Birmingham Pride 2021

Eight hundred and fifty-two days after Pride 2019 packed up its feathers, leather, sequins, wigs, and bunting, Birmingham Pride 2021 launched its biggest ever event across three days, from Friday 24th to Sunday 26thSeptember.  Its timing this year of course forced back due to Covid restrictions from its usual slot of the late May bank holiday weekend meaning that revellers, myself included, didn’t have a day of recovery before heading back to the office, be it home or otherwise.  This year also saw a change of event venue, with much of the event taking place on around fifteen acres of the Smithfields site earmarked for redevelopment after the move and demolition of the wholesale markets.  Of course the event also stretched over the gay village, around thirty acres in total.

Next year’s event is sticking with this new timeslot and making use of the same site once it frees up from the Commonwealth Games which is taking over the area until August.  Who knows where it will end up after that now that most of the space in the gay village area and surrounds, including Smithfields, is turned over to the development of even more city centre apartment buildings.

Because of the ample space provided by the new site the organisers were able to install an enormous stage, an even more enormous covered shelter with hundreds of picnic tables, and dozens of food and drink offerings.  Food at Pride usually isn’t something to write home about but here they’d gone all out with a variety of offerings from the humble burger, fish and chips, and pizza to more elaborate raclette, and smoked meat trucks (including our friends at That Smoke Truck).  Of course there were queues for the bars at the peakiest peak times but it felt genuinely like no one really cared as they soaked up the atmosphere and tunes and chatted with the others queuing.  

The event kicked-off early with free community events on the Thursday with a screening of Mamma Mia on the main stage and Friday night featuring community LGBTQ+ choir Rainbow Voices, speeches by activists Andrew Moffat, Khekan Qureshi, Jill Nalder, and Peter Tatchell, and Pride regular drag queens Sandra London, Yshee Black, and many more.

Of course the real kick start to the event was the Pride Parade which left at noon on the Saturday from Victoria Square as usual.  For the first time an accessible route was devised for those wishing to march who for various reasons couldn’t manage the lengthy route over uneven roads.

The parade included dozens of national and local charities and businesses. We loved the “Sassy Ferguson” tractor provided by Massey Ferguson, Agrespect, and Farmers Weekly, for “Out on the Farm” a new LGBTQ+ group.  The city’s corporates were out en masse including The Alliance Network which brings together various firms’ LGBTQ+ groups, and individual firms such as PwC, DLA Piper, Gowling WLG, Wesleyan, Legal & General, HS2, Murphy, Greene King, Paragon, and Colmore Business District.

The region’s gay sports groups and supporters were kitted up including The Birmingham Swifts running club, Birmingham Bulls RFC, Birmingham Blaze FC, Coventry Corsairs RFC, Villa & Proud, and the organisation Football vs. Homophobia.  Additionally Commonwealth Games 2022 Pride House were in attendance starting their run-in to next year’s Birmingham games where they’ll provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ athletes and supporters.  Other community attendees included Out and About MidlandsInteGreat Theatre, Birmingham Fetish Men, Naz & Matt Foundation, several groups supporting specific ethnicities and People of Colour such as Persian LGBT, Journey Group, and Unmuted.  And we can’t forget that Someone at the Door Samba bandled the parade noisily through the city’s streets as always! 

There were many floats and walking groups from the gay villages’ watering holes including a reprise from extremely popular Eden Bar which is in physicality closed (though they managed to have a big presence at Pride, testament to the community support they have).  Other venues in the parade included Glamorous, The Village, Nightingale, Sidewalk, The Fox.

There were so many wonderful acts across the six stages I can only do a great disservice by highlighting some we managed to catch and who we thought were stand out.  Sadly Cheryl had to cancel due to a bereavement, but Sophie Ellis-Bextor went down a storm.  We loved Lola Lasagna on the cabaret stage, and Black Box did an excellent set on Sunday afternoon on the main stage.

After so much time where our socialising has been limited it was simply a great joy to be able to share music and food, laughter and beer, with so many of our friends, old and new.  Thanks to them all, and to the organisers for doing an excellent job.

And now, as is custom and practice, the photos……

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In A Box 3 – “Chernobyl – Hidden Depths”

You know it’s not real. 

Seconds ago that grating underneath your feet, showing an elevator shaft disappearing into the earth farther than you can see, was the grey floor of a converted factory in rejuvinated Digbeth. But then the VR headset that’s been strapped onto you gets switched on and you look down.

You know it’s not real. 

But it doesn’t matter, that wave of vertigo still kicks in, sending your stomach to your throat as you start to plummet towards the bottom. The rumbling you can feel is coming from powerful subwoofers, but your brain is still fighting against its instincts to fly or fight, throwing an abundance of adrenaline into your system.

You know it’s not real.

And therein lies the brilliance of In a Box 3; its ability to suspend your disbelief just enough that it immerses you completely in the world around you. On what was about the seventh or eighth time I caught myself trying to step over a gap that wasn’t there, or to move around debris which didn’t exist, I had to stop for about a minute while I laughed and swore to myself in equal measure.

Presenting itself as a VR Experience, In a Box 3 is essentially a technologically advanced Escape Room, inviting players to travel back to the Chernobyl Disaster. On a mission for the mysterious UMBRA Partnership, it’s your job, in teams of two to four players, to complete the puzzles placed before you, working your way through the stricken station, collecting valuable datapads along the way.

VR technology has jumped forward leaps and bounds in the past few years and this is such a wonderful showcase for it. The world around you is transformed into a disaster zone. Structures fall around you, fires roar from all sides (with you feeling the heat thanks to the implementation of 4D technology), and the impending danger is ever present in everything you see. 

Showcasing an impressive understanding of how to harness the technology on hand, the utitlisation of story, something more difficult to achieve in a classic Escape Room, is very well handled. With a continuing presence in the form of your mission director and a story which evolves with what you see happening around you, it takes on the feel of a very well made video game, just one that you’ve been dropped physically into the middle of. 

It would have been easy to misjudge the script or performance. Something too serious and it wouldn’t mesh well with the fun you’re supposed to be having. Something too camp and it runs the risk of taking away that edge of tenson of which it seemed to rely on to be most effective. As it is, they walk the line between the two very well, helping to creative a particularly Hollywood spectacle sensation. If there is criticism to be made, they’re mostly centred on the difficulty of the puzzles. With no set time limit (if teams are struggling hints are relayed to a virtual communicator you keep on your left wrist) it means the puzzles have to be kept simple enough to keep people moving through the game. I experienced this as part of a team of two and we found the solution of the majority of the puzzles pretty quickly; most of the time spent was on us working through the mechanics of VR.

With that in mind, to get the most out of In a Box 3, where possible I’d suggest teams of four. The added complications of more players, moving round each other, exploring each room to the fullest, would be best enjoyed by a larger group. Not only will the practical application of of the puzzles mean more time is taken, trust me when I say you want to see as many of your friends as biohazard suit laden scientists as you possibly can.

Covered in striking art inside and out – with one wall outside a love letter to the outstanding Cuphead, a well stocked bar, attentive and friendly staff, and a fantastically fun experience which wears its Hollywood and gaming influences on it sleeve, In a Box 3 comes highly recommended.

You can book your visit to In A Box 3 now via their website: https://www.inabox3.co.uk and also follow them on all the usual social media platforms

Article by guest writer John-Paul Kesseler who took on the challenge for us.

Our visit was provided free of charge as part of a preview week by The Relationship, however all views are our own. You can read our reciprocity promise here: https://outinbrum.com/reciprocity-promise/

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Tropea

Frontage of restaurant Tropea

Thrilled to see that the great and the good were raving about a new restaurant just a five minute walk from our front door, we booked our anniversary dinner at Tropea, now some weeks ago.  While we’d seen the chef and maître d’ proprietors were Kasia and Ben respectively, we hadn’t twigged it was Ben who we’d known at Harborne Kitchen and who had told me that he had ambitions to open his own restaurant.  How lucky we are that this was not just a pipe dream, and that he and his girlfriend were able to find such a well-positioned property, just beyond the High Street of leafy Harborne.

They’ve renovated the former Boo Boo Coffee site into a grown-up dining room, and Ben’s interior design skills have been proven as impressive as Kasia’s cookery.  It’s an intimate and trendy space equally perfect for a food-sharing dinner with friends, or for a romantic celebration.

We started with an aperitif Paper Plane cocktail (£10) with Salumi & Pickles (£6) and focaccia (£3.5).  The Salumi (cured meats) included speck, copa, and spianata chorizo which was a particular favourite, and the pickles were crunchy and sharp.  The focaccia, made in-house of course, was spongy and salty with a delicious rosemary punch.  We were keen to try the fried courgette flower with goat’s cheese, mint, and Harborne honey, but it was already sold out – hopefully we’ll try it on an inevitable future trip.

Salumi cured meats with picked cauliflower and foccacia with olive oil

For the Italian-initiated you’ll know that typically dinner courses run in an intricate order of aperitif, starter, pasta course, meat course plus salad and side dishes, then desserts and digestifs.  It’s a drawn out relaxing affair taking several hours.  So next up after starters we had two pasta dishes.

Giant ravioli in a bowl

Enormous ravioli were filled with ricotta, lemon, pistachio pesto, and herbs (£11), and the pasta (obviously made in house) was perfectly al dente.  Fillings were generous and subtly balanced without the lemon overtaking as it so often does.  Our other pasta was a special and while I took photos I failed to take notes – I recall it was beefy delicious but can’t recall much else!

Plated octopus tentacles with fried potato cubes, black olives, lemon and mayonnaise

Our main dish of octopus was my favourite of the evening, served with fried potato cubes, black olive, and saffron aioli (£14).  It was salty and sweet, a little charred, and perfect with the richness of the mayonnaise.  Octopus can sometimes be a little too pungent, but this had a good glug of the sea without overwhelming the other flavours.

The octopus dish paired well with the Gavi di Gavi (£39).  The wine list is small but curated and, excluding fizz, ranges £24 to £58 a bottle.  Bottled beers and cider, and selected cocktails and spirits also available, of course.

Golden crispy polenta cake with beef and charred shallot

Ox cheek (£13) was glossy and rich, heady with umami and well-seasoned.  Its softness was relieved by the crispy golden polenta cake.  Slices of pickled walnut offered extra complexity and a charred shallot completed the dish.  

Plate with Tiramisu

We finished up with a not-too-sweet Tiramisu (£7), brought-in from the well-reviewed @TuttoAposto.  And then, seeing as it was our anniversary, we had a bottle of Nyetimber (sponsored by the bad idea bears).

During the day Tropea is opening as a café serving lighter food such as focaccia sandwiches (how about N’duja, Provolone cheese, roasted red peppers, & rocket for a lunchtime snack?) and Piadina (like Italian quesadillas). They serve Hundred House coffee, and have a great looking list of sweets and cakes, and of course they’re licensed so the yummy mummies and dishy daddies of Harborne can have a beer or wine even with lunch.

While we had quite an elaborate dinner for around £60 a head (excluding fizz) it can easily be an affordable evening out, and we’re thrilled that it’s on the doorstep.

Well done to Ben, Kasia, and team.

More info available on their website here:

https://www.tropea.uk

Pink cocktail with a paper aeroplane perched on the glass
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Heat-at-Home Restaurant Meal Kits

With national and local lockdowns and various tier restrictions over the past 12 months, many of us have been enjoying fantastic takeaways and heat-at-home meals to recreate that joy of restaurant food in the safety and comfort of our own homes.

There have already been a few great articles highlighting some of the fantastic kits and deliveries from Birmingham and its surrounding area’s independent food scene, (one of the best being from Laura at Bite Your Brum here: http://biteyourbrum.com/ramblings/at-home-food-and-drink-kits-in-birmingham/ ).

We have found ourselves also wanting to experience some places we either miss going to, or would have enjoyed traveling to from further afield. To that end we’ve had heat at home kits delivered from far and wide and are considering what to have next!

Here’s a list of places still on our not-so-short shortlist.

Restaurants offering National Delivery Heat-at-Home Meal Boxes and Kits

Lisa Goodwin-Allen at Northcote

This is an opportunity to experience beautiful gourmet menus by Lisa Goodwin-Allen in the comfort of your own home.

Northcote’s freshly-prepared gourmet menus are hand-crafted by Lisa and a small brigade in Northcote’s kitchen each week using the finest seasonal ingredients. Their dining boxes are prepared and packaged for you to finish at home.

Demand is high and it’s best to sign up to their emails to be notified when boxes are released.

https://www.northcote.com/at-home/gourmet-boxes/

Hame by Adam Handling

Image result for hame adam handling

Adam and his team put their heads together and created ‘Hame’ – the Scottish word for home – to offer a taste of his restaurant experience from the comfort of your own house.

You can also opt for one of their classic cocktails and matching wines to complete the perfect home dining experience.

https://www.adamhandling.co.uk/hame/#

Made in Oldstead Food Boxes by Tommy Banks

Image result for food boxes by tommy ban banks

Made In Oldstead is a premium, at-home dining experience from Tommy Banks and the team, offering three and five-course menus for delivery across the UK. The weekly food boxes go on sale every Wednesday for delivery the following Friday

https://tommybanks.co.uk/product-category/foodbox/

Simon Rogan at home

Offering weekly three course heat-at-home dining experiences, in addition to special seasonal celebration menus, cooked for you to enjoy in the comfort of your own home. 

Image result for simon rogan at home

A great range of extras, such as British cheese and bespoke wine pairings, can also be added to the order.  At home, follow simple step-by-step videos demonstrating how to prepare the dishes.

Numbers are limited each week, so we recommend you pre-order as far in advance as possible.

https://simonroganathome.co.uk/home

Adam Reid – The French 

Modern British cooking with a north west accent from Mancunian chef Adam Reid, two time winner of Tv’s Great British Menu and holder of 4 AA rosettes.

https://adam-reid.co.uk/shop/

The Wild Rabbit

Head Chef Nathan and his team, have crafted a delicious three course menu, celebrating some of their most popular seasonal dishes, expertly prepared to be finished and enjoyed at home.

https://thewildrabbit.co.uk/at-home/

Rick Stein – Stein’s at Home

Three course meals for two ready for you to simply finish at home. Delivery UK wide. A range of menu boxes with classic restaurant dishes covering both fish and meat options for you to enjoy at home. Recommended wines available to add to your order.

Image result for steins at  home

https://shop.rickstein.com/collections/steins-at-home-food-boxes

Peel’s on Wheels – By Michelin starred Peels at Hampton Manor.

If you had a Michelin starred chef at your disposal, what would you want? POW! Peels do the hard work to make your dinner magic. Foodie meals delivered to your door with wine options to enjoy.

Image result for peels on wheels

https://peelstothepeople.co.uk

Aktar @ Home – By Aktar Islam

Aktar’s mission is to allow you to enjoy exceptional home cooking by a Michelin-starred chef in the comfort of your own home with a choice of Indian traditional curries or a classic British Sunday roast. As simple as that!

Image result for aktar at homeYou can also now sample a selection of the world class ingredients with the new Meat Box– offering premium dry aged steaks and a selection of traditional Argentinian sides to cook at home.  

https://aktarathome.co.uk

Andy Low n Slow

A varying and exciting menu from Andy. Texas Inspired BBQ and Modern Mexican cooking using Native Breed Meat & Seasonal Produce. Digbeth Dining Club since 2013, Meatopia since 2017, Independent Birmingham Best Street Food Trader 2019, Twice YBF’s Finalist

Image result for andy low n slow meal kit

https://andylownslow.co.uk

Norma feasting boxes

Enjoy delicious feasting style dishes from Norma, in the comfort of your own home. Using the finest seasonal ingredients.

https://normalondon.com/norma-feasting-boxes/

Cafe Murano – Angela Hartnet 

Every month Angela designs a sophisticatedly simple menu of classic Italian dishes for our Cafe Murano at home menu box. The boxes offer 4 courses of Cafe Murano classic dishes delivered nationwide every Friday

Image result for cafe murano at home

https://www.cafemurano.co.uk/delivery-and-takeaway/

D&D at home 

D&D have curated a selection of At Home kits so you can enjoy the taste of Bluebird, Sartoria, German Gymnasium, Orrey, Radici and Butler’s Wharf Chop House in the comfort of your own home.

Image result for D&D at home

https://at-home.danddlondon.com/meal-kits/

Lake District Farmers

Lake District Farmers was founded in 2009 by the late Ray Armstrong to facilitate a quality driven and sustainable supply chain for family run fell farms in The Lake District. Now offering meal boxes from Jason Atherton / Marcus Wareing and others from time to time alongside some great fresh produce 

Image result for lake district farmers at home

https://www.lakedistrictfarmers.co.uk/boxes

Atul Kochhar – Kaniska at Home

Kanishka Mayfair is now offering Michelin Starred Chef Atul Kochhar’s signature cooking to deliver or takeaway.

Image result for kanishka at home

https://kanishkarestaurant.co.uk

Tapas Fusion

Chef Mark Prescott of The Roux Brothers brings his contemporary Fusion Tapas to your home. Expertly cooked and delivered every Thursday, Friday & Saturday

https://tapasfusion.com

PACO Tapas

Why not experience Bristol’s Michelin starred PACO’s Chef’s Menu at home. A selection of their best tapas dishes to be finished at home with comprehensive instructions to guide you through the cooking. The boxes can be picked up from the restaurant or delivered to your door. Available Wednesday to Saturday.

Image result for paco tapas

https://www.pacotapas.co.uk/takeaway-and-home-boxes

Hickory’s Smokehouse

Hickory’s pitmasters have created a Hickory’s At Home menu packed with their favourite smokehouse dishes, all smoked low ‘n’ slow in their Ole Hickory smokers, then chilled & packed ready for you to heat & eat at home.

Image result for hickory's at home

 https://hickorysathome.co.uk

RestoKit

A platform bringing together a number of restaurants offering their own specially created meal kits to be finished to enjoy at home.

https://www.restokit.co.uk

Finish & Feast inc Tom Aitkins, Thomas Frake (Masterchef champion 2020), Marianne Lumb (AMEX London Restaurant Festival Chef of the Year)

https://finishandfeast.com

10 Greek St

Winter Duck Pie

https://dishpatch.co.uk/feasts/winter-duck-pie?utm_source=restaurant&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=10GSDuck

Dishpatch

A platform for a number of restaurants

https://dishpatch.co.uk/menu

Tacos Padre

Padre is a taqueria in Borough Market serving tacos and Mexican small plates alongside margaritas and mezcal, now offering kits for you to recreate their favourite dished at home

https://www.tacospadre.com/onlineshop

OXO Tower by Harvey Nichols

Newly launched for 2021 the team at OXO have created the ultimate ‘at home’ experience to bring enjoyment to those winter evenings. They’ve put together an a la carte menu of OXO’s favourites, complete with a simple guide on how to prepare your banquet. Delivered nationally or available for collection here at the restaurant.

https://oxotowershop.slerp.com/order/store/oxo-tower-oxo-tower-restaurant

& Home by James Knappett

& Home by James Knappett is the first at-home fine dining experience from James Knappett, bringing a celebration of fine dining and a taste of his two Michelin-starred restaurant Kitchen Table to your own home.

Image result for home by james knappett

https://jamesknappett.com

Dishoom Bacon Naan Kit

The much-loved breakfast dish, now available as an ‘at-home’ cookery kit, complete with all the ingredients (and the know-how) to create Bacon Naan Rolls in your own kitchen at any time of day. This kit contains everything required to enjoy two Naan Rolls, plus an extra naan dough ball for experimentation. With Chai spices and loose-leaf tea to make delicious Dishoom chai for two.

Bacon Naan Roll on a plate

https://store.dishoom.com/bacon-naan-roll-kit

Finish at Home by Jose Pizarro (Tapas)

José believes that tapas is for all, and that home cooks don’t have to be scared off by the idea of cooking lots of dishes – it’s all in the prep & keeping it simple. Now you can enjoy the food based on his philosophy at home.

https://josepizarro.com/finish-at-home/

Lyle’s of London

The aim with these meal kits is to bring the philosophy and values of Lyle’s to your home. Sourced from farmers and producers who follow ethical and sustainable practices, Lyle’s buy what is best in any given season. Not wasting any byproducts, they find ways to incorporate them back into the food. They value a simple and clean aesthetic, but the time, work and technique that goes into these ingredients is anything but simple.

Load image into Gallery viewer, Lyle's Menu Box (Serves 2)

https://lylesprovisions.com

Home by Nico

Delivered direct to your door, HOME-X is more than just a box. With access to restaurant quality chefs, delivering ready-to-plate dishes, with menus to be enjoyed by all, a wine club for you to host your own tastings every month, the perfect Sunday roast and so many more. 

Image result for home by nico

https://home-x.com

Lima London

Bringing innovative flavours from Peru to London since 2012, LIMA offers a unique dining experience. Menus are naturally vibrant with flavour and colour, celebrating the best of Peru’s world-renowned Andean delicacies, fresh ceviches, healthy superfoods and nikkei flavours.

Image result for Lima london at home

https://limabox.slerp.com/order/store/lima-box-lima-london

Ynyshir – Gareth Ward

Offering wines, merchandise and meal kits for special occasions

https://siop-ynyshir.myshopify.com

And a few of the highlights of options for Birmingham and surrounding area:

Purnell’s

You’ll need to follow Glynn on social media for menus and details of how to order (@yummy-brummie)

Image result for purnells at home meal box

Ox & Origin

Local to Birmingham and Central London only. Weekly menus etc via their Instagram 

https://instagram.com/oxandorigin?igshid=e67epvplvgqd

Emma’s Delicatessen

For changing menus of fab food to collect in Telford area and deliveries to Telford and Birmingham 

May be an image of souvlakia

https://m.facebook.com/emmasdelicatessenfood/

OPUS to You 

Probably our favourite we’ve had so far and usually our go-to option to check out the current menu.

Image result for opus to youCollection from restaurant and local deliveries only 

https://www.opusrestaurant.co.uk/opus-to-you/

You can also read our review and laugh at our plating efforts here: https://outinbrum.com/2020/06/14/opus-to-you-a-heat-at-home-weekend-treat/

 

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670 Grams – Lockdown Heat at Home

Cardboard box with 670 Grams logo with foil trays and plastic tubs out of the box with all the ingredients for the meal in them

Chef Kray Treadwell opened his restaurant ‘670 Grams’ in early summer in the Custard Factory, Digbeth. The restaurant is named after the weight of his daughter when she was born four months premature. We weren’t able to make it to the 16-seater restaurant before the winter lockdown so we’ve had to do the next best thing and try one of their heat-at-home meal boxes.

The week we wanted it for he was offering a vegan meal box – that’s not the restaurant’s norm, but we thought we’d give it a go, after all we’ve always got emergency pepperamis on-hand should the lack of meat make us feel faint. Not that we knew it at the time but Chef Kray would earn himself the title of the Michelin Guide’s Young Chef of 2021 just two days later – no doubt this accolade will make tables at his restaurant even harder to come by when lockdown ends.

I think you can tell a lot about a chef by what they’re able to produce with only plant-based ingredients, and the food we ate was interesting and tasty.  Forgive the plating, we tried our best but I’m sure the restaurant make a better fist of it!

White tea cups filled with strawberry coloured clear liquid on silver teardrop saucers

We started with a shot of strawberry kimchi ‘soup’.  It gave an initial impression of summer freshness but became progressively more savoury, maybe even with fermented funkiness, with lingering fruit and slight heat on the sides of the tongue.  Super unusual but not unpleasant.

Golden samosa with bhaji and green chutney

Next was a more conventional course of dahl samosa, rice bhaji, and spring onion chutney.  The bright chutney tasted vibrant and green, with a ginger heat and tang from the onion.  The samosa and bhaji were lightly spiced and had some crunch.

White crisping noodles on green thai broth in a bowl

On from here more East Asian flavours with Thai green crispy noodles with daikon and finger lime.  The green liquor had good heat and was fragrant with coriander and lemon grass, on crispy noodles and soft earthy daikon.

Red puree with crackers

The tomato, smoked bread, and crispy wontons were tasty with tomato sweetness, but it could’ve done with a couple of more crackers to offset the soft texture.

Crispy green capers on top of golden breadcrumbed potato slice on white sauce

Perhaps my favourite course was the potato kiev, with truffle ajo blanco and crispy capers.  The breaded potato was crumbed with a slight crunch but the truffled ajo was so delightful I could eat it with anything, the salty capers cut through its richness.

Bean curd shaped in to a teddy bears head atop rice pudding in a bowl

The Teddy Bear bean curd was fun, and the coconut rice pudding wasn’t too sweet, with the pineapple giving it a top-end piña colada feel.  I particularly loved the lotus pretzel and they look really interesting as petit fours.

Can’t wait to get to the actual restaurant!

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Eastern Flavours – Western Technique: Makan Tabao from HK

Logo gold text and design on bright red background reading Makan Tabao HK - Eastern Flavours - Western Technique

In prior years Deliveroo may not have been where one would naturally have gone for fine food, but since the pandemic and attendant closures many venues have entrepreneurially reached beyond their usual platforms to keep their ovens burning, and to continue delighting us with their food.

From this Wednesday 13th January one of our favourites, Harborne Kitchen (HK), will start to offer a new exciting delivery – Makan Tabao, eastern flavours with a western technique. HK’s Head Chef Tom Wells spent 6 years in Singapore and, inspired by his time living there, he has been busy working with Sous Chef Dave and Chef Owner Jamie Desogus developing the Makan Tabao concept. Why the name, you ask? They tell us that Makan is a traditional Singaporean greeting that also translates as ‘eat’, and Tabao translates as takeaway.

We were lucky to get a sneak peak, and taste, of the Makan Tabao offering (yes a freebie before they opened to the public, see our reciprocity promise here). Of course coming from the HK stable it’s a refined and quality centric offering – no MSG and E-number colouring here. The menu is compact but has something for everyone from vegan to committed carnivore, with starters from £6 and mains from £8.

Two cardboard takeaway containers one with chicken skewer the other with pork ribs

For starters we had the chicken yakatori with ponzu and sesame, and the smoked pork ribs with red miso and preserved plum. The chicken was succulent, with a barbecue flavour, garnished with sesame seeds, and served with a tangy ponzu sauce with nutty sesame oil. The pork ribs were lightly smoked and the preserved plum and miso dressing was sweet and fruity.

Round ramen takeaway container showing noodles, boiled egg, seaweed, slices of pork belly and spring onion

The Pork Belly ramen is a meal on its own without needing sides, starters, or dessert (not that it stopped us). The pork was tender with the fat rendered down, an unctuous joy. The noodles were perfectly cooked and the broth full to the brim with umami, with a runny boiled egg adding its rich yolk, and spring onion a punch of freshness. We also had the Malaysian beef rendang. The beef was falling-apart soft, with a good heat, and packed with fragrant spices.

Takeaway carton showing white turnip pieces dressed with slices of almond red crushed Szechuan peppers and chopped chives

As a side dish we had the salt-baked turnip with almond and Szechuan pepper. Turnip isn’t usually a go-to side for me but here they were elevated with fragrant Szechuan peppercorns, rubies on the alabaster turnips. I could happily have eaten just the turnips for a main meal. We also had a generous portion of delicious egg-fried rice, nothing like the burned greasy offerings that so often are offered up by late-night takeout joints.

Two small round takeaway containers one with white sago pudding topped with passion fruit the other lime cheesecake topped with ginger crumb. Pots on Makan Tabao gold logo on red.

For thorough research, we obviously tried the desserts. The sago pudding was creamy with strong coconut and notes of vanilla, and topped with a sharp tropical hit of fresh passionfruit. The lime cheesecake was lip-puckeringly tart with a delicious sweet crumb. A fine end to a fine meal.

For those of you missing restaurant trips, Makan Tabao is a great home alternative – this isn’t just takeaway South / East Asian food, it’s excellent quality that you’d be happy having served to you in any restaurant.

Makan Tabao officially launches on Wednesday 13th January. It will be available to order click and collect or delivery via Deliveroo between 5 – 9.30pm Wednesday to Saturday.

Find them here:

https://www.harbornekitchen.com

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LAND and The Pineapple Club Collaboration for Veganuary

Land Restaurant Logo (the word LAND and two leaves on a twig)
The Pineapple Club Logo, a stylised pineapple in green angular lines on a lush pink background

This Veganuary the teams from The Pineapple Club and LAND Restaurants are teaming up to bring the Vegan experience to your home!


The Pineapple Club which opened in September 2020 is teaming up with the Great Western Arcade’s popular Vegan restaurant LAND. Veganuary or Vegan January, promotes veganism by encouraging people to follow a vegan lifestyle for the month of January.

Owner of The Pineapple Club Samuel Boulton said “We have many members of our team who are Vegan so we’ve always had a focus on this for our food. Being over the way from LAND we’ve tried their food many times and they are honestly at the top of the Vegan food game. We love what they do, so for us this was a obvious collaboration”

Veganuary boxes start at £35 per person, these will include one savoury and one sweet dish prepared by LAND and a drinks package of your choice from The Pineapple Club.

Drinks will include a choice of WineFreedom Wine, a cocktail selection prepared by The Pineapple Club or a wine/cocktail pairing selection with an aperitif. Of course all are vegan friendly!

The first Vegan and Gluten Free menu launches on the 4th January with two courses:
Roasted Cauliflower – Satay Sauce – Coriander Pesto – Chilli Jam Vanilla & Black Pepper Panna Cotta – Blackberries – Miso Caramel – Oat crumble

You can learn more by following on social medias. Facebook and
Instagram @PineappleBrum and @land_restaurant

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The Oyster Club

We ate our last meal out ahead of the first national lockdown at The Oyster Club, on the night all bars and restaurants were ordered to close as soon as they could (for posterity the link to that speech on 20th March is here).  We were pleased to be able to visit again, albeit because of CV-19 restrictions just the two of us rather than with our group of friends, and we booked in just before the second national lockdown was announced.  We hope that Adam and the team don’t start seeing us as harbingers of doom!

Gold and blue frontage of The Oyster Club Restaurant

The restaurant is chic.  The bar is on the upper level and is bright, perfect for dinner with friends, a working lunch, or after work drinks.  The double height lower level allows for more formal dining, including a large space which has a glass partitioned view to the kitchen, and can be closed off to act as a private dining room. A great place for a romantic meal, or for a celebration.

Three Oysters in their half shells on crushed ice

Given we realised that this would be (almost) our last meal cooked for us for a month at least, we went all out starting the meal with three Oysters.  Birmingham is as land-locked as a place can be in the UK and there are only a few places oysters are frequently found so if you’ve never tried them then this is the place to go – rumour has it there’s an oyster happy-hour early on weekdays just after work.  Plump and cool our three oysters were prepped and served with a Japanese dressing in their pearlescent shells, fresh as an ocean breeze.  

White crab meat in a ring dressed with avocado puree, burned sweetcorn, and grapefruit
Smoked haddock scotch egg cut in half with runny yolk

For my starter I had the dressed white crab, topped with crispy chicken skin, burnished sweetcorn, grapefruit, avocado and sourdough croutons.  A delicious combination of textures, each element adding a pop of flavour.  We also had the smoked haddock “scotch egg”, crispy crumbed with a runny yolk, and smoky fish – Brum went scotch egg crazy a few years ago but this wins top alternative for me.

Fat skate wing burnished gold with creamy chicken sauce, mushrooms, and green chopped spring onion

For mains, while there are meaty options we both had fish given there are few places in Birmingham it’s reliable – my top picks would be the Michelin places, Opus, and Harborne Kitchen.  We had the fattest skate wing I’ve ever seen, sweet white meat with a glossy roast chicken sauce, and shimeji mushrooms adding an umami hit.  We also had the roasted turbot on the bone, again a generous portion with velvety beurre noisette and soft cockles.  On the side we had tenderstem broccoli with hazelnuts and garlic, and “The Perfect 12” chips: golden and crisp, fluffy inside.

Twelve golden chips on side plate stacked like Jenga and a plate with turbot, greens, and clams

We had the “Pink Lady Apple” for dessert; an elevated apple pie.  Fine crisp filo pastry sandwiched smooth crème patisserie and cooked apple, topped with cinnamon ice cream, and raw apple offering a hot of sharp freshness.  To finish, alongside our digestif cocktails we were served petit fours of chocolate, sesame and hazelnut, and cubes of plum jellies which tasted like the plums had just been plucked from the tree.

Tower of filo pastro, vanilla cream, apple, and topped with cinnamon ice cream

Dinner here excluding drinks will cost around £50 a head.  It’s one of the few restaurants in Birmingham that offer à la carte dining of this quality.

4 petit fours, 2 purple cubes of plum jelly, and two round chocolates topped with chopped nuts
Posted in Area: Central Shopping, Area: City Centre, Area: Colmore Business District, Birmingham Restaurant, birmingham restaurant review, birmingham review, Cuisine: English, Cuisine: Fine Dining, Cuisine: Fish, Cuisine: Modern Mixed, Price: Get your dad to pay - above average, restaurant review, Venue type: Restaurant | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fine Dining at Birmingham College of Food

Aperol spritz and negroni cocktails

You’ll be hard-pressed to dine in one of Birmingham’s better restaurants without finding somewhere in the establishment someone who has learned their art in The Birmingham College of Food at University College Birmingham (UCB). Offering courses for students from 17 and up UCB has had full university status since just 2012 (ah, such a simpler time that wonderful Jubilympic year) but it celebrated its 50th anniversary just two years ago, and its history goes back to Victorian times (great article here if you’re a local history geek).

To ensure that their budding chefs, bakers, and front of house staff are ready for the real-world beyond their training, the College of Food run a fine dining restaurant that’s open to the public, and has a menu which is a complete bargain, just £26 for two courses or £30 for three courses. We’ve been meaning to go for a couple of years but as it books up well in advance for its lunch and dinner sittings which operate just Monday to Friday, we’ve not managed to make it but were invited by UCB to give it a go before the second lockdown and jumped at the offer – so this was an unusual freebie, see our Reciprocity Promise here.

Three small bread rolls in a basket with butter pats

The front of house team greeted and seated us, and lecturer Liz who was overseeing front of house explained to us that those staff in black shirts were on their very first evening shift in the restaurant, and that we’d be seeing the lecturer and other staff instructing the juniors as they served us. Similarly the kitchen was staffed with a mix of chefs for whom this was their first service, and some that had been studying at the college for two years. It added a fun element knowing that we were guinea pigs for this new team but in all honesty the food was excellent and the service was, if not flawless, absolutely charming. The students were engaging and helpful, some nervous, some chatty, and managed wonderfully with the COVID-19 secure style of service.

I started with a well-made Negroni cocktail (just £4.50!) and we nibbled the freshly baked bread while we took in the menu. The cheese and onion bread was my favourite, but the wholemeal and semi-brioche were equally artful in their execution; all light as a feather and full of flavour.

We ate here on the evening of 4th November, so literally the last service before lockdown two kicked in, so we went all out with cocktail, three courses, and wine, of course!

Champagne risotto with cubes of butternut squash and edible flowers and parmesan tuile
Cabbage leaf stuffed with guinea fowl in a mushroom jus and topped with a lattice of piped fried potato

For starters we ate the champagne risotto, and the guinea fowl choux farci. The risotto was creamy and well-seasoned with multiple textures of butternut squash, and a snapping parmesan and almond tuile. It was a pretty dish with edible flowers, glossy bright risotto, and earthy mushrooms cutting through the richness. The guinea fowl was minced and seasoned and stuffed into a shining cabbage leaf. It was flavoured with fennel (I think), and served on a heady sauce of shimeji mushrooms and shallot purée. I would have happily been served either of the starters in any restaurant, and there’s no doubt that the kitchen here is confident and knows what it’s doing.

We were recommended a Lebanese Chateau Musar cabernet sauvignon, stuffed full with black fruit flavours, to drink with our food. If you’ve not had it before I thoroughly recommend it, and sold here at £35.95 it’s basically at its retail price rather than restaurant price.

Pink duck breast with blackberry, candied beetroot circles, a duck croquette, pommes anna potatoes and veg, with a red cassis sauce and gravy

For my main I had the blossom honey and lavender glazed Gressingham duck. The duck was spot on medium, and the glaze delivered the promised honey and lavender without being heavy handed (which is a risk when working with lavender – no one wants a mouthful of soapy perfume). The pommes anna tasted appropriately calorific (everything is better with butter), and candied beetroot married well with the duck, and the cassis sauce added some drama to the plate. The duck croquette was golden and crispy. The French trimmed rack of lamb was also cooked perfectly medium, and it was served with unctuous slow-cooked lamb shoulder, all brought together with a glossy sauce.

French trimmed lamb with pressed slow cooked shoulder of lamb with an apricot puree and gravy plus veg

Chocolate desserts for me must scream chocolate, and the Alunga chocolate mousse delivered. Velvety mousse, interestingly presented, was served with passion fruit marsh mallow – I could add spoonfuls of this sweet passion fruit fluff to every dessert I eat. We also had the blackcurrant mousse with autumn spiced pear, and a remarkable apple and tarragon granita that really freshened me up after such a sumptuous meal.

Toblerone box shaped chocolate mousse with a square of fancy chocolate, a scoop of chocolate ice cream, mango pieces, and passion fruit marsh mallow

I’d imagine you’ve got the drift by now that we had a super meal and service, and will rush back there as soon as we’re able to! With a bit of lockdown luck they’ll be operating a Christmas menu between 2nd and 11th December and there are tables available for their festive menu for lunch and dinner and I’m sure it’ll be an absolute treat. You can find more details about that here, and you can find their normal offering here.

Thanks to lovely lecturer Liz for the warm welcome, and to the front of house staff (Emma, Ella, Tawanda, and Kesha) that looked after us. We had a super evening and can’t wait to come back!

Posted in Area: City Centre, Area: Colmore Business District, Area: Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham Restaurant, birmingham restaurant review, birmingham review, Cuisine: English, Cuisine: Fine Dining, Cuisine: Modern Mixed, Price: Average, Venue type: Restaurant | Leave a comment

Vietnamese Street Kitchen

A new city centre site of popular restaurant Vietnamese Street Kitchen is due to open at Birmingham’s iconic Bullring next month.

Independently owned and family run, the new VSK restaurant joins the Resorts World venue and replaces the (now closed) Brindleyplace venue. 

Due to open in November, the new Bullring site will be set over 2 floors and includes an upstairs cocktail bar as well as large dining space below. There’s also a heated outdoor terrace to accommodate the new tier two restrictions. 

Diners will be able to enjoy authentic Vietnamese cuisine as well as light bites, drinks and takeaway options in a vibrant, colourful setting inspired by the family’s heritage.

Work is underway to convert the space previously occupied by the Handmade Burger Co chain that closed at the start of the year. The new venture will create over 30 jobs for Birmingham. 

Vietnamese Street Kitchen’s Operations Manager Oliver Ngo says the move is a dream come true for the family, having been looking to open at the Birmingham landmark for some time.  

He says: “We’re delighted to add to our restaurant portfolio, especially during 2020 – a difficult time for the hospitality industry and our fellow Brummies. The decision to move from Brindleyplace to Bullring makes sense in the current climate, with less people working in offices, but actually I’ve been looking to have a restaurant in Bullring for some time. It’s exciting seeing it all coming together.

“I’m Birmingham born and bred and love our city – I want to contribute something outstanding to it as well as showcase the joy of Vietnamese food. Guests can expect fresh food, innovative drinks and friendly service, whether they’ve popped in for a long lunch or an after-work cocktail. 

“I’m Birmingham born and bred and love our city – I want to contribute something outstanding to it as well as showcase the joy of Vietnamese food. Guests can expect fresh food, innovative drinks and friendly service, whether they’ve popped in for a long lunch or an after-work cocktail. 

“We’re assembling a great team back and front of house and the renovation work with Faber Designs – the same interior design company behind Adam’s, Harborne Kitchen and Folium – is coming along nicely. We’re sure this is going to be really special and nothing like what the Bullring as seen before.”

Vietnamese Street Kitchen will join only a handful of other independently owned venues in and around Bullring Birmingham, including Indian Streatery Express.

Oliver says cooking was always a passion in his family and recipes for popular dishes, such as customer favourite Beef & Lemongrass Curry, have been passed down through the family, with four generations of recipes giving Vietnamese Street Kitchen a totally unique menu.

The focus of the new menu is sharing – street food and small plates will create a Vietnamese tapas-like experience for guests. Loved classic such as Pho and Bun Cha Ha Noi will be available too.

Vietnamese Street Kitchen is due to open to guests early November 2020 and bookings will be live ahead of opening.

Oliver concludes: “In the current climate we hope people will support a local business trying to evolve and bring something innovative to the centre of the city. It’s an exciting time for us and we look forward to welcoming guests old and new.”

Posted in Area: Central Shopping, Area: The Bullring, Cuisine: Vietnamese, Price: Average | Tagged , , | Leave a comment