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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


News: Cocktail Collaboration at The Plough – Harborne

Rob Wood is one of my favourite Brummie Cocktail Construction maestros with a passionate attention to detail and a focus on curious taste collaborations with a twist so it’s great to hear he’s working with The Plough on their new cocktail highball menu…

The Plough in Harborne has launched a cocktail list in collaboration with Robert Wood, one of the best bartenders in the UK. Taking in seven carefully curated highballs, the drinks are made fresh in-house and have been designed to take no longer to make than a spirit and mixer.

The list which will be takes in ubiquitous ingredients alongside lesser-known flavours. The Coconut & Ginger highball contains Coconut rum, Yuzu (a Japanese fruit) and root ginger beer whilst the Elderflower & Pink Grapefruit highball contains pink peppercorn.

Robert Wood, who is a former Drinks International Bartender of the Year and Cocktail Challenge ‘Supreme Champion’, said, “Everything The Plough does has a unique twist and I wanted to maintain that theme with the development of the cocktail list. It was important that we created cocktails that people would be happy to try in a pub setting and imperative that they could be served as quickly as possible without scrimping on quality or flavour. We worked closely together to develop a list that was accessible whilst pushing boundaries. The result is a selection of really great cocktails that can be made in under 30 seconds.”

James Thewlis, Development Manager at The Plough, said, “When we began considering the introduction of a cocktail list at The Plough there was only one name that sprung to mind. We knew that Robert would be able to develop a list that was innovative yet relevant to our customers. The list complements our offer perfectly; the drinks are so fast to build yet fresh and the response we’ve had so far has been fantastic.”

The list of Highballs available:

  • 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

All priced at  £7.00

Menu designed by Robert Wood @inrobwetrust

Gluten Free Menu at Henry Wong’s Harborne

Gluten free and Cantonese cuisine aren’t usually synonymous. With soy being a large component in Chinese cooking, not many dishes get away from the gluten.

img20160908185019It can be pot luck when looking for a place that can cater for a range of dietary and intolerance requirements, so it’s nice to find a restaurant with a wide choice for omnivores, vegetarians, vegans and those with an intolerance alike.

Henry Wong’s menu highlights both contemporary and classic Cantonese dishes and as the ingredients used are fresh, they can be adapted where needed.

To highlight the gluten free options available, a few fellow bloggers and I went along for a taste.

We were treated to a  variety of dishes accompanied by gluten-free wine. To begin, it was a fun twist on an old classic – Chicken & Shiitake Mushroom Yuk Sung with Pine Nuts.


The Yuk Sung came with crispy fresh lettuce and was surprisingly filling. The pine nuts and shiitake gave it a nice earthy flavour.

Next up was Soft Shelled Crab with Chilli and Garlic, Spinach with sesame seeds, and Asparagus.

The (mound!) of soft shelled crab was definitely a highlight. Sweet juicy crab meat was lightly battered, with a chilli and garlic sauce drizzled on, and was enjoyed by all around the table. The spinach and asparagus were also cooked well with a touch of al dente bite, and not overcooked and floppy.

Next was the mains consisting of Honey Pepper King Prawn, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Steamed Sea Bass with Ginger and Spring Onion, Pak Choi in a Garlic sauce, Sizzling Beef Fillet in Black Pepper Sauce, accompanied with Egg Fried Rice. 

The honey pepper king prawns were delicious. These prawns were HUGE , something you don’t see often nowadays with most restaurants.  Soft and crispy at the same time, these were dripping in a sweet and spicy honey pepper sauce.

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with sweet and sour chicken. With Chinese food, I have been spoilt by having wonderful in-laws who cook amazing home-style dishes which kind of puts me off the usual restaurant staples. This was a pleasant surprise, neither too sweet or salty, with good sized chunks of chicken.

The sizzling beef fillet in a black pepper sauce is another Chinese classic and this one was great.  The beef wasn’t dry and had a really nice umami flavour, enhanced by the black pepper.

My personal fave of the mains was the sea bass. I love a bit of meaty fish and this was done in a traditional style, relying on fresh produce with minimal intervention to get the best flavour. Simple, fresh, clean and delicious.

To finish was a trio of desserts. Strawberry Cheesecake, Alabama Fudge Cake and a Fresh Fruit Platter, specially selected for gluten free customers.

I’m always up for a cheesecake; this was nice, sweet and rich with a sweet strawberry coulis marbled through. The Alabama fudge cake was as expected: chocolatey with a rich sweet ganache.

The fruit platter was a sight to behold with a sphere of ice as its centrepiece.


I even found time to squeeze in a  Virgin Strawberry Mojito too!


Disclaimer: For this evening, I was a guest of Parm and the team at Henry Wong and Six Peg 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: 08/09/2016

Where: Henry Wong, 283 High Street, Harborne, B17 9QH

Who: Henry Wong

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







A double hitter of Taste & Liquor

Regular readers of the blog would know I’ve visited tasteandliquor‘s Food Feast-ival at The Coffin Works previously (read about it here). Whilst the last glimmers of summer were licking around, I thought it was well worth time for a revisit.


Unfortunately,Wifey wasn’t feeling great on Friday so instead I thought i’d introduce my friend a streetfood virgin, Glen (a freelance web developer), to the variety of treats available. I heard a rumour about Cubano’s (a fave of mine since watching the streetfood movie Chef) being available so it was the perfect opportunity!

The Southern Oven
The Southern Oven

However, first stop off (post beverages) was to something a little different. The Southern Oven offering southern US-style cuisine.

The Southern Oven - Menu
The Southern Oven – Menu

Po’Boys were the order of the day: a Louisiana-style sub sandwich with French bread. I opted for Shrimp and Glen opted for Roast Beef.


Mine came with a generous portion of lightly fried shrimp, with the batter giving enough crispness to counter the soft bread. The remoulade tasted like a cross between salad cream and aioli and I warmed to it quickly. Glen’s beef came in his opinion “perfectly cooked amazing beef”, the undercurrent of cajun spice and mustard running through the sandwich nicely.

With that, it was onto Cubano’s from the brand new Press de Cuba, who’ve been up and running since the end of July:

Press de Cuba
Press de Cuba

The gluten free option had gone by the time we arrived but for me, all I was interested in was the Mojo Pork Cubano.  I decided to split one with Glen as we had just finished the Po’boys.

Press de Cuba
Press de Cuba

Whilst we were waiting for the plancha to do it’s work, the staff were busy chatting away to the crowd. The smell was heavenly as the smell of pork, cheese pickle and mustard drifted over. Within a couple of minutes, a taste of Havana was handed over.

Press de Cuba Mojo Pork Cubano
Press de Cuba Mojo Pork Cubano

It was everything a man could wish for in a sandwich. Buttery, crispy, cheesy, hammy goodness. It was so good Glen went and doubled down on another for himself, whilst I went for a beverage.

Vintage Punch bar
Vintage Punch bar

New for this time around was a vintage punch bar with a varied selection of drinks to try. I went for something a little different than the usual beer and had a spiced rum.

Spiced Rum
Spiced Rum

It gave an impressive kick; the mint sugar and nutmeg gave a nice kick to the nostrils as you drank. The only thing it probably could have done with was a bit of ginger to bring the rum out to its full glory. I will certainly go back for another try next time I’m down to Fleet Street.

Drinks sorted, it was back on my culinary adventure. This time it was for wings from Scratch Cooking

Scratch Cooking Wings
Scratch Cooking Wings

I went for a mixed batch of wings evenly split with BBQ and salt & pepper.

Scratch Cooking Wing Selection
Scratch Cooking Wing Selection

The BBQ wings were a nice fruity bbq followed with a spicy after kick. The salt & pepper were as you would expect, salty and peppery, Both were nice and hot, well seasoned and tasty, Between Glen and I, they didn’t last long, and if I wasn’t so stuffed I think I’d have gone back for another portion,

We had left a little room for a sweet treat though, and it was back to Southern Oven for some pecan brownies.

The Southern Oven Pecan Brownies
The Southern Oven Pecan Brownies

The pecans really gave an extra crunch to the moist brownie, a nice sweet praline on the top gave it extra sweetness and the raspberry coulis gave an added tartness.

With that, Glen and I waved goodbye for the evening and went on a mini pub tour before heading home.


The Next Day..

Suffering a little from a small hangover the next day. I convinced Wifey hair of the dog and more street food was in order wo we popped along to Harborne for my second dose of taste and liquor at The School Yard Market.

The School Yard -  Harborne
The School Yard – Harborne

Based in a converted school (unsurprisingly), Taste and Liquor have been a regular for the past month or so and will be there each Saturday for the remainder of the summer.  Unfortunately when we first arrived a few issues had meant a delayed start but we went for a shop whilst things were prepared.

The Saturday market is a slightly different flavour to Friday nights with clothing stalls added into the mix.

DJ & Clothing Stall
DJ & Clothing Stall
Vintage Clothing!
Vintage Clothing!

Wifey had a rifle through whilst we waited for food to be prepared,

The stalls were two of the attendees from the previous evening. Scratch Cooking and Paella Paella, which was great as I didn’t get chance to try the paella the previous evening.

Scratch Cooking & Paella Paella
Scratch Cooking & Paella Paella

First off was another round of wings and I picked same selection as previously. Wifey enjoyed the BBQ until the heat came through then swapped to the salt and pepper which she liked.

The paella was still cooking so whilst we waited with a few drinks.

Strawberry Cocktals
Strawberry Cocktails

A couple of strawberry cocktails, with rum and vodka helped with the heat as the sun came out.  The cocktail was cooling and not overly sweet.

It was time for the paella. which had bubbled away in the background and gave off a great aroma.

Paella Paella Paella
Paella Paella Paella
Paella Paella Paella Portion
Paella Paella Paella Portion

Paella to me is a bit of a double edged sword. When it’s good it’s amazing, when it’s bad it’s atrocious. I’m happy to report that this was good. Juicy fat prawns, steamed mussels, tasty squid rings and perfectly cooked rice.

A perfect end then to two days of great street food.

Disclaimer: For these events, all food was paid for but a couple of drinks were complimentary. 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: 07/08/2015 – 08/08/2015

Where: The Coffin Works, Fleet Street, Birmingham and The School Yard, High Street Harborne

Who: tasteandliquorThe Southern OvenPress de CubaScratch Cooking & Paella Paella.