GUEST POST – BRUMDERLAND GOES TO THE MIDLANDS WHISKY FESTIVAL

Firstly, let me introduce myself. My name is Vicky but I am also known as the ‘Mad Hatter’ behind the blog Brumderland… Now that’s out the way, I will give you my thoughts on Nicholl’s & Perk’s second annual ‘Midlands Whisky Festival’, at thestudio Birmingham

The ‘Midlands Whisky Festival’ was originally just held in Stourbridge but made it’s way to Birmingham in 2016. I was lucky enough to be invited to the Stourbridge festival this year and had a particularly jolly time (so jolly, in fact, that I don’t remember the journey home – but that’s a whole other story) but hadn’t been to their Birmingham edition as yet. Now, I’m going to have a little gripe… The marketing and press calls the festival ‘the biggest of its type outside London’ (source: The Birmingham Mail), which is a bit of a bone of contention for me.

Whilst I certainly don’t say it’s a small festival, having attended events in Birmingham and indeed Scotland which are bigger in the number of stands and attendees, I find it a bit cheeky for them to put it into their press. Indeed, even in Birmingham, Whisky Birmingham (going into it’s 6 year next year) definitely has more stands (40+), more whiskies and potentially more attendees… But that might not bother you as it bothers me, so I will brush over that and carry on.

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The first introduction to the festival for attendees was a bagpipe player ‘welcoming’ people in on Cannon Street. Now, I know a lot of people might dig it but Cannon Street seemed to work as a bit of a speaker, amplifying the sound of the bagpipes.  This meant my slowly forming headache wasn’t getting any better in the 20 minutes we waited for the doors to open. The people next to me in the queue were equally unimpressed, although this was a quirk, it wasn’t welcome by all attendees at 11:45am in the centre of the city. Now… Honestly, moan over and onto the good stuff… The festival itself.

The doors were opened promptly at midday and checking in was pretty smooth. We were handed a guidebook as we were waiting, so could peruse the dram selection and plot a route before we got into the venue. It’s not a huge venue (The Studio venue actually has rooms over several floors but the festival just occupies two of these) and is accessible through lifts, etc, so it’s quite easy to navigate.  It offers plenty of toilet facilities and water points, making it a great spot for a festival of this nature.

Being experienced whisky festival attendees, we headed straight to the topmost floor of the event (knowing that most newbies will head for the most easily accessible floor first) to say hello to some friends in the whisky industry and try our first drams of the day. After attending a delicious whisky matched dinner at The Plough just a week earlier, our first stop had to be Douglas Laing. We had spoken to David (their UK Ambassador) about their limited edition releases of Rock Oyster and Scallywag, so had to give these a try. Loving both peated and coastal whiskies – the Cask Strength edition of their Rock Oyster was an immediate winner with both me and Mr Brumderland. Their Scallywag is more of a sherry bomb (which isn’t necessarily my favourite variety of whisky) but was very pleasant. After trying those drams, we were set up for the day and ready to discover the rest of the treats instore!

The top floor was full of delights… From the delicious fruity and smoky Bunnahabhain, to the outright peated deliciousness of Elements Of Islay (with their AR8 being a highlight of the day) and the mellow tones of Irish whiskies from Jameson and Redbreast… We enjoyed old favourites and brand new releases whilst enjoying a lovely chat to the friendly reps, who are full of useful and insightful information.

On the first floor of the event there was more fun to be had… As well as the base for the retailer (Nickolls & Perks), who were selling many of the whiskies on taste at the event, there was more stands to be sampled. This was also where the outdoor balcony was located for the cigar masterclass/smokers and the food offering (which was a choice of baps, chips and a couple of other carbalicious bits and bobs). We didn’t try the food on this occasion (having had a massive breakfast to set us up for the day) but it looked like good stodge for ‘ booze soaking up’ purposes.

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The stands on the first floor ranged from the deviously easy drinking Benromach, to American classic Wild Turkey and peated legends Ardbeg. Ardbeg were actually releasing their newest member of the family, the An Oa, on the day of the event – so it felt like a really special treat talking to their rep (the lovely Max) and getting to be one of the first consumers to sample this delightful dram. We’ve termed it the ‘fun aunt’ of the Ardbeg collection, due to it being far less ‘full on’ than something like the Corryvreckan and more chocolatey, smooth and gentle.

I didn’t get to attend any of the masterclasses on the day but the line up looked pretty comprehensive with some great brands in the mix. Whether you’re a whisky newbie or a bit of an expert, festivals are a great way to try a range of brands and styles without breaking the bank. I snagged Brummie Gourmand’s press invitation to this event but tickets are priced very reasonably at £40 (which include all whiskies on taste and a ‘Dream Dram’ token – which is the chance to try something rarer or a little more expensive). If you want to learn more about the wonderful world of whisky or just try something new, I would definitely recommend attending an event like this.

Midlands Whisky Festival boasts a great variety of brands, a venue offering everything an event like this would need and a laid back atmosphere. The next event will be in Stourbridge in 2018. Maybe I’ll see you there?

 

 


 

About Brumderland / Vicky Osgood

George has been writing Brumderland since 2015, and is a well respected events, PR and marketing manager with a passion for everything Birmingham .You can find her work at brumderland.co.uk.

 

When: 16/09/2017

Where: Midlands Whisky Festival, thestudio

Who: Brumderland, Midlands Whisky Festival

Disclaimer: For this visit, Vicky was a guest of the team at East Village PR, and Vicky was gracious to attend on my behalf. As with all posts on this site, this blog was Vicky’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.

 

 

 

Wifey Writes: A Trip to the Nick – Hidden Spaces at Steelhouse Lane Police Station

Until I arrived at Steelhouse Lane, I hadn’t realised that this was a fully working Custody Suite just 2 years ago.

 

Having missed the opportunity of visiting when it was featured in Hidden Spaces last year, I jumped at the chance of going when I saw it would open again in August.

Ryan was otherwise engaged in some geek-related adventure so my partner in crime (ahem!) was friend and work colleague Debbie aka alternatevisionphotography.

Housed in a beautiful brick building opposite Birmingham Children’s Hospital, we were greeted by a display of past uniforms. Once inside, my first impression was how bright it was with the natural daylight coming through ceiling.  The corridors on each floor are intimate, and it felt quite warm inside.  There was no sign of air con or ceiling fans so I imagine during the hotter summer days, it might be cooler in stay in the cells.

The small holding cells consisted of a thin plastic mattress (similar to the type you have in school PE lessons) and the metal loos.  Interestingly enough, the cisterns are outside the cells where they had to be flushed from.

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What caught my eye on the ceiling was a black arrow, which we were told pointed to the direction of Mecca – makes more sense than my guess, which was the direction you had to stand if an officer entered the cell.

Some of the cells had a display of mugshots of former inmates, which added an eerie feel to it.  It’s still hard to think this was a fully working custody suite a couple of years, as it looks like time has stood still in some parts of the building.  Check out the radio and the tape recorder for interviews.

On the upper floor, old uniforms, helmets, hats, accessories and equipment were displayed.  The quality and feel of the hats and helmets had gotten thicker and more protective throughout the years.  The jackets are pretty heavy too, I can’t imagine how it must feel to wear that every day.

The station has a direct route to the holding cells at Birmingham Magistrates Court by way of a hidden tunnel under Coleridge Passage.

I really enjoyed the tour; it would be great to see the place open regularly in the future as a tourist attraction to add to Birmingham’s ever growing places to visit.  The September opening was to be the last one, as part of Birmingham Heritage Week.

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When: 12/08/2017

Where: Steelhouse Lane Police Station, Steelhouse Lane, Birmingham B4 6NW

Who: Hidden Spaces

 

Experience: Raja Monkey – Hall Green

It’s not often I write about places outside of the city centre. As I live, work and do my radio show in the two or so square miles that make up the heart of the second city, it’s hard to winkle me out of it without a big pin.

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In this case, the pin was the inestimable Paul Fulford, renowned Birmingham food writer who invited me to Raja Monkey, a name that’s been on my ever growing list of venues to seek out for a long time.

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It’s nestled along the Stratford Road in the suburb of Hall Green, a few miles out from the city centre and easily reachable by train or bus. It’s a funky venue serving cuisine in the style of Indian roadside dhaba (think of a truck stop with awesome food). It’s also part of the well regarded Lasan Group who also own Lasan (naturally and currently being refurbished), Izza Pizza, Nosh & Quaff and Fiesta Del Asado.

Raja Monkey is perhaps the most relaxed of their venues.  Their whole ethos is a small menu of dishes, flavoured well and served simply; you’ll never see words like ’roundel’ on this menu. It’s an intimate venue, with booth to the front observing the kitchen and tables to the rear. The walls are all colour-washed in bold shades and there’s traditional artwork and enamel signs, with vintage window shutters thrown in the mix. All of it blends well and comes across as tasteful and not overdone.

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To keep us sated whilst going through the menu, we had Papad (Poppadoms) served with onion salad, yoghurt dip, mango chutney and a spicy pickle. We were also asked about dietary requirements whilst being handed the menu, always a nice touch.

The poppadoms were crisp and slightly salty, which is my preference, whilst the sauces all complimented each other well. With a chilled bottle of Cobra, they went down lovely.

To start, I chose the Frankie Dosa, from their ‘Famous Dosa’ section of the menu. It can also be ordered as a main if you wish. If you’ve not heard of Dosa imagine them as an Indian version of a crepe but made from rice and black mungo bean.  This one was stuffed with stir fried mutton and pickled onions.

It’s great to see mutton on menus again. An oft neglected meat, it’s much more flavoursome than lamb, taking on a gamey flavour and a slightly tougher texture.  It’s a meat that has fallen out of popularity over the last few years but it’s worthy of your consideration. This example in particular was rich, with the gamey meat matched by the pickled onion. The accompanying dipping sauces were to fully enjoy the crisp dosa. Paul chose the Mutton Kebab to start which came with a side salad and sauces and smelt heavenly.

For main, I had Chicken Curry, that’s exactly how it’s described on the menu, no schpiel, nothing, just ‘Chicken Curry’ and the price. I loved that! It’s nice to see a venue sticking to the basics with good quality, no nonsense cuisine. The curry itself was delicious – big hefty chicken chunks in a rich peppery sauce, evenly spiced with no overpowering punch of coriander (which I’m not a big fan of). To accompany, I chose a plain naan.  This was how I expect a naan to be – warm, fluffy and airy with a crispness at the same time. It was perfect for mopping up the sauce, although I was a little envious of Paul’s chapatis at the same time. They looked equally as delicious.

Talking of Paul, he had the Chicken Bhuna with the aforementioned Chapati. I had a little taster and it was beautiful. The chicken was tender with the caramelised onion masala sauce the perfect partner. Something I’d love to try more of next time I go.

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For dessert, I chose the Gajar Halwa possibly the only other famous dessert, other than carrot cake, to be mainly composed of carrots. It’s made with grated carrot milk, sugar, water and cardamom. It was DELICIOUS, the carrot still had crunch but was also almost velvety at the same time, dissolving in the mouth. This version came topped with vanilla ice cream, which oozed into the steaming Gajar Halwa and elevated this dessert up a notch into perhaps one of the best comfort foods for an autumnal evening.

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Paul’s dessert looked no less delicious, he chose the Rasmalai another traditional favourite from the sub-continent. It can be described pretty much as a cheesecake without the biscuit. A cured cheese (a little bit like paneer but not as firm) soaked in clotted cream and flavoured with cardamom, with a bit of pistachio on top. If you’re not a fan of hugely sweet desserts, I’d give this a whirl.

All throughout the meal, Paul and I talked about a wide range of topics from local newspapers to kitchen refurbishment to what we think is going to be the next hot cuisine (Malaysian & Phillipino were my choices) and the frippery of certain food service.

Then I realised what I miss from the suburbs sometimes; catching up in a restaurant where you don’t feel rushed to be in and out and you can enjoy great tasting, simply served food in an unfussy environment, dedicated to making its guests feel like they’re at home. I couldn’t think of a better place than Raja Monkey to do it.

I mean that’s what Autumn is for, right?

When: 28/09/2017

Where: Raja Monkey, 1355 Stratford Rd, Birmingham B28 9HW

Who: Raja Monkey, Lasan Group, Paul Fulford

Disclaimer: For this visit, I was a guest of Paul Fulford and Raja Monkey 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.

 

 

Experience: #VR goes #TechStyle at The Mailbox

You’ve probably heard the name Philip Treacy OBE right? You know, that fascinator…

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… well, if you’ve not he’s a milliner of some distinction. In celebration of the launch of the new Mailbox App and their #TechStyle event, the Mailbox have the UK  premiere of Spatium. A virtual reality and spatial audio experience inspired by iconic hat designer, which previously debuted at SXSW.

It uses Philip Treacy’s quirky and unusual designs as inspiration to create an abstract and dreamlike world, alongside a soundtrack developed by Rhythm Section International and Hidden Spheres.

I got to pop along, put the headset on and be taken to a VR world inspired by Millinery

Before I got into the gear, I had the experience of watching someone else get absorbed into this fantastical world of four scenes, all showing off facets of one of Philip’s most renowned works (not that one!).  Then it was time for me to jump in:

It was a very unique VR experience and different from gaming or 360 movies I’ve tried in the past, and the experience is completely immersive. Each of the scene’s is completely different and you lose where you are in the real world very quickly.

It’s a stunning collaboration between Roland Lane and Adrien Leu of Inition to bring this experience together. If you want a sneaky peek, there’s a video of the experience below:

Roland Lane & Inition – VR Film ‘Spatium’ from Roland Lane on Vimeo.

 

Spatium will be up and running in the Urban Room at The Mailbox until Sunday, if you want to go down and try it for yourself.  It’s completely free and is on a first come first served basis, although some slots can be booked through the Mailbox App.

When: 29/09/2017

Where: Mailbox Birmingham, 7 Commercial St, Birmingham B1 1RS

Who: Mailbox, Inition, Roland Lane, Philip Treacy

Photography (except the one at the top) taken by the lovely #BrumHour

Experience: The Meeting Place with Jack Daniels

Regular readers will be aware I’m a whisk(e)y aficionado. What you might not know is Jack Daniel’s is a whiskey, not a bourbon; it could be a bourbon if it wanted to be but it’s not. It’s a regular bourbon until it enters their charcoal filtering method and then, it’s described as a ‘Tennessee Sipping Whiskey’or a Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey, if you look closely on the label.

Another thing you may not be aware of is that the month of September is Jack Daniel’s Birthday, as his exact birthday is not known.  Instead of picking an arbitrary date, the month of September does just fine apparently; even the man himself comes back to celebrate according to the sign!

 

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In celebration of this, a couple of friends and I had the chance to visit The Meeting Place at The Rainbow Venues in Digbeth to raise a glass.

To celebrate in style, they had the entire three floors transformed into an old style Western Saloon with panelled walls neon signs and barrel tables to give the whole venue a real American feel. I was really impressed with the effort put into it especially with the food stalls upstairs (more on that shortly).

First stop, of course, was the bar.  I mean, you can’t celebrate Jack Daniel’s without some in your hand, can you? With master cocktail maker Rob Wood (creator of Smultronstalle) behind the bar too, there is really no excuse either!

The cocktail list was extensive and covered a few the other Jack Daniels offerings rather than the usual Old No. 7:

  • Double Jack & Cola Does what it says on the tin and a classic. Jack Daniel’s & Cola
  • Frozen Jack & Cola For those wanting an icy take on the above (also now an aspirational item for me to have, an alcohol slush machine)
  • Apple Jack Jack Daniel’s and Apple Juice – something I’ve never tried before but really nice as a sipping cocktail.
  • Lynchburg Lemonade Jack Daniel’s, Triple Sec and Lemonade, a nice fresh, citrus bursting alternative to a Jack & Cola.
  • Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Cider A new drink from the minds behind Jack Daniel’s. This is a crisp Apple Cider blended with Jack Daniels Old No. 7. The general consensus was we were not big fans.
  • Tennesee Cooler Jack Daniel’s Honey, Apple Juice and Ginger Ale. Now, this is going on the cocktail rotation at BG Towers; sweet, sharp and spicy all in one go. A winning combination in our group.
  • Red Dog Smash Jack Daniel’s Ltd Edition Red Dog Saloon Whiskey, Herbal Liqueur, Lemon Juice and Apricot Jam. This wasn’t one I tried but one of my friends tried it, and he much preferred the Cooler as this was a touch too herbal for him.
  • Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire Shot Jack Daniel’s Red Hot Cinnamon Liqueur – described as smooth Jack with a fiery finish, and I’d agree wholeheartedly with that.

We needed something to soak up all this alcohol so it was time to hit the rooftop garden for some of Brum’s best street food.

For food, they’d laid on The Flying Cows and Low ‘N’ Slow stalwarts of the local food scene. I’ve written about Andy a few times now and then. The food choices sounded mouthwatering, both with a Jack Daniel’s twist:

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The Flying Cows

  • Steak Burger, Jack Daniel’s Glazed Smoked Bacon, Monterey Jack Cheese, Lettuce & Red Onion
  • Steak Burger, Jack Daniel’s Pulled Pork, Swiss Cheese, Red Onions & Lettuce
  • Veggie Burger, Halloumi Cheese, Jack Daniel’s Red Onion Chutney

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Low ‘n’ Slow

  • 18 Hour Smoked Pork Shoulder Bun, Sweet Heat BBQ Sauce & Lemon Herb Slaw
  • Wild Cherry Smoked Baby Back Ribs with Sweet Heat Glaze (1/2 Rack).

I was sorely tempted by the Baby Back Ribs but I wasn’t appropriately dressed for a rib feast!  Instead, I went for the Pork Shoulder Bun and I wasn’t disappointed.  The meat was what I’ve come to expect from Low ‘n’ Slow with Andy and Donna pulling off a master work in slow cooked meat. Sweet with just enough tang from the lemon herb slaw to balance the sweetness from the BBQ sauce.

After devouring the burger, it was time for a trip to Lynchburg for a wander around the distillery through the magic of VR. It was very impressive and a great way to see the process without having to fly to the States.

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Back to the bar and time for some music. We were treated to two of Birmingham’s best local bands, The Americas and Broken Witt Rebels who gave barnstorming sets to end the night.

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When: 12/09/2017

Where: Jack Daniel’s The Meeting Place Pop-Up, The Rainbow Venues29 Lower Trinity Street, Digbeth, Birmingham, B9 4AG

Who: Jack DanielsThe Rainbow Venues, SmultronstalleLow ‘n’ Slow, The Flying Cows, The Americas, Broken Witt Rebels.

Disclaimer: For this visit, I was a guest of Jack Daniels UK and Euology PR, who provided all food, most of the drinks and some natty merch in the shape of a bandana and a few lanyards; 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.

Experience: Adil’s – Balti Triangle with Travelodge

Curry is a funny thing for us Brummies. We like to think we know a thing or two about one of the world’s most favourite dishes, and even have our own style to differentiate from other curry hot spots with the Balti.

I mean, we love a “Birmingham Balti” so much the Birmingham Balti Association (BBA) tried to protect the term back in 2015.

Travelodge, asked me to find out more about this culinary classic on their behalf, so Wifey and I left the city centre and travelled the short distance to the heart of the Balti Triangle.

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And where else could we go but the place which claims to have invented the dish. Adil’s say they brought the dish to the UK, opening on Stoney Lane in 1977 and, after a brief spell on Ladypool Road, is back at home in the epicentre of the Balti Triangle fully refurbished and sticking with their blend of fresh Kashmiri cuisine and Balti’s abound.

The interior is light (much lighter than the pictures show above!). We popped in just after opening on Sunday and they were already busy with takeaway drivers flying in and out.

Prior to having a thorough read of the menu, we were supplied with poppadoms and a rainbow of sauces, Mint Yoghurt (white sauce, sweet, cooling), Chilli Chutney (orange sauce, mild, tomato tang, sweet), Coriander & Green Chilli Sauce (the verdant green one, our favourite, sweet and tangy with a spicy after-kick) and their Hot Sauce (well balanced on spice and delicious).

To balance out those hot sauces, we had some Mango Lassi. One of the most popular drinks on the sub continent of India and a blend of yoghurt and milk with fruit, if requested. The other choices were Strawberry, Sweet and Salty. Ours was icy cold, thick and not overly sweet; the perfect partner for spicy food.

The menu (available here) is comprehensive with a wide variety of starters, rice and naans, and even the choice to make your own Balti from a selection of 10 meats or vegetables, 10 sauces and 14 extras giving a mind-boggling 1400 combinations!

For starters, we couldn’t choose so we plumped for the Meat Platter with pretty much all of them on. Lamb Seikh Kebab, Chicken Seikh, Chicken Tikka, Lamb Tikka & Chicken Wings were all served on a sizzling platter with onions.

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The platter was much bigger than expected and would be enough for three persons rather than just the two of us!

  • Lamb Sheikh – A good and chunky lamb mince laced through with coriander and gave a solid umami taste
  • Chicken Sheikh – Something a little different for Wifey and I, who stick to the traditional lamb version, this was a nice suprise. It had little flecks of chilli running through, adding a nice spice without overwhelming the mouth.
  • Chicken Wings – These slid right off the bone whilst being crispy on the outside, seemingly by using wizardry.
  • Lamb Tikka  – These were thickly coated in a Tikka coating, a good and chunky size.
  • Chicken Tikka – My favourite starter, soft, beautiful, sweet and smoky and an aroma to intoxicate the nose.

It was a hearty portion, plenty enough to share and available for 2 or 4 depending on hunger levels.

After a short rest, it was onto our mains. We decided to go with Chef Specials rather than picking our own, to see what the creative minds in the kitchen get up to.

I chose Balti Tikka E Khaas (combination of Chicken Tikka, Lamb Tikka, Chicken Kebab, mince & peppers cooked in a Balti sauce) mainly as it had more of that wondrous Chicken Tikka in it.  Wifey chose the Balti Makhan Chicken (diced pieces of Chicken breast cooked with butter, methi & almond powder) as she’s not a fan of anything spicier than a paprika crisp!

For sides we chose Pilau Rice and a Medium Naan, listed on the menu as suitable for 2-3 persons.

Before we get onto the mains, that MEDIUM Naan, which took up the length of the table. They have an even bigger Table Naan option, which I can only imagine is dragged in on a heard of oxen or can be used as a makeshift sled! The naan itself was delicious and made with a stronger flour than I usually experience, giving it a slightly salty edge. The pilau rice was neon yellow in colour and well cooked, not a sticky grain in sight.

My Balti Tikka E Khaas was in a thicker Balti sauce than normal, having been laced with a rich spicy meat. The chunky bell peppers added depth and colour, and the big pieces of meat each added their own character to the dish. Wifey’s Balti Makhan Chicken, was reported back as rich and tender to the point of melting in her mouth with a rich, but light, creamy sauce.

There was so much food we couldn’t actually finish it, and the remainders came home with us nicely packaged in takeaway boxes. Dessert menus were offered but politely declined to ensure buttons didn’t fly across the room.

It won’t be our last visit to the new look Adil’s and we’re already planning who to take along next time.

 

If you’re planning a trip the Balti Triangle and Adil’s there’s at least three Travelodge options nearby.

Birmingham Central Bullring (2.3 mi)

Birmingham Yardley (3.5 mi)

Birmingham Maypole (4.1 mi)

It’s well served by public transport with the 3 bus and  34 bus  stopping right outside, and the inner circle (8 bus) a few minutes walk away. There’s also handy off street parking nearby if you’re driving too!

When: 10/09/2017

Where:  Adil’s148-150 Stoney Lane, Birmingham B12 8AJ

Who:  Adil’s, Travelodge

Disclaimer: For this visit, Travelodge paid for my meal but all views remain my own or Wifey’s. The restaurant manager didn’t know why Wifey and I had cameras in hand and asked us on the way out if we were there for a certain review website.

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.

Talk: Squaring Up with Gizzi Erskine

Something rather Square and American has come to Great Western Arcade in the shape of Square UK’s  first ever pop-up shop,  and follows in the footsteps of Square’s first physical store in New York, which opened last month.

To celebrate opening in Birmingham they have also had a few speakers over the last few days including Ree Ree Rockette (lifestyle blogger) and Paul Hardwood (Birmingham Brewery Company), who’s talking on Thursday 14th September.

 

I had chance to hear the amazing Gizzi Erskine talk about her life and career with Birmingham’s own amazing Full to the Brum (Laura)

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It was a fantastic talk, covering her bohemian upbringing, and her mothers introduction of world food to her diet at a different age. Her difficulties with completing her normal education and then moving in to being a trained body piercer.

We then moved on her enrolment at Leith’s Cookery school being the most intense and fulfilling experience of her life and balancing cooking in professional cooking with completing her course.  She was also lucky to work at St John with Fergus Henderson  provocateur of ‘Nose to Tail Eating’ and her first day at work boning a goat.

This led to her becoming a pioneer of Pop-Up cookery with her friend and fellow St John employee Abby at an art gallery in Brick Lane in 2001. With three course dining and a pay what you want ethos.

Gizzi also won the intern prize at Leiths to work at Good Food magazine and was lucky to go to the Good Food show in Birmingham as a warm up act for Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay, and from then on was being chased to become a TV Chef, starting behind the scenes on Full on Food with Heston Blumenthal and Richard Corrigan, and then on to Ready, Steady, Cook. She found her feet on the second series of Cook Yourself Thin and the battles between being an authentic chef and meeting TV’s demands.

She’s now taken her early inspiration of Eastern cuisine into her latest show (Gizzi Erskine Seoul Food airing now on the Good Food Channel), and her love of Bao buns via way of Dave Chang (Momofuko), and the amazing boiling pot of fusion cuisine in New York.

We also learnt about her experience in setting up K-Town,  a pop-up eatery inspired by New York’s Korean quarter in Shoreditch in 2012, the story of how Korean Fried chicken came to be, and how she’s now looking to Malaysian and Thai food and how that wave will soon hit the UK.

 

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An hour wasn’t long enough to hear her talk and was great to see the warmth, wit and genuine passion for food coming through and I’ll be attempting to make food from her books at some point in the near future, where she gives lots of technical advice.

A big thank you to Square for giving me a heads up about the talk (free and open to the public).

IF YOU POP DOWN BEFORE SATURDAY 16TH SEPTEMBER AT 6PM

Local business owners will also be able to pick up a free Square Reader if they visit the pop up shop and sign up for Square in September.

OPENING HOURS:

Square’s pop-up shop will be open from 4th – 16th September from 09:00 – 18:00 Monday to Saturday and 11:00 – 17:00 on Sundays.

There’s one more free masterclass being held (tomorrow at the time of writing) and I urge you to get down if you have chance.

FREE EVENT

  • Thursday 14 September at 18.30: Birmingham Brewery Company’s Paul Hardwood will talk about the challenges and joys of giving up your job to follow your dream – in his case to launch a ‘Brummie Beer’ range – a tasting of which will be held after his talk

WHERE: The Great Western Arcade, Unit 6, Colmore Row, Birmingham, B2 5HU

With the Square card reader, businesses can take card payments with no monthly contracts or hidden fees, and get their money the next business day. It takes minutes to get started, and sellers can quickly and securely begin accepting chip & PIN and contactless payments from Visa, Mastercard and American Express.

Square’s card reader costs £39 +VAT, but to celebrate Square’s first UK pop up shop, local business owners can get a free Square Reader if they visit the pop up shop and sign up for Square in September.

For more information visit www.square.com/westmidlands

 

When: 11/09/2017

Where: Square UK Pop Up Shop, Great Western Arcade, Unit 6, Colmore Row, Birmingham, B2 5HU

Who: Square UK, Gizzi Erskine,

News: Square opens new Birmingham pop-up shop offering free events and masterclasses for local businesses

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

 

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A new pop-up shop is opening today in Birmingham’s Great Western Arcade. The first of its kind in the UK, the Square pop-up will run until the 16 September and follows in the footsteps of Square’s first physical store in New York, which opened last month.

The pop-up will offer a selection of products from local businesses across the West Midlands region, and representatives from Square will be there to answer questions about products and services.

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Open daily, local business owners will also be able to pick up a free Square Reader if they visit the pop up shop and sign up for Square in September.

OPENING HOURS:

Square’s pop-up shop will be open from 4th – 16th September from 09:00 – 18:00 Monday to Saturday and 11:00 – 17:00 on Sundays.

In addition, Square will host a series of free events and masterclasses for local business owners at the pop-up:

FREE EVENTS:

  • Thursday 7 September at 18.30: Alternative style blogger and salon owner Ree Ree Rockette will share tips on the importance of social media for small businesses and how to build an online following.

  • Sunday 10 September at 14.00: Local creative community Badego will be host a meet up and record a podcast episode featuring businesses who have grown thanks to technology like Square.

  • Monday 11 September at 18.30: Chef and best-selling food writer Gizzi Erskine will share what she learned from building her food business.

  • Thursday 14 September at 18.30: Birmingham Brewery Company’s Paul Hardwood will talk about the challenges and joys of giving up your job to follow your dream – in his case to launch a ‘Brummie Beer’ range – a tasting of which will be held after his talk

WHERE: The Great Western Arcade, Unit 6, Colmore Row, Birmingham, B2 5HU

 

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With Square, businesses can take card payments with no monthly contracts or hidden fees, and get their money the next business day. It takes minutes to get started, and sellers can quickly and securely begin accepting chip & PIN and contactless payments from Visa, Mastercard and American Express.

Square’s card reader costs £39 +VAT, but to celebrate Square’s first UK pop up shop, local business owners can get a free Square Reader if they visit the pop up shop and sign up for Square in September.

For more information visit www.square.com/westmidlands

 

News: There’s something mooing on at The High Field

 I’ve been to a few Peach Pubs in my time (here, here, and here), so it’s nice to hear about their charitable foundation and their work:

Pub goers popping into The High Field in Edgbaston are being asked to put their change from buying a round – or any cash they can spare – towards Herds for Change, a project aimed at delivering vital and sustainable change in the Mara, Kenya.

This week and until the 3rd September the pub has declared it Peach Foundation Cow Week, when The High Field and its sister pubs owned by Peach Pub Company are aiming to raise £250, or more, each to buy a cow for the Maasai community in Kenya as part of Herds for Change, the latest fundraising campaign carried out by its charitable arm, The Peach Foundation.

The goal is to raise £130,000 to buy a breeding herd of eight pedigree bulls and 400 cows for the Enonkishu community in the Mara.  The profits will be ploughed back into the community and used to support the livelihoods of local families.

Each cow costs £250 and regulars and new faces alike coming to The High Field are being asked to donate their change or whatever they can to help raise the money – there’s a special cow money box on the bar for collecting donations.

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“This is an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of people living in the Maasai community in the Mara, Kenya, a part of the world where the ecosystem has become increasingly fragile,” says Sarah Robinson, general manager of The High Field. “Global warming, lifestyle changes and the mismanagement of land all pose a serious threat to the wildlife and the communities who live in the Maasai.

“Over the years here at Peach we have played a part in supporting the Maasai tribe, the wildlife and the community’s traditional way of life, helping to create a hippo sanctuary and plant a forest. Now, we are moving onto the next important chapter in the bid to safeguard the long-term future of the Mara and its people. We are creating the Peach Herd and raising money to buy cows for the Maasai community, and we want Edgbaston to be able to provide at least one, if not two cows!

“So we’re asking everyone who pays us a visit over the next couple of weeks to let us hang onto their change for the cause or put whatever they can into the cow money box on the bar so we can make Herds for Change a big success and make our mark in the Mara,” she says.

After collecting money to buy the herd, a team from Peach and some of its suppliers will be travelling out to Kenya to buy the cattle and deliver them to the Enonkishu community on 9th September.

To make a donation, please pop into The High Field today or go online to https://mydonate.bt.com/events/herdsforchange/

To find out more about Herds for Change and why the Enonkishu community needs help, please take a look at the short video here Peach Herd 2017 Introduction Video 6 mins YouTube

The High Field is at 22 Highfield Road, Edgbaston, B15 3DP.  Tel: 0121 227 7068. www.highfieldedgbaston.co.uk/   Highfield@peachpubs.com  @_TheHighField  www.facebook.com/TheHighFieldEdgbaston

 

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. Pictures supplied by Pracey PR.

Experience: Thực đơn for Miss Saigon at Birmingham Hippodrome with Brum Bloggers

My knowledge of the Vietnam War and Vietnam in general is limited to a few war movies and an episode of Top Gear. So when I was invited by Brum Bloggers and the Hippodrome to fill in this shocking lack of knowledge on my part, how could I say no…

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Based around Puccini’s Madam Butterfly, this takes the frame of the story and moves it into Saigon, Vietnam at the end of the war. It focuses on the relationship between a bar girl, supplanted from her village life into the chaos of war era Saigon, and an American GI who falls madly in love with her; their threads weave throughout the late 1970’s to take in Atlanta, USA and Bangkok, Thailand.

Since its London premiere in 1989, Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s legendary musical Miss Saigon has become one of the most successful musicals in history.

To celebrate the tour, The Hippodrome’s Circle Restaurant has launched a special summer menu to compliment the production, which we were here to taste, along with a viewing of the musical itself.

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We went in through the Thorp Street entrance which is a bit of a gem, hosting the Dance Exchange and a range of private venue spaces available to hire, for some pre-show nibbles and cocktails.

The cocktail we tried was a Sun & Moon, Archers peach liqueur and orange juice, which was fruity and summery, setting the tone for the rest of the menu. The nibbles, included pea and mint soup, and goats cheese bruschetta. It certainly got our appetite going for our visit to the Circle Restaurant  for Acts I & II of the menu.

 

The Circle Restaurant is open usually 2 hours prior to each performance (matinees & evenings) and the menu is designed around each performance to take advantage of seasonal produce and to match the theme of each production. A boon for us bloggers, it has floor to ceiling windows overlooking the main entrance, giving wonderful light for photographs too! They’ll also hold your table for the interval so you can return for drinks or dessert without stress.

As we wouldn’t be able to get through all of the menu in full size portions, we were given tasters to ensure we could experience the full range on what’s on offer. For Act I, we were given an immaculately presented slate of starters to sample

 

Act I

White bean soup with basil pesto (V) – A good creamy delicate flavour from the white bean, giving a velvety mouth feel, this was counterbalanced by the punch of the pesto with its powerful basil lifting the savoury taste.

Vietnamese prawn summer rolls with sweet chilli sauce – The less well known cousin to the ubiquitous spring roll wrapped in rice paper rather than pastry. This gives it a much fresher edge than it’s deep fried cousin, with sweet chilli adding a touch of verve.

Salt beef croquette with salad of mooli, shallots and capers – My favourite from the start selection. Salt Beef is a delicious thing and its savoury texture matched well with the crispy coating. The mooli and shallots added a fresh edge but I still have my irrational hatred of capers, so they went unloved to the corner of the plate.

Goat’s cheese mousse with marinated tomatoes and walnut toast – Mousse was the perfect description; it was so light and airy, and made me think of a savoury take on a Mr Whippy. The marinated tomatoes were a solid accompaniment giving acidity and the walnut bread adding crisp.

 

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To partner all this wonderful food, I had a Marques De Morano Rioja Tinto, which was lighter than expected, and went perfectly with the tapas style light bites.

With that, it was onto Act II.

Act II

Chilli & coriander crusted pork tenderloin with soy & sesame braised savoy cabbage – The pork was well cooked and the coriander crust gave it an extra dimension from normal. The cabbage was divine, its soy and sesame braising really giving it some punch and this is something I’m going to be stealing for my own cabbage in future!

Pan-seared fillet of coley with rice noodle, samphire, ginger and spring onion broth – It’s great to see a sustainable fish getting some limelight on the menu. Wifey and I often have coley from the supermarket as an alternative to salmon, and it’s a solid substitute for cod or haddock. With a gentle pan searing, the fillet had kept most of its character and flaked wonderfully into the broth. The broth itself was good with samphire, salt and ginger and spring onion adding heat. I liked the rice noodles but maybe a vermicelli style rather than the Udon ones present would’ve suited the dish, as they were hard to fish out of the pan (nudge-wink). I expect this is not an issue on the full sized version however.

Honey-brushed confit of duck leg with celeriac purée, bok choi and star anise jus – Confit is a word that brings joy into the heart of any glutton and this is no exception. Duck leg is a meat that takes well to a confit with the rich unctuous fatty deliciousness, given a touch of sweetness with the honey. The celariac puree was a delight and I’m no stranger to a bit of bok choi, providing crunch and a touch of bitter to take away the sweetness of the meat.

Yellow curry lentil scotch egg with asparagus & new potato salad (V) – This took the majority of us by suprise! I thought the lentils were going to be replacing the breadcrumb (me not noticing the little (v)), but they fully en-robed the egg, giving a really nice variation on the traditional scotch egg. The curry spices gave an almost fizzle on the tongue.

Miss Saigon – Part 1

Post munching, it was time for us to take our seats for the first act of Miss Saigon.  I’m not going to spoil it too much if you haven’t seen it but you’re suckered in by the first minute. The whole performance is song based with little to no dialogue between each transition. However, it’s performed with such verve and gusto amongst incredible staging and set pieces, you’re instantly struck dumb with your eyes greedily trying to absorb each detail.

The leads Sooha Kim (Kim) and Ashley Gilmour (Chris) gave incredible performances. My heart was won by Red Concepcion (The Engineer) providing humour amongst the drama, bouncing around the stage and eliciting cackles from the audience. The supporting cast (Ryan O’Gorman as John, Gerald Santos as Thuy and Na-Young Jeon as Gigi) were great with beautiful voices. The ensemble were amazing, every number was pulled off with panache and an energy.

We start in DreamlandThe Engineer’s  bar in Saigon and a popular hotspot for American soldiers looking for a good time and escape the horrors of war. It’s here GI Chris first meets barlady Kim and we get to see the blossoming of their relationship in contrast to the Us soldiers losing their grasp on the country. We see the repercussions of the USA’s involvement and the finale leads to The Engineer and Kim escaping Vietnam to Bangkok to try and reach America for a new life and a reconciliation with Chris.

After a shocking finale to the first act, it was time for interval and for us bloggers a visit to the Gowling Suite, one of the  private hire facilities available on site, for a quick run around the dessert menu.

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Curtain Call 

Green tea panna cotta with sesame tuille – The green tea panna cotta was nice, with matcha green tea giving a savoury sweet balance.

Bitter chocolate tart with lychee, strawberry & mint compote – I’m a chocolate fiend so a bitter chocolate tart was always going to be a winner.  A solid, sticky bitter and sweet tart, lovely with the strawberry and mint compote cutting through with an element of sharpness.

Poached peach & pistachio cake with raspberries and vanilla set custard – Pistachio is something I usually come across as an ice cream flavour, so it was nice to see something a little different. The cake had a gorgeous soft texture and the nutty pistachios went well with the sweet peach.

It was time to run back upstairs and reach the amazing finale.

Miss Saigon – Part 2

Again, another great opening piece to the second act which moves us from Saigon to Atlanta with Chris and John struggling to deal with post war life, their PTSD and John’s work with Bui Doi, the neglected street children left behind by GI fathers and Vietnamese mothers. We’re also introduced to Zoë Doano as EllenChris’s new wife who has helped him to get over his post war trauma. Over the other side of the world in Bangkok, we see The Engineer and Kim’s new life echoing Dreamland in the first act, and their desperation in trying to reach America. By chance, they get in contact with John’s organisation which leads to a trip to Bangkok with John, Chris and Ellen. The tumultuous final scene leads to an end which will tug at the heart strings.

A special mention must be made to the set dressings.  They are, in a word, stunning with an amazingly quick turn around between pieces.

If you’ve not seen Miss Saigon before, or if you want to relive a previous production, I can’t recommend it highly enough and it’s great to have a food option to match and make it a full evening.

Miss Saigon runs until Sat 23 September at Birmingham Hippodrome. For tickets, call Information and Sales on 0844 338 5000 or visit their website for details.

 

When: 24/08/2017

Where: Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre,  Hurst Street, Southside, Birmingham, B5 4TB

Who: Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre,

Disclaimer: For this visit, I was a guest of Birmingham Hippodrome, arranged by Brum Bloggers, 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.