Spice and all things nice at Umami

Where did July go? Firstly, apologies I’ve not blogged very much the past few weeks. Work life and the radio station have been busier than expected but we’re now back to regular service!


It’s hard to believe Umami has been open in Harborne for (over) a year now. Providing stylish Indian cuisine to the leafy suburb of Harborne, it was set up with a mission to provide authentic, home style cuisine with a touch of class.

Located just off the main high street and opposite the leisure centre, it certainly has an impressive exterior with seating outside to catch a few rays of sun (when available in the UK!).


After taking a seat inside in the nicely styled modern entrance, Wifey and I had a flick through the new menu:

I’m a sucker for typefaces (the geeky side of me coming out!) and the new menu itself was on nice thick glossy stock, with striking photography.

Before heading in for main courses, Wifey and I picked up a couple of non-alcoholic fruit punches and a nibble on a few canapés:

The canapés certainly got our mouths watering. Of particular mention was the spicy and sweet Chatpatta Chilli Prawn. The vegetable samosa was crisp dry, not oily, with a bit of heat offset by a drizzle of raita.

Now into the main part of the restaurant. The decor continues to be modern and striking, complimenting their focus on modern authentic Indian cuisine.

One nice touch was their ‘At Home‘ meal box, adding an extra touch of class to the traditional takeaway by giving a robust container to carry your dishes in rather than the usual plastic carrier or brown paper bag.

Onto the the dishes themselves. We were given a sample of  5 dishes and 2 sides to try from their new menu:

This dishes:

  • Khadhaigoshtkhadda Masala – A Welsh lamb based wok dish  flavoured with coriander and cumin. This had a really nice rich tomato base with a spicy tail, the lamb was well cooked and melted in the mouth, and my fave of the dishes.
  • Chooza Makhani – the classic, famous, butter chicken. Umami’s version being made with pulled chargrilled chicken, and was a lovely example giving a delicious unctuous mouthfeel.
  • Alleppey Fish curry – A a specialty coastal dish from the district of Alleppey in Kerala, made from fish simmered in coconut milk and raw mango. This was Wifey’s fave with rich ‘meaty’ fish chunks which wasn’t swamped by spices, allowing the flavour of the meat to come through.
  • Aloo Palak – Instead of the usual Bombay potatoes, these were Jersey Royals cooked with a green spinach and mustard leaf puree and a tadka of garlic and ginger. The buttery potatoes gave a different aspect to the dish, with the mustard leaves bringing the heat.
  • Dal Taskabajrangi – A yellow lentil dal with cumin, garlic and deggi mirch. This was pleasant and smooth, but could have probably done with a touch more spice for our tastes.

The sides were Naan and Chicken Pulao Rice:

  • This disappeared quickly, light, crispy and very moreish, Wifey was a particularly enamoured.
  • The Chicken Pulao rice had large chunky chicken pieces, though was heavy on the cinnamon for me. Wifey would have preferred slightly smaller pieces to compliment the delicate rice.

All in all, it was a great first visit for us and we’ll definitely return again soon to try more dishes from the new menu.

Disclaimer: For this event, Wifey and I were guests of Umami 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: 22/06/2016

Where: Umami, 25 Lordswood Road, Harborne, Birmingham B17 1RP

Who:  Umami







Feeding Time at Foodies Festival

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!

When: 05/06/2016

Where: Foodies Festival, Cannon Hill Park, Edgbaston / Moseley,  Birmingham, B13 8RD

Who:  Foodies Festival,




A Round of Art – Portraits Untold at BMAG

BMAG (Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery) is one of my favourite gems of the city.  An extraordinary place for art with some stunning pieces, and plenty to do for all the family. Next Saturday (16th July) will be a little extra special as the Portraits Untold project visits the Round Gallery.

antiquities5Portraits Untold sees acclaimed award-winning disabled artist, Tanya Raabe-Webber, undertake four live portrait sittings with high profile sitters. The idea is that the sitting will fuse digital, traditional drawing and painting techniques in an interactive live environment, inviting audiences to take part in person and online.


At BMAG, Tanya will be painting John Akomfrah, a hugely respected artist and filmmaker, whose works investigate memory, postcolonialism and the African diaspora in Europe and the USA.


The sitting will take place in front of a live audience, who are encouraged to draw their own portraits of the sitter through traditional drawing and the use of digital drawing apps.

Drawing materials will be provided and audience members with mobile devices are encouraged to download free drawing apps before coming to the event.


The event, which will also be streamed live online, has been devised to reach new audiences through a variety of platforms to make art more accessible. Audiences, both live and watching online, will be able to send their digital and digitized drawings through to the artist on the day through social media.

Throughout the sitting, Tanya will fuse digital and traditional drawings, and versions of the audience’s drawings with her own to create a multi-layered portrait. The sitting will also involve a series of discussions about the lives of the two artists and their thoughts on diversity, which audiences will be able to take part in.


Portraits Untold will take place in the Round Gallery at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery across three two-hour sittings.

For more information, visit www.portraitsuntold.co.uk, like Portraits Untold on Facebook at www.facebook.com/portraitsuntold and follow @PortraitsUntold on Twitter.



Tanya Raabe otherwise known as Tanya Raabe-Webber, was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, has been a practising Visual Artist, devising artworks exploring and challenging identity, a disabled self and the nude in contemporary Art since 1987. She gained a BA(HONS) in Graphic Design at Leeds Polytechnic, an MA in Communication Design at Manchester Metropolitan University and a PGCE in Higher Education from Huddersfield University. Tanya has exhibited as a solo artist and in group shows nationally including screening Who’s Who at National Portrait Gallery, Exhibitions at Holton Lee, Dorset, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, The Bluecoat, The A Foundation, Liverpool, Oriel Wrexham, Laing Gallery Newcastle since 1990.

John Akomfrah is a hugely respected artist and filmmaker, whose works are characterised by their investigations into memory, postcolonialism, temporality and aesthetics and often explore the experience of the African diaspora in Europe and the USA. Akomfrah was a founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective, which started in London in 1982 alongside the artists David Lawson and Lina Gopaul, who he still collaborates with today.

Creating a buzz about saving bees – Opus leads the hive on saving Birmingham’s bees

If you’re aware about food sustainability in Birmingham, you’ll be aware of Opus @ Cornwall Street, Birmingham’s most sustainable restuarant and winner of won the ‘Best Greener & Healthier Lifestyles Scheme’ Award at  Birmingham City Council’s ‘Making Birmingham Greener & Healthier Awards’.

On 15th July they’ll be hosting a free ticketed evening to highlight sustainability in Birmingham.

Opus at Cornwall Street will be bringing together some of The Midland’s leading bee specialists as part of its ‘Opus In Conversation’ series – a collection of talks discussing matters important to the city –  to debate how the demise of these small but mighty insects would have a detrimental effect on the economy, environment and diet, and what can be done to save them.


Since the 1900’s, the UK has lost 20 species of bees with a further 35 currently considered under threat of extinction. Without these intriguing insects, it is estimated that a third of our diet would be lost due to the catastrophic effect it would have on crops and would cost UK farmers £1.8 billion a year to pollinate their produce without them.

While environmental factors, such as heavy rainfall during summer, has affected the number of bees, other factors such as a shortage of hives available in urban areas, lack of education on how to look after them, and farmers using neonicotinoids – a bee-killing pesticide – have all played a part.

Opus at Cornwall Street – a restaurant that was recently awarded the highest possible rating of ‘Three Star Sustainability Champion’ by the Sustainable Restaurant Association – will be hosting an informative and inspiring conversation discussing what can be done to save these crucial creatures.

On the panel is Sharif Kahn, President of Birmingham & District Beekeepers Association (B&DBKA), Professor Keith Walters, specialist in invertebrates and researcher into neonicotinoids at Harper Adams University and Simon Needle, Ecologist, Woodland and Conservation Manager at Birmingham City Council. They will be giving their top tips on how to better our gardens, streets and cities to stop bee numbers declining.

Ann Tonks, director of Opus at Cornwall Street, said: “Bees are in serious danger at the moment and yet, we don’t feel enough people are aware of how quickly their numbers are declining. That’s why we’ve taken action and dedicated an ‘Opus In Conversation’ to them, to get the people of Birmingham talking and acting to save our bees.

“Bees play a fundamental part in our society. They are a key pollinator to a lot of the delicious produce we like to serve in our restaurant. In fact, every dish in our restaurant relies on bees, from tomato to thyme, and without them, our diet would change drastically. We’re thrilled to have gathered some of the region’s most knowledgeable professionals and can’t wait to hear their thoughts and advice.”

Sharif Khan, President of B&DBKA, added: “I originally became a beekeeper as a hobby, however, 10 years and 30 hives later, beekeeping has become much more than just a casual pastime. I find everything about bees fascinating – from understanding how a colony progresses over the season and working with them to ensure they are strong and healthy – they are such intelligent insects.

“It’s really disheartening to hear that some species of UK bees run the risk of extinction. As a community, I fully believe we can take action and stop this from happening. I look forward to discussing with people at Opus’ event how simple changes in the garden can have a big, positive impact for bees, while still keeping keeping it an enjoyable, safe space for the whole family.”

The ‘Opus In Conversation: Bees In The City’ debate at Opus at Cornwall Street is a free ticketed event and will take place on Friday 15th July from 5.30pm. Audience members are encouraged to field questions to the panel before the discussion. For tickets, call 0121 200 2323.

Top 10 bee facts:

  1. Although the most popular species of bees in the UK are the bumblebee and honeybee, there are actually over 260 species of bees living on our isle.

  2. Only 10% of bee eggs are male.

  3. Most normal honeybees live for 40 days whereas the Queen Bee can live up to five years.

  4. At the height of summer, an average of 35,000 bees live in a single hive.

  5. Honeybees are speedier than they look. They fly at around 16mph and beat their wings 200 times per second.

  6. The Queen Bee lays approximately 2,500 eggs a day in summer.

  7. Bees talk to each other through dance. To share information about the best food sources, they perform their ‘waggle dance’.

  8. One bee will only make 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its entire life.

  9. Beekeepers only take the honey that bees do not need but this can be as much as 45kg from one hive.

  10. There are currently 110 beekeepers in Birmingham with an age range of 12-92. Anyone can become a beekeeper through a course held by  the B&DBKA.

You can find more information about the B&DBKA. at http://birminghambeekeepers.com/

Deep South to Westside – The SmokeHaus comes to Brum

In a former Chinese restaurant at Brindleyplace, a little slice of Americana (with a touch of the valleys) has been born in the shape of The Smoke Haus.


Opening their first restaurant in Swansea in 2012 and expanding to Cardiff in 2014, this is their third restaurant bringing the taste of Kentucky and Louisiana to us Brummies. They have turned the place into a cosily boothed diner with graffiti and celeb splashed walls


Onto the food, this was launch night so we went wild! The style of The Smoke Haus is big flavour and big portions, so I recommend a hearty appetite to keep up with the food!


Choosing a HUGE sharing portion of nachos topped off with chilli to begin, this thing was a beast. A mini bathtub full of tortilla chips with sour cream, guacamole and topped off with a generous serving of chilli and cheese.

Just because it was large didn’t mean it wasn’t flavourful. The chilli was rich and smoky, the cheese had a little bit of a kick and the guac was deliciously creamy.

Moving onto the mains….


I went for something a little different: chicken and waffles partnered with ranch dressing and sweet sauce. This soul food dish isn’t seen much outside of the Southern US. Fried chicken with sweet waffles is usually a breakfast dish though to me, it’s a dish I’m happy to have at any time.

The chicken was crispy, the spicy batter just right for the Kentucky taste whilst two hefty sweet buttery waffles gave a completely different aspect to the usual fries.  The ranch and sweet sauces helped everything go down smoothly.


This night’s dining partner went for the New Orleans Burger with Swiss cheese, slow cooked brisket, ‘dirty sauce’ and fresh pickles, swapping out his skin on fries for slaw. The feedback, I could gather between mouthfuls, was mainly of the nom-nom-nom variety and he seemed very satisfied!

We couldn’t neglect the sides, however…


To accompany our mains, we chose a few sides:

  • Sweet Potato Fries – these were a separate portion for moi. Hot, crispy and well seasoned, always nice.
  • Cheesy Chilli Fries – we couldn’t resist trying these, similar to the nachos above but swapping out one carb for another.
  • Smoked BBQ Beans – these were a highlight for me. Rich and smoky, similar to the cowboy’s favourite rather than a pot of Heinz’s usual. I’d heartly recommend these to anyone!

We did look at the dessert menu but with shirt buttons straining and waistbands tightening, it’ll be a revisit before trialling them!


Disclaimer: For this event, I was a guest of The Smoke Haus who provided all food; 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: 02/06/2016

Where: The Smoke Haus, Brindleyplace, The Water’s Edge, Birmingham, B1 2HL

Who:  The Smoke Haus