Full Disclosure: On Wednesday 20th June I attended the launch event for colmore food festival at purecraft bar & Kitchen – Food & Drink was complimentary (I Bought a round anyway). However, this doesn’t affect the below…
It seemed fitting to return properly with this post. The Colmore Food Festival is one of the highlights of viv and I’s year on the birmingham food scene.
Bringing the cream of the Colmore BID‘s bars, restaurants and cafes in a showcase over a Friday (For workers) and Saturday (For relaxers).
— (If you want to skip my ramblings and get on with the food bit, skip past this and head to Day 1) —
Colmore Row & Colmore BID
As usual, Viv and I attended both days. We both work in the Colmore BID (same company no less). It’s a short walk from one end of Colmore Row to the other. It’s a shame that the Row has lost some of its previous grandeur over the decades. The ugly lump of Snow Hill Station always saddens me a little. It’s a hump of brown bricks with little to no character, the opposite to its sister station Moor Street. Happily, a little further along, the restoration of The Grand Hotel to its former glory is in the final stages. A few more steps along, passing the pit which was Madin’s NatWest tower, we reach Victoria Square.
I doubt there is any place in Birmingham that goes through so many re-inventions over the year as Victoria Square. Sandwiched between the Town Hall and the Council House, it’s an intrinsic part of Birmingham with The Floozie (potted into her former jacuzzi), the statue of Queen Victoria and those odd lions. I dearly miss Iron Man, currently replaced for ogling by a hereto undiscovered cobbled road revealed as part of the Metro works. Ever changing Victoria Square was the centrepiece of the Commonwealth Games handover and there’s always something going on albeit a protest, a stage, a graduation or even a food festival (yes, I’ll finally get onto it now!).
Colmore Food Festival
So onto Colmore Food Festival; I’ve already written about it in the previous 4 years as well as attending prior to starting the blog but I’ll cover the history a little if you’ve not read those.
Colmore BID, who run the food festival, is one of the city’s numerous BID’s (11 and counting). Their purpose (via a small levy on businesses in their area) is to run projects, services and initiatives in their defined area to improve and promote their district. Working in the BID has given me a chance to see the numerous improvements they have conducted over their last 10 years. They include Church Street Square, a shared space housing a bee hotel, and numerous street team members caring for and keeping the district safe.
Colmore BID’s flagship event is The Colmore Food Festival, a 2 day event celebrating the diverse range of cuisine available from simple pub grub to Michelin starred dishes. All dishes are capped at £4 (drinks vary) and it’s held on Fridays and Saturday.
For Viv and I, Day 1 was a lunchtime only visit as we had a busy evening. We still did our best to fit in as much as possible and started off with a couple of Festival newbies, Adams and Wayland’s Yard.
We opted for both dishes from Adam’s (we usually share). The dishes were a Crab Satay with coriander and ginger, and a Mango, Thai Green Curry & Coconut concoction. The Crab Satay, was a small, but well formed dish. It was fragrant with crab catching the breeze and was a delight, although I’d have been happy with twice the amount. Alas a £4 price point does have its restrictions.
The Mango, Thai Green Curry & Coconut was a suprise; with those ingredients I was expecting more of a savoury dish. This was more of a rice pudding style dessert. The mango was refreshing, the coconut gave an added depth to the flavour, however, the Thai Green Curry was a tad on the mild side. I was expecting a punch of lemongrass, a slice of lime and the spice of chilli and ginger. This seemed lost in the sweetness of the coconut and mango. A shame as all other elements had come together with a finesse expected of Adams.
Our next stop was Wayland’s Yard, a new favourite of mine on the Birmingham food scene, taking over an old printing shop on Bull Street. It’s the second shop to open with the first store open in Worcester. Hopefully more on the way soon! We had an Eggy Crumpet (their house special) and an Iced Tea to salve ourselves in the heat.
The Eggy Crumpet was delicious when I found it! A small hedge had appeared in the box burying the crumpet but that was soon dispatched with. The only other negative for presentation was that it had been served in a box with knife and fork to slice. The box was quite deep and hard to hold and cut whilst walking around. Happily, the plastic knife supplied was on the sharp side so I made swift work using careful angles to maintain cutting power. Under the hedgerow, an abundance of Chilli Jam was present adding heat to the dish. Eggy crumpets are a favourite treat of Viv and I and it’s a dish I make often. This one was a solid dish too and I look forward to having it again.
The Iced Tea came sealed with a wedge of lime. It was much appreciated in the heat and disappeared quickly between us.
The final stop for Day 1 was to grab some treats for the afternoon back in the office from Hindleys Bakery. We picked up four small treats split between the two of us. I chose the Chocolate Brownie & Apple & Almond Cake, whereas Viv selected a Viennese Whirl & Pineapple Cream.
My Chocolate Brownie was rich but crumbly rather than soft; to be expected in the heat. The Apple & Almond Cake had retained its wetness and was a delicious little morsel. I didn’t get many more notes other than that both were finished off with gusto.
Viv reported that the Viennese Whirl and Pineapple Cream were yummy, although she had forgotten how sugary sweet the pineapple cream was!
We arrived for Day 2 a little later into the Saturday. The World Cup Semi-Final between England and Croatia was on in the afternoon and as neither of us are great sport fans, we’d assumed the crowds would lessen a little as those more enamoured with the game filtered off to various venues around the city.
First stop was to the other Michelin Starred attendee, Purnell’s. Their main was a Daube of Pork served in a rich jus, with caramelised apple puree, crispy shallots and watercress. The daube of pork fell apart at the touch of the fork and was well seasoned. The crispy shallots reminded me a little of Rice Krispies but added texture to the dish. For dessert it was Mr Purnell’s Soft Scoop Cone. A waffle cone filled with both strawberry cream and violet ice cream, sprinkled with hundreds and thousands. On first lick, I was taken back to the Parma Violets of my youth. The rich violet ice cream was the perfect anecdote to the stifling heat of the mid afternoon sun.
Drinkwise, Viv went for a Thyme for Pimms Cocktail from Gingers Bar at Purnell’s Bistro whilst I popped over to Purecraft Bar for a half of one of my all time favourite beers, Longhorn IPA. We then caught up with a few of our blogger friends (Caramel Latte Kiss and Brumderland) whilst watching some of the cooking demos and live music, including a colourful rendition of Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Killing In The Name Of’.
Whilst Viv settled down, I went to grab our next dish from Jailbird which has taken over from Nosh & Quaff . We had the Wings with Leeks and Spinach Risotto. The wings were a very generous portion, with three wings on a bed of grilled leeks. The chicken was well cooked, juicy and tender and well worth the £4 spend. Viv tackled the majority of the Spinach Risotto, but what I ate was delicious, with salty crumbly feta cutting through the richness of the spinach.
Our final dish of the day was really saving the best until last, from Opus, Pan Fried Fillet of Hake with Fennel Pasta Salad. The Hake was cooked beautifully and flaked with a brush from the fork. The sweet, perfumy flavour to the fennel pasta made a great combination on a summer’s day. Hats off to Ben Ternent and the team; it was a triumphant flourish to the weekend’s fun.
We learnt afterwards that Opus has donated 50p for every dish sold at the Colmore Food Festival to SIFA Fireside. If you’ve not heard of SIFA, they provide food, clothing and shower facilities for Birmingham’s vulnerably housed and homeless adults. It’s a fantastic charity and they need all the donations and help they can get (especially, currently, underpants). If you are interested in helping or donating, find their link below:
It’s great to see movement towards sustainability also, with recycling on point and a significant lack of plastic straws all around. The only thing I’d like to see in 2019 would be wooden rather than plastic cutlery. As a popular supermarket used to say ‘Every Little Helps!’
All in all, it was another fantastic year, and I hope Colmore BID heads into chapter 3 of it’s life in March, and I cant wait until the 2019 Colmore Food Festival.