Review: #WifeyWrites – A lot of CocknBull in Stourbridge

You know it’s big news when Stourbridge gets its first dirty burger eatery.

I grew up in Stourbridge, my parents owned Mayson Chinese Restaurant for the best part of 25 years so I was raised in the catering & service industry. I started working at the restaurant when I was 16, like my older brothers before me, and it taught us all a lot about the industry.

Back then, the nearest Stourbridge had to quality burgers was McDonalds. Today, the High Street is full of chain coffee places, Pizza Express, Wetherspoons and the odd independent eatery smattered between.

Which brings us onto the Cock’n’Bull. This is their first eatery, with the  second due to be in Glasgow. When I found out they were opening in Stourbridge only a few months ago, I thought I would check out the place.  My parents still live near Stourbridge and as I was having a catch up with my college friend Sarah, it gave me the perfect excuse!

We turned up early evening Friday and it was already packed. We hadn’t booked ahead but were told there would be a short wait and if we wanted to get a drink at the bar, they would let us know when a table was available. No sooner had we ordered our drinks and perused the menu, printed on butcher paper, a table was available.

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There’s a good choice of sharers and mains, it was almost too much.  The foodie in me just wanted to order a bit of everything but knowing how it was likely to turnout out (i.e. significant left over food!), we went for burgers with a couple of sides to share.

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My choice was the Cheese & Bacon Filthy Burger, which consisted of 2 free range Herefordshire Beef patties with Monterey Jack cheese and streaky bacon housed in a brioche bun. The burger was cooked perfect for me, with the saltiness of the bacon counterbalancing the sweetness of the brioche. I don’t often finish burgers but I managed to wolf this down well, which is a good sign that I really liked it!

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Sarah went for the Cockadoodle burger, free range buttermilk chicken coated & seasoned in their own recipe crumb with mayo and lettuce. Classic & simple, the coating was crispy, light and slightly salty.  She found the brioche bun quite filling, much preferring the chicken itself.

We skipped the fries, something I don’t normally do,  and went for sides of onion rings and Asian slaw.  The onion rings were done in tempura & black sesame seed batter, which was light if slightly greasy.  The Asian slaw was quite heavy on the red onion but tasty nonetheless.

For me, this is good news for Stourbridge, to get a new and different experience.  I found the staff friendly and attentive.  The next visit will most probably be with Ryan, as he’s already had a mooch at the menu and wants to try all of it.

 

When: 24/11/2017

Where:  Cock’n’Bull, 109 High Street, Stourbridge DY8 1EE

Who: Cock’n’Bull

 

News – New cook book is launching to support refugees around the world

I love food, not so much cooking, but if I do. I usually have a cookbook to hand, and this one supports a charitable cause so what more could I want?

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“This Cookbook Belongs To Us”, compiled by Bearwood and Kings Heath Action for Refugees, brings you stories of food – of making, sharing and enjoying – to show the importance of welcome, friendship, tolerance and love for refugees in our community. The book is dedicated to all the people who call Birmingham and Smethwick home, and to those fleeing their homes and seeking refuge in new ones.

Birmingham and Smethwick have welcomed those escaping conflict and persecution since the early 19th Century, offering sanctuary to individuals and families. Fostering a culture of welcome and extending a hand of friendship to those forced to flee their homes, where it is most deeply needed. The region is home to individuals and families from Afghanistan, Somalia, Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central America.

This Cookbook Belongs To Us is a collection of recipes; from Birmingham to Damascus, each with a different and personal story behind it. It is for everyday home cooking but can also be used to find inspiration for those special occasions – rustle up a quick post-school/work dinner with Mujadarah, Arabian Buttered Eggs for a lazy Sunday brunch, creating “The Best Lamb in Ethiopia” for a dinner party with friends, or baking up some delicious Syrian Toffee Apple Cake for a special birthday treat or just plain old elevenses (any day!).

