Tiffin Indian Cuisine, Harborne

Tiffin ExteriorOccasionally our friends R&M knock a review up for us, so thanks to them for this one.

We’re quite partial to a curry on a Friday night.  Indeed we can often be tempted on a Saturday night as well. Having sampled the delights of all of Harborne’s curry houses regularly over the past two decades, we were naturally eager to try out the latest entrant to the market – Tiffin.

Tiffin opened in February in the old “Turners at 69” restaurant on the High Street, after Richard Turner unexpectedly announced its immediate closure. Only a minimal refurb was carried out by the new owners to this small and somewhat cosy venue, and so it very much retains the chandeliered, somewhat flashy look of its former incarnation. This isn’t exactly how you might expect your average curry house to look, and so we were intrigued to see how the overall offering would be pitched.

Various rumours swirled around about Tiffin before it opened, notably that it would be Out In Brum - Tiffin - Poppodomserving traditional Indian street food.  Putting to one side how trendy street food would have fitted in with the rather bling restaurant interior, we were really quite excited about the possibility of having delights such as chana chaat available on our doorstep. It transpired, however, that this was not actually the case, and the menu very much reflects the traditional curry house fayre on offer in the other restaurants locally.

Naturally we booked a table on a Friday night, opting for 9pm to allow for a cheeky post-work beer beforehand.  On arrival the restaurant was full, and it quickly became apparent that our table was not ready due to other guests staying longer than anticipated.  The small Out In Brum - Tiffin - Tiffin Starter 2size of the restaurant means that there is no space for a bar or other suitable waiting area (other than the serving area, which also acts as the corridor to the toilets), and so we were
asked if we would take a seat at one of the small number of tables outside.  On a chilly spring night this wouldn’t have mattered so much if there was heating and better lighting for the exterior seating, but unfortunately there was neither, nor was our drinks’ order taken so we could while away the time with a beer.  Worried about dehydration we went back inside to specifically ask for some.

Out In Brum - Tiffin - Tiffin StarterWe were seated in the restaurant around 15 minutes later.  To be fair, once at our table the waiters were apologetic and offered us complimentary poppadoms and dips.  Unfortunately, there is little they can do with the space available if guests already in the restaurant take longer than expected.

After a somewhat shaky start, and back in the warmth, things began to improve. The table was beautifully presented, and the glasses and tableware had a higher end feel than many other local curry houses we have visited (although the cobwebs and numerous blown light bulbs on the two chandeliers could do with being fixed, and quickly!).  The menu was also
well designed and of a standard that you would expect to find in posher city-centre establishments (sad as it may seem, I do enjoy a well-presented menu!).  Alongside the Out In Brum - Tiffin - Mainusual traditional favourites on offer at curry houses nationwide, there was also a decent selection of chef’s recommended specials.

The poppadoms were warm and crisp, and the dips fresh and spicy.  For starters, we opted for the harra chicken kebab and shami kebab.  The chicken was moist and full of flavour and really rather better than countless similar starters we have had elsewhere on the High Street.  The lamb was spicy but disappointingly dry.  Both came with a rather uninspiring undressed factory-prepared side salad, which somewhat let them down.

For mains, we had a korai and tawa, served with a plain naan and a boiled rice.  For us, the korai was the stand-out dish – served in its own mini wok, the lamb was succulent and full of flavour, with just the right amount of onion.  The tawa was a mixture of minced and diced lamb served in a sizzling dish, again warmly spiced.  The rice was steaming hot and incredibly fluffy, and felt to us as if it had been freshly cooked rather than sat in a warmer for a while.  The naan was the perfect combination of both lightness and crispness, with a drizzle of butter, a million miles away from the heavy doughy breads so often served.   The plates were hot, and the portion sizes just right.  We often find we simply cannot eat the Out In Brum - Tiffin - Main 2portions served in many curry houses, but these were perfect for us.  Our plates were cleared, and we were replete.

All-in-all, and putting to one side the glitch at the start of the evening, both the food and service were of a generally high standard.  In fact, in our opinion better than that on offer in most of the other local curry establishments.  The restaurant was bustling but not overly loud, and despite the small size did not feel cramped.  Although we stuck to our traditional Indian lager (2 large Cobras please), there was a decent wine menu on offer, with the head waiter happy to chat through his recommendations for wine-food pairings.  Most customers seemed to be opting for a bottle of wine, rather than beer, which would certainly suggest that they have the wine offering about right.

Tiffin is aiming to provide a more sophisticated experience than much of that on offer locally, and it succeeds in part. We have visited three times now.  The team of waiters is universally friendly, and hard-working and enthusiastic manager Rolly does his absolute best to try to help customers have a great evening.  We enjoyed the food, which compares favourably with the local competition, and notably each individual dish tasted fresh (and not as if made from a base catering pack of sauce/spice mix).  The place is clearly already attracting regulars and we suspect its popularity will continue to grow.  That being said, we couldn’t help but feel as if it aspires to be rather better than it is, and (whilst certainly good) the food and overall experience is not a patch on that on offer in either Asha’s or Lasan.  The small size of the restaurant and lack of any bar/waiting area clearly creates problems.  On a second visit (again having both booked and arrived on time) we were asked to wait for our table standing in the corridor to the toilet, constantly being moved to allow for waiters and food to pass.  We were not the only ones this happened to.  They really need to sort this particular issue out, even if it means booking tables further apart or giving a time period for each table at busy times.

Prices are a little higher than you will pay at most other curry houses in Harborne, although not hugely so.  Expect to pay around £5-7 for starters, £9 for a traditional classic main and £12-15 for chef’s special main courses.  The dishes are also on the spicier side, and so if you prefer your curry milder it is definitely worth requesting this when ordering.

We’ll definitely be back again, no doubt for our traditional Friday night curry.

Posted in Area: Harborne, Birmingham Restaurant, birmingham restaurant review, birmingham review, Cuisine: Indian, Price: Average, restaurant review, Uncategorized, Venue type: Restaurant | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

SEE YOUR FAVOURITE STARS FROM THE SOLANA HOTEL LIVE ON STAGE FOR THE FIRST TIME

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.

FOLLOW FOR TO FUN IN THE SUN

www.benidormonstage.com

Twitter: @benidormonstage

Instagram: @benidormonstage

Facebook page: Benidorm on Stage

 LISTINGS INFORMATION

3rd to 29th December 2018                                                  0844 871 3011

New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham                     www.atgtickets.com/venues/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.

EAST SIDE PARK – SKATE BIRMINGHAM FUNFAIR GALLERY

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

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Meat Shack: Dripping. Filthy. Goodness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out In Brum - Meat Shack - Frontage

 

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