Otoro Sushi

Out In Brum - Otoro Sushi - InteriorI’ll forgive you that Birmingham may not be your immediate thought when you think about Sushi.  Perhaps your mind wanders to images of naked Japanese maidens decorated with crustaceans, rice, and tuna (that’s called Nyotaimori and there’s an interesting article about it available here).  It’s no surprise your brain doesn’t leap to Brum given it is as far from the sea as it’s possible to be in the UK, yet I’m hoping my review of Otoro will urge you to give seafood more of a chance.

The meat and fish market next to Brum’s well-known Rag Market is home to a six-stool Japanese style sushi bar, that goes by the name of Otoro, a word that refers to the fattiest part of a tuna fish.  The sushi bar has been open for a while and has developed somewhat of a cult reputation, partly for the wonderful food, partly for the unusual location.

Out In Brum - Otoro Sushi - Sharer BoardOn entering the market there is a noticeable fishy note to the air from the many stalls selling a grand array of fish and seafood.  The market is worth a visit for the best fish in town and the many knowledgable fishmongers will help you select fish, completely prep it for you, and even advise on how to cook it.  I wasn’t there for the shopping though, I was just nipping in to Otoro with two colleagues for a swift Friday lunch, rather than my normal weekday lunch which I generally eat al desko.

Sushi here can be ordered by the piece, by sets, and by platters.  A ten piece set costs from about £13.  We plumped for a £45 platter between the three of us, including: 8 tuna and salmon California rolls; 6 tuna, salmon, and king prawn nigiri; 4 sweet raw prawns; a load of tuna and salmon sashimi shaped in to flowers; raw thinly sliced scallop (I’m told these are rarely available around Brum); fish roe; and accompaniments (wasabi, lemon, seaweed, and radish).  We also had the Dragon Rolls – California rolls stuffed with tempura prawns and wrapped with avocado and cooked eel.

Chef recommended the Dragon Rolls.  We were trying to order something else but he Out In Brum - Otoro Sushi - Dragon Rollspretty much insisted!  He’s a bit of a character and has a reputation for upsetting his guests both here and at Sushi Passion where he used to work.  I like my chefs temperamental so it worked for me, and frankly I’ll put up with a lot when chef turns out tasty morsels like these.

I’ve not had the sweet prawns before and they were soft and delicious, and the raw sliced scallop was tender and sweet.  California rolls were packed well enough for chopstick eating (no one wants to be dropping half of one whilst taking a bite).  The Dragon Rolls were a real favourite, with great textural difference between the tempura prawn, rice, eel, and avocado.  By the time we ate all of it, we were pleasantly full and in need of a carb come down nap. 

My colleague who is a massive sushi buff thought it all very good, his only slight criticism was that the nigiri rice was “a little bit too compacted”.  I didn’t share his opinion, but that’s possibly because I know so little about sushi other than that I like it.

Otoro offer outside catering for your parties and office buffets or parties at home, it’s the prettiest party food going in my opinion and sushi chefs seem to be part chef part artist – who needs a sea of beige when you can have a cornucopia of fishes and shell food.  You can stop by for takeaway, or order it on Deliveroo if you live close enough and can’t be bothered getting off the sofa.

My colleagues and I loved the place and will definitely be back.  Give it a go.


Posted in Area: Central Shopping, Cuisine: Japanese, Price: Average, Venue type: Cafe, Venue type: Restaurant | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

£3 Million Restoration for Roundhouse

One of Birmingham’s most interesting historic buildings, which we were lucky enough to recently have a peak inside, is set to be brought back to life after being awarded a £2.5m National Lottery grant.

The funding will enable a partnership of the Canal & River Trust and National Trust to revitalise the Grade II* listed Roundhouse into a city base from which to explore Birmingham’s famous canals by foot, bike or boat.

Situated on Sheepcote Street, next door to recently opened The Distillery, the Roundhouse was built in 1874 by the Birmingham Corporation and was originally used as stables and stores. Designed by local architect W.H. Ward, the horse-shoe shaped building has become a real landmark within the city but over the last ten years the majority of it has been steadily falling into disrepair.

The investment from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), together with the combined expertise of two major heritage organisations, will see the building restored to its former glory and rejuvenated as a focal point on the city’s canals.

As well as offering a base from which to explore the canal network, plans for the Roundhouse include a café, a cycle hire and repair workshop, volunteering opportunities and a shared working space. It’s anticipated that The Roundhouse will attract over 50,000 people a year, both from the local community and visitors from further afield.

The people of Birmingham will have an important role to play in the project. There will be a range of volunteering opportunities available and lots of chances for people living nearby and local partners to get involved, helping to shape the activity programme and tell the stories of Birmingham.

A fundraising appeal will also be launched to raise the additional funding needed to bring the project to life.

Local people will soon have the chance to explore the Roundhouse for themselves with events celebrating the history of the building, and encouraging people to explore the city’s canals, set to kick off in the summer. The building has already been used as a venue for this year’s Flatpack Film Festival and the Birmingham Literary Festival.

The £3.3m scheme was awarded an initial development grant of £225,000 by HLF in December 2015 and has now been given a full £2.5m award to enable the scheme to go ahead. Additional funding has been provided by the two partners.

Stuart Mills, Property Director for the Canal & River Trust, said: “This funding is fantastic
news for Birmingham, and will breathe new life into one of the city’s most recognisable and much-loved historic buildings. The Roundhouse will be a fantastic place to showcase Birmingham’s waterways and heritage and inspire people to explore all that the city has to offer.“There’s an exciting future ahead but to realise it we really want local people to join in and get involved whether that be through volunteering, donating money or simply participating in some of the amazing events and activities that will be taking place.”

Lucy Reid, Assistant Director of Operations at the National Trust, said: “The Roundhouse project is all about partnership and co-creation. The end result will be an inspiring and atmospheric space at the heart ofour city’s canal network from which to explore the waterways and the hidden histories of the people who made Birmingham – lamplighters, boatspeople and horses. There will be night-time paddles, ‘untours’, films and events, office spaces and a café. “

The grant has been awarded through HLF’s Heritage Enterprise programme.  It is designed to help when the cost of repairing an historic building is so high that restoration simply is not commercially viable. Grants of £100k to £5million bridge the financial gap, funding the vital repairs and conservation work needed to convert derelict, vacant and under-used buildings like the Roundhouse, into new, usable commercial spaces that can have a positive impact on local economies.

Posted in Area: Brindley Place, Article | Leave a comment

Wok Chi Oriental Kitchen

Out In Brum - Wok Chi - ExteriorYou may not have noticed last year that the rather bland and tired looking Chinese takeaway on Harborne High Street by the name of Splendour, which was ironically far from splendid, closed its doors.

Luckily for the residents of Harborne, and those willing to hop on a number 22, 23, 24, 29 etc. or take a short Uber from the city to Harbs (yes, that’s right, Harbs, it’s a thing, deal with it), a new eatery has taken its place.  Alfie and Linda Choi with the support of their two young sons, Ollie and Joshie, have opened Wok Chi Oriental Kitchen and takeaway in the middle of the bustling High Street.  They’ve completely gutted the old premises and the very thorough refit has resulted in a comfortable modern restaurant with fresh funky lighting.

We had heard great things about Wok Chi so on a random Tuesday night we decided to Out In Brum - Wok Chi - Squidpop along with two friends and see what the fuss was all about. We had tried before but had not managed to get a table as whenever we passed the venue it seemed to be packed. We got lucky on that Tuesday and with no more than a two minute wait we quickly bagged a seat.

Alfie & Linda stress how passionate and conscientious they are about their food and take a great deal of care and pride in how they source, prepare and present it. The couple strive to use fresh, natural, and wherever possible organic ingredients, to produce delicious, authentic and modern adaptations of all your favourite Chinese and South East Asian dishes.  This confidence in their cooking is born out by the presence of an open kitchen so you can watch your chosen dishes being prepared and cooked behind the counter.

Alfie appeared with a bowl of crunchy Thai prawn crackers with sweet chilli dip as weOut In Brum - Wok Chi - Spring Rolls browsed the menu over some chilled Sapporo lagers.  We devoured the lot whilst chatting about the day’s ridiculous charity shop finds (you’re following @CharityShopWTF on Twitter, right?) and the cake we’d scoffed at Forty-One earlier in the day.

For starters we decided to share a few plates and opted first up for the vegetarian spring rolls which were hot and crisp, accompanied with a sweet salty soy dip. We also chose the salt & chilli squid which arrived with a light and crisp batter surrounding perfectly tender rings of squid on a bed of wok fried veg with Asian spices and fresh chilli, garlic, and dried shallots. One of our diners had gone veggie Out In Brum - Wok Chi - Crispy Beeffor lent, so we also added a portion of the crispy salt & chilli tofu which came in the same light and crisp batter as the squid.  We’d not had tofu served this way before and we were impressed with the zingy flavour the crisp cubes offered.

Onto the main event and a big test for any venue as one of us ordered a firm favourite of crispy shredded beef .  We had this with a crushed yellow bean and hoi sin sauce with fresh chillies. This was my personal stand out dish of the visit with the beef having a perfect crunch, which seems impossible to get from a takeaway (I suspect due to time the dish sits in a container).  Next up came a classic traditional Chinese chicken curry, cooked with garlic, ginger, onions, mushrooms, mixed pepper, carrot and garden peas which hit the spot for me.  The curry was tongue tingling and the sauce thick, clinging to the tender chicken and egg fried rice.

Out In Brum - Wok Chi - Chicken CurryWe also tried the Wok Chi special which comprised stir fried chicken, beef, char sui pork, king prawns and seasonal vegetables in an oyster soy sauce.  Also, we took the vegetarian satay stir fry. Both of these dishes went down well with our fellow diners, although possibly the satay could of done with a few more peanuts (which I am sure would’ve been supplied had we have requested).

With starters ranging from £2.25 to £6.95 and mains from £8.45 to £9.45 which includes your choice of rice or chow mein, this is not an expensive meal out.  Go here expecting fresh food with a friendly neighbourhood vibe, and the hubbub of chatting and noises from the kitchen, and you’ll leave impressed.


Tel: 0121 427 2820


Posted in Area: Harborne, Birmingham Restaurant, birmingham restaurant review, Cuisine: Chinese, Price: Cheap as Chips - Inexpensive, Venue type: Restaurant | 1 Comment


Prehistoric experience takes over Botanical Gardens from 20 May until 4 June

Jurassic Kingdom: Where Dinosaurs Come To Life, is an extraordinary, new animatronic experience, which will see life-sized DINOSAURS taking over Birmingham Botanical Gardens from 20 May until 4 June, where visitors will be transported back to a time when they ruled the earth.

In a UK first, over 30 true-to-life dinosaur models and installations will transform the 15 stunning acres of gardens as part of a tour across major UK cities in seven months, ready to roar, spit and snarl at those brave enough to get up close and personal.

Diplodocus heads will poke 16 metres above the ground, amongst the tree canopy as Triceratops escort their young through the bushes beneath. The ear-piercing screeches of the Pterosaurus will alert visitors to the danger in the skies above and guests must be wary of the spitting defence of the Pachycephalousaurus, in case he lurks around the next corner.

But wherever you are in Jurassic Kingdom, remember you’re never far from the ‘King of the Tyrant Lizards’ and the most famous dinosaur of them all – Tyrannosaurus Rex, standing 18 metres from head to tail.

After an exciting trek around the twisting trails of Jurassic Kingdom, younger visitors will be encouraged to pick up their brushes and become budding archeologists in our Excavation Scene, where a T-Rex skeleton lurks just beneath the surface, waiting to be discovered.

Designed by Weli Creative – the team behind the Magical Lantern Festival – Jurassic Kingdom will be visiting several locations in the Uk and additional tour venues and dates can be found on the event website – www.jurassickingdom.uk

David Lee, Director at Weli Creative, said: “Jurassic Kingdom will be an incredible, awe-inspiring dinosaur experience like no other. It’s the first outdoor animatronic display of its kind in the UK and we can’t wait to open our doors to the public in 2017.

“We’ve seen through our work on Magical Lantern Festival that there’s a huge demand for unique, family-friendly events in the UK and we’re certain that adults will enjoy Jurassic Kingdom just as much as their children.”

Tickets are now on sale from http://www.jurassickingdom.uk priced at £11.50 for adults, £9.50 for children as well as family tickets and concessions being available.

You can also add on a VR Experience for £5.

The project launched with a lighthearted event in London

Website: www.jurassickingdom.uk

Birmingham Botanical Gardens: http://www.birminghambotanicalgardens.org.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jurassickingdom/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jurassickndm

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jurassickndm

Posted in Area: Edgbaston, Article, Special Event, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Shucks! What a fizzy deal at Opus…

It’s a magical mollusc, a beautiful bivalve, salty snack that is lauded as an aphrodisiac. Out In Brum - Opus Restaurant Friday Night Deal - ExteriorThere’s no doubt that oysters, once a peasant food, are now among the ultimate delicacies for foodies.

They’ve long been linked to amour – Aphrodite , the Greek goddess of love was born from the sea in an oyster shell. Her son, Eros, was the god of love; and Casanova, the legendary 18th century lothario, was said to eat 50 for breakfast.

If oysters are your passion, Opus in Cornwall Street, one of our favourite restaurants in Brum, is the place to dine – it sells more oysters than any other restaurant in the Out In Brum - Opus - Oysters 2city and serves only Carlingford rock oysters. These outstanding oysters are cultivated in the waters of County Lough in Ireland and are renowned for their sweet, rich and nutty flavours.

Every Friday and Saturday from April 21 and throughout the summer, Opus is tempting diners with a pearl of an offer: a complimentary dozen Carlingford rock oysters with every bottle of Champagne purchased. Order a half bottle of Champagne and you’ll receive a half dozen of Carlingford rock oysters. The offer is available for tables up to 16 diners.

For details, visit www.opusrestaurant.co.uk or telephone 0121 200 2323.

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Paprika Grill House – Bearwood

Out In Brum - Paprika Grill Bearwood - ExteriorTo counter those of you that say we only eat at and review upmarket venues, here’s one just for you- the cheap and cheerful Paprika Grill House in Bearwood.

On a random friday evening we decided there was nothing on TV and we were looking for an excuse to head towards Bearwood to play with a friend’s new rescue dog. They suggested we try out Paprika for “meat on a stick” – how could we refuse?!

The owners have recently renovated the interior, cladding some walls with wood, so it’s now a bit Scandinavian sauna with Tiffany lamps.   It’s very clean and bright, in fact it’s very bright and the the owner was discussing that he needed to have them dimmed – an attention to detail we appreciate seeing.

Out In Brum - Paprika Grill Bearwood - Tomato FetivalWhen it comes to the menu at Paprika you will spot a bit of a theme. You can have anything you want as long as it can be cooked on a skewer, and every main comes with a choice of rice, chips, naan, or if you ask, extra salad.  Spot on for a quick Friday night dinner.

The four of us ordered a selection of starters including tasty hummus served with naan, the Tomato Festival, a mix of sun dried cherry tomatoes & mozzarella marinated with basil, served with naan, and Persian Sausage Bandari pan fried with onions, chilli & tomato, served with, you guessed it, naan.  The sausage dish was a bit too cool, but I enjoyed it.

Out In Brum - Paprika Grill Bearwood - InteriorFor the mains we opted for Koobideh Skewer, two skewers of minced lamb mixed with grated onions, salt, pepper, and saffron which came served with fresh salad and a choice of side dish.  Of course to add some variation for my side I chose……. naan.  But this time with garlic.  Two of our party went for the Masala Fish Skewer which consisted of marinated sea bass cooked on a charcoal grill and this was also served with fresh salad and a choice of side dish (both had the naan) .  Our fourth main dish a charcoal grilled Salmon Skewer but this time with extra salad rather then the obligatory naan (splitter!).

The presentation of the food was never going to remind one of a Michelin establishment but it was attractive enough for such simple food. There is no hiding bad food when it’s this simple, and the flavours of every dish were really good. One of the pieces of fish did have a few bones in it but that can happen Out In Brum - Paprika Grill Bearwood - Chickenanywhere I guess.

If you are a diehard curry fan and are looking forward to the fluffy warm naan you may need to adjust your expectations as I would describe the naan more as a flatbread, and the garlic naan is just the same flatbread with some garlic oil brushed on.

At £3.50 or £4.50 for the starters and £6.99 to £12.99 for the mains including the salad and side dish, this is cheap and tasty filling food.  We will drop in again when we’re in the area.

Paprika Grill House can be found at 85 Three Shires Oak Road, Bearwood B67 5BY and also at 9 Raddlebarn Road, Selly Oak, B29 6HJ

Out In Brum - Paprika Grill Bearwood - Fish

Posted in Area: Bearwood, Birmingham Restaurant, birmingham restaurant review, Cuisine: Modern Mixed, Price: Cheap as Chips - Inexpensive, Venue type: Cafe, Venue type: Restaurant | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Butlers Arms

Out In Brum - Butlers Arms - FrontageThe Gileses have significant experience in hospitality which they brought to the struggling Butlers Arms pub near Four Oaks some years ago.  It’s a proper family affair.  Landlord Chris, with his head chef wife Paula, along with sous chef son Dan and front of house manager daughter Becky, have turned around the fortunes of what was once a struggling suburban pub.  Suburban it may be, pedestrian it is not, and its idiosyncrasies have built the business in to one where hordes of diners turn up on a Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evening for their three course for £14.50 special.  I’d advise you book, whenever you plan to go.

Out In Brum - Butlers Arms - Ram BustWe always try to be transparent with our reviews so note that we’re friends with The Gileses.  However if I thought any word of our praise was untrue I wouldn’t be writing them up, and none of the stuff we’re writing about was a freebie.

The decor is not your typical local boozer.  You may find yourself sat on a 50s leatherette hair drying bench, complete with driers, overlooked by the bust of a smartly dressed ram, and a multi-coloured flamingo.  Don’t think this is ill thought out maximalist guesswork from an unskilled hoarder, it is fanciful and fun design by experienced eyes.  The sharp eyed amongst you will find plenty of other objet d’art that amuses.

While the decor may be a little off the wall, the cookery is classic.  We’ve been on a number of occasions, for celebration dinners, a cheese and wine night with The Guardian’s Fiona Beckett, a charity black tie event, Sunday lunch, and dinner with friends to cheer up a Out In Brum - Butlers Arms - Hair Drier Benchdreary mid-week.  It really does get very busy, unsurprisingly given the quality and price point.  The venue often holds special events and hosts other chefs such as Masterchef’s Stacie Stewart, Nathan Eades from Simpsons, and Romy Gill.  You can sign-up to their mailing list here to keep up to date.

Chris and Paula often have weekends away to the coast, London, and other interesting cities, visiting the best eateries the UK has to offer.  They bring a little of that inspiration back with them.  While Paula is most definitely the boss in the kitchen, Chris does take some hand in the food, including producing their own charcuterie, pickled eggs, and he’s in charge of the million Christmas puddings they make each year.  He keeps a wonderful cellar, and their wine list is full of interesting accessibly priced bottles.  I loved the “Cabaret Frank” Cabernet Franc red we had with our beef Sunday lunch, and I struggle to think of many other venues that could offer this quirky Californian for less than twenty quid.  Their back bar is also varied Out In Brum - Butlers Arms - Ham Hockoffering lots of curios including, sometimes, home infused gins.

The menu here is typical classic European cookery.  On a Sunday you can take the roast lunch as we did, or something from the normal menu.  My beef was medium-rare and plentiful, and the roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding were crisp.  While I thoroughly enjoyed my beef, I had major food envy for my friend’s twice cooked pork belly with black pudding, which was thick and succulent looking, with a crispy crackling top.  Unsurprisingly provenance is important here, they have great relationships with suppliers including Packington Farm who provide that amazing pork.  The pork terrine to start was delicious served with toasted brioche and Out In Brum - Butlers Arms - Pork Belly Lunchpiccalilli, and it makes my mouth water to think of my crispy pork belly salad starter.

It’s not all about the meat, for starters we also had the crisp whitebait, and a plate of their own smoked fish.  I’ve had the hake dish, with baby pan roast potatoes and chorizo, a couple of times and it’s a perfect light dinner with firm white fish coated with spicy chorizo oil.  The smoked haddock dish with a light curry sauce is also delicious.

I’m not big on puddings, but we had an awesome espresso ice cream that kept me awake Out In Brum - Butlers Arms - Bird Statuetill Tuesday, a fudgy chocolate brownie, and comforting sticky toffee pudding with custard.

Their three course Sunday lunch is £15.95, and a normal three course dinner on non offer nights will cost around £20 to £25.  Given how busy it gets I can hardly describe it as undiscovered, but it is a bit of a local’s secret, which you’ve now been let in on.

Thanks to The Gileses for their wonderful hospitality, long may it continue.


Posted in Area: Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham Restaurant, birmingham restaurant review, birmingham review, Cuisine: English, Cuisine: Modern Mixed, Price: Average, Venue type: Bar, Venue type: Pub, Venue type: Restaurant | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment