#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.

 

When: 12/09/18 and 17/09/18

Where:  Orientee Artisan Bakery & Cafe, 57, 58 Dale End, Birmingham, B4 7LS

Who: Orientee Artisan Bakery, Philip Ellis, #BrumHour

Disclaimer: For the 12 sept visit, viv & phil attended the soft launch and orientee provided who provided all food and drink. for the 17 sept visit with #brumhour, all food & drink was paid for. 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

 

 

Review: #WifeyWrites – A lot of CocknBull in Stourbridge

You know it’s big news when Stourbridge gets its first dirty burger eatery.

I grew up in Stourbridge, my parents owned Mayson Chinese Restaurant for the best part of 25 years so I was raised in the catering & service industry. I started working at the restaurant when I was 16, like my older brothers before me, and it taught us all a lot about the industry.

Back then, the nearest Stourbridge had to quality burgers was McDonalds. Today, the High Street is full of chain coffee places, Pizza Express, Wetherspoons and the odd independent eatery smattered between.

Which brings us onto the Cock’n’Bull. This is their first eatery, with the  second due to be in Glasgow. When I found out they were opening in Stourbridge only a few months ago, I thought I would check out the place.  My parents still live near Stourbridge and as I was having a catch up with my college friend Sarah, it gave me the perfect excuse!

We turned up early evening Friday and it was already packed. We hadn’t booked ahead but were told there would be a short wait and if we wanted to get a drink at the bar, they would let us know when a table was available. No sooner had we ordered our drinks and perused the menu, printed on butcher paper, a table was available.

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There’s a good choice of sharers and mains, it was almost too much.  The foodie in me just wanted to order a bit of everything but knowing how it was likely to turnout out (i.e. significant left over food!), we went for burgers with a couple of sides to share.

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My choice was the Cheese & Bacon Filthy Burger, which consisted of 2 free range Herefordshire Beef patties with Monterey Jack cheese and streaky bacon housed in a brioche bun. The burger was cooked perfect for me, with the saltiness of the bacon counterbalancing the sweetness of the brioche. I don’t often finish burgers but I managed to wolf this down well, which is a good sign that I really liked it!

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Sarah went for the Cockadoodle burger, free range buttermilk chicken coated & seasoned in their own recipe crumb with mayo and lettuce. Classic & simple, the coating was crispy, light and slightly salty.  She found the brioche bun quite filling, much preferring the chicken itself.

We skipped the fries, something I don’t normally do,  and went for sides of onion rings and Asian slaw.  The onion rings were done in tempura & black sesame seed batter, which was light if slightly greasy.  The Asian slaw was quite heavy on the red onion but tasty nonetheless.

For me, this is good news for Stourbridge, to get a new and different experience.  I found the staff friendly and attentive.  The next visit will most probably be with Ryan, as he’s already had a mooch at the menu and wants to try all of it.

 

When: 24/11/2017

Where:  Cock’n’Bull, 109 High Street, Stourbridge DY8 1EE

Who: Cock’n’Bull

 

News: Bitters n’ Twisted Venues Support Acorns Hospice with #AcornsFriday

 

I’ve been to a few of Bitters’n’Twisted‘s venues, and I’m happy to tell you about their wonderful partnership with Acorns Childrens Hospice from Friday…

Acorns Friday santas

November 24th aka “Black Friday”, the day the internet and shopping centres go wild for pre-Christmas bargains.  Bitters ‘n Twisted wanted to do something a little different to crazy sales and mad purchasing and offer something back to our nominated charity, Acorn’s Children’s Hospice.

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Bitters ‘n Twisted Venues (Island Bar, The Victoria, The Jekyll & Hyde, Bodega (Birmingham, Worcester, Leicester and Derby), The Rose Villa Tavern, Marmalade and Buffalo & Rye will be donating £1 to Acorn’s for each cup of warm Winter Cider sold on Friday 24th November, renamed #AcornsFriday

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What’s more, from 1st Dec – 31st Dec for each cup of Brother’s Winter Cider sold in any of the venues, Bitters ‘n Twisted will donate 50p to Acorn’s – resulting in a big cheque being given to the charity in January.

 

NOTE: This is not a sponsored post or endorsement, just news of something happening in the food scene in and around Birmingham you might want to know about.

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.

 

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.

 

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.

Experience: Adil’s – Balti Triangle with Travelodge

Curry is a funny thing for us Brummies. We like to think we know a thing or two about one of the world’s most favourite dishes, and even have our own style to differentiate from other curry hot spots with the Balti.

I mean, we love a “Birmingham Balti” so much the Birmingham Balti Association (BBA) tried to protect the term back in 2015.

Travelodge, asked me to find out more about this culinary classic on their behalf, so Wifey and I left the city centre and travelled the short distance to the heart of the Balti Triangle.

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And where else could we go but the place which claims to have invented the dish. Adil’s say they brought the dish to the UK, opening on Stoney Lane in 1977 and, after a brief spell on Ladypool Road, is back at home in the epicentre of the Balti Triangle fully refurbished and sticking with their blend of fresh Kashmiri cuisine and Balti’s abound.

The interior is light (much lighter than the pictures show above!). We popped in just after opening on Sunday and they were already busy with takeaway drivers flying in and out.

Prior to having a thorough read of the menu, we were supplied with poppadoms and a rainbow of sauces, Mint Yoghurt (white sauce, sweet, cooling), Chilli Chutney (orange sauce, mild, tomato tang, sweet), Coriander & Green Chilli Sauce (the verdant green one, our favourite, sweet and tangy with a spicy after-kick) and their Hot Sauce (well balanced on spice and delicious).

To balance out those hot sauces, we had some Mango Lassi. One of the most popular drinks on the sub continent of India and a blend of yoghurt and milk with fruit, if requested. The other choices were Strawberry, Sweet and Salty. Ours was icy cold, thick and not overly sweet; the perfect partner for spicy food.

The menu (available here) is comprehensive with a wide variety of starters, rice and naans, and even the choice to make your own Balti from a selection of 10 meats or vegetables, 10 sauces and 14 extras giving a mind-boggling 1400 combinations!

For starters, we couldn’t choose so we plumped for the Meat Platter with pretty much all of them on. Lamb Seikh Kebab, Chicken Seikh, Chicken Tikka, Lamb Tikka & Chicken Wings were all served on a sizzling platter with onions.

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The platter was much bigger than expected and would be enough for three persons rather than just the two of us!

  • Lamb Sheikh – A good and chunky lamb mince laced through with coriander and gave a solid umami taste
  • Chicken Sheikh – Something a little different for Wifey and I, who stick to the traditional lamb version, this was a nice suprise. It had little flecks of chilli running through, adding a nice spice without overwhelming the mouth.
  • Chicken Wings – These slid right off the bone whilst being crispy on the outside, seemingly by using wizardry.
  • Lamb Tikka  – These were thickly coated in a Tikka coating, a good and chunky size.
  • Chicken Tikka – My favourite starter, soft, beautiful, sweet and smoky and an aroma to intoxicate the nose.

It was a hearty portion, plenty enough to share and available for 2 or 4 depending on hunger levels.

After a short rest, it was onto our mains. We decided to go with Chef Specials rather than picking our own, to see what the creative minds in the kitchen get up to.

I chose Balti Tikka E Khaas (combination of Chicken Tikka, Lamb Tikka, Chicken Kebab, mince & peppers cooked in a Balti sauce) mainly as it had more of that wondrous Chicken Tikka in it.  Wifey chose the Balti Makhan Chicken (diced pieces of Chicken breast cooked with butter, methi & almond powder) as she’s not a fan of anything spicier than a paprika crisp!

For sides we chose Pilau Rice and a Medium Naan, listed on the menu as suitable for 2-3 persons.

Before we get onto the mains, that MEDIUM Naan, which took up the length of the table. They have an even bigger Table Naan option, which I can only imagine is dragged in on a heard of oxen or can be used as a makeshift sled! The naan itself was delicious and made with a stronger flour than I usually experience, giving it a slightly salty edge. The pilau rice was neon yellow in colour and well cooked, not a sticky grain in sight.

My Balti Tikka E Khaas was in a thicker Balti sauce than normal, having been laced with a rich spicy meat. The chunky bell peppers added depth and colour, and the big pieces of meat each added their own character to the dish. Wifey’s Balti Makhan Chicken, was reported back as rich and tender to the point of melting in her mouth with a rich, but light, creamy sauce.

There was so much food we couldn’t actually finish it, and the remainders came home with us nicely packaged in takeaway boxes. Dessert menus were offered but politely declined to ensure buttons didn’t fly across the room.

It won’t be our last visit to the new look Adil’s and we’re already planning who to take along next time.

 

If you’re planning a trip the Balti Triangle and Adil’s there’s at least three Travelodge options nearby.

Birmingham Central Bullring (2.3 mi)

Birmingham Yardley (3.5 mi)

Birmingham Maypole (4.1 mi)

It’s well served by public transport with the 3 bus and  34 bus  stopping right outside, and the inner circle (8 bus) a few minutes walk away. There’s also handy off street parking nearby if you’re driving too!

When: 10/09/2017

Where:  Adil’s148-150 Stoney Lane, Birmingham B12 8AJ

Who:  Adil’s, Travelodge

Disclaimer: For this visit, Travelodge paid for my meal but all views remain my own or Wifey’s. The restaurant manager didn’t know why Wifey and I had cameras in hand and asked us on the way out if we were there for a certain review website.

This blog is my own personal opinion and strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.

Experience: Thực đơn for Miss Saigon at Birmingham Hippodrome with Brum Bloggers

My knowledge of the Vietnam War and Vietnam in general is limited to a few war movies and an episode of Top Gear. So when I was invited by Brum Bloggers and the Hippodrome to fill in this shocking lack of knowledge on my part, how could I say no…

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Based around Puccini’s Madam Butterfly, this takes the frame of the story and moves it into Saigon, Vietnam at the end of the war. It focuses on the relationship between a bar girl, supplanted from her village life into the chaos of war era Saigon, and an American GI who falls madly in love with her; their threads weave throughout the late 1970’s to take in Atlanta, USA and Bangkok, Thailand.

Since its London premiere in 1989, Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s legendary musical Miss Saigon has become one of the most successful musicals in history.

To celebrate the tour, The Hippodrome’s Circle Restaurant has launched a special summer menu to compliment the production, which we were here to taste, along with a viewing of the musical itself.

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We went in through the Thorp Street entrance which is a bit of a gem, hosting the Dance Exchange and a range of private venue spaces available to hire, for some pre-show nibbles and cocktails.

The cocktail we tried was a Sun & Moon, Archers peach liqueur and orange juice, which was fruity and summery, setting the tone for the rest of the menu. The nibbles, included pea and mint soup, and goats cheese bruschetta. It certainly got our appetite going for our visit to the Circle Restaurant  for Acts I & II of the menu.

 

The Circle Restaurant is open usually 2 hours prior to each performance (matinees & evenings) and the menu is designed around each performance to take advantage of seasonal produce and to match the theme of each production. A boon for us bloggers, it has floor to ceiling windows overlooking the main entrance, giving wonderful light for photographs too! They’ll also hold your table for the interval so you can return for drinks or dessert without stress.

As we wouldn’t be able to get through all of the menu in full size portions, we were given tasters to ensure we could experience the full range on what’s on offer. For Act I, we were given an immaculately presented slate of starters to sample

 

Act I

White bean soup with basil pesto (V) – A good creamy delicate flavour from the white bean, giving a velvety mouth feel, this was counterbalanced by the punch of the pesto with its powerful basil lifting the savoury taste.

Vietnamese prawn summer rolls with sweet chilli sauce – The less well known cousin to the ubiquitous spring roll wrapped in rice paper rather than pastry. This gives it a much fresher edge than it’s deep fried cousin, with sweet chilli adding a touch of verve.

Salt beef croquette with salad of mooli, shallots and capers – My favourite from the start selection. Salt Beef is a delicious thing and its savoury texture matched well with the crispy coating. The mooli and shallots added a fresh edge but I still have my irrational hatred of capers, so they went unloved to the corner of the plate.

Goat’s cheese mousse with marinated tomatoes and walnut toast – Mousse was the perfect description; it was so light and airy, and made me think of a savoury take on a Mr Whippy. The marinated tomatoes were a solid accompaniment giving acidity and the walnut bread adding crisp.

 

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To partner all this wonderful food, I had a Marques De Morano Rioja Tinto, which was lighter than expected, and went perfectly with the tapas style light bites.

With that, it was onto Act II.

Act II

Chilli & coriander crusted pork tenderloin with soy & sesame braised savoy cabbage – The pork was well cooked and the coriander crust gave it an extra dimension from normal. The cabbage was divine, its soy and sesame braising really giving it some punch and this is something I’m going to be stealing for my own cabbage in future!

Pan-seared fillet of coley with rice noodle, samphire, ginger and spring onion broth – It’s great to see a sustainable fish getting some limelight on the menu. Wifey and I often have coley from the supermarket as an alternative to salmon, and it’s a solid substitute for cod or haddock. With a gentle pan searing, the fillet had kept most of its character and flaked wonderfully into the broth. The broth itself was good with samphire, salt and ginger and spring onion adding heat. I liked the rice noodles but maybe a vermicelli style rather than the Udon ones present would’ve suited the dish, as they were hard to fish out of the pan (nudge-wink). I expect this is not an issue on the full sized version however.

Honey-brushed confit of duck leg with celeriac purée, bok choi and star anise jus – Confit is a word that brings joy into the heart of any glutton and this is no exception. Duck leg is a meat that takes well to a confit with the rich unctuous fatty deliciousness, given a touch of sweetness with the honey. The celariac puree was a delight and I’m no stranger to a bit of bok choi, providing crunch and a touch of bitter to take away the sweetness of the meat.

Yellow curry lentil scotch egg with asparagus & new potato salad (V) – This took the majority of us by suprise! I thought the lentils were going to be replacing the breadcrumb (me not noticing the little (v)), but they fully en-robed the egg, giving a really nice variation on the traditional scotch egg. The curry spices gave an almost fizzle on the tongue.

Miss Saigon – Part 1

Post munching, it was time for us to take our seats for the first act of Miss Saigon.  I’m not going to spoil it too much if you haven’t seen it but you’re suckered in by the first minute. The whole performance is song based with little to no dialogue between each transition. However, it’s performed with such verve and gusto amongst incredible staging and set pieces, you’re instantly struck dumb with your eyes greedily trying to absorb each detail.

The leads Sooha Kim (Kim) and Ashley Gilmour (Chris) gave incredible performances. My heart was won by Red Concepcion (The Engineer) providing humour amongst the drama, bouncing around the stage and eliciting cackles from the audience. The supporting cast (Ryan O’Gorman as John, Gerald Santos as Thuy and Na-Young Jeon as Gigi) were great with beautiful voices. The ensemble were amazing, every number was pulled off with panache and an energy.

We start in DreamlandThe Engineer’s  bar in Saigon and a popular hotspot for American soldiers looking for a good time and escape the horrors of war. It’s here GI Chris first meets barlady Kim and we get to see the blossoming of their relationship in contrast to the Us soldiers losing their grasp on the country. We see the repercussions of the USA’s involvement and the finale leads to The Engineer and Kim escaping Vietnam to Bangkok to try and reach America for a new life and a reconciliation with Chris.

After a shocking finale to the first act, it was time for interval and for us bloggers a visit to the Gowling Suite, one of the  private hire facilities available on site, for a quick run around the dessert menu.

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Curtain Call 

Green tea panna cotta with sesame tuille – The green tea panna cotta was nice, with matcha green tea giving a savoury sweet balance.

Bitter chocolate tart with lychee, strawberry & mint compote – I’m a chocolate fiend so a bitter chocolate tart was always going to be a winner.  A solid, sticky bitter and sweet tart, lovely with the strawberry and mint compote cutting through with an element of sharpness.

Poached peach & pistachio cake with raspberries and vanilla set custard – Pistachio is something I usually come across as an ice cream flavour, so it was nice to see something a little different. The cake had a gorgeous soft texture and the nutty pistachios went well with the sweet peach.

It was time to run back upstairs and reach the amazing finale.

Miss Saigon – Part 2

Again, another great opening piece to the second act which moves us from Saigon to Atlanta with Chris and John struggling to deal with post war life, their PTSD and John’s work with Bui Doi, the neglected street children left behind by GI fathers and Vietnamese mothers. We’re also introduced to Zoë Doano as EllenChris’s new wife who has helped him to get over his post war trauma. Over the other side of the world in Bangkok, we see The Engineer and Kim’s new life echoing Dreamland in the first act, and their desperation in trying to reach America. By chance, they get in contact with John’s organisation which leads to a trip to Bangkok with John, Chris and Ellen. The tumultuous final scene leads to an end which will tug at the heart strings.

A special mention must be made to the set dressings.  They are, in a word, stunning with an amazingly quick turn around between pieces.

If you’ve not seen Miss Saigon before, or if you want to relive a previous production, I can’t recommend it highly enough and it’s great to have a food option to match and make it a full evening.

Miss Saigon runs until Sat 23 September at Birmingham Hippodrome. For tickets, call Information and Sales on 0844 338 5000 or visit their website for details.

 

When: 24/08/2017

Where: Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre,  Hurst Street, Southside, Birmingham, B5 4TB

Who: Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre,

Disclaimer: For this visit, I was a guest of Birmingham Hippodrome, arranged by Brum Bloggers, 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.