Tom’s Kitchen

Out In Brum - Tom's Kitchen - Rabbit TerrineNote this is a write-up of a freebie as we were guests of the restaurant.  We pay for almost everything we review and when we occasionally do a freebie event we’ll tell you and be as critical as usual.  See our reciprocity promise here.

Tom’s Kitchen has been open about a year in the refurbished Mailbox complex. It is buried in the shopping mall on the first floor by the entrance to Harvey Nichols. The restaurant borrows its light from the atrium, its wall open to passing shoppers with buggies and bags. A screen provides some level of privacy but it still has a bit of an air of food court. It’s not food court prices though; dinner here will set you back £50+ a head with a glass of wine or two.

Out In Brum - Tom's Kitchen - InteriorThe interior is traditional plush bistro in style, all warm leathers and wood, we were quite comfy for our wintery meal. Staff were friendly and knowledgable, and our waitress knew exactly which dishes to avoid for a shellfish allergy. We had some carafes of fab wine, Cabernet Sauvignon was good, and the Rioja was great.

We ordered a cashew dip and crackers with our aperitif. Either I have an allergy I was unaware of or it was past its best, with a distinct but mild tongue fizz, similar to that found in fermenting guacamole.

For starters I had the confit duck ballotine. I had incorrectly assumed this would be a hot Out In Brum - Tom's Kitchen - Duck Ballotinedish, but it was served almost fridge cold. I liked the bed of cauliflower heavy piccalilli and sharp fruit chutney, and it was a pretty plate of food. I would have preferred and expected the duck to have been warm on a winter menu, overall it was just a bit disappointing. The rabbit terrine faired no better. Pickled baby carrots added a zing to the rabbit meat, though some of it was quite bitter, and again the dish was too cold.

The week we were dining there was a special on game, so for my main I took the partridge from the specials menu. Service was a little slow, we’d arrived at 18.30 and mains arrived at 19.45, just as I was getting fed up of waiting. The partridge was a little dry and more of the delicious sauce was required. The parsnip puree was good, sweet and earthy flavours complimenting the meat. The parsnip crisps were a mixed success with some quite limp Out In Brum - Tom's Kitchen - Partridgebut others crackable. The pear was underripe and flavourless. Presentation was pleasingly dramatic. We also had the lamb steak on bulgar wheat. It was tender and strongly flavoured, we were unsure whether the bulgur wheat salad worked with it, and we didn’t like the puddle of sauce it sat in.

Special mention to the truffle chips with parmesan. They are possibly the very best chips I’ve eaten, and they have some strong competition. Crispy and golden on the outside, fluffy and steaming inside, and with wonderful pungent truffle finish.

We’ve heard mixed reports of the food and service here, and we’ve been told by people whose foodie views we trust that they’ve had really excellent food. Perhaps we were just Out In Brum - Tom's Kitchen - Lamb Steakunfortunate, but I’m not sure I’d want to risk £100 for dinner for two here knowing I could go to, say, Opus, or Harborne Kitchen and be guaranteed a great meal. Consistency is so important at this price point and I’m afraid on our trip it didn’t hit the spot. Disappointing.

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 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

*** Not *** The Frankfurt Christmas Market: Skate Birmingham and City Social

We’re told that The Frankfurt Market brings untold riches to our city, but no-one hasOut In Brum - East Side Skate Birmingham - Big Wheel been able to quantify it for me.  It certainly brings some cheer, but also hordes of tourists.  Pretty much everyone who lives or works in the city centre breaths a huge sigh of relief when the market packs up and rolls off, and spends little to no time there.  When we attend we do so on drizzly Monday evenings when crowds are thin.

This year, owing to the current closure of Centenary Square and surrounding area, weOut In Brum - East Side Skate Birmingham - Skating Rink have two completely new Christmas outdoor spaces to explore.  One great for the kids, one great for the grown-ups, but both providing entertainment for everyone.  Both less than 10 minutes on foot from New Street Station.

First, to City Social, at the foot of the steps to The Mailbox, under the protective cover of the flyover.  Arranged and staffed by Brummies, many of whom have bricks and mortar venues in the city, the event space offers plenty to amuse the tastebuds: Pizza Trader slices, Indian Brewery nibbles, Out In Brum - City Social - Pizza TradersOstrich burgers, chocolate goodies, fine food from Corner Kitchen, boozy Baileys hot chocolate, hot Pimms, cider, gin, whiskey, ale, and Pilsner from ABK.

There’s also a range of stalls selling shiny Christmas decorations, gifts, wreaths and other floral decs from city florist Richard Randall.  Plus, it has a stage with live music.  On Saturday we spent a whole afternoon and evening there drinking and eating, meeting friends, and having a bit of a boogey to the excellent groups that performed.  We had lovely fun!  It was nowhere near as crowded as the Frankfurt market, and you Out In Brum - City Social - Randalls Wreathscould definitely take the kids here for a pizza while you have a boozy Baileys hot chocolate.

For a different kind of day or evening you could head to Eastside Park, aka “Skate Birmingham” – for this year the large covered Ice Rink with bar has moved here, as has the Big Wheel.  We think this is a great place to bring the kids.  As well as skating, you can get the little ones on Santa’s Reindeer merry-go-round, plus there are bumper cars, a kid’s roller coaster, a big scary-upside-downey-thing and the Big Wheel to have a Out In Brum - City Social - Baileys Pimmswhirl in.  And of course, you can get a hot dog, a beer, a hot chocolate, doughnuts, and other funfair favourites.

Well done to the local entrepreneurs that have set up these events, complementary to the rest of the Brummy Christmas celebrations.

EAST SIDE PARK – SKATE BIRMINGHAM FUNFAIR GALLERY

CITY SOCIAL – LOCAL MUSIC, FOOD, BOOZE, AND PARTY!

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Meat Shack: Dripping. Filthy. Goodness.

Out In Brum - Meat Shack - SignPassing time in our city’s fine dining restaurants is a luxurious experience.  One can sit starry eyed with crisp white linen, ranks of gleaming cutlery, and shining wine glasses, while suited waiting staff attend to every dietary foible and request.  However as much as I love it, and I really do, so please ask should you require company on such a visit, it’s not something I could say I “crave”.  My cravings are reserved for somewhat more down-to-earth cuisine.

Queue the Brum streetfood scene.  I’m talking Thai from Budda Belly; slices from Out In Brum - Meat Shack - StairsPizza Traders and Bare Bones Pizza; delights from Platinum Pancakes; Toasties from Jaberwocky and so many more.  While those are available only at special streetfood events like the hallowed Digbeth Dining Club, we can now indulge in some that have opened their own brick and mortar establishments: Indian food from the Indian Brew House, or the new Indian Streatery; and of course one of the best known venues, Original Patty Men (OPM) burgers which opened 18 months ago.

We now have an alternative to the wonderful OPM.  The city’s other firm favourite burger makers, Meat Shack, have opened a venue right near to the Hippodrome on Thorp Street, in the building previously occupied by Stage Side bar, with all of their normal Out In Brum - Meat Shack - Burger“Dripping Filthy Goodness”.

If you’ve not eaten artisan burgers like this before, don’t think of them like the greasy stale bun affairs that you can find in a B&Q car park for two quid, consisting mainly of minced ear, snout, and trotter.  This is burger making qua art-form, with the best ingredients, interesting ideas, and skilful burger chefs.

The Meat Shack sits above Thorp 17 bar, on Thorp Street opposite The Dance Exchange.  The bar is bright and warm, and we’ve enjoyed a few pre-burger pints here already.  They’ve a good range of beers and lagers.  Many foodie venues seem to opt Out In Brum - Meat Shack - Friesfor a more craft beer offering which is all 8%-complicated-massive-citra-hops, whereas often I just want a lighter lager or two with dinner – so I am well served here at Meat Shack.  Take the stairs hinted at from the bar from a sign, to find the large burger joint, with tables small and large.

There’s a permanent offering of a few burgers, and usually a special on as well.  Usually I have a “Mr. C” burger (£7) – that’s an aged beef pattie, oozy American cheese, iceberg, red onion, pickle, ketchup, and shack sauce.  I love the textural and temperature differences in burgers like this, crispness of lettuce, against softness of Out In Brum - Meat Shack - Onionsbun.  We also like the “Dutch Piggy” burger with beautifully crisp bacon.  The fries here (£3) are seriously good – a crispier one you won’t find, and the chipotle mayo (“chipayo”) is really zingy.  I like a frickle or two (that’s battered fried pickles, of course), but they are quite heavy and couldn’t recommend a whole portion for one person.

Like so many of the streetfood folks, these guys are obsessed with the food they offer, and they end up providing a fantastic product!  If you haven’t visited already, get there soon, it’s a must-do in Brum for anyone serious about food, and brilliant value for a night out!

Out In Brum - Meat Shack - Frontage

 

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Three Church Road

Out In Brum - Three Church Road - FrontageSt. George’s, Edgbaston, is fast becoming the gastronomic hub of the western side of the city. While Simpsons has been presenting pretty plates for years there are many new, and not so new, great offerings around here; El Boraccho de Oro, Blue Piano, Laghi’s, The Physician, and The Highfield are all just a few minutes walk, and other interesting things are on the way too. If you’ve managed to tick all of those off, you’ll be pleased to know another restaurant opened some months ago to almost no publicity.

It’s not your usual venue, granted, but we thought it was worth a punt. You see, Three Out In Brum - Three Church Road - InteriorChurch Road restaurant is actually part of the new retirement village at Audley St. George’s Place. If this brings to mind soggy vegetables with grey mince then think again, the restaurant is pitched at the well heeled owner occupiers of the ninety-five apartments and cottages at this complex which boasts a library, pool, gym, sauna, landscaped grounds, and bar in beautifully converted Georgian mansions and new builds. If I should be so lucky to have a few million quid knocking about in my pension pot in a few decades time I might consider it myself.

Decoration and styling is sympathetic to the Grade II listed Georgian Regency mansion. Out In Brum - Three Church Road - LibraryOriginally opened in 1814 as the Royal School for the Deaf, it continued to serve the hearing impaired until the 1980s. Thankfully the Audley group have rid the large site of the hideous 80’s builds, carbuncles, that were thrown up around this gem of a building, and have brought back some of the regal to the regency style. Keen attention has been paid to the interior, carpets and curtains quieting the comfortable dining room for an intimate dinner with friends.

While the pink bar looked very comfortable we decided to take an aperitif at the table, a Out In Brum - Three Church Road - Pork Bellycouple of well-made Aperol ‘Negroni’, cocktails, a prosecco, and a gin & tonic. To start I ate the Chicken parfait (£7.50). Acidic pickled veg cut through smooth, rich parfait, an attractively presented dish. We also had a creamy mushroom soup.

For my main I had slow braised pork belly. Juicy meat with the right amount of rendered fat was dressed with a sweet gravy and set off by bright green and orange of broccoli and carrot (£14.50). I enjoyed the pork but it could’ve done with some potato on the side, and to my horror, it was missing its crackling. I know it said “braised” but with pork belly I’d still expect chef to go to the effort with the crackling.Out In Brum - Three Church Road - Lamb Rump

The Welsh lamb rump served with barley (£19) was a larger dish than the pork. I’m never sure if I really like barley, and there was certainly too much of it. The lamb didn’t do it for me either, I like lamb rump cooked long and slow to melt the fat away in to the meat, and this effect had not been achieved, leaving inedible un-rendered fat. I loved the floral crystalised violet served with my pudding, a deconstructed sticky toffee affair, with apple and ice-cream.

Out In Brum - Three Church Road - LibraryDespite my mixed review of the food, the service was really good, and the place is lovely. We had a nice evening together putting the world to rights drinking reasonable reasonably priced wine (then we finished the night getting squiffy with wonderful Spanish wine at El Borracho around the corner). I guess Three Church Road is high-end of middle in terms of price, and for that they do need to sort out the food offering, it wasn’t quite there when we visited. I suspect given it is so quiet (we were the only Saturday evening diners), that might be taking its toll on the kitchen. I hope that Audley start getting the advertising out on this, it could be a charming addition to the Edgbaston menu if they can make it busy and sort out the hiccups. Good luck to them, we’ll no doubt give it another go to see how they’re getting on next year.

Out In Brum - Three Church Road - Pool

Posted in Area: Edgbaston, Cuisine: English, Cuisine: Fine Dining, Price: Average, Price: Get your dad to pay - above average | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gaucho Electro Brunch

Out In Brum - Gaucho Brunch - InteriorNote this is a write-up of a freebie as we were guests of the restaurant.  We pay for almost everything we review and when we occasionally do a freebie event we’ll tell you and be as critical as usual.  See our reciprocity promise here.

Gaucho restaurant opened in Birmingham just a few months ago.  They’ve taken a basement unit in the newly refurbished 55 Colmore Row building, and what a transformation they’ve made to it.  It could’ve been a dark and dingy claustrophobic box, but they’ve pulled off a cool and cosy hideout.  One steps off the street in to a reception that acts as a transition area, protecting the plushly carpeted inner sanctum from the pedestrian brightness and noise of the Out In Brum - Gaucho Brunch - Drinksoutside world.  The space is broken up by comfy booths, lit column “trees”, and white pathways, which give a sense of separation and privacy between the tables.  Stemware is fine, seating comfortable, and lighting subdued; this is a place to escape from the real world for an hour or three.

Which is what we did last Saturday morning.  We were invited to the newly launched Gaucho all inclusive Electro brunch.  Priced at £45 per head and running from 11am till 4pm, you can sit for two hours ordering plate after plate and drink after drink from the Electro Brunch menu, while upbeat music plays.  The menu is classical brunch, with plenty of eggs, plenty of pork, toast, sweet treats, and of course, booze.

What we needed at 11am on a Saturday was some booze to bring us around from the Out In Brum - Gaucho Brunch - ChorizoFriday night hangover.  We tried the Argentinian fizz Domaine Chandon (yes, that Chandon) which was not quite fine enough for me, however the Bloody Mary I had was excellent: fresh zingy tomato juice, with a slug of vodka, plenty of ice, and plenty of spice.  I also had  a delicious refreshing Aperol Spritz.  I thought about having a juice or a coffee but I couldn’t bring myself to do it when there was free flowing spritzes on offer.  I did try an orange, carrot, and ginger juice which was good, and the apple, cantaloupe, and mint juice was refreshing – although we always think melon juices are better with Midori (joke!).

The service was not impeccable, but it was a PR event and they were taking multiple plate-at-a-time orders from more than thirty people which I think took its toll on the stylish waiting staff and the normal order of things.  I’m assured the service from the is usually spot on.

Out In Brum - Gaucho Brunch - French ToastNow to the main event, the food.  Our table tried pretty much everything.  First up the mini croissants with peanut butter dulce de leche which were a sweet and salty buttery start.  Then to the oven baked chorizo sausage, which by rights should be called the Gaucho Full English in my opinion, which included a delicious spicy baked chorizo, plum tomato, mushrooms and a fried egg, all super hot served on a small skillet.  For my final dish I tried the fried provoleta – breaded and deep fried soft cheese, very rich and decadent.  The bacon sandwich, french toast, beans on toast, and Gaucho Benedict with Salt Beef instead of ham was all good.  The star of the show though was, unsurprisingly
Out In Brum - Gaucho Brunch - Exteriorgiven it’s an Argentinian steak house, the Steak and Egg – a small but super tasty and tender steak with a fried egg, absolutely delicious.

Everyone says Gaucho steak is excellent so it’s on our list of places to try for dinner, but given the price point it’ll wait for a celebration of some type.  I thought £45 per for brunch was a bit steep, but the drinks are great, the place is beautiful, and the food is really really good.  If you want cheap then feel free to go to the Wetherspoons for a five quid breakfast and a pint of mild.  This place is for luxuriating in style, consuming excellent food and cocktails.

Posted in Area: Central Shopping, Area: Colmore Business District, Birmingham Restaurant, birmingham restaurant review, birmingham review, Cuisine: Argentinian, Cuisine: Fine Dining, Cuisine: Steakhouse, Price: Get your dad to pay - above average, Price: My eyes are watering - expensive, restaurant review, Venue type: Restaurant | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Architect-turned-photographer to stage first exhibition at Bar Opus

The man who helped to drive city centre redevelopment in Birmingham has joined forces with Bar Opus, the leading independent city bar, to stage an exhibition of his photographs.

Philip Singleton’s Pause Project, which features 12 images of buildings that are in a state of transition, is the third art exhibition that the bar at One Snowshill has showcased this year in support of local talent.

Philip, the former CEO of Millennium Point and assistant director of city centre development at Birmingham City Council, is studying for a Masters in photography at the Falmouth University Institute of Photography and says he is looking forward to unveiling his atmospheric images on September 20th.

With a background in architecture and urban development, Philip says his interest in photography grew out of considering the architectural metamorphosis across the city.

“Birmingham has to be one of the most rapidly changing cities in the country and is a master at reinventing itself,” he said. “I wanted to capture and document what is happening and have been able to gain access to spaces that are private or hidden away. These aren’t architectural studies; instead, I’ve focused on another layer of the empty, melancholic spaces that people leave behind.”

The photographs include an empty cell in Steelhouse Lane police station; the safe deposit boxes in the former Municipal Bank in Broad Street; the industrial units at Icknield Port Loop; and the BCU Conservatoire, which has been demolished to make way for the new Paradise development.

To further cement the exhibition’s connection to the city, Philip used Digbeth-based photographic developers Palm Laboratories and framers Harris Moore to create the exhibition.

“Bar Opus has given me a tremendous opportunity to exhibit my work and it has been incredibly generous in its support,” said Philip. “It’s great that a high-quality independent business in the city is helping emerging local artists and I’m excited to have my works exhibited there in the Colmore BID.”

Irene Allen, director, said: “2017 has been a transformational year for us as we’ve sought to bring the work of local artists into Bar Opus. We’ve enjoyed giving a platform to some incredible artists and our last exhibition of the year is another fascinating study, documenting spaces that we don’t normally see. We’ve no doubt that they’ll be a real talking point for our customers.”

Since the beginning of the year, Bar Opus has showcased the work of internationally renowned artist Sophie Hedderwick, art from Birmingham-born innovators Key & Tam, the creative duo behind LOWLFE, and Birmingham artist and owner of Disorder Boutique Mark Howard.

Whilst you’re at Bar Opus, why not make the most of their tie-up in conjunction with Selfridges and local gin distillers Langley’s and give the new Birmingham Gin a try.

This London Dry Gin is carefully brewed with coriander, angelica root, liquorice and orange peel at the Langley Distillery in Birmingham. The chic bottle is decorated with copper foils dots, which are inspired by the iconic Selfridges discs and the 150-year old copper still in which the spirit is distilled, and is avilable exclusively at Selfridges Bullring for £44.99.

Bar Opus at One Snow Hill is now the first bar in town to be serving the Birmingham Gin. The expert booze technicians have created three bespoke Birmingham inspired cocktails to match this new flavour.

Brummie Mary 

Birmingham Gin, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, volcano salt, ground black pepper, sriracha sauce, fresh lemon

Brumtini 

Birmingham Gin, dry vermouth, grapefruit bitters, grapefruit garnish

Midlands Mojitio 

Birmingham Gin, fresh lime, sugar, mint, ginger ale

For more information on Bar Opus, visit www.baropus.co.uk

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Otto Wood Fired Pizza

Out In Brum - Otto Pizza - NdujaDichotomy of architectural style is apparent all over Birmingham, and nowhere more so than the Jewellery Quarter.  Hideous 90s blocks of flats and offices sit side by side with beautiful Victorian temples to manufacturing, some of which have undergone chic refurbishments, repurposed to service the bustling village community that’s been built there.  And so to Caroline Street, just off St. Paul’s Square, where a building that used to house part of the biscuit factory has been turned in to The Eight Foot Grocer and deli (built in the factory’s 8 foot wide loading bay), and Otto Wood Fired Pizza restaurant.  A former London restaurant manager, Chris James, is behind both ventures.

Although I’ve heard it’s great, I can’t comment on the grocer’s (see what I did there grammar nerds?) as I’m never around when it’s open to try the produce, coffee, and lunches that they offer daily.  I can however comment on the pizza as we’ve eaten there a couple of times now.

The last time was a summer’s Friday evening a few weeks ago.  Straight from work we Out In Brum - Otto Pizza - White Sauceheaded to the brilliant Rock ’n’ Roll Brewhouse for a couple, and then over to Otto’s.  We sat out on a pavement table with a bottle of beer in some rare 2017 sunshine, looking over at the gold trimmed Bloc hotel.  I’ve just noticed on the menu that I could’ve ordered a pre-dinner Negroni or Aperol Spritz, I shall give them a go next time.

This place is about provenance of ingredients.  Coffee comes from Birmingham’s Quarter Horse Roastery, flour from the Cotswolds, salami from Shropshire, and the blue cheese is Colston Bassett.  There’s nowhere to hide on a pizza, the ingredients and their quality must speak for themselves.

There are eight pizzas on the menu, and usually a couple of specials.  It goes without saying that they make their own dough, and have a fiercely hot pizza oven to cook the pizzas in.  I chose the ‘Nduja, mushroom, mozzarella, tomato, and I think it was drizzled with honey (I failed to get a copy of the specials menu).  Sweet honey complimented the the spicy heat of the soft ‘Nduja sausage which packed great flavour.  The base of the pizza was thin and crispy. I loved it, and I think it’s one of the best pizzas I’ve had in Brum.  We also had a pizza with a white sauce base instead of tomato, perfect for tomato haters.

Pizzas will cost you less than a tenner here and they’re made with real care and attention.  The food was great and the service was friendly, I’d highly recommend it.

Posted in Area: Jewellery Quarter, Cuisine: Pizza, Price: Cheap as Chips - Inexpensive, Venue type: Restaurant | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment