Bistro @ B31

Brummy restaurateurs have found brilliantly innovative ways to continue to keep cash rolling in during lockdown, with many of them conscious that even after lockdown begins to ease that their normal business models won’t work because of requirements for distance between customers and the physical size of their premises. We applaud their innovation and have tried to use them once or twice a week to continue to support them. Where possible we’ve tried to have produce like bread and cheese delivered from some of our favourite independent sellers rather than resort to only the supermarket.

We’re also sparing a thought for businesses which were in the process of being set up, like Bistro 31, whose owner Clint Smith was on the verge of signing for a unit in Longbridge just before lockdown began. While their plans for a bistro serving in-house and takeaway food have been somewhat waylaid they have been running a delivery service (the Bistro Club) for NHS staff and people who were shielding – they’ve recently extended their offering to everyone in a 6 mile radius which covers much of the city and its suburbs.

They offer delivery of meals and desserts twice a week with the menu changing each week. You can order mid-week family meals like beef and sweet potato lasagne and Thai red curry, and desserts such as milky bar doughnuts and Eaton mess. For the weekend there are fun and tasty themed kits (think Mexican, Greek), plus full roasts and fry-ups.

This weekend we’ve had their Saturday night Mexican feast, and a lazy Sunday morning full fry-up which came to a very reasonable £40 for two people. For those of you that haven’t yet ordered any heat-at-home meals we can recommend Bistro @ B31 and a few more which we’ll list in another article.

Basically, with heat-at-home meals, you’re provided with everything you need to recreate (near) restaurant quality meals at home, including pre-prepped food ready for the oven, and instructions on how to reheat and serve. While we can’t wait to get back to seeing our favourites restaurateurs and sharing dining experience with our friends, this is a good alternative. You could even have a shared Zoom dinner party with everyone ordering the same food and prepping and eating together.

We started our Mexican fiesta dinner with charred corn and cheese polenta croquettes with lime and sour cream dressing. The outsides were crisp and the inside soft and cheesy, great with the fresh-tasting sour cream. The Havana potatoes provided an earthy cumin-punch. I particularly liked the blackened chicken enchilada, and beef brisket chilli tacos. The pork tenderloin burrito was very tasty with an interesting barbecue sauce – maybe a hint of cinnamon? I couldn’t quite put my finger on the spice mix.

We accompanied our dinner with the sounds of “The Mariachis” on Spotify, a mariachi cover band – we love a themed cover band! Thankfully we didn’t have any Tequila in the house otherwise Sunday would’ve been a write-off, and we potentially would have not been able to manage the full fry-up brunch we’d also had delivered from them. Bacon, egg, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, beans, black pudding hash brown cake, and poached eggs – all prepped and box just requiring an over re-heat. The poached eggs were spot on, albeit requiring an extra 30 seconds reheat in our domestic microwave compared to the instructions.

All in, we thought the delivery a great success, and will definitely use Bistro @ B31 over the coming weeks. You can find details of upcoming menus and instructions (including weekly deadlines) for ordering on their Facebook and Instagram pages and we’ve found them very easy to deal with.

We look forward to dining in Bistro @ B31 over the coming months, as they’re still planning to get the unit refurbished and ready for guests to enjoy it as soon as is possible.

Bistro @ B31 on Facebook

Bistro @ B31 on Instagram

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Birmingham Pride 2020: The Lockdown Digital Edition

The Birmingham Pride 2020 festival would’ve attracted over 100,000 people to the city over this Spring bank-holiday weekend but, of course, it has been Corona-postponed to 2020. Thankfully the organisers didn’t want to let the weekend pass without marking the occasion, which aptly would’ve had a theme of “Stronger Together”. They did a great job of moving some of the festival to a Digital celebration streamed over social media platforms, showcasing some of our old favourites as well as burgeoning talent – you can see some screenshots from the Digital event below.

Pride weekend is usually an opportunity for us to catch up with people we don’t often have chance to see and yesterday during Digital Pride we had a social media frenzy talking to our group of friends about the live acts. It was a great excuse to connect. I feel privileged that over the last couple of months while we’ve all been safe but nonetheless stuck at home I’ve been able to spend lots of time on the telephone and on videoconferences with our friends and family – though one more online quiz may drive me to distraction!

This year’s Birmingham Pride comes at the end of the UK’s Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW), and I think all of us have a renewed understanding of life’s mental health challenges as we’ve been at home during this crisis. You can check out the free support on offer from the Birmingham LGBT service on their website (including confidential support on domestic violence, wellbeing, sexual health, and trans wellbeing), or if you’re not looking specifically for LGBTQ+ related support then check out the sources on the MHAW website.

This year’s Digital Pride saw intros from West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, festival director Lawrence Barton, campaigner Peter Tatchell, and Andrew Moffat the assistant head teacher at the centre of the No Outsider’s anti-LGBT protests last year. It also saw cameo appearances from headliners like Kelly Rowland, Olly Alexander, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and Jake Shears. Regular local acts were also well-represented with the orangeade-effervescent Miss Marty, Miss Penny, and Baga Chipz amongst others.

We’re already looking forward to next year’s Pride scheduled for Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th May 2021! Keep an eye on their website for details (https://www.birminghampride.com). They’ve also announced that next year’s festival and street party will be free for kids under 12 years of age when accompanied by an adult, as well as for senior citizens over 65 years of age.

And now the screenshots……

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The Big Brummie Camp Out for SIFA Fireside – Kid Friendly Homelessness Charity Event on Friday 8th May

On Friday the 8th May SIFA Fireside are asking friends and families to set up camp in their back gardens, build make-shift dens on balcony’s or cushion castles in their front rooms to raise money for SIFA Fireside.

To sign up as a ‘camper’ SIFA are asking supporters to donate a minimum £5 to the appeal, in return for access to an exclusive Activity pack filled with fun activities including stargazing and leaf printing. The pack will have everything needed for an evening under the stars, including family-friendly recipes and craft activities. The evening will also help bring people together, with a hosted live stream, music performances, and the chance to share camping experiences on social media.

https://www.sifafireside.co.uk/pages/181-big-brummie-camp-out-2020

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COVID-19, a Black Country Ode

A poem written fonetikley (phonetically), in Black Country accent, by my very funny uncle, Chris Cartwright, April 2020.

We Need Ter Stop In – a Black Country Ode to COVID-19

by Chris Cartwright, April 2020.

We need ter stop in
Best not ter goo aht
Iss dodgy aht theer
Theer’s a virus abaht!

At best yo’ll get sick
Yo could wind up jed!
It doe tek much figerrin’
Try usin’ yer yed !

If yoan gorra goo shappin’
Then leave a saefe gap
Between wheer yo’m stondin’
An’ the next nearest chap

If yo’m lookin’ fer bog roll
‘Ond gel or soap
I con saeve yer a journey
Yo got no chuffin’ ‘ope

Iss important ter exercise
Ter stay ‘ealthy an’ strung
Just doe tek the mickey
An’ stop aht tew lung!

An’ if we all use some common
An’ show we bay fules
We con beat this ‘ere virus
If we foller the rules.

Stay saefe folks! Chris.

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Salt

Out In Brum - Salt Stratford-upon-Avon - ExteriorLanguorously sipping a pre-noon aperitif I remembered how pleasurable devoting a Saturday to friends and a fancy lunch is.  The open fire of The Woodman in Stratford-upon-Avon provided a comforting smokey aroma as we drank our Chase Pomelo and Grapefruit G&Ts, washing away the sadness of England losing to South Africa in the rugby world cup that morning.  Their dining room and menu looks elegant and welcoming so we’ll be sure to go back and eat there, but we had plans for this particular Saturday, just down the road at Michelin starred Salt.

Out In Brum - Salt Stratford-upon-Avon - InteriorI had expected from the name that Salt restaurant would be modern and crisp, but it instead delivers a homely feel.  Chunky wooden furniture in the dining room is overlooked by the pass, outlined in bare brick, with pensive chefs checking that plated dishes are soigné.  The front of house team were friendly and knowledgeable of the menu.Out In Brum - Salt Stratford-upon-Avon - Beetroot

Their six course tasting menu, which we luxuriated over for about 3 hours, costs £50 per person, and we also had a cheese course (£8 supplement).  The wine list is reasonably priced and we had a delicious Chatteau Garreau Bordeaux for £45; I note while we ordered it before we started it wasn’t opened until near an hour later when we needed it which was disappointing.  A wine pairing is available at £40 which seems reasonable, but I’d almost always prefer to buy by the bottle now.  Wine flights have seemed to become more cynical over recent years, and I’ve witnessed glasses with just a thimble full of wine. and flights with cheap substitues not even Out In Brum - Salt Stratford-upon-Avon - Carrot
available by the bottle on a restaurant’s main wine list.  Don’t take that as commentary on Salt’s wine flight, we didn’t take it.

We started with champagne cocktails and a Contratto spritz (a well-chosen Aperol alternative), and then chose a bottle of Gocker Gewurztraminer for the first three courses.

Our first course was poached beetroot, pistachio, and beef fat.  Pistachios provided texture against the softer golden and purple beets, and the promised beef fat featured as a tasty powder.  Second course was cured halibut, pear, kohlrabi, salty fingers, buttermilk, and dill.  The buttermilk didn’t do it for me, it wasn’t pungent enough, but I liked the succulent salty fingers with the halibut.  And I like saying salty fingers.  Salty fingers.Out In Brum - Salt Stratford-upon-Avon - Halibut

Next up came carrot cooked in chicken fat, with crispy chicken skin, and pickled carrot.  I love pickle, luckily, because the pickled carrot was very sharp.  I would’ve liked more of the chicken skin crumb it was lacking in quantity rather than flavour.  The chicken broth was very tasty and its fatty salty flavours worked brilliantly with the carrot.

We loved the lamb saddle and belly on smoked roe.  The lamb was very tasty, with soft rendered fat on the belly, and the salty smoky roe was an unusual but inspired Out In Brum - Salt Stratford-upon-Avon - Lambaccompaniment.  The parsnips the dish came with were undercooked, but the rest of the dish was a triumph.

Having a day of going all out we decided that french-style we’d take a cheese course before dessert, which was great, and served with snapping lavoche crackers encrusted with seeds.

Our first dessert of apple sorbet, toffee apple, and orange custard was nice, though I could’ve done without the icy sorbet alongside the creamy custard.  The second dessert and final course however was loved by the three of us.  Close to Halloween a bright orange Out In Brum - Salt Stratford-upon-Avon - Pumpkin and Chocolatepumpkin mousse was timely and more importantly interesting and delicious, having a slightly earthy note.  With a lightness of touch, this had been sweetened perfectly, and complimented the rich and complex Alunga chocolate.  With dessert we had a glass of Maury dessert wine (£7 for 50ml) which always works perfectly with chocolate desserts.

While there were a couple of mis-steps when we dined here for lunch, it wouldn’t stop me going back.  All round it seemed to come together to provide a welcoming and fun lunch for friends, for a really reasonable price point.

Posted in Area: Out of Birmingham, Birmingham Restaurant, birmingham restaurant review, birmingham review, Cuisine: Fine Dining, Cuisine: Modern Mixed, Price: Get your dad to pay - above average, Venue type: Restaurant | Tagged | Leave a comment

Christmas Fun in Brum – fab places for friends and colleagues

The big day will soon be upon us, and bookings for Christmas lunches, dinners, drinks, and other activities are already open at many of the city’s hotspots, so here’s the low down of great things to organise for partying with your friends and colleagues.

Activity Afternoons
The number of venues offering an activity other than boozing in the city centre has risen dramatically over the past couple of years.  Why not use your Christmas party as an opportunity for some team building and socialising that doesn’t need to be white wine fuelled?  OK, you can have the wine after you’ve had some imposed jollities…

  • Axe Throwing @ Whistle Punks – Unleash your inner lumberjack and compete with your colleagues or even in the national league. https://whistlepunks.com/, Holloway Head, B1 1QP.
  • Escape Rooms @ Escape Live – Get locked up with your team and work through puzzles to make your escape. https://www.escapelive.co.uk/, Henrietta Street, B19 3PS
  • Table Tennis @ Serve – Food, drink, disco, and…… table tennis.   https://www.servebirmingham.co.uk/, Temple Row, B2 5LS
  • Crazy Golf @ Ghetto Golf – Grab some street food with a cocktail or two and play a round on this funky (and slightly rude) Digbeth hangout. https://www.ghettogolf.co.uk/, Gibb Street, B9 4AA
  • Bowling & more @ Lane 7 – Eats, drinks, and bowling, plus shuffleboard, retro arcade games, mini golf, and beer pong. https://lane7.co.uk/birmingham/, B1 1RN
  • Darts @ 180 Club – What’s more fun than throwing little pointed sticks while having a beer and realising that the FD’s mental arithmetic isn’t what it could be? http://www.180club.co.uk/, St Paul’s Square, B3 1QS

Independent Food and Drinks
There is definitely a place for restaurant chains, and we have many good ones in the city (who doesn’t love a Nandos, cheeky or otherwise) but we love the energy and enthusiasm that comes from owner operated independents and these are some of our favourites which are perfect for festive fun!

  • Whisky Tasting @ Birmingham Whisky Club – Try tots of the of the world’s finest whiskies with great instruction from the very knowledgeable staff.  https://thebirminghamwhiskyclub.co.uk/, Vyse Street, B18 6HA
  • Wine Tasting @ Loki Wine – Not sure how to drink wine?  The team here will see you right, and once you’ve learned about it they’ll let you loose on the wine tasting machines.  https://www.lokiwine.co.uk/, Great Western Arcade, B2 5HU
  • Street Food @ Digbeth Dining Club – Can’t all decide what you want to eat?  Why not spend an evening at Digbeth dining club trying one of the dozens of vendors offering everything from Thai to Toasties. http://www.digbethdiningclub.co.uk/, Digbeth, B9 4AG

If you’re after more traditional options (though I have no truck with turkey and tinsel being a necessity) then maybe lunch or dinner at one of these:

  • Pint Shop – Christmas lunch with wine plus twenty draft beers and dozens of bottles. http://pintshop.co.uk/, Bennetts Hill, B2 5SN
  • Fazenda – Perfect for larger groups this new Brazilian offers traditional rodizio style dining in an elegant dining room, and has delicious pescatarian and vegetarian options too. https://fazenda.co.uk/, Barwick Street, B3 2AA
  • Opus Restaurant – Stalwart of the Birmingham dining scene they’re sure to offer you a swanky dinner.  https://www.opusrestaurant.co.uk/, Cornwall Street, B3 2DE
  • Pure Craft – Modern bar with good food. https://www.purecraftbars.com/, Waterloo Street, B2 5TJ
  • JuJu’s Cafe – Dining here comes complete with a hug from wonderful and charismatic owner Julia. https://www.jujuscafe.co.uk/, Canal Square, B16 8EH

Merry Christmas!

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Brewer’s Social: Harborne

Out In Brum - Brewer's Social Harborne - Food - Chicken and WafflesSadler’s have been part of my drinking repertoire since 2006 when the brewing dynasty of 150 years opened The Windsor Castle on Lye Cross, close to where I use to drink at The Shovel.  They were, to my knowledge, the first micro brewery in the area, well before micro breweries were trendy.  Since then they’ve moved operations over the road to Sadler’s Brewhouse and Bar with very significant expansion of operations.  It’s still very much run from its Black Country site by fifth generation brewer Chris Sadler, who produces beers for venues across the country including three of their own; the brewhouse in Lye, a tap room in Quinton, and happily for us a new venue very close to us, Brewer’s Social Harborne.

Just after opening night we were popping in to the new Brewer’s Social Harborne for Out In Brum - Brewer's Social Harborne - Food - Truffle Mac n Cheesedinner and drinks and ended up with free food courtesy of us being major fanboys of the brand.  The odd freebie doesn’t change our opinion on somewhere, and you can see our reciprocity promise here.

Prior to the September opening of the venue in the middle of my local High Street, Sadler’s had been operating a pop-up bar on the site serving their ales and lagers and it became our go-to meeting place with friends for Friday night beers.  It was rough and ready, but extremely friendly and inviting, so we were nervous of them overhauling it in case it lost its charm.  Safe to say it has not.  The staff are just as warm, and just as proud of the venue as previously.

Out In Brum - Brewer's Social Harborne - Food - RibsThe refurbishment has seen the first floor turned in to seating for dining.  Windows have been covered with geometric detailing matching the modern wooden panelling, giving the space a cosy feel without it being overcrowded.  Downstairs feels high end brasserie, with leather booths, dark woods, and bright metals, softened by an interior floral installation that spans half the ground floor ceiling.  Geometric designs on floors and walls echo in the Chesterfield buttoning of the booths, bringing a real modern feel to the space.

Open all-day every day for food and drinks (last food at 9.30pm, with dishes from around £10) the venue offers menus for all-day for single course dining.  We shared four dishes on our table, all substantial, but for me the star was the fried crispy Out In Brum - Brewer's Social Harborne - Food - Chicken Wingschicken with waffles (£13.95).  The crumb on the chicken was spicy and the meat succulent, drizzled with spicy sweet sriracha maple chili syrup, and dressed with soft waffles and candied smoked bacon.  This came together as a great dish with layers of sweet and spicy flavours, and interesting textures.

The half kilo of chicken wings (£8.95) were golden and the soy ginger dressing punchy and bright.  We also tried the full rack of ribs (£19.95) with sides of beans, coleslaw, and corn on the cob, with great spice throughout.  The ribs were smokey and served with crisp seasoned cajun fries.  Finally we shared the small truffle mac ’n’ cheese (£7.95) which is a real success; the earthy truffle notes complimenting the mushrooms and the light but very flavourful cheese sauce which showed great restraint.  The aromatic garlic toasts served with this provided crunch against the al dente pasta.

We were drinking Estrella, Sadler’s IPA, and Sadler’s Rhubarb Cider, but there is a nice looking wine list (Picpoul de Pinet, anyone?) and an extensive spirits collection.

Well done to the Sadler’s team, it’s an excellent makeover and a venue we’ll be sure to use often.

https://www.sadlersbars.co.uk/harborne/

 

Posted in Area: Harborne, Birmingham Restaurant, birmingham restaurant review, Cuisine: Modern Mixed, Price: Average, Price: Cheap as Chips - Inexpensive, restaurant review, Venue type: Bar, Venue type: Cafe, Venue type: Pub, Venue type: Restaurant, Venue type: Wine Bar | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment