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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Tea

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.

 

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…

By Princesses_Beatrice_and_Eugenie_of_York.jpg: {{{1}}}derivative work: Surtsicna - This file was derived from  Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York.jpg:, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27440727

… 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