Made on the Canal – Brill Brum Art

When we were talking with friends about a blog redesign some months ago we were re-Out In Brum - Made On The Canal - Libraryintroduced to the previous designer-in-residence at Birmingham City University, Thomas Parry, perhaps better know as Made On The Canal.  We’ve had such a wonderful response to our new logo and banner that we really want to share this designer’s wonderful work with you – and at the moment you might still get some stocking fillers from him in time for Christmas!

Birmingham born Thomas grew up in Northern Ireland but then returned to Brum where he studied at BCU from 2007, graduating some years later with an MA in Product Design.  While his first love was ceramics (“I like to get Out In Brum - Made On The Canal - TC Workingmucky!”) he’s finding success now, alongside his full-time non-design job, in working on commission design pieces, and selling his iconic line drawings of Birmingham’s landmarks, in a  similar style to our logo, under the moniker Made on the Canal.  Why that name?  Because, of course, he lives and designs on his narrow boat – The Menace – that travels the Grand Union Canal network.

His drawings are instantly recognisable as the sites of Birmingham, even though only drawn with black lines on white.  He said: “I spend as long as is necessary to discern the defining features, lines and patterning that fix that particular building/landmark in our minds.  Dimension, sense of scale and proportion are all significant. How this plays with space once it is free from the overall skyline on a single piece of paper can only be worked through once I begin stripping away the everyday to lift the form of the structure from the page”.Out In Brum - Made On The Canal - Logo

If you’re after a Christmas gift for someone then check out his website,, for brilliant value hand finished prints (and there’s 20% off until 14/12/16).  Thomas can bespoke them if you wish, adding or removing detail and colour as required.  A particular favourite of mine is his A1 Birmingham City Centre Map which is interesting art for any office or modern room.  He’s created the map by drawing 2D line images of the city’s landmarks then connecting them with roads so that from each point on the map you can see the buildings that are there.  The irregular skyline is great too.

We can highly recommend him for commission pieces.  We explained vaguely what we wanted for logos, banners, and business cards and he worked with us to hone and tweak them until we were happy (and we’re very difficult customers).  It’s great to be able to support a truly local and independent talent in Brum, and hope you enjoy his work too.



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Harborne Kitchen

Out In Brum - Harborne Kitchen - The TeamAfter almost a year of mourning the closure of The Butchers’ Social on Harborne High Street, Wednesday night we were able to celebrate the opening of its replacement – Harborne Kitchen.  Co-creator of The Butchers’ Social, Jamie Desogus, is now Executive Chef Proprietor of his very own restaurant, an elegant and friendly place that is going to tickle the taste buds of most of Brum’s foodie set over the coming weeks.

Those of you who knew The Butchers’ won’t recognise the place, for it has quite literally been rebuilt.  The only things that remain are the party walls and the roof.  A palette of Out In Brum - Harborne Kitchen - The Passdeep blues and beech woods offer a warm Scandi vibe, with a massive hand painted bull alluding to its decades as a high street butcher’s shop.  Entering from the street you’ll find yourself in a cosy bar inviting you to take a seat and have a coffee from local roastery Quarter Horse, or indulge in a beer, a wine, or a well-made cocktail from Josh.  As an aperitif we had an excellent espresso martini, combining the wonderful Quarter Horse coffee with Josh’s skills with a cocktail shaker.

It’s often said that the British hospitality industry is run by the most inhospitable people, but it’s not so here.  Like many of the HK team, bar manager Josh is full of boundless Out In Brum - Harborne Kitchen - Barenergy for his profession, and the service from him, the general manager Kinglsey, and restaurant manager Ben was remarkably good.  All of the staff are proud of the transformation of the building, and of the fine product that they’re offering.  The kitchen team, entirely on display in what must be the most open of kitchens in Birmingham, are equally buoyant to be dishing out top quality food, and there is some established young talent on display alongside seasoned Chef Jamie who’s worked for some of the UK’s finest chef’s such as Gordon Ramsay and Mark Askew.

Full disclosure: we went to a soft launch night so food was half price, if you think that’s swayed my point of view, it’s because you haven’t tried for yourself the roasted yeast butter, the cod skin “quavers”, nor the pork doughnut.  I have no doubt you’ll be as big a fan as I am.

We booked seats on one of the two chef’s tables, sat on high stools against a generous bar overlooking the completely open kitchen.  I find it fascinating to watch an expert at work Out In Brum - Harborne Kitchen - Bull Wall and Seating Planand was not disappointed as we had a great view of all the kitchen stations.  HK offers an à la carte menu (two courses £26.50, three courses £32.50), but as it was a special occasion – a miserable and wet Wednesday in November – we thought the seven course tasting menu (£55), with matching wine flight (£40), was in order.

First up, chef’s snack.  A golden golf-ball sized doughnut filled with pork collar and topped with sharp apple sauce, hot from the fryer, was a perfectly piggy antidote to the winter gloom.  The cod skin ‘quavers’ were feather light and delicate, and with a spray of rosemary vinegar gave a big flavour punch and a taste of the sea.  The accompanying bread, baked on the premises of course, was served with an Out In Brum - Harborne Kitchen - Pre Starterunusual roasted yeast butter, adding a strong sesame flavour with a hint of malt.  I finished the lot.  This was served with an English sparking wine that I’d not had before from Bolney in Sussex, a light and simple wine, quite fizzy, cut through the richness of the doughnut; it’s always nice to start with some fizz.

The first starter course was Jerusalem artichoke, girolle, spinach, camembert, and hazlenut.  The artichoke was burnished gold in butter and married beautifully with the creamy camembert foam.  Artichoke crisps added another texture, with hazelnut brittle as a Out In Brum - Harborne Kitchen - Salmon Skin Quaversseasoning.  This was served with a Navaherros Blanco de Bernableva which was minerally with a  creamy mouthfeel.

The next starter course was lamb sweetbread, pink peppercorn, coriander, masala shrimp, and cauliflower.  This small dish packed a mighty fine taste profile.  Some hung yoghurt was slightly sharp against the soft sweetbreads, while the masala shrimp brought in a more exotic warmth and strands of sour apple cut through the butteryness.  This was served with the cold hopped house lager, closer to an ale than a continental lager, this has the hops thrown in at the last minute for a floral hoppy flavour, but without the extreme bitterness favoured by many craft brewers, a lovely well balanced brew.

Then on to a fish course.  Monkfish, leek, pig’s ear, rosemary, and almond.  The shredded Out In Brum - Harborne Kitchen - Monk Fishfried ear was salty and crisp, great contrasted with the firm white monk fish and soft leeks.  Unusually this was served with a red wine, a Lagrimas de Garnacha.  I was quite ready to dislike this pairing but found I couldn’t, the wine was light and the dish was rich with the meaty monk fish and the salty piggy ear, and the match worked well.

Next up the main.  Fallow deer haunch, hispi cabbage, celeriac, coffee and chocolate.  The celeriac puree was sweet against the slightly bitter cabbage, and pink venison.  I love how chocolate and coffee are being incorporated in to more savoury dishes, and the team here shows perfect restraint in their use.  There Out In Brum - Harborne Kitchen - Venisonwas just a mere suggestion of them both, adding a wonderful depth to the venison flavours.  The wine with this course was my favourite, a gorgeous jammy St Emillion Grand Cru Bordeaux, full of autumnal blackberry.

On to a pre-dessert of sharp yoghurt, sweet dehydrated Clementine, and star anise.  I enjoyed the punchy aniseed against the cool yoghurt and, and the aniseedy fennel fronds.  This was served with a Niizawa Earl Grey Sake, sweet and bergamot perfumed.  Finally, on to the final dessert: mango, ginger, buttermilk, and macadamia.  The ginger sponge was delicately spiced to work with the sunny mango.  The sugared macadamia was pretty and provided Out In Brum - Harborne Kitchen - Ginger Cakesome required crunch; I had earlier enjoyed watching the burly pastry chef make these dainty shining jewels from molten sugar.  The final pairing was a Royal Tokaji, a familiar delicious dessert wine.

As a digestif Josh produced for me a great rendition of an Old Fashioned, which I enjoyed with the mignardises of blackberry pastilles.

Definitely a marathon and not a sprint, we were dining for around four hours, with service being spot-on, neither slow nor impatient.

I suspect that this place will be packed pretty soon, the service and food is simply too good to pass up, and it promises to offer a lot of possibilities – pints, cocktails, bar food, celebratory dinners, romantic meals, coffee, and everything in between.

Congratulations Jamie and the rest of the team in opening a top class local restaurant, and good luck over the coming months while you become an established part of Brum’s exploding dining scene.

Check out this time lapse of the kitchen and some more snaps below:


Posted in Area: Harborne, 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: Restaurant, Venue type: Wine Bar | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lasan Restaurant

out in brum - lasan - exteriorA few weeks back, to celebrate my parents’ ruby wedding anniversary (that’s 40 years!) we took them to Lasan restaurant.  Run by Birmingham restaurateur Aktar Islam and his business partner Jabba Khan, the eatery has picked up many awards over recent years, perhaps most notably Gordon Ramsay’s F-Word best local restaurant in 2011.

The restaurant is set just off picturesque St. Paul’s Square in the Jewellery Quarter.  It’s modern glass exterior extends inside where polished concrete continues from the outdoor steps through the bar and dining room.  The last twice I’ve been here I’ve thought it could perhaps do with a bit of a makeover; if I’m shelling out for fine dining then the food, the service, and the décor need to be spot on.  A boozy three-course dinner will set you back around £75 a head, and that should come with a pretty pristine restaurant.  It’s not out-in-brum-lasan-soft-shell-crabtatty, but there are now points that should be addressed soon (scuffed stairs, frayed sofas, nothing major).

As a pre-starter we were given some tasty crisp golappe (bitesize spherical shells, with a hole in the top, stuffed with a little spiced chickpea mixture).  I could just eat thirty of those and be happy to be honest, but I don’t think the kitchen would appreciate it so we ordered starters.  A tender flame-licked Navrataani lamb cutlet was served with a chickpea patty, all gently spiced and offset by a mint raita; lamb and mint, what could be better?  I loved the Konkan Kedaka, soft shell crab in a light chilli batter, served with a crab cake and tomato chutney.  It’s so easy to over spice Out In Brum - Lasan - Beefcrab and end up with heat and no crab flavour, but I’m pleased to report the spice was spot on here.  Our other starters of Sindi murgh (tandoori chicken breast with mango, chilli and ginger) and a polished version of an onion pakora were also excellent.

For mains my mum and I both had the Bathak Ki Salan, a pan roasted duck breast, with a spiced confit of duck leg.  The breast was tender and the confit was buttery with a pleasant background heat.  My dad had a great rendition of a chicken jalfrezi, with a whole chicken breast plated elegantly.  The Nadan, a blade of Herefordshire beef that had been braised overnight, stole the show.  out-in-brum-lasan-lambAll the dishes came with small saucepans of extra sauce – perfect for me and my penchant for “wet” food (it was recently pointed out to me that not everyone likes their food drowning in delicious tasty sauces).  We shared a mushroom rice and a bread basket on the side.

For dessert I had a whisky (hic!) but we did also try the Chai, a spiced panna cotta, and the kaffir lime posset.  Both good palette cleansing desserts.

All in, we had an excellent dinner with attentive service.  Thoroughly recommended.

out in brum - lasan - dessert

Posted in Area: Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham Restaurant, birmingham restaurant review, birmingham review, Cuisine: Indian, Price: Get your dad to pay - above average, Price: My eyes are watering - expensive, Venue type: Restaurant | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

6/8 Kafe Kraft Beer Festival – DISCOUNT

6/8 Kafe Beer FestivalCity centre kult koffee venue 6/8 Kafe on Temple Row (at the back of Rackhams aka House of Fraser) have finally had the mass of scaffolding removed from its frontage.

To celebrate this unveiling, and the installation of a permanent 6 pump craft beer bar, they’re running a mini beer festival at the cafe from 10th to 12th November.

Festival organiser and proprietor Dav said:

“Our festival is about enjoying local beer WITH the amazing people that make them.

“It’s about tasting, learning, and enjoying everything about craft beer.

“On Friday we are having a “Meet the Brewer” session with Twisted Barrel. They will be launching their annual winter special “Dark Knight Rises” a Belgian Dubbel at Six Eight.

“On Saturday we are welcoming two Black country brewers, Sacre Brew and Fixed Wheel.

“Throughout the festival we will have live acoustic musicians, and we are working with Stufo, the Digbeth Dining Club favourites to provide fantastic food everyone can enjoy!”

Tickets are just £3.66, ***or £2.66 using our discount code OUT_BRUM*** from EventBrite here.  Dav tells me that entry includes a half pint.  Make sure you pick the correct session.  On EventBrite, click the green “Tickets” button, then there’s a pop up .  See screenshot at the bottom of this post showing the “ENTER PROMOTIONAL CODE” link in the top right of the pop-up where you should enter “OUT_BRUM”.

We haven’t seen a full list of beers, but we have seen the following:

On Friday 11th November Twisted Barrel beers will be launching their ‘Dark Knight Rises’, a6.6% Belgian Dubbel, their annual winter special.  Also from Twisted Barrel will be ‘In Amber Clad’ a 5.9% Rye IPA, and ‘Brobdingnangian’ a 5.2% Vanilla Export Mild.

Saturday 12th November Fixed Wheel Brewery join bringing ‘Carbon Black IPA’ 6.8%, ‘Coffee Fix’ 6.1 %, and ‘Single Speed Equinox’ 4.5%.

Six Eight Kafe Discount Screenshot

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Gavino’s Italian

Out In Brum - Gavino's - Prawn and AvocadoWe wouldn’t normally head to Wylde Green for dinner, it’s not known for its culinary excellence.  Our friends however said we must try the 80’s dining experience that is Gavino’s Italian Restaurant, promising Cinzano and melon boats aplenty.  Understand though that this wasn’t a theme night at this local eatery, but rather a restaurant so stuck in the past that “avocado” comes with the suffix “pear” and where I could probably get an Orange Juice Starter if I were so inclined.

Having holidayed in Italy a few times, and enjoyed some wonderful Italian food around Birmingham over the years, I’m not an Italian food novice.  Mediterranean food tends to exploit and showcase the wonderful sun drenched produce and fruits of the ocean.  Gavino’s merely mourned its passing.

Out In Brum - Gavino's - Scallops AsapragusWhen we arrived we were shown sternly to a meanly proportioned table and overly heavy chairs, overlooked by ancient looking dusty chianti bottles in their straw cases.  On googling, I have found that these bottles are called “fiasco”, which is rather apt given how the rest of the evening proceeded.

There were a fair number of people in the restaurant, many of them glumly sat in probably the same position they have each week, I hear it’s somewhat of a favourite for many.  We’re not a very lairy bunch but we do have fun and laugh at the dinner table.  The waiter looked aghast as we chattered and giggled, I suspect he was unused to the sight of people enjoying themselves.

For starters, despite the obvious draw of the Prosciutto e Melone (“Galia melon covered in thinly sliced ham”, £5.50), I opted for the Avocado e Gamberetti (“Avocado pear with baby prawns garnished with marie rose sauce”, £4.95).  The avocado was ripe at least.  The meagre portion of prawns was deluged with a marie rose sauce freshly squeezed from a Out In Brum - Gavino's - Beefbottle, leaving an unattractive pattern reminding me of lugworm casts on the beach.  We also tried the Capesante Prosciutto e Asparagi (scallops with prosicutto and asparagus, £6.95).  The scallops were so embarrassed by how overcooked they were they’d pulled a sheet of crisp prosciutto over themselves.  When dropped from a height of six inches on to the plate they managed a respectable three-inch bounce.  None of the other starters fared better.

For my main, I ordered veal “fried with demi-glass (sic), Marsala wine and black pepper” (£14.95).  The sauce tasted not unlike the chocolate sauce used on ice cream cones.  I’m not sure whether that was chef’s intention or whether he’d cocked up the labelling on the Out In Brum - Gavino's - Lasagnademi-glace.  I fear some people may have ended up with vanilla ice cream and veal sauce.  I thought the price point was high given that no sides at all come with it.  Just a bit of veal on a plate.  We added a greasy and limp zucchini fritti.

The Lasagna (£12.95) and Spaghetti Bolognese (£11.95) tasted of unseasoned beef mince and uncooked tomato.  The calamari (£13.95) which promised “fresh squid rings deep fried” tasted of yesterday’s sunflower oil and looked like they were freezer to fryer from Iceland.  The beef fillet (£17.95) (“8oz beef fillet steak, pan fried and cooked in a madeira wine and demi-glass, topped with pate and served on round toasted bread”) was fine, though they’d drowned it in sauce that had an unpleasant maroon colour.

We declined pudding and the Harvey’s Bristol Cream digestif and legged it to The Butler’s Arms for cheese instead.

Special mention must go out to the poor building extension they’ve had done which has left an opening window from the toilet in to the corridor.  You couldn’t make it up…

In summary: surly waiters, poor quality food, at a too-high price point.  Best avoided.

Posted in Birmingham Restaurant, birmingham restaurant review, Cuisine: Italian, Price: Get your dad to pay - above average, Venue type: Restaurant | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canal Square – Fine Indian Dining

Out In Brum - Canal Square - ExteriorHaving been brought up a couple of miles from Lye High Street, which for thirty years now has had over a dozen Indian eateries on it’s short half mile stretch, I’ve always been used to having tasty and cheap Indian food.  In fact if I had to pick a Desert Island Dish, it would probably be a balti, with a fluffy soft naan bread.  Given my penchant for poppadums, I was pleased to discover new restaurant Canal Square, in the unit previously occupied by Loves Restaurant, just five minutes from Brindley Place on foot and right next to JuJu’s Cafe.  So pleased in fact that we’ve been twice in two weeks.

Out In Brum - Canal Square - InteriorWe’ve a few fine dining Indian restaurants in Brum – Lasan and Pushkar to name two of my favourites.  Canal Square brings a similar offering, but with a better view, overlooking the old canal line at Sherborne Wharf.  The glass frontage, covered by the building overhang, will be perfect in the summer for sitting out with a beer or cocktail post dinner.

Harvey Bains, restaurant owner and maître d’, is charming and chatty, and full of energy for his new restaurant.  He was very accommodating for us, offering changes to dishes to make them spicier or with more sauce (because I like “wet” food).  They’re in soft launch mode so have done little marketing so far, we only heard about it from a friend who lives almost opposite.

At the moment they’re running their à la carte menu and a special opening carte d’hôte, £20 for a pre-starter, starter, main, and side.  We’ve eaten from both menus now.  As a Out In Brum - Canal Square - Paneer Starter‘pre-starter’ you can opt for the traditional poppadum with chutney, or for a number of other more interesting offerings.  I liked the gobi (cauliflower) pakora, which was delicately spiced and lightly battered, but the Golgappe (£3) were a burst of flavour I will probably repeat each time I go.  Golgappe  are bitesize spherical shells, with a hole in the top, stuffed with a little spiced chickpea mixture, and served with coriander and mint water and spiced tomato to pour on top of the chickpeas before crunching them in one bite.  A great mix of crunchy shell, soft warm chickpeas, and cool zingy sauce.

For starter I chose the  duo of paneer.  The creamy Indian cheese was served beautifully on a glass plate, a chilli infused paneer in sauce, and crispy paneer pakora, with beetroot Out In Brum - Canal Square - Mainsribbon decoration.  We also tried the tandoori chicken starter which was succulent and tasty.  For mains we had the butter chicken, which was mild and creamy, with light notes of ginger and garlic, the spicy kadai lamb, and karahi chicken.  The flavours of the individual spices came through and the level of chilli heat was spot on.  We shared naan and rice on the side.  Drinks options are good and we drank Kingfisher (obviously) and a crisp bottle of Picpoul de Pinet.

It’s a curiosity that Indian cuisine describes its dishes by the utensil used to cook them: kadai, karahi, balti, tandoor are all cooking containers of one kind or another.  We don’t seem to do this with the food of other nationalities.  There’s no ‘frying pan chicken’, ‘deep fat frier fish’, or ‘wok beef’.  I suppose we might put ‘pan fried’ on something.  Anyway, I digress.

Canal Square offers a chef’s table in the kitchen, which I think is a unique offering for a Birmingham Indian restaurant.  They also have a private banquet room for that special occasion, and offer a seven course taster menu.

With pre-starter, starter, main, sides, lager, and wine, dinner will probably cost you around £30 a head here, though the 7 course taster is £67 per head if you want to splash out.  Yes there are lots of cheaper Indian restaurants, but they’re simply not as good in terms of flavours, service, and presentation.  I think it’s an ideal place for a date, romantic dinner, or meal with friends.

Very enjoyable, give it a go.





Posted in Area: Brindley Place, Birmingham Restaurant, birmingham restaurant review, birmingham review, Cuisine: Indian, Price: Average, Venue type: Restaurant | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


We seem to be going a bit Jewellery Quarter mad lately. Virtually all of this year’s newout-in-brum-syriana-exterior venues have opened that side of the city. It’s fair to say though that not all of the JQ is as salubrious as the rest. Our latest foray there was to Syriana restaurant specialising in Syrian and Lebanese food. It’s in one of the most beautiful, if run-down, buildings in the city on Constitution Hill, just half a mile down from alternative gastro pubs The Church and The Lord Clifden, both of which are worth a trip if you’ve not already been.

Even if you don’t like the food, the building is worth a visit, shaped like New York’s well known Flatiron building but with considerably more Victorian pomp and beauty. Built in 1896 as works and offices for die sinkers H B Sale (who are still trading just a few hundred metres from this original building) the red brick and terracotta palace was erected as a memorial to Lord Roberts of Kandahar, Commander in Chief of the British Empire. It’s now Grade II listed, though I fear its glory won’t be with us forever as it has a long list of repairs required. More info on the building if you want it is available on Wikipedia here.

out-in-brum-syriana-interiorWe’d booked a table for six people but when we arrived we were given a table that barely seated four. Given that four of our six diners were built like rugby props, we asked to be moved to a larger table. At least it got us in to the “asking” mode, for we spent the evening asking multiple times for the food, the drinks, and the bill. After we were seated about an hour passed before any food arrived. In that time we’d been to the bar about four times as no table service was forthcoming for drinks. We were drinking “Beirut” pilsner, which was fine. The staff were friendly but largely unhelpful having no English at all, or being so rushed off their feet that they did’t have time to serve us.out-in-brum-syriana-starters

Eventually our starters arrived. We had Wara Enab (vine leaves stuffed with tomato, rice, parsley and mint), Muhammar (a dip of flame grilled red peppers, almonds, chillies, and garlic), deep fried Falafel. We also had a super smokey baba ganoush which tasted as smoky as a Laphroaig. I enjoyed all of the starters, despite the wait. Nothing was bad, nothing was exceptional, but at £4 a dish that’s not surprising.

Mains were less than mediocre. My grilled chicken was dry, and a dish of minced lamb with a cheese crust was greasy and unpleasant looking. It reminded me of one of those dishes Gordon Ramsey drags out of a freezer and loses his temper about at some awful US restaurant.out-in-brum-syriana-main

The Baklawa for dessert was nice, and very cheap, just £3.

Mains are about a tenner so with a couple of drinks, two courses and a main you can dine here for £25 a head. Had the service have been better, the experience overall may have been worth repeating, especially as there are other dishes on the menu that I’d like to try. So I propose you guys go try it and let us know how you get on before we return!


Posted in Area: Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham Restaurant, birmingham restaurant review, Cuisine: Middle Eastern, Price: Average | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment