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

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

 

testimonial2.gb-676ef749ab329f2d854dd0e88a6b42eb

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

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

Great_Western_Arcade_Temple_Row

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

OPENING HOURS:

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

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

FREE EVENTS:

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

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

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

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

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

 

hero.extra-large.gb-9a1e2cf785f13203bab7a50b636f85ad

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

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

For more information visit www.square.com/westmidlands

 

Colmore Food Festival 2017

It seems to be coming around quicker every year.

The Colmore Food Festival is one of the highlights of Wifey and I’s year. Bringing the cream of the Colmore BID‘s bars, restaurants and cafes in a showcase over a Friday and Saturday.

You can read previous years’ posts herehere and here.

My photography skills seem to have forgotten about anything but food and drink this year but it was a similar set up to last year, with the stage next to the Town Hall and a central seating area with the stalls looping around it.

Wifey and I went both days (of course!) and we tried a fairly decent selection, photos below:

Day 1

IMG_20170630_123240

My first dish of the day (prior to Wifey’s arrival) was the Slow Cooked Ox Cheeks from Purnell’s Restaurant accompanied with watercress puree, pickled shallots and wasabi crumble.

IMG_20170630_130418 (1)

Chicken Katsu Curry, breaded chicken, mild katsu curry sauce and sticky rice from the lovely chaps at Chung Ying Central.

We tried both dishes from Nosh & Quaff , usually found on their starters list, The Rib Tips (a very popular dish for the festival), deep fried lumps of pork belly tossed in their house BBQ sauce, and their Buffalo Wings, Free-Range Cotswold Chicken Wings with a smoked butter and Habanero sauce.

After that much food, it was time for a beverage so we popped over to the cocktail maestro from Purnell’s Bistro, Gary Anderson (on what we learnt was our last time getting a cocktail from him, prior to his move to The Meat Shack as their new GM). We had a Strawberry Feels, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Elderflower, Lemon, Apple & Mint, and Pineapple & Sage Daiquiri, Bacardi Rum, Lime, Pineapple, Sage & Pink Peppercorn.

And that was the end of Day 1

Day 2

After a fun day in the radio studio (for Geeky Brummie, it’s worth a listen, I promise!), it was time for more food and booze!

IMG_20170630_182245IMG_20170630_182446

First stop of the day was Opus  / Bar Opus Wifey had the Pork Belly with spiced cherries and I had a Parma Violet with gin, creme de violette, lemonade and parma crystals.

IMG_20170630_184058

Next it was time for our now traditional Colmore Food Festival must-have from Jojolapa, the Momo’s (chicken dumplings).

IMG_20170701_154628

My next stop was Gaucho and their Beef Empanada and (not pictured) Vacio (bavette) steak which came accompanied with Humita Saltena (creamed sweetcorn).

IMG_20170630_181051174IMG_20170630_181033

Then it was a return to Purnell’s Bistro, and another Strawberry Feels, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Elderflower, Lemon, Apple & Mint, the third variety of cocktail we had was their Summer Lovin with Grey Goose Vodka Peach, cranberry, Orange and Lime.

IMG_20170701_193621IMG_20170701_193638

Wifey also popped to Purnell’s Restaurant, with the Ox Cheek swapped out for Beef Blade accompanied by watercress puree, pickled shallots and wasabi crumble.

IMG_20170701_150718660

There was also time for a bit of Dim Sum, from Chung Ying Central.

IMG_20170701_160923366

The final dish of the day was Black Forest Cake from The Bureau, and some Tom Collins from The Jekyll & Hyde (not pictured) we were pretty much done for the year. and with that, it’s on until waiting for 2018’s Food Festival!

When: 30/06/2017 – 01/07/2017

Where: Victoria Square, Birmingham City Centre

Who: Colmore Business DistrictPurnell’s Bistro / Ginger’s BarChung Ying CentralNosh & Quaff, OpusBar OpusJojolapaGauchoThe Bureau and The Jekyll & Hyde

 

#BloggersBites at Chung Ying Central

As it’s Chinese New Year tomorrow, it’s only fitting that I write about a visit to the CBD’s Chung Ying Central, fast becoming a darling of Colmore Row.

Since opening in early 2014, it’s been a fixture of the Colmore Food Festival and won numerous awards including ‘Brummies Choice’ Best Restaurant in 2016’s Birmingham Mail Poll.

The restaurant has no shortage of pedigree either as part of the Chung Ying Group, which has been established for over 35 years.  It started with Chung Ying itself, then branched out to Chung Ying Garden a few minutes walk away and now, Chung Ying Central.

img_20170118_180214

Central offers a differing selection to the main two restaurants, focusing on a more business-like crowd.  The main menu focuses on one of the widest dim sum menus ever seen, with over 100 options paired with a selection of delicious cocktails (such as the Shanghai Rose above).

Tonight’s evening was about introducing myself and some fellow bloggers to some of the wide range of cuisine on offer, ranging from Cantonese to Thai to Szechuan and Japanese. Central understands that people’s tastes are steering away from the traditional sweet and sour chicken.  Consumers are a little more savvier nowadays and wanting to experience a wider range of tastes in their cuisine, alongside a selection of teas (Iron BuddhaOolong (Bao Li to the wife and in-laws), Jasmine and Pu-Erh) or Asian Beers (Sapporo, Tsing Tao and Chang).

img_20170126_183608

Post snacking on some moreish Prawn Crackers paired with a sweet and spicy chilli dip, it was time to get down to business with our selection of food for the evening which I decided to go with Oolong to pair up.

To start off:  Szechuan “Dan Dan” Noodle. Originating (as you guessed) from the Szechuan area of China, know for their liberal use of spice and pepper. The noodles are usually served in broth, accompanied with pickled vegetables and minced meat, usually pork.

According to Wikipedia, the name refers to a type of carrying pole (dan dan) that was used by walking street vendors who sold the dish to passers-by. The pole was carried over the shoulder with two baskets containing noodles and sauce attached at either end. As the noodles were affordable due to their low cost, the local people gradually came to call them dandan noodles, referencing the street vendors. Literally, the name translates as “noodles carried on a pole” but may be better translated as “peddler’s noodles”.

These wheat noodles (also available with egg noodles for those wishing to avoid the gluten) weren’t as spicy as expected but still rich in flavour, and a healthy portion of minced pork gave a good umami texture to balance them out.

img_20170118_185411

Next up was Honey and Garlic Chicken Karaage.  Steering away from the ubiquitous Korean fried chicken technique, this Japanese style is done in a tempura style batter and then deep fried in oil to get the crisp just right. Chung Ying uses chicken thigh rather than breast meat as they believe (and I agree) the flavour is much richer.

This was my favourite dish of the night; the smoked garlic and honey were in harmony and the chicken had just the right amount of crisp for my personal taste. I’d have been happy with just a bowl of this for the night and a quiet corner to tuck myself away in.

To follow was the Pei Par Tofu, named after a pear-shaped Chinese string instrument. Though you may think this dish would be vegetarian due to the tofu, you’d be mistaken. These were deep fried with prawn and pork mince inside, served with spring onion and mushrooms. Delicious and moreish.

img_20170118_191440

The next one along was Pan Fried Pork and Vegetable Steamed Bao. The char siu bao are my biggest weakness in life.  Those sticky sweet fluffy white balls of heaven are my all time fave dish and I have to restrain myself when we have them at our fairly regular dim-sum trips. This version was a little different: sweet dough served open with a savoury pork and vegetable filling. Some may find sweet and salty an odd combination but I always like a mix up with my tastes.

If you have been wondering what my header image was, this was perhaps the most left field of the nights dishes: Stuffed Pork Intestines in Salt and Chilli. Now this might sound like a nightmare to some but that’s what most sausages (well good ones) were made from for centuries.  I mean, black pudding and faggots are a Midlands staples so we can’t say much on that front! These were stunning, not dissimilar to pork belly in texture and taste, with a slightly more offal-like note to them.  These were nice and had a spicy topping of finely chopped chilli.

img_20170118_193448

The final savoury dish of the night was X.O. Lap Cheong Fried Rice. Colloquially known as ‘Chinese Sausage’, this covers a wide range of cured meats. This version was a dried hard sausage with a rich taste, which was laced throughout the fried rice with the usual peas. I do love Chinese Sausage so these was perfect for my taste.

We also had some desserts to round off; some traditional, some not so traditional. Originally Chung Ying Central didn’t serve desserts on opening but the clamour about the lack of pudding put change to that tactic pretty sharpish.

Covering the brownie side, these were supplied to Chung Ying Central from Mrs Mills Makes Cakes. Having met them at a food event, James and Will were impressed enough to have them start regularly supplying the restuarant. Good call I think! The Salted Caramel Brownie was my fave of the two but the Triple Chocolate Brownie was no slouch either.

