Rico Libre

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the side streets off Digbeth High Street, but if you are Out In Brum - Rico Libre - Exteriorthen you may well drive down them at 40 with the doors locked and windows closed. They do not feel salubrious, and I wouldn’t wander around them alone after dark. On a Summer’s Thursday night we finally tried a tapas joint that everyone has raved about for months – Rico Libre, on Barn Street. Walking from the High Street past dilapidated factories, knackered motors, and graffiti covered lock-ups you won’t come across some modern palace, but you will come across the vividly painted restaurant.

It isn’t much to look at from the outside. It isn’t much to look at from the inside either. Tables that estate agents may refer to as “compact” provide a perhaps overly intimate Out In Brum - Rico Libre - Tapas Platessetting for dinner, underneath a polystyrene hung ceiling covered in posters to hide the damp spots.

But there the problems stop. We arrived to jovial hosts with a sales patter that would put to shame that of many of the better restaurants in town. A request for a larger table for our party of five was duly granted and tapas started to appear, first bread and olives while we reviewed the menu. We got cracking on our Bring Your Own Booze (the restaurant isn’t licensed) while we ordered a bunch of dishes to share.

The restaurant tell us they prepare and cook everything in house, and it shows. The food we had was really good. It’s served like proper tapas i.e. each small plate will arrive at the Out In Brum - Rico Libre - Asparagustable when it’s cooked, it won’t all come together as starters and mains. As well as over a dozen dishes in the three for £12 list, there were another five specials at £5 and more specials on the blackboard. There was plenty of choice. We had a bellyful of food and it came to about £12 a head, I left fit to burst. So it’s a total bargain.

I tried earthy chicken livers with chorizo in a syrupy red wine sauce which was my favourite dish of the evening. The garlic mushrooms were in pungent melted butter, great to be dipped in to by the fishy lightly breaded whitebait. Also, we tried the sweet fleshed fried fish of the day which was in a light batter. The calamari was soft and again in a light crisp batter. Patatas Bravas offered some tomoato spicy carb. We also had the prawns, Out In Brum - Rico Libre - Whitebaitlemon chicken with quails egg, meatballs and more!

The area may not have been tasty, but the food certainly was. Good service, good food, and great value – got to be worth twelve quid of anyone’s money.


Posted in Area: Digbeth, Cuisine: Spanish, Cuisine: Tapas, Price: Cheap as Chips - Inexpensive, Venue type: Cafe, Venue type: Restaurant | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wine and Dine at Harvey Nichols

Out In Brum - Harvey Nichols - Dining RoomThe Mailbox’s flagship store, the temple to luxury that is Harvey Nichols, has at last reopened its doors to the public after a move, resize, and refit. While we’ve not yet managed to have a mooch around the store, we have made a couple of visits to its beautiful bar, and a trip for dinner in the elegant restaurant.

While during the day the bar and restaurant can be approached from the store, once it has closed you’ll be entering via a high-design wooden spiral staircase. As you’re making your dramatic descending entrance you’ll catch Out In Brum - Harvey Nichols - Tableglimpses of the muted colours and soft lighting while pretty young things sip Martinis at the sleek high bar. Taupe suede seating is comfortable enough to keep you sat sipping for hours while Sam the bar manager provides wines and classic cocktails and his modern concoctions. Sam made us delicious Espresso Martinis to perk us up after some afternoon drinks in the sun on the Bar Opus terrace.

Out In Brum - Harvey Nichols - SquidWhile we tried to go in undercover on a Saturday evening we were spotted by the fabulous Kusum and Kate who we knew from the store’s first incarnation, and they proudly showed us their new food department which is situated between the bar and restaurant.

The restaurant is inviting but not fussy. Plain marble tables with plush seats and brass fittings are spaced generously on the warm geometrically patterned wooden floor. Sharp Out In Brum - Harvey Nichols - Carpacciosuited managers and slick waiters quietly go about delivering food and menus and topping up wine, offering advice when requested.  On our visit we were excellently looked after by Will and Lynn.

