The Vanguard Meadery & Cocktail Bar

Out In Brum - The Vanguard - Sam Boulton Shaking

Independent venues have been opening at a rate of knots in the Jewellery Quarter over the past couple of years. It’s become a firm favourite location for Friday evening drinking and dining with everyone we know. From The Pig & Tail to Ana Rocha, there’s something for Out In Brum - The Vanguard - Gosnells Citra Sea Meadeveryone.

One of our go-to venues is ‘1000 Trades’, named after our second city’s Victorian nickname for being known as “the city of 1000 trades” where our residents worked industriously in tiny back-to-back houses making everything from chain to glass eyes, from teddy bears to bear traps.

Sharing that same building now, on its second floor, is Sam Boulton’s new offering, The Vanguard Out In Brum - The Vanguard - Fernet Branca
meadery and cocktail bar.  Sam has spent a decade in the drinks industry starting as a glass collector and working his way through to bar consultant. His new place, much of it hand built by him and his dad, will be where he gets to show off his acquired knowledge, and his love of interesting spirits, ingredients, and slightly odd obsession with the drink mead.

Mead is made from fermenting honey in water. It was drunk all over the ancient world, from Vikings to Diogenes era Greeks. They all certainly knew how to have a good time, and mead would definitely have been part of of their revelry. Sam will tell you that some modern producers are knocking out vodka with water and “honey flavour” as “mead”, unfashionable as the drink has been over the last thousand or so years no one has codified how it may be made, unlike the strict laws on so many libations, so be careful what you’re buying.

Sam sells several styles of mead from 4% – 14% alcohol, £4.50-£10.  We tried the entry Out In Brum - The Vanguard - Interiorlevel Yore mead with strong honey and mint notes, and the quite weird Gosnell Citra sea mead, which had a mouthfeel like licking a nine volt battery – not one for me!  The dry hopped mead was light and refreshing,  and we really enjoyed it, perfect entry mead for beer drinkers. I’m sure they’d be wonderful as food matches but I don’t recall ever being offered any, perhaps it’ll be a trend over the next year or so.

As well as mead, The Vanguard offers a good selection of cocktails, listed by flavour profiles rather than base spirit to encourage you to move beyond your regular favourites. One uses Sam’s favoured digestif, Fernet Branca – a menthol, medicinal, put-hairs-on-your-chest, affair. While some people (including myself) enjoy a small Fernet after dinner, for many it’s too overpowering. Sam’s restrained use of it in the cocktail ‘The Barman’s Handshake’ gives a heady depth of flavour. We also sampled Branca Menta, a more menthol forward and lighter version of the syrupy drink.

The Vanguard compliments Jon & John’s offering downstairs at 1000 Trades.   I look forward to spending an evening here between the two bars for aperitif, beers, dinner, wine, and digestifs.

Posted in Area: Jewellery Quarter, Article, birmingham review, Price: Average, Venue type: Bar, Venue type: Cocktail Bar, Venue type: Wine Bar | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Birmingham’s First Dedicated Whisky Bar set to Open in the Jewellery Quarter

Birmingham is set to get its first dedicated whisky bar on Vyse Street from the founder of The Birmingham Whisky Club and Festival.

Set inside the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter the bar will have a unique selection of roughly 300 whiskies and other fine drinks.

Where possible the other drinks will underpin the story of the whisky i.e. barrel-aged gins and gins made by whisky distilleries. Ports, sherries, other fortifieds, cognacs and armagnacs, the casks of which are often used in the whisky maturing process. Bourbon and whisky finished beers.

There will also be a small selection of interesting wines and soft drinks for those not partial to a wee dram.

Known for pioneering the whisky community in the city, Amy Seton has worked with Intervention Architecture to transform the space which will open to the public in February this year.

Speaking about the concept Amy said: “I set up the whisky club six years ago and have helped to build up a thriving community of whisky lovers. Opening a bar was the logical next step, giving our members a home and creating a space to introduce more people to the exciting world of whisky.

“Birmingham has shown a real love for a dram or two since I set up the club. Our annual festival sells out 600 plus tickets year-on-year and we attract high profile brands and whisky drinkers from as far as Cornwall to our events.

“We welcome everyone to our new bar from whisky aficionados to complete beginners who are looking to start their whisky journey.”

As well as all of the previously mentioned drinks sold by the measure or glass, Amy is creating some ‘Whisky Stories’. These are the team’s own tasting flights that will be available with each ’story’ telling a different tale through the whisky served. i.e ‘Amateur Dramatics’ will be a beginners guide to whisky with four whiskies that are good to start your whisky journey. Under the Cherry Blossom Trees will be a journey through Japan with four whiskies. These ’stories’ are presented at your table with a written guide so you can taste through at your leisure.

The unique partnership between Birmingham Museums Trust has been spearheaded by commercial director Alex Nicholson-Evans, commenting on the partnership Alex said: “I’ve worked with The Birmingham Whisky Club on a series of successful events over the last few years and when Amy and I were discussing the idea of a whisky bar we had lightbulb moment.

“Birmingham Museums Trust is an educational charity so we are always looking for interesting collaborations with local businesses and for creative ways to raise vital funds, so this seemed like a perfect partnership. The Birmingham Whisky Club bar will transform a currently empty space within the museum building and is a very welcome addition to the Jewellery Quarter.”

The bar will be open to everyone who wants to get a preview before the refurb is fully complete. A free dram for whisky lovers on arrival and there will be a good selection of beers, wines and spirits for non-whisky drinkers.

The Birmingham Whisky Club bar will open to the public on February 14th opening times are Wednesday to Sunday midday to midnight.

Although not exclusively a member’s bar memberships are available which give access to special events and discounts.

Posted in Area: Jewellery Quarter, Uncategorized, Venue type: Bar | 2 Comments

Enjoy the Sun of Benidorm Live at New Alexandra Theatre


Benidorm Live! At the New Alexandra Theatre December 3rd to 29th 2018

 Derren Litten’s smash hit ITV comedy BENIDORM is set to bring sunshine and smiles to the UK and Ireland as the first ever stage version of the ITV comedy marks its world premiere at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle from Friday 7th September 2018 and opens at Birmingham’s New Alexandra Theatre for a fun-filled Christmas season from the 3rd to 29th December 2018. The show will be produced for the stage by Michael Harrison and David Ian.

Litten has written an all new set of Alicante escapades for the much-loved cast members, including Jake  Canuso (Mateo), Janine Duvitski (Jacqueline), Adam Gillen (Liam), Sherrie Hewson (Joyce Temple-Savage), Shelley Longworth (Sam), and Tony Maudsley (Kenneth) as they swap sangria for the stage next year after a quick spruce at the Blow ‘n’ Go!

Benidorm – Live will be the stage debut production of the hugely popular TV show, and on making its transfer, writer Derren Litten said: “I’ve loved ten years of writing my TV show Benidorm but despite a successful writing career I’m first and foremost a performer so have always been secretly frustrated I couldn’t hear the audience’s laughter. This national tour of Benidorm Live will not only make a long lasting dream come true but will also mean I no longer have to stand in strangers gardens listening at their windows at 9 o’clock on cold winter evenings.”

ITV’s smash-hit comedy celebrates a decade of all-inclusive hilarity, having followed the ensemble cast of holiday makers and staff for nine series since it first broadcast in 2007. Season 10 is due to broadcast early 2018.

Critically acclaimed, Benidorm has received two National Television Awards a TV Quick Award and nominations at the British Comedy Awards and BAFTAs.

After leaving school in Hull in the late 1980’s Derren Litten spent a year working as a professional magician whilst auditioning for drama schools.  He won a place on the 3 year acting course at the prestigious Central School of Speech and Drama where he met fellow student Catherine Tate.

After 10 years of working as an actor, Derren was asked by Catherine to write for her newly commissioned TV sketch show,The Catherine Tate Show; in which he also appeared in many of the sketches.  After co-writing and appearing in two series and a Christmas Special, Derren was given a script commission by legendary comedy producer Geoffrey Perkins, “just write anything you want as long as it’s funny” he said; that show turned out to be ITV’s BAFTA nominated hit comedy Benidorm. Derren’s hobbies include drinking and karaoke, usually in that order. He splits his time equally between homes in London and Spain.

Tickets are now on sale.


Twitter: @benidormonstage

Instagram: @benidormonstage

Facebook page: Benidorm on Stage


3rd to 29th December 2018                                                  0844 871 3011

New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham           *

Posted in Area: City Centre, Uncategorized, Venue type: Entertainment | Leave a comment

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.



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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