Food plays a vital and powerful role in migration and in welcoming new communities. The familiar smells and tastes of a favourite dish providing comforting replenishment – a reminder of cultural ties to home but also a potent way of connecting with new and undiscovered places and in constructing new identities.

The sharing of new tastes, ingredients and techniques cannot be seen more clearly than in Birmingham and the Black Country. They have diverse, multi-cultural neighbourhoods with many different communities and with a wealth of ingredients and cuisines available locally in supermarkets and restaurants: from fine dining (Birmingham has no less than five Michelin starred restaurants) to street food and cafés celebrating cuisines from South Asia, the Middle East, Europe and beyond.

The book can be pre-ordered online now:

http://actionforrefugees.bigcartel.com/product/this-cookbook-belongs-to-us,

the book will be available to buy from 25 November from a range of stockist across Birmingham and the Black Country and will be sold at craft fairs in time for Christmas. The pre-order cost is £10 (£12.50 afterwards) with all profits going towards the Aegean Solidarity Network and the vital projects they support.

The official Kings Health launch will take place at ENKI gift shop, (Kings Court, B14 7JZ) on the 5th December, 10am – 5pm where you can sample sweet treats from the book and festive refreshments; there’ll be some fun crafts for the children too. The Bearwood launch will be on the 2nd December, 7.30pm – late, at the charity Barn Dance at the Corks Club (Bearwood High Street, B66 4BT). Tickets can be purchased on the door (£5 / £2.50 concessions) for a night of fundraising, fun and Flying Scotsmen, featuring The Ceilidh Band. All money raised goes towards supporting refugees.

ACTION FOR REFUGEES

Bearwood and Kings Heath Action for Refugees were set up in September 2015 in response to the current crisis and are part of the Action for Refugees network. They are volunteer-led groups engaging local individuals, groups and schools in helping refugees and asylum seekers through fundraising, awareness raising and advocating for refugees locally. They fundraise for the Aegean Solidarity Network and proceeds of this book will support refugees in transit through the grassroots projects they fund.

For more information visit https://actionforrefugees.org

AEGEAN SOLIDARITY NETWORK

Aegean Solidarity Network Team UK (ASN), a UK registered charity, launched in September 2015 after witnessing first hand the desperate plight of refugees and people fleeing conflict arriving on the Greek island of Leros. The group is dedicated to supporting all people escaping life threatening conflict landing in Greece by supporting safe places to stay, safe spaces to talk, provisions of food, dry clothes, and education amongst many other needs.

The ASN team are passionate about what they do and have all spent time working “in the field” or have been involved in refugee support extensively since summer 2015.

Funded solely by donations, ASN seek out volunteer-run initiatives. They ensure that the projects they support are volunteer run so that donation has maximum positive impact in supporting refugees.

For more information visit the website https://asnteamuk.org/

News: The BEAST Comes to Birmingham

So, there’s something Bouncy and Beasty coming to the neighbourhood, so I thought I’d let you know.

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THE WORLD’S LARGEST INFLATABLE OBSTACLE COURSE LANDS IN BIRMINGHAM

FRIDAY 8th – SUNDAY 17th DECEMBER, 10.00am – 11.00pm

#TheBouncyBeast

Tickets are now on-sale today for the world’s largest inflatable obstacle course, The Beast returning to the UK at the NEC, Birmingham this December. At an unbelievable 272m long, The Beast is the ultimate nostalgic bouncy castle experience for adults. Unleash the beast this December and run, bounce and dance your way around the phenomenal 32 obstacles open to the public for eight days only – the perfect office, family or group party!

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Take on The Beast and enjoy a feast of Birmingham’s finest street food vendors washed down with craft beer, cocktails and prosecco on tap. Live DJs will combine with an extraordinary sound and lighting show that will complete the most ridiculously fun day out you could possibly imagine.

The Beast is the brainchild of UK promoters Nick Zuppar & Joe Arditti. Nick and Joe said:  “The Beast London was such an unbelievably huge success with 20,000 bouncy revellers through the doors, we’re bouncing with excitement to bring it to Birmingham for the first time ever for the ultimate party occasion this DecemberYou have to see it to believe it!”

Tickets are limited and expected to sell out very quickly so don’t miss out by booking yours today. The Beast sessions are ticketed and will run throughout the day in 30 minute blocks from 10.00am to 11.00pm, with morning sessions for kids, from Friday 8th December – Sunday 17th December. Spectator tickets are also available and will gain access to the food, drink and party areas which will be open throughout.

 TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE HERE: www.ilovetobounce.com and www.theticketfactory.com

Date: 8th-17th December 2017 (not 11th and 12th Dec)

Venue: NEC, Birmingham

Address: National Exhibition Centre, Halls, Marston Green, Birmingham B40 1NT

Prices: £20.00 (+ £2 booking fee)

NOTE: This is not a sponsored post or endorsement, just news of something happening in Birmingham you might want to know about.

 

News: Bitters n’ Twisted Venues Support Acorns Hospice with #AcornsFriday

 

I’ve been to a few of Bitters’n’Twisted‘s venues, and I’m happy to tell you about their wonderful partnership with Acorns Childrens Hospice from Friday…

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November 24th aka “Black Friday”, the day the internet and shopping centres go wild for pre-Christmas bargains.  Bitters ‘n Twisted wanted to do something a little different to crazy sales and mad purchasing and offer something back to our nominated charity, Acorn’s Children’s Hospice.

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Bitters ‘n Twisted Venues (Island Bar, The Victoria, The Jekyll & Hyde, Bodega (Birmingham, Worcester, Leicester and Derby), The Rose Villa Tavern, Marmalade and Buffalo & Rye will be donating £1 to Acorn’s for each cup of warm Winter Cider sold on Friday 24th November, renamed #AcornsFriday

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What’s more, from 1st Dec – 31st Dec for each cup of Brother’s Winter Cider sold in any of the venues, Bitters ‘n Twisted will donate 50p to Acorn’s – resulting in a big cheque being given to the charity in January.

 

NOTE: This is not a sponsored post or endorsement, just news of something happening in the food scene in and around Birmingham you might want to know about.

Experience: Lasan – Jewellery Quarter

Lasan is a well known name in the foodie scene of Birmingham. What many don’t seem to realise is how close it is to the City Centre.

Nestled just off St Paul’s Square, on James Street and a touch past the concrete collar which encircles the city, it feels like a million miles away from the bustle of the Bullring. There’s almost a country village feel to it…

A peek through the windows, feeling like Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’, is a different story; the inside has been transformed into a light, airy space which a few press shots can show you much better than my camera can.

This was (shamefully) my first visit to Lasan, the jewel in the crown of the Lasan Group, having been founded in 2002. After their refurbishment is a new ethos: ‘True to India’. They’ve handpicked a range of dishes from all around the sub continent to cover all tastes, whilst giving each dish a homely feel. There’s also a decent sized space to have pre or post dinner drinks, with an extended bar area that has views into the main dining room.

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My dining companions for the evening were the superlative Paul Fulford – food writer extraordinaire, and Alev Dervish, fellow MFDHA finalist and who blogs under Bella & Robot. Both were great company for an evening of food….and what a wonderful bit of food it was. After a Jaipur IPA from Thornbridge Brewery, it was time to settle down and choose from their Menu.

For starters I had Haleem on the recommendation from Mr Fulford.  A Hyderabadi mutton stew combination of slow-cooked pickled shallots, pearl barley, five varieties of lentils and crisp salt lamb, commonly found in Hyderabad and across the Middle East. This was a rich, hearty peppery dish perfect for a cold evening; the lentils, pearl barley and lamb slow cooked for multiple hours into a smooth experience.

Alev picked the Ananas Paneer as it suited her gluten free needs. This was a pineapple-infused paneer tikka, marinated in red bell pepper, garlic and onion seeds, with textures of sweet baby beetroot and pineapple chutney; it looked stunning.

For main I had a Punjabi Makhan Chicken, made from marinated chicken tikka slowly simmered in a creamy tomato kaju sauce, partnered with a plain naan. I have a real love for Chicken Tikka. There’s something about the seared meat cooked in a tandoor. When teamed with the velvety tomato and cashew sauce, it was a delight with a tangy hit, smoky meat and then the tinge of spices at the end of the palate. This is Chicken Tikka elevated to the next level. The naan, another tandoor classic, is the perfect compliment to the dish and was mainly tasked with mopping up that delicious sauce in between big bites of chicken.

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My final dish of the evening was their selection of sorbet, in this case, raspberry paired with fresh fruit and ‘meringue wings’. This was a great palate cleanser after the richness of the starter and main. I did look at their wider range of desserts but there wasn’t much room to squeeze more in but that will have to wait for another time.

It was time to saunter off into the crisp autumnal air for a walk home. Both belly and eyes, full and content. A return visit is on the cards with Wifey in tow, as I’ve been remiss to treat her to a good curry for a long while…

 

When: 07/11/2017

Where:  Lasan, 3-4 Dakota Buildings, James Street, St Paul’s Square Birmingham, B3 1SD

Who: LasanLasan Group, Paul Fulford, Bella & Robot

Disclaimer: For this visit, I was a guest of Paul Fulford and Lasan who provided all food and drink. This provides no bias to the post. This blog is my own personal opinion and strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.

 

 

GUEST POST – #BRUMHOUR GOES FOR A SPOT OF AFTERNOON TEA AT ROFUTO

Last month, it was Wifey and I’s 3rd wedding anniversary so we flew over to Jersey for a few days to visit my brother-in-law and his family, and ate too much food (more on that soon!).

So when an invite popped up, in my stead, I sent the fantastic Social Media superstar, #BrumHour (aka Dave Massey) to enjoy an afternoon tea with Rofuto.

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Afternoon Tea at Rofuto has launched on Saturday afternoons from 12pm-4pm at Rofuto, providing a more relaxed approach than the dining experience already offered in the evenings. The modern Japanese influence can be felt throughout this new menu. A glass of Prosecco is our arrival drink and we are seated at high long tables. There’s much on the Afternoon Tea menu to distract.

Rofuto, at the top of Park Regis, provides a unique space in Birmingham, from its sleek eye-catching bar to the panoramic views across our lovely and surprisingly green city. However, I’m slightly afraid of heights so I’m not that willing to go near the windows. But I’m not here for the view. I’m here for food!

We begin with Coronation Chicken Bao Buns, a steam bread-like bun. It’s lighter than I was expecting and certainly a change from regular sandwiches.  Next is Smoked Pepper and Avocado Nigiri, with rice and then there is Salmon Uramaki (I don’t eat fish or seafood so I’m not able to pass comment on this).

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There’s a selection of teas to choose from including Lapsang Souchong, Sencha Green Tea, Rooibos and Earl Grey.

Next, we move onto sweet starting with a lovely mini Salted Chocolate Caramel Gateaux, a Rose Lychee Macaroon which I ate with one bite. I’m not 100% convinced I’m delicate enough for this menu! Saying that, next I tried a White Chocolate Peanut Butter Lolly which was great. There was a great Yuzu Cheesecake with Blackberry and a Mango and Coconut Sesame Roll.

We are then treated to Scones, and the debate about jam first or cream first begins, so I have on with jam first (the Cornish method and then cream on top.) and the second one I have is cream first (the Devonshire method). There’s also some Lemongrass Curd to choose from, which tasted great.

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Menu

I really enjoyed the food and think that Afternoon Tea at Rofuto is a great alternative to those looking for something different with a touch of class. One of our fellow bloggers who was with us has specific diet requirements, and it was great to see they created a specific set of items to include this.  It shows they are flexible, with some notice, to create a tailored menu.

Visit Rofuto for Afternoon tea on Saturday afternoons from 12pm-4pm, the session lasts 2 hours including free flowing Prosecco. £25pp.

Find out more here: http://rofuto.co.uk/afternoon-tea/


 

About #BrumHour  / Dave Massey

Dave Massey created #BrumHour in 2013 with an aim of getting businesses and individuals to network with Birmingham. Join #BrumHour Sundays at 8pm on Twitter.

 

When: 27 October 2017

Where: Rofuto160 Broad Street, Birmingham, B15 1DT

Who: Rofuto, #BrumHour, East Village Agency

Disclaimer: For this visit, Dave was a guest of Rofuto and East Village who provided all food and drink. As with all posts on this site, this blog was Dave’s personal, unaltered, opinion. Brummie Gourmand strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.

 

News: Unda’s Saturday Kitchen arrives at Bar Opus

 

I’m a big fan of Bar Opus, it’s location being a few steps away from the office and I’ve been a fair few times, so I was happy to hear about their newest regular event:

Next Saturday (11th November)  will be the inaugural Unda’s Saturday Kitchen, where guests will be able to join in the fun and let your inner chef skills shine.

Chef Unda will show each participant how to cook and present 3 different dishes, of course while enjoying a complimentary Bellini.

 

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Unda’s Saturday Kitchen

Pull up a chair at our open kitchen, sip a Bellini and allow chef Unda to show you how to cook and present 3 different dishes professionally, then use your new found culinary skills to wow your friends at your next dinner party!
Bi-monthly from Saturday 11th November, £25pp, 11am-12pm
Bellini on arrival, 10% off lunch at Bar Opus.
*Introductory offer: £20pp for first class on Saturday 11th November*
Limited to 6 places per session.
You can book via Telephone on 0121 289 3939
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NOTE: This is not a sponsored post or endorsement, just news of something happening in the food scene in and around Birmingham you might want to know about.

GUEST POST – PHILIP ELLIS GOES TO SAN CARLO WITH GRANA PADANO

A few weeks ago, it was Wifey and I’s 3rd wedding anniversary so we popped over to Jersey for a few days to visit my brother-in-law and his family, and ate too much food (more on that soon!).

So when I had an invite to the renowned San Carlo, in my stead I sent the superlative Philip Ellis, freelance journalist extraordinaire to enjoy a bit of cheese and wine with Grana Padano

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To celebrate its 25th anniversary, San Carlo teamed up with Italian cheese producers Grana Padano to create a very special menu. I went along to the restaurant’s Temple Street location in Birmingham for my first ever taste of Grana Padano, along with three luxurious courses inspired by this decadent cheese.

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The event kicked off with a tasting of three separate vintages of Grana Padano. The 11 month is softer and less grainy than older vintages, with a creamy texture and mild, buttery flavour that makes it ideal for family dining. The 16 month is crumblier, and its stronger flavour makes it a popular choice for cooking. The Riserva, aged for a minimum of 20 months, is much more potent, with a deeper, nuttier flavour; the perfect addition to a cheeseboard.

We then moved onto lunch itself, where we sampled each dish from the menu invented with the aim of showcasing the strength and versatility of Grana Padano as an ingredient.

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The first course was Gnocco Croccante; large, crispy coated gnocchi, served in a thick, creamy Grana Padano sauce with shavings of fresh black truffle. The gnocchi was served with a fresh, light Pinot Grigio which cleared the palate rather than overpowering the flavours of the cheese.

Next came a rich, delicious and incredibly hearty winter risotto with mushrooms, served quite spectacularly in a gigantic wheel of Grana Padano; a genuine showstopper. This was paired with a pale rosé, which prevented the rice-based course from becoming too heavy.

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Third and finally, the cheesiest dish of them all – gnocchi in a gorgeous gorgonzola sauce, served in an edible Grana Padano basket with a glass of full-bodied red wine.

You might think that a three course meal where cheese is the star ingredient in each dish might be overwhelming, but the chefs at San Carlo have come up with three delicious creations which highlight the subtler flavours as well as the stronger ones. Even after the final course was served, guests still found themselves picking at the extra pieces of Grana Padano on offer!

 


 

About Philip Ellis

Philip is a WriterJournalist, and Broadcaster in the United Kingdom who mainly focuses on exploring inter-connectivity of social media, entertainment, politics, culture, technology and relationships. He has written for The Huffington Post, Teen Vogue and Style Birmingham. You can find more of his work at freelancephilip.co.uk

When: 26/10/2017

Where: San Carlo, Temple Street, B2 5BN

Who: San Carlo, Grana Padano, Philip Ellis

Disclaimer: For this visit, Phil was a guest of San Carlo and Grana Padano who provided all food and drink. As with all posts on this site, this blog was Phil’s personal, unaltered, opinion. Brummie Gourmand strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.

 

GUEST POST – CARAMELLATTEKISS GOES TO THE BULLS HEAD WITH LANGLEY’S GIN

A few weeks ago, it was Wifey and I’s 3rd wedding anniversary so we popped over to Jersey for a few days to visit my brother-in-law and his family, and ate too much food (more on that soon!).

So when I had an invite to the lovely Bulls Head (or is it the The Garrison?), with the new brand ambassador  for Langley’s, Katie Rouse. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend, George aka Caramellattekiss, being a massive gin fan, was willing to step into my shoes.  Let’s see how she got on.

 

 

When two giants of the Birmingham drinks scene pair up, you know you’re in for a treat. I went along to one of Birmingham’s old pubs, The Bull’s Head, for a master class with homegrown gin company, Langley’s Gin.

Upstairs in the gorgeous Club Room, I settled in with a group of keen gin fans, to be led through the history of gin by our excellent guide, Lucy. She talked us through gin’s journey from its humble beginnings as a medicine in Peru, through to the ‘Dutch Courage’ drunk by English soldiers during the Thirty Years War, to Mother’s Ruin in the booming gin era; the disappearance of gin as vodka came into vogue, right up to the new boom in gin production of today. As a gin fiend, most of the history wasn’t new to me but Lucy was knowledgeable, funny and passionate about her subject.

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We started with a classic; the Langley’s Aromatic G&T. Made with Langley’s No. 8 and Double Dutch Tonic, garnished with grapefruit and basil, this G&T was an excellent starting point. Double Dutch isn’t a particularly bitter tonic so it makes for a good, light base, with fresh flavours of citrus. No. 8 was originally marketed to men so the botanicals are stronger flavours than other gins, and include coriander seed, nutmeg and cloves.

 

 

Our opening drink was accompanied by a sharing platter of Chicken Skewers and Cauliflower Pakora. The skewers are served smothered in a honey mustard dressing and chargrilled, locking in bags of juicy flavour. The pakora are lightly fried, with not a hint of oiliness, and are a surprising hit for such a simple dish.

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The platter was followed by a Lamb Kati Roll, which is a lamb kofta rolled in a warm paratha flat bread. The lamb is gently spicy but a little dry for my taste. Our accompanying drink was my favourite of the evening, the Old Tom Buck. This has big flavours of tangerine, perfectly accompanying the citrus flavours in the gin. The gin has a little spice to it, which worked well with the Kati Roll.

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Finally, we tried a Masala Martini, a twist on the classic martini, inspired by the Indian twist to the Bull’s Head food menu. Vermouth is distilled with chai masala before being mixed with the gin. This was a divisive drink, with some finding the dry flavours too much. I was impressed and enjoyed the unusual combination of the boozy flavours with the warming chai spices.

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For dessert, I tried a new item from the Christmas menu. Blood Orange Sorbet is deceptively simple but served with a drizzle of bitter dark chocolate, the flavours sing. The sorbet is incredibly citrusy, sweet, with a hit of sour and very refreshing. The bitter chocolate is a perfect addition, and I hope this Christmas item makes it to the permanent menu.

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Langley’s Gin School is a great excuse for well-crafted cocktails, tasty food and some gin knowledge, delivered in the gorgeous surroundings of The Bull’s Head. I’d definitely recommend it for any gin fan.

 


 

About Caramellattekiss / George Elsmere

George has been writing Caramel Latte Kiss since 2010. By day, she works in Marketing, but by night I’m a blogger and a cosplayer. Caramel Latte Kiss began as a personal style blog, but has grown into covering food, coffee, cosplay and my adventures in the second city. she also co-presents as part of Geeky Brummie team on Brum Radio, presenting 60 minutes of all things geek every Saturday from 12pm. You can find her work at caramellattekiss.com/.

 

When: 26/10/2017

Where: The Bulls Head, 38 Bishopsgate Street, Birmingham, B15 1EJ

Who: Langley’s GinThe Bulls Head

Disclaimer: For this visit, George was a guest of The Bulls Head and Langley’s Gin who provided all food and drink. As with all posts on this site, this blog was George’s personal, unaltered, opinion. Brummie Gourmand strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.

Experience: Rob Wood brings Cocktails to The Plough

My second post in a row outside the ring road, shocking isn’t it?

But I heard the golden words “Rob Wood” and “Cocktail Menu”, especially when it’s at The Plough too. All three boxes ticked, I grabbed Wifey and we hightailed it out of the city centre to the plush surroundings of Harborne.

For those who’ve visited The Plough, the bar gets busy quickly especially when it’s Taco Wednesday or Chicken Wing Sunday. So their concept was this:

“Fast cocktails but highest quality possible, How can we make the best cocktails we can as fast as we can, quickly?”.

And who better to assist than Cocktail Master Rob Wood, who also consults on the side as well as running his own bar, Smultronstalle.

We went upstairs to their private rooms aka “Next Door at The Plough” with a few other bloggers and invited guests to see what the man himself had come up with…

And the answer was Premix – somewhat of a dirty word in cocktails until recently.

Rob and The Plough’s view was it’s the best way to keep quality and consistency, whilst allowing for a fast moving bar without the usual pre-requisite “cocktail faff”. By doing the hard work ahead of time, it reduces the time customers spend standing at the bar and helps break down the snobbery barrier between bartender and customer.

This philosophy ended up in seven highball cocktails each with a spirit mixer.

Rob went on to explain that each drink is designed with four elements: primary, secondary & tertiary flavours plus a spirit group, with the depth of flavour coming from the sourcing of most appropriate ingredients for each drink.


First on the list was Raspberry and Hibiscus.

Made with Hibiscus flavoured vodka to begin with and added Creme de Framboises, it’s also an excuse for Rob to use his favourite cream soda, Soda Folk Cream Soda.

For the cocktail itself, there was rich raspberry which subsumed into the vanilla from cream soda, then onto the bitterness of hibiscus and to finish, the dryness of vodka.

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Our second cocktail featured another creme, this time Creme de Cassis, to provide the blackcurrant. The gardenia (a member of the the coffee family of plants) was steeped directly with gin and then topped up with a Soda Siphon, which had been steeped with Oolong Tea. A crisp and refreshing drink which had the sweetness of blackcurrant, sufficiently dulled to an acceptable level.

Next another tea combination with Green Apple and Matcha Tea.

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This exploited the lighter flavours from Matcha with the robustness of sharp green apple. It’s Willy’s Cider Apple Sours (and that one for some reason Chase keep quiet..) cut with Fino, the driest of sherries, and a dash of Matcha syrup. As there’s a lot of flavour going on, it’s topped up with Belu Mineral water. Sweet, sharp dry and with that dusky Matcha flavour all rolled into one.

Keeping in the Oriental theme, we then went to Japanese Plum and Cherry Blossom.

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The tonic in this cocktail is Thomas Henry Cherry Blossom Tonic, a curious flavour which I’ve never tried before although I do like a Sakura flavoured Kit Kat from time to time when I can find one. For the Japanese Plum element, they used Shairume Ginjo Umeshu a Sake fortified with plums, in a similar process to sloe gin. To round off the drink, there is the addition of Jinzu Gin, a 40% gin distilled with sake. It was pretty much a G&T as far away from a G&T can possibly be, and I think it was very plummy drink, perfect for moving from late summer into autumn.

The next combo was a Rhubarb and Rosehip.


This was an experiment in how to make a Pimms Cup style drink unique to The Plough. And I’m glad as I personally detest a Pimms Cup.

Rob had put a touch of himself into the drink with the addition of Fitzpatricks Rhubarb and Rosehip cordial . A personal favourite from his childhood growing up in Lancashire, it originated from the last temperance bar in the UK (he also recommends the Sasparilla). To combat this beefy cordial, Rob countered the flavour with Slingsby Rhubarb Gin . With a touch of local Brummie about it (not that Slingsby would tell you that), he added some Rose Wine and topped up with Prosecco, the hottest wine since Pinot Grigio. It was the antithesis of a Pimms Cup and refreshing for a nice summer’s day in the garden.

Next was something a little more tropical with a hint of Japanese too, the Coconut & Ginger.

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This was Koko Kanu a Jamacian rum with a strong coconut flavour, married together with Yuzushu. Yuzu fruit has a very complex, very acidic, very aromatic flavour, somewhere between a mandarin and a grapefruit if you will. The rum added roundness and sweetness to balance the citrus, with the topper up of Ginger Beer to finish which cuts the complexity whilst at the same time, the ginger not overpowering the other flavours, prefect for a chilly evening.

Our final drink of the night was an elderflower and grapefruit combination.

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This was spicier than expected due to a pink peppercorn infused vodka bringing the heat (and the colour) to the mix, and mixed with a dash of pamplemousse (grapefruit) liqueur and topped up with Elderflower Presse. The fourth ingredient in this case was cucumber, which changes the texture and flavour of drink as it imparts its flavour throughout.  It was really different every sip of the way down.

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After all this imbibing, there was an impromptu Q&A with Rob Wood after the drinks.  It was fascinating to hear his views on the revival of the cocktail scene in the UK and the issues that come with that, with very few genuine carers of the profession shared between a wealth of venues. It was incredible to hear the amount of detail and thought put into this menu of seven drinks with liquid densities, prep time, ease of creation and, most importantly flavour, all having a role to play.

We were that impressed and the consensus around the table is if The Plough wanted to make even more money, they should sell miniatures of the pre-mix at Christmas.  I’m sure these would be welcome gifts all round.

Rob’s passion comes through and we could have listened for hours but alas, taxis waiting, it was time to head home and enjoy a fine, if chilly, autumnal evening.

Many thanks to the team at The Plough and Rob for a fascinating evening exploring alcohol in its many forms.

The list of highballs in full:

  • RASPBERRY & HIBISCUS hibiscus vodka/framboise/cream soda
  • BLACKCURRANT & GARDENIA gardenia gin/cassis/oolong soda
  • GREEN APPLE & MATCHA apple liqueur/fino sherry/green tea soda
  • JAPANESE PLUM & CHERRY BLOSSOM jinzu gin/umeshu/cherry blossom
  • RHUBARB & ROSEHIP rhubarb gin/rose wine/rosehip/prosecco
  • COCONUT & GINGER coconut rum/yuzu liqueur/root ginger beer
  • ELDERFLOWER & PINK GRAPEFRUIT pink peppercorn vodka/pink grapefruit/elderflower

 

When: 03/10/2017

Where: The Plough, 21 High St, Birmingham B17 9NT

Who: The Plough, Rob Wood

Disclaimer: For this visit, I was a guest of therelationship.co and The Plough who provided all drink for Wifey and I. This provides no bias to the post. This blog is my own personal opinion and strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.