The menu, curated by Chef Glynn Purnell of the eponymously named Michelin starred restaurant Purnell’s (and Purnell’s Bistro, and of course ‘off the telly’), isn’t excessively long here, with many of the dishes doubling up as large portions for mains, or smaller portions as a starter or to share like tapas. The small plates are mostly sub £10 with the exception of the scallops, and the mains are between £13 (chicken) and £22 (fillet steak). A bottle of wine will set you back between £20 and £60.

To start I tried the scorched Provençal squid with Oxsprings ham, olive tapenade, sundried tomato, and red pepper (£9). The squid is cooked sous vide (slowly in a Out In Brum - Harvey Nichols - Pork Bellywaterbath at a fixed temperature) and then quickly charred which combined gives a soft sweet flesh and a bitter edge to set it off, and the classic combo with the ham was delightful. We also had the carpaccio of Herefordshire beef with pickled mushrooms, coarse grain mustard, and tarragon cream (£8). I loved the cream with the deep red cool beef and mild crunchy radish.

For mains I tried the Hampshire pork belly cooked in Chinese spices with grilled pak choi, sesame seed glaze, and nutty egg noodles, which was a good filling feed (£12). The golden crackling and porky flesh was perfumed with aniseed and other spices, and topped with sesame, a good Out In Brum - Harvey Nichols - Fillet Steakrendition of one of my favourite dishes. We also had the Himalayan pink salt-seared fillet steak with fries (£22), with tasty beef served on a hot slab of salt rock to continue cooking your steak should you wish to (although personally I like mine very rare). It was tender, flavoursome, and well seasoned.

Though I don’t usually take dessert, in the interest of research, I forced down a golden crusted crème brûlée with crunchy pistachio biscotti (£7). We also tried the chocolate mousse with mango sorbet and chocolate crumble (£8), which though very tasty was not a looker – I think a trifle dish would have done the Out In Brum - Harvey Nichols - Creme Bruleelayers and flavour better justice.

Only one problem in the evening is worth mentioning, but only really because it was managed so well – we had a couple of flies appear at one point and land in the wine – it was quickly replaced with effusive apologies.

Dinner cost us about £66 for two excluding drinks and service, which given the quality of the food, service, and general atmosphere, we thought was really good value.

Though reasonably quiet on the evening we dined there I suspect as soon as the word gets
out the place will be rammed, it’s just a lovely chilled place to eat great food, and drink great drinks in oh-so-cool surroundings. It’s bound to be a huge success and is a great compliment to the rest of Birmingham’s dining and bar scene.

Out In Brum - Harvey Nichols - Store Interior

Posted in Area: The Mailbox, Birmingham Restaurant, birmingham restaurant review, birmingham review, Cuisine: English, Cuisine: Fine Dining, Cuisine: Modern Mixed, Price: Get your dad to pay - above average, restaurant review, Venue type: Bar, Venue type: Cocktail Bar, Venue type: Gourmet Shop, Venue type: Restaurant, Venue type: Wine Bar | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Hotting Up at The Highfield

One of our favourite gastro pubs in Brum, The Highfield in leafy Edgebaston, invited us along to test out their latest offering.

IMG_1750Making the most of their large rear garden, head chef Dean Jeffer has created an outdoor menu well-suited to the large wood fired BBQ they have had installed on the patio.

IMG_1741On a Friday evening and all weekend from 12-8pm (unless it’s all been devoured sooner) they will be checking the mercury and when it hits the magical 20C out will come the matches and the Sipsmiths Summer Cup (personally I’ve become rather fond of this Pimm’s alternative, finding the flavours of their gin, infused with Earl Grey tea and lemon verbena, more appealing than the classic tipple).

IMG_1755The menu should satisfy most smokey food hunters as you can choose from a selection of hanging skewers with options of 28 day dry-aged steak, monkfish with prawns or halloumi,  glazed half chickens, pork chops or my personal favourite the four bone rack of dandy beef ribs with a lip licking BBQ & Bourbon sauce.
They also serve all the classic sides you’d expect with special mention going to the corn on the cob which so many of my fellow diners seemed to be enjoying judging by the smiles and butter running down their chins.

On the evening we attended the British weather tried it’s best to remind us we were in IMG_1746Brum rather than back in Normandy where we spent the last week by sporadically showering us all. This gave us a reasonto try out the other part of The Highfield’s summer investment as they have also installed a 12 seater party gazebo in the garden, complete with twinkling lights and rain proof walls. This is available to hire free of charge for private functions with various food options available.

As the sun started to make a welcome appearance, so did the ultimate British summer dessert of strawberries and cream. With a twist of course – a platter containing three terracotta plant pots, two of which contain the obligatory juicy strawberries and more thaIMG_1756n enough cream for all, with the third smaller pot being full of creamy  chocolate dipping sauce. If it’s not quite hot enough for the BBQ or it’s a midweek visit, there are terraces and patios with canopies and heaters so you can maximise the alfresco opportunities.

On this occasion we were guests of The Highfield and only paid for some of our drinks. This did not however have any input into our thoughts as we have dined, drank and held parties here ourselves on many occasions since they’ve opened. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Two of Brum’s Best Team Up for Summer Party

CJ3QEcGWwAA442qIt’s time to get the party started as two of Brum’s favourite’s collaborate again for what promises to be a sun soaked summer party.

The team at Cafe Opus have invited the king of the Texan BBQ Andy Low N Slow to join them in creating a memorable Sunday lunch.

On Sunday 9th August Andy and the Cafe Opus team will be serving up a 3 course meal with a complimentary cocktail or beer on arrival and live music to bring you the summer vibe.lownslow-logo1

The menu on the day will be:

Citrus cured sea trout, heritage tomatoes

Apple wood smoked pork belly, apple and mustardCKdaO0sW8AQWXP_

Oak smoked Black Angus brisket, Sharpes Express potatoes, Worcester sugar snaps and feves, summer coleslaw

Summer berry pavlova

The deal is £40pp including service and tickets can be booked direct on 0121 200 2323

Posted in Area: Brindley Place, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Yakinori – Woktastic’s little sister…

Out In Brum - Yakinori - ExteriorDue to the demolition of the old Birmingham Library at Paradise Forum, one of the city’s favourite venues Woktastic, owned and run by the convivial Ali, had to shut up shop in January.  The restaurant is moving but due to complications with leases etc. it’s taking a little longer than planned. Ali is still remaining tight lipped about where and when the new Woktastic will open but it is going to be in the city centre.  Not one to be idle while Woktastic has been closed, Ali has been setting up a little sister restaurant under a new brand name – Yakinori.  As loyal Woktastic customers we’ve been craving a decent chicken katsu and sushi since the restaurant shut its doors – thank goodness then that with the opening of the first of two Yakinori branches, this one in Selly Oak, we can quell our hunger for our favourite Japanese foods.

Out In Brum - Yakinori - Open KitchenWith around 40 covers over shared bench seating Yakinori Selly Oak serves up à la carte sushi, ramen, katsu, and all the other Woktastic favourites.  The interior is colourful and the walls wrapped with animé graphics floor to ceiling, and an open bustling kitchen.  It feels like a fun and relaxed place to eat and it’s been perfect for us for a chatty dinner with friends, and on another occasion a quick after-work bite to eat when we’d been working late.

To start we tried some mixed plates of sushi.  Firstly, for £12.50, a 13 piece Salmon Sake Geta which included salmon nigiri, salmon sashimi, salmon gunkan, salmon avocado biso, salmon maki, and a salmon avocado hand roll.  The dinnerware the restaurant has chosen Out In Brum - Yakinori - Sushiis beautiful and sets off the sushi wonderfully – it looks more like you would get in one of the fine dining restaurants in town than in a fun friendly restaurant, but it does remind you this place is serious about making great food!  As you can see the Salmon Sake Geta plate looked great, and it all tasted great too.  The salmon was plump and soft and the presentation and seasoning spot on.  We also had a the Salmon and Avocado Heaven platter at £10.95 for 12 pieces including avocado nigiri, salmon nigiri, and salmon and avocado biso.  It was equally as good, with perfectly ripe avocado.

