Few places in Birmingham attracted such an immediate cult following as The Butchers’ Social in Harborne did. Within weeks of Chefs Jamie and Mike getting the keys to the closed Walter Smith’s butcher’s shop on the high street in April ’15, they managed to set up pallet made furniture and threw open the doors to the public to drink local ales and curated shorts and to eat fried chicken wings and beautifully presented brunches and dinners. By the time the summer came round, just a couple of months after opening, it was the norm that we couldn’t get a table at peak times! That’s testament to the food Jamie and Mike are capable of, and their deftness at dealing with customers. It was with great personal sadness that they closed the doors permanently on their Harborne pop-up on New Year’s day ’16.
That of course though wasn’t the end of the story… Chef Jamie Desogus remains at the
Harborne venue, and is undertaking an ambitious rebuild to open what will no doubt be a wonderful full service restaurant with bar in the autumn under the Harborne Kitchen name. Some of you will be familiar with that as the pair ran it as a pop-up in the city centre at the the Butchers in Harborne. We reviewed it here.
Chef Mike Bullard has taken the Butchers’ Social brand to chichi town Henley-in-Arden, which is becoming somewhat of a foodie haven on the outskirts of the Midlands conurbation. Trains run hourly from Snow Hill and take around 30 minutes to get there, with just a five minute walk the other end. The new Butchers’ Social is just next door to The Bluebell (review here) which we really like, and opposite Simpson’s former head chef Matt Cheal’s new restaurant, eponymously named Cheal’s of Henley.
The new Butchers’ Social (Mike has still stuck with that misplaced apostrophe) has opened in the venue formerly housing Matricardis. Mike has big plans for the interior, which has probably around 70 covers presently, and the large and attractive outdoor space. Though Mike only got the keys last Wednesday he’s already offering a menu. We went along at the end of brunch and at the start of dinner so ate off both menus.
The truffled mac and cheese (£6) was rich and creamy with a deep truffle flavour, and was served with parmesan crisps, onion granola, and basil leaves. The granola served to add a crunch to the soft pasta and sauce. I had the mackerel (£7) which was served with pickled radish and carrot and a hazelnut pesto. The fish tasted very fresh and was served as a dainty and pretty plate of food, with the pickles cutting through the flavour of the rich fish. We also had a half kilo of the salted caramel chicken wings (£6), which were a firm favourite at the original Butchers’ Social. They were predictably great – sweet salty caramel sauce covered crisp and tender golden chicken with bits of salty bacon and sweet honeycomb. We had a couple of pints of Sam Adams lager and Whitstable Bay IPA with our lunch, Mike has a good selection of beer already and has big plans for the bar offering.
I suspect that The Butchers’ Social Henley-in-Arden will be as successful a venture as the Harborne restaurant. With it being only a fiver return on the train from the city centre, and with prices that are very wallet friendly, it’s certainly somewhere we shall be visiting.
Good luck to Mike and his team, we look forward to seeing what you do with the space over the coming months.