On the more traditional side of the desserts was the Steamed Caramel Bun and Pan Fried Water Chestnut Paste. Again, I’m no stranger to a good custard bun, made with sugar and rich egg yolk to give that golden colour with a hint of caramel flavour. The chestnut paste was a new one on me. From the outside, its colour and shape reminded me of raw honeycomb; lmost jelly like in texture with big crunchy pieces of water chestnut (which I’d associate with a sir fry) buried inside. For a dessert, it was mild on the sweetness and quite pleasant as a palate cleanser.

This was perfect as we had one last little treat to try. I’ve previously had Canadian ice wine but Will introduced us to Changyu Golden Diamond Vidal Ice Wine. This fruity dessert wine had aromas of pear, lychee and honey. The process of icing allows a cleaner taste than usual.

And with that it was “joy geen” to Chung Ying Central until the next week but more on that soon…

img_20170118_180000

Disclaimer: For this visit, I was a guest of Chung Ying Central & East Village PR, 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.

When: 18/01/2017

Where: Chung Ying Central, 126 Colmore Row, Birmingham, B3 3AP

Who: Chung Ying Group

 

Mâcher at Miss Macaroon

Great Western Arcade is attracting a lot of food highlights to its Victorian arches. From some of the world’s best sandwiches in Anderson & Hill deli, fresh sushi in Sushi Passion, great coffee with York’s Espresso Bar, award winning Loki Wine, vegetarian speciality restuarant 1847 and soon to be opening The Charter Rooms (Langley’s Gin‘s cocktail bar), it’s turning into a foodie destination rather than just a walkway.

 

Newest member to the throng is Miss Macaroon and Wifey and I were lucky enough to be invited to their launch night. Founded by former Purnell’s Patisserie chef Rosie Ginday, this is a business with a heart, as well as a sweet-tooth.

 

img20161028171317

 

Created not just to sell sweet treats combined with prosecco, it’s also a social enterprise. They provide employment and training programmes aimed at youngsters, who may have slipped through the education system, are care leavers or find themselves homeless, through every macaroon sold in the shop or their online store with even customisable options available.

 

 

Whilst Rosie talked to us about Miss Macaroon’s mission to make the world a better and sweeter place, we munched on some of the delicious treats, with Salted Caramel, vanilla and dark chocolate. Light yet packed full of flavour, they were delicious and went well with a glass of prosecco.

 

We also had chance to have a go at decorating our own with edible cold paint and some very delicate painting brushes. I had a go at the Twitter bird but failed, whilst Wifey did better with her geometric pattern.

 

We also had an opportunity to create our own recipe and whilst I was waiting, I grabbed a few snaps of possibly the world’s most colourful counter. The decor in such a bijou shop was artfully done, with a beautiful window display.

It was then my turn to lend a hand with my creation, and choosing my ganache from the spinning record desk display!

img20161028174103

I went for:

  • Chocolate Shell
  • Tiramisu Ganache
  • Smoked Sugar
  • Poire William Syrup

img20161028174728

I named it  Café Gourmand in honour of the French combination of mini desserts and coffee, to match the chocolate and tiramisu combination.

Whilst Wifey went for:

  • Matcha Green Tea Shell
  • Dark Chocolate and Passionfruit Ganache
  • Smoked Sugar
  • Mango Syrup

img20161028174336

For her fruity  combination, it was Matcha Made in Heaven.

It’s  great to see something different from the normal cafe or bar. The Miss Macaroon shop currently seats eight customers inside, and a further six alfresco are to be added in spring next year.

img20161028174234

To keep those customers occupied, 30 different flavours of macaroons, all freshly hand piped, baked and hand filled at its dedicated kitchen in Hockley will be available. On the beverage side, Prosecco, carefully matched to the sweetness of the macaroons by Connolly’s Wines, is available, along with hot chocolate by Valrhona and ‘Aurelio’ golden artisan beer by Two Fingers Brewing Co, who direct their profits to Prostate Cancer UK.

With a world first ‘personalised’ option, where customers can have logos, words or even their face printed on their macaroons in under one hour, they even can do a pantone colour matching service. It’s great to see Birmingham being their first location and I look forward to many more with their aim of 100 stores  by 2021.

Disclaimer: For this evening, I was a guest of Miss Macaroon, 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.

 

When: 28/10/2016

Where: Miss Macaroon,  Great Western Arcade, Colmore Row, Birmingham. B2 5HU

Who: Miss Macaroon

 

 

 

 

 

Choc-A-Block at Colmore Food Festival

Has it really been a year since the last food festival? Time flies fast in the second city!

The Colmore Food Festival is one of the highlights of Wifey and I’s year. Bringing the cream of the Colmore BID‘s bars, restaurants and cafes in a showcase over two days.

You can read last years posts here and here.

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!

DSCF4759

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.

DSCF4783

This was a Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri Slushie, deliciously sweet and boozy.

That about wraps it up for Friday evening.

After compèring the hour of radio that is The Geeky Brummie Show on BrumRadio.com,it was time for visit number 3 for lunch and maybe some more alcohol!

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!

When:08/07/2016 – 09/07/2016

Where: Victoria Square, Birmingham City Centre

Who: Colmore Business DistrictPurnell’s Bistro / Ginger’s BarOpus @ Cornwall StreetJojolapaPurnell’sThe Jekyll & Hyde,  Jake’s Coffee Box & Bar Opus at One Snowhill

 

Magno Opus Nocte -Friday Nights as Opus – Cornwall Street

I’ve been to Bar Opus and Cafe Opus on a multitude of occasions but this was my first ever visit to the big brother, Opus itself, a stalwart of the Birmingham food scene for over a decade. Ran by Ann Tonks, Irene Allan, with exec chef Ben Ternent conducting the kitchen.

DSCF4340

I was actually surprised how spacious the restaurant was. Looking from the road, it seems a nice cosy space but the restaurant continues like a Narnian wardrobe taking you further back.  Proceeding by the wine wall, bar area and private dining rooms and into the kitchen sits the wonderful chef’s table.

 

To highlight their focus on sustainability and fresh seasonal and, most importantly British cuisine, they have launched a special Friday evening menu over spring and summer.

From 6pm each Friday evening, a special market inspired menu is available for £25 p.p. including home baked bread, a starter and main or main and dessert and a half bottle of house red or rose.

Prior to our taster of the menu, we had a talk from Ben about how Opus plans their menu, sourcing the best suppliers (Aubrey Allen for example) and making sure their food is sustainable, as locally sourced as practical, and seasonal. Opus is very proud of their 3 star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association and is Birmingham’s most sustainable restaurant.

The kitchen was surprisingly quiet, for those of us who’ve watched films like “Burnt” and “Chef”, expecting much shouting and banging. Instead, the kitchen exudes serenity and calm with a feeling things were very much under control. Our visit over, we sat down and sampled some of the amazing homemade bread and I plumped for a glass of red:

 

Onto the menu:

DSCF4346

I chose to try a starter and main. For starters, the goats cheese, tomato and radish salad:

DSCF4357

The dish represented spring on a plate. The goats cheese provided a good hit of cheesy richness and the salad (with edible flowers) was wonderful and light, awakening the tastebuds with zing and bite.

Next door David Massey of#Brumhour / Dave the Buffet Slayer was chowing down on the tomato soup. From the sounds of it, the tomato soup was equally as impressive as the salad.

For the main, I picked was the Suffolk Pork Cutlet:

DSCF4365

The pork cutlet was cooked to perfection, and it was nice to see a cutlet rather than a fillet. The mustard mash was equally as nice, providing a nice heat to the creamy mash. The other mains were equally as impressive.

Finally was the dessert, which I looked on with small envy as I was already stuffed!

DSCF4369

The winner of the desserts was the peanut and caramel delice. It was beautifully presented, and I heard many groans of enjoyment from those who had chosen to go for the pudding end of the spectrum.

For those looking for a great meal and to relax after a busy week in the office, I couldn’t think of a better place to enjoy a bit of British excellence in a varied and reasonable menu.  They’ve also got some fun events coming up too!

 

Disclaimer: For this event, I was a guest of Opus and Clive Reeves PR who provided all food and drinks; 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.

 

When: 13/05/2016

Where: Opus at Cornwall Street, 54 Cornwall Street, Birmingham, B3 2DE

Who:  Opus at Cornwall Street, Opus Group

 

Magnum Meat – Andy Low & Slow takeover at Bar Opus

After a hard week at work, my craving for sustenance meant a Friday afternoon trip out. The Opus Group (previously reviewed, as part of my CBD article), have let a local food favourite, Andy Low ‘n’ Slow take over the kitchen at Bar Opus at One Snowhill (tucked behind Doddle) on Fridays.

Great food in a nice bar, less than 5 mins from the office? Sounds good to me!

Continue reading “Magnum Meat – Andy Low & Slow takeover at Bar Opus”