For mains we had to try our favourite, Chicken Katsu Curry (£8.95).  It’s a rich but not Out In Brum - Yakinori - Chicken Katsuhot curry, with sliced breadcrumbed and fried chicken, okra, potato, rice, and pickled ginger.  It was as good as we remembered it at Woktastic!  The main dishes are very large, so you should go with a good appetite.  We’ve also had the Chicken Kokonatsu curry at £8.75.  This was a very spicy curry with coconut, lemongrass, red chilli, shrimp paste, galangal, ginger, veg, and crumbed and grilled chicken.  It was served with sticky rice.  Hot enough to give me a runny nose, it was just what I wanted.

While we await the opening of the new Woktastic (watch this space for imminent news of its announcement) Yakinori is offering a very reliable alternative.  With it being just a 5 minute drive from home, I see a lot of chicken katsu in my future…

Posted in Area: Selly Oak, Cuisine: Japanese, Price: Average | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nomad: Waiter waiter, there’s an ant in my soup!

Out In Brum - Nomad - Sea Buckthorn ParfaitWaiter waiter, there’s an ant in my soup! …Don’t worry sir, the echidna nibbling your bread will soon get him. <Pause for laughter after monotreme related joke>.

We’ve eaten Chef Alex Claridge’s food around his various locations in Birmingham over the years – first at The Warehouse Cafe, then Bistro 1847, and now at his current temporary residence, Nomad at Kitchen Garden Cafe. He’s currently searching for a forever-home in Birmingham for Nomad restaurant so do get in touch with him if you have somewhere in mind.

Alex is an experimental chef. While not a veggie himself, his last two residencies were at vegetarian restaurants, the menus of which require significantly more imagination than carniverous establishments which invariably Out In Brum - Nomad - Sea Troutoffer obvious steaks, chops, meat pies etc.. Consequently Alex has a brilliant repertoire of inventive ingredients to delve in to.  Many of the ingredients are sourced from his allotment, or foraged locally.

We’ve eaten a couple of times at Nomad and have had some delicious meaty, fishy, and veggie dishes. The format is around a seven course fixed menu for around £40 – the number of courses, the contents, and the prices change dependent on what ingredients Alex has to play with. The menu we’re reviewing here won’t be exactly the same on any subsequent night. I know that some of the dishes have pushed people’s boundaries – but that’s kinda what Nomad is about!

Probably one of the most divisive elements in the dishes we tried were the wood ants. Yes, Out In Brum - Nomad - Tomato Water and Antsreally, actual ants. I was completely prepared to dislike them but they were tasty! Not only do they add visual interest, they add a crunch, and they have a tart citrus flavour, that complimented a dish of heritage tomato and “tomato water” – a clear, slightly syrupy, colourless extract from tomatoes left in a muslin sieve for twenty-four hours to juice themselves by gravity alone. The flavour has great clarity, and it was very summery.

After the opening tomato dish, we had hay smoked rabbit with carrot cake and a carrot coleslaw. The rabbit was heavily smoked, one of us loved the smokiness, but I’m not a big Out In Brum - Nomad - Potted Rabbitfan of smoky food so it was a bit lost on me. If you like smoky food you would have loved it I’m sure.

Next course was globe artichoke, seared lettuce, and baby rocket. Then on to wild sea trout, broad bean, pea, pearl barley, sea blight (a bit like samphire) and pepper dulse. The pea, bean, and barley were made in to a of risotto and its greenness underlined the succulent pink sea trout that had a tasty and crispy skin. The pepper dulse smelled so strongly of the seaside that it took us back to fish and chips on the promenade as children.

The three courses of desserts started with a small dish of rhubarb iced cream with raspberry, a superb and fresh pallet cleanser before the “sea buckthorn meringue pie”: sea buckthorn curd and parfait, cumin roast carrot, meringe, and pea shoots. Then on to theOut In Brum - Nomad - Artichoke final dessert, a sugared perfectly spherical doughnut with a bitter Colombian chocolate soup for dipping.

At the moment Alex plans to continue his pop-up in the rustic Kingsheath Kitchen Garden Cafe until the end of August, so if you want to go and experience Alex’s food there you’ll have to get there soon! You’ll need to book, and you can do so on the website here: http://foodbynomad.com/ .

Nomad is an opportunity to have some great food, that’s a bit different. Go on a date, or take your friends, either way it’s sure to reward you with shrieks of fun, and ooohs of delight. Loved it.

Out In Brum - Nomad - Chocolate DoughnutNote: We booked the restaurant out for my birthday at Nomad and had a really smashing time and an excellent menu, and Alex then asked us to go back and eat on him to review. You probably know we rarely review free food because we don’t think it gives the real measure of the place, but in this case, given we’d dined here already on a night we couldn’t review (because it was my birthday and we were too busy eating and drinking to be taking photos of the food and taking notes), we couldn’t refuse! See our reciprocity promise here.

Out In Brum at 1847 - Alex Claridge

Chef Alex Claridge at Bistro 1847 Restaurant

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

Tan Rosie Caribbean Supper Club

Out In Brum - Tan Rosie Supper Club - Monica and LeeMother and daughter team Monica and Lee have been inviting guests in to their Erdington home for several years now to offer them a little ray of Caribbean sunshine inspired by Monica’s home island of Carriacou, a parish of Grenada.  “Tan” is an term of endearment for an “Aunt”, and so Monica’s eponymous grandmother was apparently known as “Tan Rosie” by the family and those beyond it.  Their “supper club” runs regularly, at about £30 a head for three courses, and you can find details of it on their website http://tanrosie.com.  It’s BYO alcohol. The ladies also produce and sell a range of Caribbean food – fudge, sauces, rubs etc.

As we had a large group Monica and Lee arranged a private dinner for our dozen or so diners.  We arrived and were shown to the patio where homemade spicy gingerade awaited us, we were told that adding our own rum (which we did) would give it a kick!  Monica was busying herself with chicken wings on the barbecue when we arrived and they smelled awesome.  The drinks were accompanied by their sweet chilli sauce Out In Brum - Tan Rosie Supper Club - Gingeradeand plantain chips for dipping.

Seated at the dining table we cracked open a bottle of Gewürztraminer, suggested by Loki Wines to pair with the aromatic and spicy food to come.  For starters the meat eaters had succulent and spicy chicken wings.  Can’t go wrong with that!  The vegetarian had crisp and golden sweetcorn fritters.  Instead of bread we were served Caribbean bakes with butter – they were very filling but so delicious that I had to keep eating them until there were none left.  The portions were all certainly generous.

Out In Brum - Tan Rosie Supper Club - Chicken WingsOn to mains, the vegetarians had Ital stew, and the carnivores mutton curry.  Both were served with glistening gold plantains, french beans, carrots, and rice and beans.  The spiced mutton had been cooked slowly so was tender and falling off the bone, though my British pallet still finds meat on chopped bone a bit strange – it is however traditionally Caribbean, with much of the meaty flavour coming from the bone.  Monica came to the UK in the 60s from Carriacou and she says she always tries to include that taste of home in every dish, and the mutton curry did Granada, “the Spice Out In Brum - Tan Rosie Supper Club - Mutton CurryIsle”, proud.  I don’t think I’ve ever had fried and roasted plantain before, and it was really good, a more neutral flavour to match with the heady flavours of the curry.

After a few minutes digesting the rather large dinner, desserts arrived.  It would have been sensible at this point to opt for the fresh fruit salad.  Obviously that wasn’t going to happen and most of us plumped (an operative word I fear) for the rum cake and custard.  To go with dessert Loki Wines had suggested Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum and a neat dram of that was perfect.  It was filled with the flavours of sugar cane which tied brilliantly with the richness of the soft rum cake and creamy custard.Out In Brum - Tan Rosie Supper Club - Table

Monica and Lee were wonderful supper club hosts, and we thanks them for inviting us in to their home and for feeding us a bit of Carriacou.  Delightful.

Posted in Area: Erdington, Cuisine: Caribbean, Price: Average, Special Event, Venue type: Home Supper Club | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment