#WifeyWrites: Orientee Artisan Bakery & Cafe

Dale End probably isn’t the first place you would think of to open an Artisan Bakery, is it?  But Orientee is hoping to change opinions on that!

Bakery

After following them for a few months on Instagram, ooh-ing & aah-ing at their oh so lovely pics of  bread & pastries, I was pleased to see they finally had an official opening date of 17 September.

Last week, I popped along to their soft launch for foodbloggers / foodies. It’s just a few doors down from the Peaky Blinders bar, under the ramp part of Priory Square.

My lunch date was Geeky Brummie crew member and freelance writer @philipellis.

The moment you walk into Orientee, you are welcomed by friendly staff and the irresistible smell of freshly baked bread, both signs that this is a place where you can relax and feel at home.

And with the promise of authentic Chinese pastries (they sadly weren’t ready in time for the opening), I’ll be adding Orientee to my list of Birmingham cafes that are perfect to sit with a book, a cuppa and a treat.

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Having decided where to sit, menus were popped down and we had the chance to admire the simple chic interiors: hand painted wall scrolls, not too dis-similar to ones that hang in my parents’ home, placed against faux brickwork wallpaper.  I felt the need to go and touch it, after Phil asked it was actual open brickwork; got me fooled!

Food & Drink

Anyway onto the food and drink, which is probably why you’re reading this. They have a good selection of brunch dishes and hot drinks.  I ordered a flat white (my usual) and Sweetcorn Fritters, one of Orientee’s vegetarian options.

 

Whilst waiting for the food, we caught up on what we’d been up to during the week.

The food arrived and we tucked in.  My Sweetcorn Fritters were sweetcorn, courgette, red pepper and spring onion, chilli jam, crushed beetroot, served with a minted yoghurt and a poached egg.  The fritters themselves were soft, light and piping hot, the hit of the chilli jam just perfect for my palate; the yolk of the egg oozing out beautifully.

Phil’s choice was very pretty looking too. His thoughts?

I went for The Rejuvenator, a colourful, light and tasty mix of edamame, beetroot, avocado, feta and hummus, complete with a poached egg and freshly baked focaccia. Virtuous and extremely satisfying, washed down with a rich and earthy Matcha and Sea Salt Hot Chocolate.

There are options to add bacon, salmon and extra halloumi or make it vegan, by replacing the feta and egg with crushed beets and extra corn. 

Brunch

Phil thought it was the “perfect Sunday brunch spot, with options on the menu that will sort out any hangover, from the usual big breakfasts and Eggs Benedict to vitamin-rich vegetarian dishes. Or if you’re feeling in need of comfort, honey-glazed pork chops and fried rice.”

Orientee’s breakfast and brunch choices cater for all palates. Given the traffic running past on a regular basis, the calm interiors is enough to escape the High Street for awhile if you’re out shopping or even wanting somewhere quiet to work.

Upon leaving, one of the bakers popped out to say hello and told us about the different breads they make ranging from Russian Rye to Italian Foccacia. We were invited to take away samples of the breads to try at home, which I can confirm were delicious. A couple of colleagues at my office tried them, and Ryan and I had them for dinner later that evening with soup.

Return

The pastries weren’t quite ready during my first visit but I stopped by during my lunch break when they officially opened with #BrumHour.

I thought I’d try the latte this time while Dave had the peach oolong tea.  Their proper menu includes soft drinks, and there are separate breakfast and lunch menus. We also chose some sweet treats: me a Lemon & Poppy seed slice with cream cheese icing, and Dave a Lemon Cheesecake doughnut. He also went for the avocado on sourdough toast, which was very crunchy and he devoured it…..after his doughnut! My cake was light, not too sweet and moist.

You know I will be returning to try the rest of the menu…and the cakes.

 

 

 

 

Colmore Food Festival 2018

Full Disclosure: On Wednesday 20th June I attended the launch event for colmore food festival at purecraft bar & Kitchen – Food & Drink was complimentary (I Bought a round anyway). However, this doesn’t affect the below…

 

It seemed fitting to return properly with this post. The Colmore Food Festival is one of the highlights of viv and I’s year on the birmingham food scene.

Bringing the cream of the Colmore BID‘s bars, restaurants and cafes in a showcase over a Friday (For workers) and Saturday (For relaxers).

— (If you want to skip my ramblings and get on with the food bit, skip past this and head to Day 1) —

Colmore Row & Colmore BID

As usual, Viv and I attended both days. We both work in the Colmore BID (same company no less). It’s a short walk from one end of Colmore Row to the other. It’s a shame that the Row has lost some of its previous grandeur over the decades. The ugly lump of Snow Hill Station always saddens me a little. It’s a hump of brown bricks with little to no character, the opposite to its sister station Moor Street. Happily, a little further along, the restoration of The Grand Hotel to its former glory is in the final stages. A few more steps along, passing the pit which was Madin’s NatWest tower, we reach Victoria Square.

I doubt there is any place in Birmingham that goes through so many re-inventions over the year as Victoria Square. Sandwiched between the Town Hall and the Council House, it’s an intrinsic part of Birmingham with The Floozie (potted into her former jacuzzi), the statue of Queen Victoria and those odd lions.  I dearly miss Iron Man, currently replaced for ogling by a hereto undiscovered cobbled road revealed as part of the Metro works. Ever changing Victoria Square was the centrepiece of the Commonwealth Games handover and there’s always something going on albeit a protest, a stage, a graduation or even a food festival (yes, I’ll finally get onto it now!).

Colmore Food Festival

So onto Colmore Food Festival; I’ve already written about it in the previous 4 years as well as attending prior to starting the blog but I’ll cover the history a little if you’ve not read those.

Colmore BID, who run the food festival, is one of the city’s numerous BID’s (11 and counting). Their purpose (via a small levy on businesses in their area) is to run projects, services and initiatives in their defined area to improve and promote their district. Working in the BID has given me a chance to see the numerous improvements they have conducted over their last 10 years. They include Church Street Square, a shared space housing a bee hotel, and numerous street team members caring for and keeping the district safe.

Colmore BID’s flagship event is The Colmore Food Festival,  a 2 day event celebrating the diverse range of cuisine available from simple pub grub to Michelin starred dishes. All dishes are capped at £4 (drinks vary) and it’s held on Fridays and Saturday.

Day 1

For Viv and I, Day 1 was a lunchtime only visit as we had a busy evening. We still did our best to fit in as much as possible and started off with a couple of Festival newbies, Adams and Wayland’s Yard.

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We opted for both dishes from Adam’s (we usually share). The dishes were a Crab Satay with coriander and ginger, and a Mango, Thai Green Curry & Coconut concoction. The Crab Satay, was a small, but well formed dish. It was fragrant with crab catching the breeze and was a delight, although I’d have been happy with twice the amount. Alas a £4 price point does have its restrictions.

The Mango, Thai Green Curry & Coconut was a suprise; with those ingredients I was expecting more of a savoury dish. This was more of a rice pudding style dessert. The mango was refreshing, the coconut gave an added depth to the flavour, however, the Thai Green Curry was a tad on the mild side. I was expecting a punch of lemongrass, a slice of lime and the spice of chilli and ginger. This seemed lost in the sweetness of the coconut and mango. A shame as all other elements had come together with a finesse expected of Adams.

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Our next stop was Wayland’s Yard, a new favourite of mine on the Birmingham food scene, taking over an old printing shop on Bull Street. It’s the second shop to open with the first store open in Worcester. Hopefully more on the way soon! We had an Eggy Crumpet (their house special) and an Iced Tea to salve ourselves in the heat.

The Eggy Crumpet was delicious when I found it! A small hedge had appeared in the box burying the crumpet but that was soon dispatched with. The only other negative for presentation was that it had been served in a box with knife and fork to slice. The box was quite deep and hard to hold and cut whilst walking around. Happily, the plastic knife supplied was on the sharp side so I made swift work using careful angles to maintain cutting power. Under the hedgerow, an abundance of Chilli Jam was present adding heat to the dish. Eggy crumpets are a favourite treat of Viv and I and it’s a dish I make often. This one was a solid dish too and I look forward to having it again.

The Iced Tea came sealed with a wedge of lime. It was much appreciated in the heat and disappeared quickly between us.

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The final stop for Day 1 was to grab some treats for the afternoon back in the office from Hindleys Bakery. We picked up four small treats split between the two of us. I chose the Chocolate BrownieApple & Almond Cake, whereas Viv selected a Viennese Whirl Pineapple Cream.

My Chocolate Brownie was rich but crumbly rather than soft; to be expected in the heat. The Apple & Almond Cake had retained its wetness and was a delicious little morsel. I didn’t get many more notes other than that both were finished off with gusto.

Viv reported that the Viennese Whirl and Pineapple Cream were yummy, although she had forgotten how sugary sweet the pineapple cream was!

It was also great to have a quick catch up with some of the other bloggers in attendance (Bite Your Brum, Hey it’s Fay, and City Fever) also enjoying the food on offer.

Day 2

We arrived for Day 2 a little later into the Saturday. The World Cup Semi-Final between England and Croatia was on in the afternoon and as neither of us are great sport fans, we’d assumed the crowds would lessen a little as those more enamoured with the game filtered off to various venues around the city.

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First stop was to the other Michelin Starred attendee, Purnell’s. Their main was a Daube of Pork served in a rich jus, with caramelised apple puree, crispy shallots and watercress. The daube of pork fell apart at the touch of the fork and was well seasoned. The crispy shallots reminded me a little of Rice Krispies but added texture to the dish. For dessert it was Mr Purnell’s Soft Scoop Cone. A waffle cone filled with both strawberry cream and violet ice cream, sprinkled with hundreds and thousands. On first lick, I was taken back to the Parma Violets of my youth. The rich violet ice cream was the perfect anecdote to the stifling heat of the mid afternoon sun.

Drinkwise, Viv went for a Thyme for Pimms Cocktail from Gingers Bar at Purnell’s Bistro whilst I popped over to Purecraft Bar for a half of one of my all time favourite beers, Longhorn IPA. We then caught up with a few of our blogger friends (Caramel Latte Kiss and Brumderland) whilst watching some of the cooking demos and live music, including a colourful rendition of Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Killing In The Name Of’.

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We were lucky enough to bag a table under the covered seating area, a rare treat at the Food Festival. We were joined by Warwick & Jo, and the aforementioned Caramel Latte Kiss and Brumderland.

Whilst Viv settled down, I went to grab our next dish from Jailbird which has taken over from Nosh & Quaff . We had the Wings with Leeks and Spinach Risotto. The wings were a very generous portion, with three wings on a bed of grilled leeks. The chicken was well cooked, juicy and tender and well worth the £4 spend. Viv tackled the majority of the Spinach Risotto, but what I ate was delicious, with salty crumbly feta cutting through the richness of the spinach.

I grabbed another half of beer, this time a Blue Moon from the Square Peg. Viv went for a Chase Grapefruit Gin & Tonic from Primitivo, which was sharp yet refreshing.

Our final dish of the day was really saving the best until last, from OpusPan Fried Fillet of Hake with Fennel Pasta Salad. The Hake was cooked beautifully and flaked with a brush from the fork. The sweet, perfumy flavour to the fennel pasta made a great combination on a summer’s day. Hats off to Ben Ternent and the team; it was a triumphant flourish to the weekend’s fun.

We learnt afterwards that Opus has donated 50p for every dish sold at the Colmore Food Festival to SIFA Fireside. If you’ve not heard of SIFA, they provide food, clothing and shower facilities for Birmingham’s vulnerably housed and homeless adults. It’s a fantastic charity and they need all the donations and help they can get (especially, currently, underpants). If you are interested in helping or donating, find their link below:

https://www.sifafireside.co.uk/

It’s great to see movement towards sustainability also, with recycling on point and a significant lack of plastic straws all around. The only thing I’d like to see in 2019  would be wooden rather than plastic cutlery. As a popular supermarket used to say ‘Every Little Helps!’

All in all, it was another fantastic year, and I hope Colmore BID heads into chapter 3 of it’s life in March, and I cant wait until the 2019 Colmore Food Festival.

All dishes and drink were paid for by myself and Viv.

You can read previous years’ posts hereherehere and here.

When:  Friday 6 and Saturday 7 July 2018

Where: Victoria Square, Birmingham City Centre

So… …I’m Back…

Hello All! It’s been a while…

To paraphrase a hoary old Mark Twain mis-quotation. The reports of my blog’s death are greatly exaggerated.

Apologies it’s been so long. It was meant to be a winter break, which turned into a winter, spring & summer break. I thought I’d give a brief explanation of why before I get back into the regular posts.

Why?

First off, I felt my posts were getting a bit samey and repetitive, and that’s not fun. Not fun for you to read or for me to write. The original intention of the blog was to champion local independent food in Birmingham and further afield but I felt I had lost my way. I wrote a lot more frequent, but shorter posts. It’s a disservice to both myself and you for me to write when it’s not working, so I thought a break would clear my head, allow me to breathe a little and try and recapture that creative spark.

Secondly, Geeky Brummie has taken up more time than I thought it would need. It’s grown from a weekly radio show, to add a podcast, a website and a YouTube channel. It’s been fantastic to watch it grow and the team, and thank you to all who, watch, read or listen to anything we do. As we all work or study full time, you can imagine to keep the consistency of quality we strive for, it needs attention. I had to make a hard choice on what to dedicate my available time to. I felt Geeky Brummie required more time but now things are moving along a little smoother, I can give some time back to blogging.

Thirdly, my amazing and supporting wife, Viv, and I are moving. After several years in the beating heart of Birmingham City Centre, we’re to move out a little to the suburbs. Viv and I are still in the middle of getting things sorted and haven’t found a place yet. So as a warning, posts may be sporadic for the short term!

Fourthly, in my absence, there’s been a lot of dispute and toxicity, on which I decline to comment on. I’ve kept myself mostly out of it and, to be quite frank, I want nothing to do with it all. I thought it better for me to wait until it had blown over before popping my head back over the parapet.

So what’s the plan going forward?

The plan is for less frequent but longer form blog posts. For now, expect probably one or two a month, the focus being on independent food and drink. I might throw in some culture too.

Where I receive an invitation or a ‘free’ meal as some describe, this will always be flagged as an ‘Experience’ in the title. It would be unkind for me to pretend this would not be different to a regular visit, or hide it in microscopic text. Therefore, this gives you the choice to read it or not. I’ll leave that up to you.

So I’m happy and raring to go again! Quite happily, there’s been a raft of new eateries in Birmingham for me to sink my teeth into! I hope you’ll join me again for the ride, and enjoy a newer look to Brummie Gourmand.

Anyway, my first ‘proper’ post back will be one of my favourite events of the year. Colmore Food Festival, so keep an eye out for that.

Otherwise, for now, I’ll leave you with a taster image from one of the days…

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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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.

 

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.

 

 

 

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.