A few weekends ago, Wifey and I swapped out Birmingham for somewhere a little different. Kenilworth is just over 20 miles drive or a train ride away from Birmingham. It’s a great destination for a day out with the renowned Kenilworth Castle and Stoneleigh Abbey nearby.
Wifey and I had another reason for visiting too. It’s also a location for one of the Peach Pubs collection, The Almanack
The Almanack is one of the more modern looking Peach Pubs, nestled in under a new apartment building. It had an impressive decor with lots of nice little touches, including a selection of Sunday newspapers to read if you were there to relax.
We were here to try their Sunday Best Menu, which has a regular selection of roasts and some of the highlights from the main menu.
Not feeling up to a full roast, Wifey and I decided to pick a few from the highlights of the main menu,but first, a bit of bread and butter to get our bellies in the mood.
The bread was a warm wholemeal seeded mini loaf accompanied by garlic butter.
It was served a little like a hassle-back potato, sliced part the way through. It was devoured with relish with the bread hitting the trifecta of soft, airy and sweet. The tangy peppery garlic butter could have done with being a touch less on the garlic flavour.
We skipped starters, to keep room for dessert, and went onto the mains.
For my main, I went for a Chicken Caesar Salad. This came with a free range chicken breast, crispy bacon, anchovies and a classic Caesar salad.
The chicken was moist and tender with a crispy seasoned and blackened skin. The bacon was as expected, crispy and sweet and salty at the same time. The anchovies gave an additional salty blast to the rich dressing. The lettuce was nice, crisp and fresh.
Wifey went for something a little more fishy. Cod (substituted from Monkfish on the menu) and Scallops with Bombay Potatoes, Indian Salad and Mint Yoghurt.
This came to the table with a wonderful smell of the Indian spiced potatoes and the fresh clean smell of great fish. The cod was light and separated on touch. The scallops came to the table with the roe (always a nice touch) and had the clean sweet taste you’d expect. The Bombay potatoes were light, buttery and with just enough spice as not to overwhelm the fish. The Indian salad was made up of Rocket, Tomato, Red Onion and seeds added a touch of colour to the dish and disappeared quickly!
As it was Sunday,we couldn’t miss out on a bit of Apple & Rhubarb Crumble.
This was served at the table from a great big enamel dish full of the stuff. It came with a decent jug of custard from which you could pour as little or as much as you want to personal preference. The crumble topping was sweet, chunky and packed with oats. The fruit filling was rich and not too sweet and combined perfectly with the delicious sweet custard.
And to wash it all down, we had a coffee with a latte for me and an Americano for Wifey with some Smarties to finish.
And with that bellies full and happy smiles off back to Brum.
This year the stage had moved to the side of the Town Hall, giving wider avenues to progress down and choose your particular solid or liquid treat, a very sensible move. In the centre, there was a garden with seating hosted by The Opus Family (more on them later).
Wifey and I visited 3 times over the weekend, Friday lunch, Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, but still didn’t get around to trying half of it!
First stop was the marvellous Gary of Gingers Bar (located in Purnell’s Bistro). With a whisk of his magic fingers, 2 non-alcoholic cocktails were presented to us of G2O, a blend of Orange, Passion-fruit and Lime. This was a perfect refresher and helped with the brisk walk we both had from the other end of Colmore Row in the summer sun.
After slaking our thirst, we popped into the Opus Garden for a spot of lunch via Opus at Cornwall Street. Wifey and I both had an Opus classic: this was a Lincolnshire Leek and Haddock Fishcake, topped with a Poached Egg and butter sauce.
I’m not normally a leek fan but this was great with the haddock. The poached egg was perfect with a rich golden yolk.
Then, it was back to the office for a few more hours until the freedom of the weekend.
For our return, it was straight to Purnell’s Restaurant, always a firm favourite at the Food Festival. We were glad we got in when we did as they sold out pretty sharpish afterwards.
We went for the Pork Belly, accompanied by Pickled Pineapple, Black Pepper and Pork Crumble. We were impressed by crispy, crumbly, spicy pork belly accompanied with the sweet sharp tang of pickled pineapple. I’m now sad to be waiting another year before seeing what they cook up next year!
Next stop was to an old favourite, The Jekyll & Hyde, serving a wide selection of gin based beverages. We went for a portion of Dr Jekyll’s Fruit Punch, it definitely packed one and was very moreish.
A few stalls away was Asha’s for a Lamb Saffron Biryani, this Lamb Biryani is cooked with three year mature basmati rice, green cardamom, saffron and cloves, served with poppadoms, raita and gravy. As expected from one of Birmingham’s most renowned restaurants, very moreish and didn’t last long between Wifey and I.
Next, a break from the food, Seekasaurus was in attendance at the food festival with lots of coloured Dino’s lurking about the stalls and one midway up a lamppost. Wifey and Laura from Full to the Brum went for an explore whilst I popped back to Gingers Bar for another quick beverage.
This was a Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri Slushie, deliciously sweet and boozy.
First stop of the day was Jake’s Coffee Box, it’s great to see an independent as good as Jake’s get to showcase themselves like this, and it’s at the heart of what the Festival is designed to be.
We chose one of Jake’s Picnic boxes, the first being the Savoury Box, with 2 Mini Gourmet Sausage Rolls (Pork, Shropshire Blue & Caramelised Onion, Pork Leek & Sage), accompanied by a homemade Scotch Egg, Rocket Salad, Cherry tomatoes and Black Pudding Crumb. The sausage rolls were delicious especially the caramelised onion one, which Wifey was particularly fond of. The Scotch Egg was also great with a smooth creamy yolk and a hard albumen.
We also saw the Sweet Box, this contained a Triple Chocolate Brownie, Strawberries, Raspberries and Clotted Cream.
Next stop was booze! And a return to the Opus Garden. We were on the flip-side this time and visiting Bar Opus.
I chose a Marmalade Frozen Kalippo, which was Chase Marmalade Vodka, Lemon Juice, Orange Juice and a touch of Rosemary. Wifey chose The Great Chase, which was Chase Vodka, Chase Elder-flower Liqueur, Lemon Juice and Soda.
After that bit of booze, we made ourselves comfy in the deckchairs and watched a cooking demo by Jojolapa and hosted by Phil Oldershaw.
After that, Wifey couldn’t resist getting a portion of Momo’s, which nice and doughy and packed full of delicate chicken. They were accompanied by spicy rich tomato sauce.
Finishing off with another pair of cocktails from Gingers Bar (of course), it was time to bid a fond farewell to The Food Festival for another year!
Le Bistrot Pierre has been in place over a month. Nestling into the canalside between The Cube and Brindleyplace, it seems to have settled in nicely.
Wifey and I went to the launch at the backend of June (yes, I’m that far behind!). We arrived after a stroll through the Mailbox and entered via the side entrance, which opened onto a walled terrace area.
After some complimentary drinks and canapes, we had an explore around the building which boasts a good sized bar, comfy seating and separate lounge area. There are cosy little alcoves and two good sized terraces, for those braving a British summer, for al fresco dining or little snugs inside with exposed brickwork and dark wood, making it a more intimate experience.
After our wander around, we joined them for their inaugural service (happily, next door to the lovely Adam and Rich from OutInBrum).
Our meal (discounted by 25% as it was opening night), consisted of bread, appetizer, mains and dessert.
The bread (a mini pain) was soft, doughy and warm, with a rich creamy butter. It disappeared fast with Wifey nearby!
Our appetizer was a Tartes Flambée. Described to us as a ‘French Pizza’, it’s from the Alsace region of France and consists of rolled bread dough with fromage blanc or creme fraiche on top. We chose the Traditionnelle which came topped with caramelised onions and smoked bacon lardons. Served on a a wooden platter atop a wire cooling rack, it was extremely moreish. Tasty, light and crispy, the base held up and there was no noticeable sagging. The yin and yang of sweet caramelised onions and salty bacon lardons really went well together and we’d definitely have it again the next time we go.
Wifey’s main was Poulet Printanier: pan-fried chicken breast, asparagus, fricassée of wild mushrooms, tarragon and peas. It came with plenty of sauce, the chicken breast cooked well but remained moist. The tarragon sauce was perhaps a touch heavy but still always a good flavour to enhance chicken.
I chose the Épaule d’agneau à la Marocaine. This was a Moroccan spiced slow cooked shoulder of lamb with pearl couscous, harissa, toasted pine nuts, dried apricots, and a mint and yoghurt dressing. The lamb was well cooked and flaked easily; the pearl couscous was chunky and went well. My only slight disappointment was the thinness of the sauce as it was a tagine style rich sauce rather than a broth.
Accompanying sides were seasonal vegetables of broccoli, carrots and red cabbage which were well cooked and perfectly serviceable. Perhaps a touch of butter may have livened them up. The dauphinoise potatoes on the other hand were worthy of mention, creamy rich and buttery and served in a small frying pan.
Dessert for Wifey was a Crème brûlée (not pictured). A thickly glazed caramelised sugar top, which needed a strong tap to crack into. The interior was as you expect, a thick yellow custard which slipped down well.
I chose to try their selection of mini desserts which accompanied by an espresso (extra £1 for this option) called the Cafe Gourmand (well, I had to try that!). The desserts were enough to keep me happy and cut through the rich strong coffee, with the sorbet being my fave.
It was a good first experience, bar a few hiccups with service to be expected on opening night. We’ll be definitely be returning again and it’s a good step up from the regular high street French food providers.
For a change, there was some blue sky present this summer. It was a glorious sunny Sunday and for the third year in a row, Wifey and I escaped the city (just about) and headed to Cannon Hill Park.
The main reason for our visit was not the usual excellence of the MAC, or for a run. Instead, it was to have a taste of the Foodies Festival. Now in it’s 11th year starting in Brighton at the end of April, and then touring the country with food festivals in ten locations throughout the Summer.
The Birmingham event showed off some of Birmingham’s best talent with Nathan Eades Richard Turner, Brad Carter, Ben Ternent and James Wong.
Also TV talent was in attendance in the shape of Great British Bake Off Winner, Nadiya Hussein, and MasterChef’s Tony Rodd and Dhruv Baker.
Accompanying the demonstrations were some streetfood stalls, bars and produce to purchase and try.
The first stop off for Viv and I was a bit of Caribbean spice in the shape of the Levi Roots camper van, serving up wings and nibbles. Wifey managed to grab a wing smothered in Reggae Reggae sauce, with a bit of chopped spring onion and mayo.
The wing was nice and hot, and the Reggae Reggae sauce worked well as a marinade. We’ll definitely be trying it at home at some point.
Next stop was keeping in the Caribbean theme with a visit to the Appleton Rum Bus.
This Jamaican Rum is a firm favourite of Wifey’s extended Jamaican family and it’s nice to see it reaching the UK! We were shown how to mash sugar cane, which reminded us of our holiday to the Dominican Republic a few years back. Wifey got to pretend to be bus driver, had a rum tasting of Appleton’s signature blend and then finished off with a couple of cocktails.
A Jamaican Mule for me made with ginger ale and lime whilst Wifey plumped for a Fruit Punch with Orange, Pineapple and Grenadine. Both were delicious and didn’t last very long!
Onwards to the Chef’s Theatre and we bumped into Birmingham’s best Chilli Sauce provider in the shape of Pip! Pip’s Hot Sauce is a devilishly spicy chilli sauce brand,
crafted in small batches to ensure quality and made right here in Birmingham.
We picked up a bottle on the way for Wifey’s dad, a bit of a connoisseur of fiery stuff, and arrived at the theatre in time for Nathan Eades’ chef’s demo.
Nathan Eades has taken over Head Chef duties at Simpsons for just under a year now, after a successful run at his own, Epi @ The Courtyard in Bromsgrove, and pop ups at The Kitchen Garden (Kings Heath) and The Pickled Piglet (City Centre).
For today’s demonstration, Nathan was cooking Seared Scallops with asparagus, shrimp and squid ink.
It was a fascinating demonstration with lots of good foodie tips on preparation, and getting your ingredients weighed and sorted prior to cooking saving a lot of time.
After witnessing that display, it was time to get munching. Our next stop was a Prosecco and Squid bar for Wifey.
A hefty portion of squid and chips with a squidge of mayo. The squid in batter was quite light, not suffering from excessive chewy-ness and the chips not too greasy.
My lunch also went with an aquatic theme but with an added quack.
I had a portion of crispy rotisserie duck, spring onion and hoisin sauce accompanied with duck fat chips.
The duck was a touch on the dry side but otherwise flavoursome, and the chips were amazing like crispy roasties and chips combined.
To cool off, it was time to return to an annual favourite of ours, Whipsmiths. These guys do Liquid Nitrogen Ice-cream in their Cryo-mixer, a purpose designed liquid nitrogen ice-cream machine, and allows operators to handcraft individual portions of ice-cream in just 30 seconds.The queue took 30 minutes but it was worth it.
Wifey had a green combo of Pistachio and Matcha whilst I went for Popcorn and Coconut. If you’ve never tried it, it’s a lot creamier than normal ice cream as the crystals have less time to form, therefore, are smaller and smoother. Wifey’s ice cream was almost savoury in flavour but disappeared rapidly, mine was crunchy with some real popcorn thrown into the mix.
And that was pretty much it. We’ll be returning next year, however, the majority of stalls in the streetfood aisles were repeats of previous years, hopefully next time there’ll be some further variety as we’re running out of things to try!
Nomad don’t do things by halves. Described as “Birmingham’s most unusual restaurant”, its philosophy is based around bringing foraged and unusual cuisine to the fore.
Founded by Alex Claridge (formerly of The Warehouse Cafe and development chef at Bistro 1847), it spent most of 2014 and 2015 as a pop up at locations all over the city. Since winter 2015 it has had a permanent home on Dudley Street inside BOM.
After our previous experience at Simpsons, Simon S of Birmingham Breakfast Club (reviewer of breakfast locations far and wide around Brum) had arranged a special one-off surprise breakfast menu and how could I miss out on that opportunity!
Sitting down with a cup of tea and a mead cocktail (which consisted of English Mead Wine, Honey and Torello Cava) I had the opportunity to catch up with other bloggers and tweeters on our table, namely Laura from award winning FullToTheBrum, Ellen and Jamie from EatWithEllen, Coral and Phil from Travelling Coral and Mark from Cybrum.
Whilst we sipped our assembled teas, coffees and mead cocktails, we had a good chinwag about all things Birmingham and then our first surprise dish arrived.
Our ‘starter’ consisted of Eggy Bread with Tansy, Reindeer Moss with Bacon, Eggs and Coffee a wonderful piece of Forest of Arden Honeycomb served with fresh homemade yoghurt.The eggy bread had a delightfully light and fluffy texture to it, which was counterbalanced by the gooey honey and crunchy moss. Combined with the tart yoghurt, it gave a very complex, yet simple, textured dish.
To whet our appetite for the next course, we were treated to another cocktail, Sea Buckthorn Mimosa; the Sea Buckthorn gave a tartness to the flavour that didn’t last long.
The mimosa was a hint to our ‘main’ dish: Pearl Barley and Spelt Kedgeree with a Poached Egg and Sea Buckthorn sauce. As you can see from the picture, the presentation was exceptional. The grains were perfectly cooked, tender with a tiny bit of crunch, the fish fell apart with a touch of the fork and my egg was perfectly poached and the Sea Buckthorn sauce adding tartness.
Another beverage break, this time with a fresh pressed chilled apple juice.
The final course, our ‘dessert’, was a caramelised milk mousse and mixed cereals and a free toy!
There was an extra special ingredient too. High in magnesium and iron and ounce for ounce, one of the best sources of protein.
They were, of course, roasted crickets which went well with the crunchy cereal! If I hadn’t known they were there, I would probably have not noticed them. The milk mousse was creamy and sweet and I made short order of working through the dish.
It was a stunning introduction of Nomad to me and I’ll be back again with Wifey for a meal soon.
I also can’t wait for the next Birmingham Breakfast Club event either and can’t imagine what Simon has planned for next time…
It’s not often Wifey and I go somewhere a little different. With one of the most prestigious pedigrees in Birmingham, and Britain, this time was going to be a rather special breakfast…
Founded in Kenilworth by Chef owner Andreas Antona, then relocating to Edgbaston, holders of a Michelin Star since 2000, Simpsons is not normally known as a breakfast destination.
However, Simon S of Birmingham Breakfast Club (reviewers of breakfast locations far and wide around Brum) arranged two special seatings .Wifey and I naturally jumped at the chance for a visit and it was a great chance to look around the recently refurbished restaurant.
For those not up to date on happenings at Simpsons, former Head Chef Matt Cheal left after 16 years on and off,and two years as head chef under Chef Director Luke Tipping, to establish Cheals of Henley.
Recently, Nathan Eades has taken over Head Chef duties after a successful run at his own, Epi @ The Courtyard in Bromsgrove, and pop ups at The Kitchen Garden (Kings Heath) and The Pickled Piglet (City Centre).
To go with the change in the kitchen, Simpsons has had a makeover too, with a full refurbishment giving the place a lighter, ‘Bauhaus’, Japanese, Scandinavian, mix of light and airy style:
After removing our coats, we were ushered to take out places in the beautiful dining room:
But before I ate, Simon had arranged a very rare treat for fellow bloggers and I – a look behind the curtain and watch these food maestros in the kitchen:
It was a privilege to see how much effort the team were putting into our breakfast, especially considering they were still conducting normal service in between fitting us in.
After that, it was back to the table for a spot of tea, toast and juice for Wifey and I and time to look over our three (!) course breakfast menu:
The bread, a crusty crunchy sourdough, was very generous and served with a delicious pale and soft butter. The juices were all amazing quality (as expected) and tea was served in beautiful clear glass pots.
Our first course was a twist on the classic breakfast dish of Kedgeree, smoked haddock risotto accompanied with capers, parsley and quails egg:
I usually hate capers; the bitter, salty, sour medicinal taste usually sends me running.
But this kedgeree was something else. Well presented chunky flakes of smoked haddock, glossy quails eggs and wet but perfectly done rice meant I was in heaven. Wifey was apprehensive as rice for breakfast reminded her of childhood memories of Congee but she fell in love with this also, heaping praise on the delicate smokiness of the fish.
The ‘main’ was another twisted dish, a Full English featuring crispy duck egg, chorizo & coco bean, confit tomatoes, walnut puree and smoked bacon emulsion.
This miniature masterwork came with an egg hidden in a birds nest, waiting to be opened like a treasure chest. Silence descended on the table whilst we dove in and you could hear nothing but the scraping of knives and groans of delight!
The egg was exceptional and surpassed the quails egg from the previous course, a hard challenge to beat. The bacon emulsion providing a tang, a nice earthiness and zing supplied by the chorizo and coco bean. The twist on brown sauce was amazing too.
Our final dish on the breakfast tour was Granola, with toasted almonds, English apples and yoghurt:
I wasn’t expecting a foamed yoghurt but this was delightfully pleasant. It was a refreshing end to the meal with a balanced apple compote peppered with hidden huge blueberries.
After our big repast, Wifey and I patted our contented bellies and with goodbyes done, started the day with a sense of contentment. Wifey will definitely be back for another meal soon.
The Birmingham Breakfast Club held a second event last Saturday (28th November) which had a different (but likely no less superb). Luckily, for you readers, Vicky from Brumderland attended and you can read her experience soon!
Birmingham Independent Food Fair is now in its second year, following on from #futurefoodies @ Hotel LaTour in 2013 (#futurefoodies was Wifey and I’s first foodie event in Birmingham and we were the first visitors to arrive!).
Created by the minds behind Dine Birmingham, Birmingham Independent Food Fair is a flagship event in Birmingham’s foodie scene, bringing together streetfood vendors, suppliers, independent stores and some of Birmingham’s best bars and restaurants.
This year, as per the previous year, the event was held at Millennium Point, it’s also two days long which means double the time for food!
Wifey and I popped along to see what was happening (settle in, this will be a long one!).
The sun was shining as we strolled along through Eastside Park to the food fair and got to see a glimpse of the goodies, with the outside stalls, before picking up our wristbands.
To bookend a weekend of relaxation, Wifey and I did away with cornflakes and instant caffeine in exchange for a stroll down to the Jewellery Quarter and a trip to Urban Coffee Company, a local coffee chain with branches in Birmingham City Centre, Jewellery Quarter, Coventry (and briefly Harborne). The Jewellery Quarter branch in the Big Peg is the one we usually gravitate towards as it’s located a short trip down the canal from BG Towers.
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