we’d love them to bring back the deconstructed screwdrivers.  Around £7 a drink.
  • Marco Pierre Whites - Sometimes this bar on the 25th floor of The Cube is full of dreadful people in white tracksuits, but the view is good and if you can get a seat outside on the balcony in the summer it’s even better.  Drinks are upwards of £8.
  • Pravda - A bit off the wall this one, it’s the bar in The Hyatt hotel.  The cocktails are fantastic although the actual bar can be a bit soulless.  Drinks are upwards of £8.
  • Nuvo - Cocktails are interesting but it can be full of football WAG wannabees.  Around £8 a drink.
  • Pushkars - Beautiful Indian restaurant with a small but perfectly formed bar who really know how to mix a Martini and cocktails to go with the very special Indian food they serve.  Around £8 a drink.
  • The Balcony - This in-house bar in Selfridges is hidden away on the ultra-brand floor so you can get over the shock of paying for the Fendi handbag with a Belvedere Martini.  Around £9 a drink.
  • The Bureau - After work it’s full of bankers and lawyers.  They have a super selection of spirits and can whip up anything.  They’re also surprisingly reasonable.  Around £7 a drink.
  • Hotel La Tour - Super stylish hotel bar.  Try their 1889 house cocktail.  Delicious.  Around £8 a drink.
  • Bar Epernay - Really good for the classics and champagne cocktails.  Drinks from £8.

These next four are all part of the Bitters and Twisted independent chain in Birmingham.  They’re not swish and polished, but they make a bloody good cocktail and they’ve helped bring cocktail drinking to the core of Birmingham’s nightlife in my opinion.  Drinks at all of these will start from around £5 – very good value and they all have happy hours too!

  • Victoria - Out In Brum Mailbox Cocktails Epernay MixologistLooks like a pub, tastes like artisan cocktails.
  • Island Bar - Have their own Tiki bar upstairs!  Rumtastic.
  • Sugarloaf at Bodega - Cachaca and tequila ahoy.
  • Jeckyll and Hyde - Have their own Gin Parlour upstairs and a million gins.

That’s made me quite thirsty, might have to have a quick night cap…

Posted in Article, Venue type: Cocktail Bar | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

PREVIEW: Le Monde Fish Bar & Grill at Brindley Place

Le Monde LogoWe’ve been asked a few times recently where we’d recommend as a fish restaurant in the city, and we always have to sit and think about it.  Naturally given we’re one of the most land-locked cities of the UK, seafood doesn’t feature heavily on many menus.

There’s San Carlos of course (which for some reason we’ve never managed to get to), Epernay which usually has a good few fish dishes on its menu, and Anderson’s also generally offer something seafoody and tasty.  A company that’s run a fish restaurant in Cardiff for thirty years has spotted the gap in the Brummy market and are mid-way through a near £400,000 makeover of a unit above Cafe Rouge in Brindley Place.

The 150 cover Le Monde Fish Bar and Grill is being created from a former office unit and will open at the end of May offering its customers fresh fish and steaks.  There will also be areas for hire for events and meetings and there are plans for a bar with late night music.

The set up of the Cardiff restaurant will be retained in Birmingham – shellfish, fish, poultry and steaks will be on display for customers to choose exactly which cut / weight / fish / quantity they would like, and there will be an open kitchen where customers can see their meals being prepared. There is also a menu for those who prefer to do their ordering from the table.

We’re very much looking forward to another venue joining the Birmingham culinary scene.

http://www.le-mondebirmingham.co.uk

Posted in Area: Brindley Place, Article, Cuisine: Fish | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pure Bar & Kitchen

Out In Brum - Pure Bar and Kitchen - BeerPurity have been up and brewing since 2005. They started out in some disused barns in Warwickshire shipping their wares to shops, festivals, and anyone who’d buy them.  Now they’ve moved to a new brewery and from there they’ll also be shipping their own stock to their first bar which has opened quietly on Waterloo Street in Birmingham’s Colmore Business District – Pure Bar & Kitchen.

Purity are an independent business committed to sustainability and have invested in their new brewery to make sure it’s both energy and water efficient.  It’s the second specialist brewery to open a venue and join Birmingham’s ever growing dining and boozing scene in 18 months. The other is Brew Dog which has proved incredibly popular with many discerning drinkers who choose to part with their £5 for a pint there rather than spending half as much getting Out In Brum - Pure Bar and Kitchen - Scotch Eggstwice as drunk in some of the second city’s less classy establishments.  Like Brew Dog, Pure Bar & Kitchen, has gone for the stripped down industrial look with bare concrete and brickwork.  It is perhaps slightly more gentrified, with lots of seating for dining and drinking, and a modern irony tinged menu.  I swear, I’ve seen enough “fish and chips” in quotes on menus recently to make me scream.  It’s either “fish and chips” or it isn’t.  If I wanted sodding endangered Black Cod fish fingers and sweet potato fries, that’s what I’d order.

Tonight the place was full of hipsters and suits.  I felt out of place without a copy of Forget Foucault, a beard and/or a pin stripe and aggravating gaffaw.  Usually I also feel out of Out In Brum - Pure Bar and Kitchen - Caesar Saladplace in such establishments because I don’t like craft beers.  Give me a long cool Italian any day, but I won’t thank you for a Mad Goose or Punk IPA.  I have to say though that I enjoyed Purity’s Unlawless Lager.  There are 16 draught beers on tap at about a fiver a pint, plus bottles, spirits, and a nice wine list (Tin Pot Hut Sauvignon Blanc £29).

We tried the Pork Scratchings in the bar, they were a bit of a disaster being chewy and not near salted enough.  Speaking as a good Black Country boy who used to work next door to a scratching factory I feel able to comment with some scratching eating experience.  We weren’t the only ones to leave a full serving on the table.  The bar tell us they’re sorting those out.  I wouldn’t brave any of the other bar snacks – although the Pork Pies looked lovely they were un-refrigerated and uncovered to be sneezed over by all and sundry – again, the bar tell us they’re sorting that out.  It is the opening week and they no doubt deserve a chance to fix arising problems, and given they wrote back on version one of this review within a couple of hours of it going live, I’d say they are pretty on the ball and will make amendments very swiftly.

Out In Brum - Pure Bar and Kitchen - Veltin Pot Roast CodThe restaurant food was excellent.  I started with the Caesar salad (£4), which had a creamy Parmesan sauce and salty anchovies on blackened baby gem lettuce, and then moved on to the Veltins Pot Roast Cod (£14).  The cod was delicious with a chorizo, clam, and tarragon sauce.  We also tried the Scotch Egg (£4.50), which was perfectly gooey in the middle, and the BBQ Beer Glazed chicken (£13).  With that we had a problem – it was rosey pink in the middle by the bone.  Chef told us that it was cooked, and that it was because it was steam cooked that it had remained a pinky colour.  I do believe him because it’s not the first time over recent years that I’ve seen it, as kitchens have relied more and Out In Brum - Pure Bar and Kitchen - BBQ Chickenmore on  steam ovens and are increasingly worried about serving chicken overcooked.  Nonetheless, I won’t eat pink chicken, and it was gracefully taken off the bill even though my worries were those of an ignorant eater rather than a trained chef.  The bit of the chicken I had already eaten had a good tangy barbecuey flavour.

For pudding (all £5) we had the chocolate brownie with Bacchus Kriek (cherry) beer ice cream which worked really well.  The peanut butter ice cream which is served with hot caramel sauce, peanuts, and a glass of beer, was different and very tasty.

The staff are lovely, the beer is good, and it’s located in an area of town that seems to be Out In Brum - Pure Bar and Kitchen - Exteriorup and coming with the foodie set – virtually next door to the recently opened Chung Ying Central and The Bureau, both high end establishments.  If the food is consistently this good then it’s bound to become The Place To Be over the coming months, so if I were you I’d get in early while you can.  With regards to the few issues we had, bear in mind this is only day two of them being open, and it’s their first venue.  Give it a go, and let us know how you get on.  I’m sure we’ll return soon.

http://www.purebarandkitchen.co.uk/

Posted in Area: Colmore Business District, Cuisine: English, Cuisine: Modern Mixed, Price: Average, Venue type: Bar, Venue type: Pub, Venue type: Restaurant, Venue type: Wine Bar | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting Some Ciao at Cielo

Out In Brum - Cielo - Exterior

Like so many people I used to think Italian food was all about spaghetti, pizza, ravioli, and lasagne. A couple of trips to Italy has however set me straight, there’s so much more that’s a celebration of seafood, meat, and produce, and Cielo took me straight back to a Tuscan mountain restaurant. The view may not have been quite as good as an idyll in Orvieto but it’s not bad – looking out over Oozells Square which is now a culinary hotspot hosting not only Cielo but also Piccolino, Thai Edge, and Café Opus.

The interior is smart, glinting glassware and marble floors giving a high-end feel. The Out In Brum - Cielo - Interiorwaiters are friendly and efficient, taking jackets and giving menu advice with aplomb. We sipped aperitif cocktails, a classic Negroni and a modern Bomb Fire kiwi martini, while we checked out the extensive menu.

For starters I had the chicken livers with smoked pancetta (£8). I ate a piece of the pancetta first and thought it was far too smokey but actually it set off the creamy sweetness of the livers really well. It was served with toasted crostini which texturally complimented it. We also had the calamari (£9) which was served as a massive portion of crisply battered soft calamari rings with a lemon wedge and aioli. Both starters were tasty and very large, but the winner for me was Out In Brum - Cielo - Chicken Liversthe livers which seem to be on trend this season (I’ve had them twice in a week, here and at JuJu’s).

We had a bottle of Montepulciano with our food, which is always the go to red for us when eating Italian food, recalling memories of walking through summer storm drenched Montepulciano streets eating apricot ice cream. Wine starts from about £20 a bottle.

For mains I had the Risotto Ai Frutti Di Mare – sea food risotto (£16). The tomatoey al dente risotto dish included half a dozen large mussels, a couple of plump scallops, lots of squid, and some large king prawns. Having eaten the whole dish I felt overly full, but it was too tasty to leave any!

Out In Brum - Cielo - LambOur other main was Costolette D’Agnello – Cornish lamb cutlets and cannon of lamb with glazed carrots, sauteed potato, and a wine jus (£22). The lamb, served rosey pink, was full of flavour. Carrots were super – I love a glazed carrot, vegetables in sugar, what’s not to like?!

Despite being more than replete we felt it our public duty to try the tiramisu (£6). The sweetened cream was not too sweat, the liqueur and espresso was well balanced and didn’t make the sponge sloppy. Possibly the best tiramisu we’ve had in Birmingham. We finished our meal with a Limoncello.

Out In Brum - Cielo - TiramisuThe restaurant was full of smartly dressed diners, including under tens with parents, couples on dates, and groups of friends. Regardless of age everyone seemed to be having a nice time and were treated well by the excellent and efficient waiting staff.

If you think it’s a bit above your normal price range, every day there is a pre 7pm fixed price menu available at £18 for three courses.  Bargain!

We had such a nice time that when we left we booked to take our parents next Saturday – surely the highest praise possible.

Go and try the delicious chicken livers and be sure to have a Negroni for me.

Buon appetitio!

Posted in Area: Brindley Place, Cuisine: Italian, Price: Get your dad to pay - above average, Venue type: Restaurant | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coast to Coast

Out In Brum - Coast to Coast - NachosHi! Thanks so much to you for clicking on my little ol’ link! I’m just SO EXCITED for you to be humbling me with your attention that I can’t even describe it! Get comfy! Are you comfy? You sure? Can I get you anything? It’s cold out now isn’t it? My favourite weather is hot weather, not too hot though, what’s you’re favourite weather? Cold? Yeah, that’s really one of my favourite weathers too!

A trip to Coast 2 Coast is to be transported to an ersatz Floridian tourist steakhouse complete with waiting staff desperate to be loved by their diners. It’s not in our nation’s psyche to be so very cheery and it requires a mind shift to get in to the spirit of things. I think the only really OTT moment of the night for me was the dessert menu: “You want a desert menu! I’M YOUR DESERT MENU! There’s x and y and z and if you don’t want any of those how about a cocktail from the bar”?

We’ve been here a couple of times and I have to say that they’d picked up their game on Out In Brum - Coast to Coast - Calamarithe second trip, the first was in the opening week so we’ll let them off any slip ups then. Although I joked about the OTT service, they were pretty much spot on in terms of speed, and our waiter made no mistakes and was more than willing to accept our requests for changes. I’ve never understood why the most inhospitable people end up in the hospitality trade in the UK, and I’d rather have this type of in your face customer loving than the alternative of surly jobsworths who’re upset when I want a fork that is not covered by other people’s partially masticated food.

The interior is inviting and warm and upbeat music plays at a level that’s conducive to having a conversation in one of the many comfortable booths. It’s somewhere for a group of friends to go and have a fun meal, or for you to take an office party for a good feed. It’s certainly not fine dining but you won’t leave hungry – I recommend sharing a starter because they’re veOut In Brum - Coast to Coast - Slidersry large.  I had the calamari to start.  The squid was tender and the batter crisp, although it does come with a grated cheese on the top which I thought was odd, and a dip which tastes a bit like tomato and basil soup.  We also tried the barbecue chicken nachos which came with a pile of guacamole, sour cream, and salsa.

For mains we had the sliders (mini burgers).  There was a classic burger, a pulled pork one, Out In Brum - Coast to Coast - Pulled Pork Burgerand a blue cheese one.  The waiter happily swapped out the blue cheese one for another pulled pork burger.  We also had a normal sized pulled pork burger.  Normal sized being huge.  The burgers were all good, as were the crisp sweet potato fries and onion rings with a smokey spicy sauce.

We went on a week night so only had a couple of beers and a Jeremiah Weed (yummy alcoholic ginger beer).  We’re told their cocktails are good too.

Two courses with a couple of beers came to about £30 a head.  Go hear for a rowdy dinner with friends and family, have a couple of Long Island Iced Teas, and get in to the spirit of the super friendly service.

Posted in Area: Broad Street, Cuisine: Modern Mixed, Price: Average, Venue type: Restaurant | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Edmunds Lounge

Out In Brum - Edmunds Lounge - Balti PieSometimes I want white linen and fine glassware, but sometimes I want somewhere to watch the rugby with a pint and a pie. On those latter occasions, recently we’ve headed to Edmunds Lounge on the corner of Newhall Street and Edmund Street. It is what my dad would call a “boozer”. The regulars are stood at the bar with pints in hand, and loud drunken banter is usually the order of the night.  Don’t confuse it with fine dining establishment Edmunds in Brindley Place.

You might think that means the food might not be up to much – you’d be wrong. The Out In Brum - Edmunds Lounge - Chicken Fajitatraditional pub grub served here is inexpensive and tasty, which isn’t surprising given that this is one of three linked venues that also do good food – you might know the other two, The Queens Arms, and The Rectory. We went along one Friday evening for a quick dinner with the mother-in-law, and found a table that was slightly quieter than the loud bar, there’s quite a bit of seating in the back room.

It may be a boozer but it is in the business district and the wine list is reflective of that. You can get a glass starting from £5 or a bottle from about £20. We had a £26 bottle of Paul Deloux Chablis, which was very nice.  They also have a cocktail menu.

We didn’t have starters although there are a few on the menu – garlic bread, calamari, southern fried chicken strips – mostly around the £5 mark. For my main I had the Fajitas. They’re self-assemble with the spiced meat, peppers, and onion being served on a sizzling Out In Brum - Edmunds Lounge - Fish and Chipshot metal skillet. There was a lot of it, and it had good chilli heat. We tried the balti chicken pie, which had a good pastry case and a rich mild chicken balti centre. We also had the fish and chips, which has to be the bellwether of any eatery given it can be so wrong. Here it was very much right with thin crisp batter on the steamed fish within, the chips were also crisp on the outside and fluffy in the middle. All the mains are around the £10 mark. Nice to know they have a 5 star food hygiene rating from the scores on the doors too (info about there here).

Also for those of you out there who like a real ale they now have Cask Marque accreditation.

So if you fancy a beer and a pie, give it a go.  Check them out on twitter for details of their Thursday night live music http://twitter.com/edmundslounge.

Posted in Area: Colmore Business District, Cuisine: English, Price: Cheap as Chips - Inexpensive, Venue type: Pub | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Epi by Nathan Eades – One to watch…

Out In Brum - Epi Pop Up - PopcornChef Nathan Eades formerly Sous-Chef at three AA rosette awarded Fishmore Hall in Ludlow, has been running pop-up Epi Restaurant at The Courtyard Café in Bromsgrove since 2013. Given its success there it’s only natural that Nathan should seek bigger things, and sure enough he’s chosen Birmingham to expand to. Thus we attended the first of Epi Restaurant pop-up nights at The Kitchen Garden in King’s Heath, on a bleak January Monday night.

The venue is not a fine dining establishment. It’s more of a hodgepodge of kitchen, conservatory, and shed. It’s a popular venue for random music events, and I can see that live music would work well there. Nathan wondering around in his chef’s whites did look a little out of place though, and I was apprehensive about what exactly we’d let ourselves in for with a wobbly table and imperfect service. It really was quite random, not least because we had to enter via another venue down the street.

The format for the evening is a fixed menu for £32.50, and dinner started with a canapé Out In Brum - Epi Pop Up - Lamb Shallot Walnutcracker of Shropshire goats cheese with foraged sorrel, and some curried popcorn. I’ve never understood popcorn but the other half liked it, and I thought the cheese was good, and what’s not to like about hand foraged herbage. While we were nibbling on those we realised it was foodie central, bumping in to Dr. Roz the Foodie, Dine Birmingham, and the Doyen of Brum grub Paul Fulford from the Birmingham Mail – we were in good epicurean company it appeared!

The first course was “Lamb, Shallot, Walnut”. Rectangles of slow cooked mildly spiced lambOut In Brum - Epi Pop Up - Fish and Chips fried in panko crumb was cut diagonally and arranged on shallots three ways, walnut crumble and walnut oil. Sweet onion and lamb is a classic combination and I enjoyed it. The crumble wasn’t as walnutty as I expected it to be but I liked the dish, so a good start to dinner, we thought.

Next course was simply called “Fish & Chips”. Given it was on the menu in speech marks it couldn’t of course have appeared as chip shop fayre, and we weren’t disappointed. Paper wrapped glass plates held well cooked Hake with a mouthwatering thin slice of preserved lemon, crispy fish skin, clever tubes of fried potato, and curried split peas. That’s fish, chips, and peas, if you’d not made the mental leap. The flavours worked well together, and the food had good texture, my only criticism would be it was a bit colourless overall as a plate of food.

Out In Brum - Epi Pop Up - Pork Broccoli AlmondsThe next plate was veritably verdant with green broccoli and purée served alongside succulent pork fillets with apple slices and a crumbed fried cube of other piggy things. The cube wasn’t quite crisp enough for me, but it certainly tasted of oink.

Served for the final course of the night was a de-constructed Tiramisu with microwave hazelnut sponge. A shot of reduced espresso was on the plate that was ultra bitter, but with the chocolate and sweetness of the ice cream, it calmed down somewhat and I really enjoyed the dish.

Out In Brum - Epi Pop Up - TiramisuNow the service may not have been perfect, but bearing in mind the venue it was taking place in, the lack of a full kitchen for chef to work in, and the fact it was the first pop-up there I think it was a really strong start to Epi Restaurant in Birmingham. Nathan is passionate about his food and showed some good technical skill as well as flavour pairings. I look forward to eating his food again, no doubt soon in his own restaurant rather than a pop up. He’s ambitious, and definitely one to watch.

You can attend his Bromsgrove pop-up every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday until 29th March ’14, or his King’s Heath pop-up on 25th February or 31st March. For details check out the website here: http://www.epirestaurant.co.uk/  Also, probably worth following @RestaurantEpi on twitter to see whether he’s popping up at any other venues *nudge wink*.

Posted in Area: Kings Heath, Cuisine: English, Cuisine: Fine Dining, Cuisine: Modern Mixed, Price: Average, Venue type: Restaurant | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment