The Bluebell at Henley-in-Arden

Out In Brum - The Bluebell - ExteriorBetwixt Birmingham and Stratford-upon-Avon lies the sleepy town of Henley-in-Arden. It’s 30 minutes by train from the city centre through glorious postcard perfect English countryside, and on a summery Saturday we headed there to try out a Michelin recommended pub – The Bluebell. They’ve been around a while, in fact the Tudor hostelry has been feeding and watering the public for half a millennium, so they’ve had plenty of practise.

For the last decade owners Leigh and Duncan Taylor, and their head chef James Devonshire, have been offering food that has won plaudits including two AA rosettes, and Out In Brum - The Bluebell Belinithe Good Food Guide Midlands Restaurant of the Year 2013. They offer coffee and cake from 10am, lunch from noon, and dinner from 6pm. Obviously there’s an à la carte menu and they’ve also just launched a two course for £10 lunch club, available Tuesday to Saturday, noon till 2.30, and that’s what we went to sample.

The restaurant and bar are intimate spaces with low Tudor beamed ceilings, flagstone and wooden floors, and heavy velvet drapes. The furnishings are eclectic and owner Leigh’s eye for design is obvious with shabby chic furniture, artistic lighting, and quality stemware adding to the overall feeling of lusciousness. The private dining room looked particularly inviting.

The lunch club menu (two courses for £10, or three courses for £15) is changed daily, soOut In Brum - The Bluebell - Interior
you get what you’re given i.e. there are no options. If however you don’t like that day’s offering (I think that’s unlikely) you can of course eat from the normal menu. On the day we went, the lunch club menu comprised Sweet Corn and Basil Velouté followed by Cottage Pie with pickled red cabbage, and dessert of Pavlova with English Strawberries and Chantilly Cream.

We started our lunch with a “Bluebell-ini” (£7) that’s Prosecco and strawberry juice, with a ripe strawberry on the rim. Our first course was the Velouté of Sweet Corn and Basil. Out In Brum - The Bluebell - Corn VelouteServed in a vintage tea cup and saucer the smooth and creamy velouté was well seasoned, piping hot, with light sweet corn and basil flavours. It was served with sourdough bread made onsite from a “mother” dough that Chef James has lovingly nurtured for three years. The sourness of the bread worked well with the sweetness of the corn. As you’d expect The Bluebell are big on using the best suppliers, and the quality of produce shone through, worthy of mention was the creamy butter from Netherend farm, and that they use Aubrey Allen butchers for their meats.

The main was a Cottage Pie, which initially I thought might not be summery enough, but Out In Brum - The Bluebell - Cottage Piethe side of pickled cabbage with star anise lifted it so that it was not at all heavy. The pie itself had great beefy flavours with a good texture, and the mash was fluffy and buttery and attractively piped with crispy grilled edges.

The wine list is impressive and there are 15 by the glass. I went for the delightful Veramonte Chardonnay (£6.25 a glass, or £25 for the bottle). We also had a glass of the Luigi Bosca La Linda Malbec (£7.15 a glass, or £28 for the bottle). Those wine lovers amongst you will know from just those two name-drops that there are plenty of good wines to choose. Not a wine drinker? Worry not, there’s a good selection of other drinks including Purity ales (a local independent brewery).

Out In Brum - The Bluebell - PavlovaIn the interests of fully reviewing it, obviously we had to have desert. A large pink quenelle of crispy sweet meringue was topped with Chantilly cream, roasted pistachios, and English strawberries. A super finale to a summer luncheon.

Monthly event nights are run at the venue for about £40 which includes a three course dinner and entertainment. Coming up in July is a Calypso night with singers and dancers, and then in August there’s a Ratpack night.

I like venues that are run by a small and dedicated team because their passion translates in to the food and the service. That’s exactly what The Bluebell will offer you. Quality produce, well prepared, and served with care and enthusiasm for what they offer. The £10 lunch offer really is extra-ordinary for this quality, so get there when you can. We will inevitably be back, which given that we get a nosebleed when we cross Brum’s middle ring-road, is testament to how much we liked it.  Simply delightful.

Posted in Area: Out of Birmingham, Cuisine: English, Cuisine: Fine Dining, Cuisine: Modern Mixed, Price: Average, Price: Cheap as Chips - Inexpensive, Price: Get your dad to pay - above average, Venue type: Bar, Venue type: Pub, Venue type: Restaurant, Venue type: Wine Bar | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Birmingham Wine Festival 2014

Out In Brum - Wine Fest 2014 - MontageAmy Seton has brought you lucky people of Brum not only The Whisky Festival for the last two years, but this year also Birmingham’s first large scale two-day Wine Festival.  Held in the upmarket Hyatt Hotel on Broad Street the event bought you stalwarts of the Birmingham wine scene and also producers and importers from far afield.  Tickets were £25 and for that you can troll around all of the exhibitors trying their wines while they happily extol their virtues.  It’s a good event if you don’t know what you like wine wise – give them all a go, make some notes, work out which countries and grapes you do and don’t like, find some interesting distributors who’ll help you build your cellar.  There were also masterclasses available (tickets around £10 at the event) where you can learn all you’ll need to know about the various topics on offer from passionate tutors.  Masterclasses this year included Italian Wines, French Wines, and Cheese and Wine matching.

One of our very favourite venues, Loki Wine, was at the event with a selection of their finest wares.  You should definitely pop in to their shop in The Great Western arcade where you can buy a tasting card and enjoy self-serve samples of their interesting offerings from the innovative Out In Brum - Wine Fest 2014 - Indian Wineenomatic machines.  Connolly’s were also on hand and you can visit them either just by Snow Hill or in Solihull.  We were forced in to trying a Harvey Nichols Beaujolais, a snip at £13, by the lovely Kusum who’s always around the store if you need a hand picking a bottle.  We also had a few samples from the good folks at Laithwaite’s who have a branch in Solihull.

Out In Brum - Wine Fest 2014 - Canapes Kitchen School Jane BradleyAs a mid-festival nibble we tried delicious canapés from an up and coming Birmingham business, Kitchen School by Jane Bradley.  You’ll be hearing more from her over the coming months as she’s expanding her cookery school.  You can follow her on Twitter too.

Out In Brum - Wine Fest 2014 - Portuguese WineThen back on the wine, we tried dozens – our livers would’ve been better served had we have used the spittoons, but I can’t bear to waste good wine.  My favourite of the evening was a white Portuguese wine by Quinta do Piloto, made from a not much used grape variety – Moscatel Roxo.  The producer, a 4th generation vintner, was on hand to talk us through its complex characteristics.  If you’re interested take a look at the importer Bela Wines Ltd.  Winety Boutique Wines also provided a snifter or two, they specialise in importing wines not previously available in the UK.  We had a gulp of each of the Indian Wines on offer from Soul Tree.  I do think that Soul Tree’s offering was better than some of the other Indian wines I’ve tried, but I still can’t square drinking wine with Indian food, it’s lager all the way for Out In Brum - Wine Fest 2014 - Home of Cape Wine - Danielme!  Our next stop was to Home of Cape Wine – a producer and importer of South African table wines.  Its front man may be familiar to any of you that know Brummy dining, as it’s the affable and charming Daniel of MPW.

Without further sustenance I would have found the walk home rather too wobbly, so we joined Nicholas from Curds & Whey in Moseley for a wine and cheese matching.  Nicholas is an artisan cheesemonger and “afineur”.  The latter is a profession well understood on the other side of La Mancha but little known here, affinage is the art of aging cheese which can dramatically change the flavour of a cheese, as proven to us by Nicholas.  First up was an aged Wensleydale with a Slovenian Sauvignon Blanc (possibly a touch too acidic given the cheese was aged andOut In Brum - Wine Fest 2014 - Cheese Wheel had lost its Wensleydale sharpness).  Then a Camembert de Normande with an SA Chenin Blanc, then a Morbier with an awesome Trimbach Pinot Gris.  Finally we tried a strong but mellowed Bleu d’Auvergne with a sweet Moscatel.  This man knows his cheese, and we’ll be seeing him in Moseley or at the Mac food market on the last Sunday of the month.

So thanks to Amy (whom you can follow on twitter for all the super Brummy things she gets up to), for a drunken fun event.  See you same time next year, by which point my liver should have recovered, and my cellar should be better stocked.

 

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Birmingham Beer Bash 2014

Birmingham Beer Bash Logo

From Thursday 24th to Saturday 26th July 2014 Birmingham Beer Cubed will be serving up a selection of beers from the hottest breweries in the UK and around the world, from keg and cask. There will also be a return of their world bottle bar, and some fantastic food options to keep hunger at bay.

The Birmingham Beer Bash was conceived and organised by a group of enthusiasts, bloggers and tweeters who met through a shared love of all things beery via social media in 2012. The group quickly decided to bring about an event with one overriding goal – to deliver to the Midlands the very best of the UK’s burgeoning craft beer scene and the best of the international beer offering. A year or so later and the inaugural Birmingham Beer Bash, in July 2013, opened its doors at the canal-side venue of The Bond Co, in Digbeth, which is where they’ll return to this year. The results exceeded all expectations, and well and truly cemented Birmingham Beer Bash’s place in the local and national beer calendar.

As well as five caterers per session, including some of Birmingham’s best street food vendors, you’ll have the option to sign up for some of the gourmet food options which include:

  • Gourmet beer and food matched dining event.
    Experience a five course tasting menu by chef Nathan Eades of Epi Restaurant. Nathan cut his teeth at a number of venues including Lainston House Hotel and Wedgewood Hotel in Vancouver and more recently has been seen at Pop-Ups in Bromsgrove, Kings Heath and Birmingham before opening his own restaurant in Bromsgrove.
    Each of the 5 courses promise to be expertly matched to beers brewed by Wild Beer Co.
    You can read a review of one of our previous visits to a Restaurant Epi pop-up here http://outinbrum.com/epi/
  • Siren Sliders
    Siren Craft Brew teaming up with the Original Patty Men to bring you “Siren Sliders”, a beer and burger-matching extravaganza! These guys have worked together to find the perfect pairings of burgers to match with the range of Siren beers. They’ll be serving these up in miniature form – known as sliders – along with the beers at the Beer Bash. Not only is it a great example of how different flavours complement particular beers, but it also provides the chance to taste several different Patty Men burgers avoiding the need to choose just one, which we know from experience is a difficult choice to make.

The bash will include exclusive beer launches, tasting sessions, talks and workshops, and some of the highlights confirmed so far are:

  • Celt Experience / Cell Rebirth
    Tom Newman, brewer from Celt Experience and the exciting Cell Rebirth project, will be hosting a number of different sessions throughout the Beer Bash.
  • Boak and Bailey
    Hugely acclaimed bloggers, now turned authors, will be visiting the Beer Bash on Saturday afternoon as part of the promotion of their new book.
  • Ron Pattinson
    Beer historian, blogger and author, Ron will be present on Saturday afternoon and evening to coincide with the launch of his book, The Homebrewers’ Guide to Vintage Beer. Ron will be talking about the role of Brettanomyces in British brewing, and will be signing copies of his book. There will also be six historic beers brewed specially to accompany Ron’s visit.
  • Ali Capper – British Hops
    Learn more about one of beer’s key ingredients in this workshop session. There are four sessions in total, one each evening plus a fourth on Saturday afternoon.

Tickets are selling fast and are available from http://birminghambeerbash.co.uk/tickets

Cheers!

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The Deli in Boldmere

Out In Brum - The Deli In Boldmere - MontageJust 20 minutes on the train from New Street Station towards Sutton Coldfield lies the leafy suburb of Boldmere, where in 2011 Pippa Goode opened a foodie haven, The Deli in Boldmere.  How she managed to avoid the obvious name of “Goode Food” is beyond me, I can’t help but love a pun.  The frontage is modern, and wouldn’t look out of place in any of the smartest streets.

The deli stocks everything you’d expect it to: jams, chutneys, oils, vinegars, pulses, pasta, coffee, Ortiz tuna, bread, cakes, pastries, honey, and most importantly – marvelous cured meats and cheeses.  We went along for an intimate private tapas night at the deli, and greedily tasted everything we could get our hands on.  It was all cooked by Pippa and co-owner, with serving help from her son – it’s a proper family affair.

Out In Brum - The Deli In Boldmere - ShelvingI’ve had tapas in Spain but few places replicate the experience in a pleasing way back here in Blighty, the deli managed it admirably.  The food was served as we chatted over wine, it was a drawn out affair over several hours.  We started with prosciutto, rocket, and manchego cheese drizzled with local honey (hard cheese and honey – delicious).

Dishes kept on coming including vegetarian offerings of baked goats cheese, mushrooms stuffed with blue cheese and walnuts, bruschetta with ripe tasty tomatoes and basil, and Spanish omelette.  There were plenty of meaty dishes too: meatballs, the most delicious chicken with olives, chorizo topped with fried egg, and garlic king prawns.  To finish we had an epic cheeseboard and a raspberry cheesecake that was perfectly creamy and sweet.

Private tapas nights start from £12 per person, but we went all out for the £25 per person Out In Brum - The Deli In Boldmere - Spanish Omeletteoption which includes several more different tapas dishes and bring your own booze – great for the wine lovers to spend the evening drinking special bottles from their own cellar with excellent food.

Pippa is keen to increase the deli’s standing as a centre for Boldmere social life.  As well as the private hire for tapas and parties she has instituted a monthly knitting night, and Summer Tapas Fridays consisting of a set menu of 8 tapas dishes plus a sweet for £15pp available from 6.30 till 9, with Mediterranean wines and beers available.

The deli is open seven days a week and you can pop in for breakfast between 9 and 12 (£6 for a full English).  Obviously you can go just to buy groceries like artisan bread, but you’ll doubtless stay for a sandwich (from £4), sharing platters (from £9.50), a glass of wine, coffee, tea, and cake.  Or treat yourself and go the whole hog with high tea for £12 per head.

The deli and its staff are charming and competent, and I can’t see how it can’t go on to get busier and busier over the next few years.

Thanks to Pippa and her team for a super night.

http://www.thedeliinboldmere.co.uk/

Posted in Area: Boldmere, Cuisine: Spanish, Price: Average, Venue type: Cafe, Venue type: Gourmet Shop, Venue type: Restaurant | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Revolution – Mixology and Mains

Guest review…

Out In Brum - Revolution Bar - InteriorWe all love drinking cocktails but perhaps we don’t make them as often as we could do. Erm, actually perhaps YOU don’t make them as often as YOU should.  I’m drinking a Negroni as I type. Anyway, we were invited to a cocktail making masterclass at Revolution Vodka Bar on Broad Street and we couldn’t say no.

 

The class was held at the upstairs private bar giving those attending plenty of room Out In Brum - Revolution Bar - Cocktail Gamesto move about and hear each other talk – even on a busy Friday night. The evening was led by our friendly bar tender, who started the shake off with a Strawberry Woo Woo – paired with some cheese, before some of us jumped behind the bar to create a classic mojito (served with crusted shrimp), a cosmopolitan (accompanied with nachos and guacamole) and finally a Tennessee mudslide with chocolate truffles.

We then took turns to create a cocktail of our choosing from the menu, with a little help from the bar tender. We created a Jammy Bastard and a Basil Grande. The class was both informative with facts about origins of spirits and the drinks, and fun with games and challenges along the way – plus there was no shortage of things to drink.

Out In Brum - Revolution Bar - Burger 2After the class we were invited to stay around for some food from the main menu, sadly this is where the evening lost its shine. Three members of the group ordered pizza, the waitress informed us that there were only two pizza bases left (at 7pm on a Friday), ten minutes later the waitress returned to tell us that one of the two pizza bases had been “accidentally destroyed” and so they’d have to choose another dish.

Your reviewer had the Bourbon Bad Boy burger which was very large and juicy but had no hint of the promised bourbon, with spicy fries which were overly caked in chilli powder and salt. It’s fair to say we were a little disappointed with the dining after such a great cocktail class – but it seemed more an organisational issue than a quality of food one.

Out In Brum - Revolution Bar - Tom Mixing

Over all we’d give:

- The Revolution Cocktail Making Masterclass a score of 4.5 / 5 – a fun and highly intoxicating way to spend the evening with a few friends.

- Revolution’s dining experience: 3 / 5 – nowhere near as organised as it should be, perhaps worth revisiting again at a later date.

Thanks to our blogger friend Tom (http://www.ukpositivelad.com) who attended the cocktail event in our absence.

Out In Brum - Revolution - GIF

Posted in Area: Broad Street, Cuisine: Modern Mixed, Price: Average, Venue type: Bar, Venue type: Cocktail Bar, Venue type: Restaurant | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Raise Your Glasses for Birmingham Wine Festival

The Birmingham Wine Festival takes place at The Hyatt Regency, on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th June 2014.  Over 300 bottlings of wine, champagne, sparkling and fortified wines will be on taste.

Two of the city’s culinary stalwarts – Loves and Turners – will be providing the nibbles.Champagne Library Bar Epernay

The event is expected to attract nearly 2,000 wine lovers from around the country. You’ll have the chance to taste of a large selection of wines including new and rare varieties, some of which have not been seen in the city before.  New to wine?  Worry not, there will be masterclasses so you can learn a bit more about what you’re drinking.

Birmingham Wine Festival co-founder Amy Seton (AKA “the whisky lady”) said: “Birmingham’s food and drink scene has developed massively over the last few years yet there has never been a weekend long wine festival in the city. With the launch of places like Loki Wine and the heritage with places like Connolly’s and Laithwaites there is clearly a desire for those in the city and surrounding areas for an event like this.”

Birmingham’s top wine retailers Loki and Connolly’s are both on board with the festival and will be exhibiting at the event along with Harvey Nichols.

See you there!

Tickets cost £25 and are available via http://www.birminghamwinefestival.com/tickets/4583667081

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Five Guys – Foil wrapped disappointment

To much fan fayre Five Guys have opened their latest restaurant in the bullring in the unit vacated by Del Villagio. From humble beginnings in 1986 Arlington, Virginia, where the Murrell brothers founded their first burger joint, their brand has attracted a worldwide cult following and now counts over 1,000 locations globally.

Given the hype we guessed it would be busy.  We were a bit surprised though that on arrival we were greeted not just by a busy chatty restaurant, but with the discarded paraphernalia from previous diners over almost every surface, and an upbeat playlist at an ear-bleeding volume 11.

It’s not a table service venue like Handmade Burger Company or a mixture like Gourmet Burger Kitchen, here it’s all about queuing. On our visit it was a good 10 minutes to get to order. The choices are plentiful. The claim is you can have your Five Guys burger in any of 250,000 combinations. Think Subway. Choose a burger, cheese burger, bacon burger, or a hot dog, then choose your size and toppings. You’re handed your empty cup for your drink and an order number before you head to your next queue for the food itself.

We waited just under 20 minutes for our food to be cooked, so that’s a 30 minute stood-up wait in total. The food is cooked to order in front of you in a very open kitchen, FiveGuys1so every mistake is there for you to see.  The staff were working absolutely flat out, I hope that as they get their eye in they will all speed up.

Whilst you wait for your food, it’s a good idea to send an advance party to the Coca-Cola freestyle machines. Promising over 100 flavour combinations there should be something to keep everyone happy. Alternatively you could help yourself to some free peanuts whilst you wait. You’ll find them located around the restaurant, placed in open boxes on top of the overflowing bins – none for me, thanks.

FiveGuys7

Having survived the 250,000 food combination and 100 drink flavour decisions and the 20 minute rubbish-flavoured-peanut wait we opened our carefully handed over brown paper bag, a Five Guys “trade mark”, expecting to be blown away.  The reality was we were totally disappointed with the mess that greeted us.

FiveGuys2

A big thing is made of the “amazing Five Guys fries”. Well, if you like very salty soggy fries chucked on top of your wrapped burgers then you’re in for a treat. If not, then like us yours will end up joining the peanuts at the bins.

The burgers themselves were very tasty. You get two hand formed patties with lots of toppings, all wrapped in silver foil. Whilst this helps to keep your burger warm, I do wonder if this creates its own problems with a disappointing  soggy bun to go with your nicely cooked burger. We found them very messy to eat, it’s not somewhere to go for a quick business lunch.
FiveGuys5

Price wise it’s a little above the likes of GBK – around £7 for a burger, £4 for a regular fries and £2 a soft drink. Our simple 2 burger, 2 fries and 2 soft drink meal came to £26.50. I think that’s high for what is in effect a fast food joint with lots of queuing, dirty uncleared tables, and overflowing bins.

Will we be rushing back? No. I’d rather go to GBK, Handmade Burger or track down Meatshack at Digbeth Diner on a Friday night.

Utterly disappointing.

Posted in Area: Central Shopping, Area: City Centre, Area: The Bullring, Areas in Birmingham, Cuisine: English, Price: Get your dad to pay - above average | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments