CWTCA 2016 winners

It is always nice to see local companies being rewarded for their fantastic service.At the second Coventry and Warwickshire Tourism & Culture Awards on Thursday night, the following accolades were won:


  • Best hotel – shared by The Arden Hotel in Stratford upon Avon and Coventry’s Macdonald Ansty Hotel
  • Best pub – The Hatton Arms, Warwick
  • Best restaurant  – Café Vin Cinq, Rugby
  • Special award  – The Cross, Kenilworth
  • Artisan award – Swirls Authentic Gelato, Leamington Spa.

Congratulations to all of the winners!

Coming soon……


Some weeks I have a backlog of blog posts to share with you, other times I only have a few snippets of news or events updates. To try and pace things a bit better I’ve decided to post on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays so you’ll know exactly when to expect new content.

Here’s a taste of what I’ve got planned  – reviewing Robata Bar and Grill plus Canal Square in Birmingham, as well as Tartine and Whittles Restaurant in Leamington.


The openings of Comida Tapas Harborne Kitchen Miss Macaroon and Langleys No 8 Bar in Birmingham are all pencilled in as new blog posts for you.

Sweet As are celebrating their 11th birthday, so I will be talking to owner Jenny Hudson about all things chocolate!

And Restaurant 23 is launching a new ’Back to the future’ wine event with Wine Freedom  on Thursday 27 October, so I will have all the details on that for you as well.


Bread & Co is leaving Leamington

Bread & Co shop Regent Street Leamington.jpg

Bakers Stephen Burnett and Michele Forge are moving Bread & Co out of Leamington Spa.

Christie & Co has been appointed to sell the lease of the 35-cover Regent Street café, that has been their home for the past six years. Stephen and Michele are now looking for a new operator to take over the lease so that they can concentrate on their growing commercial bakery in Warwick.

Brum dishes up the 2016 British Street Food Festival


After one massive road trip, tracking down the best street food in the four regional heats for the 2016 British Street Food Awards, the public will finally get to try it all. This weekend. In Birmingham!

Awards founder Richard Johnson says “The British Street Food Festival will be the ultimate expression of what we do. The very best traders from all across the UK, gathered together in one place for your finger lickin’ pleasure. They will compete for YOUR vote — with live music, beer buckets, food quizzes, fire pits and #vibes unbounded. “

So here’s  what you can expect.

Saturday 17 September  11am-8pm

Today is all about the party. Your chance to eat taster plates from the best street food traders in Britain who will be after your votes. Plus sets from Digbeth Dining Club’s finest DJs, street art, gaming from Dead Pixels and special guests live on stage.

 Sunday 18 September 11am-6pm

Today is all about the food. Another chance to eat those taster plates, with a backdrop of Digbeth Dining Club’s finest DJs, street art, gaming from Dead Pixels.


Voting in the People’s Choice will continue all day. But the judging panel kick off at 11am. Xanthe Clay (President, Guild of Food Writers and Daily Telegraph food columnist), Simon Hulstone (Michelin-starred chef at the Elephant) and Richard Johnson will be trying the two dishes entered by each trader.

There are a series of different categories:

  • Best Sandwich
  • Best Burger
  • Best Main Dish
  • Best Vegetarian
  • Best Snack
  • Best Dessert

Winners in each category plus winners of the Facebook vote for Best Looking Mobiler and Best Street Food Event will be announced on the stage at 2pm.


Fingers crossed for the two Brummie finalists – Baked in Brick and Buddha Belly!

2pm Roundtable on The Future of Food, featuring Xanthe Clay, Simon Hulstone and Richard Johnson.

3.45pm Judges’ table. The judges will try all the category winners live on stage and try to choose their overall winner — the Best of the Best (sponsored by Santa Maria).

4pm The Best Of The Best and the People’s Choice are announced live on stage.

British Street Food Festival 2016 logo

The 2016 British Street Food Awards take place at the Rainbow Arena, Digbeth, Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 September. Tickets from £5


Square up to wine boxes


The Jewellery Quarter bar 1000 Trades is hosting an evening tasting handcrafted natural wines that are poured from a Bag-In-Box (BIB).

On Thursday 22 September, pop along to hear Sam Olive of Wine Freedom and Tom Craven of VINNATURO talk about how BIB is the best means of making affordable, high quality wine made by small scale growers who follow organic or biodynamic farming methods.

 From 6.30 – 8.30pm tickets are just a fiver.  

Tiki Bar’s birthday bash


Ten years ago when I first moved to Birmingham you could count on one hand the number of independent cocktail bars. One of those was the unpretentious Island Bar..

Opened on 9 September 2006, Island Bar hasn’t changed much – it is still mixing classic and creative cocktails to a laidback soundtrack, so to celebrate this milestone they are throwing a party next weekend.

Island Main Bar

Thursday 8th plays host to a special version of “Tiki Thursday” with popular DJs Jam Jah Sounds playing dub and reggae alongside a bespoke menu by Jamaican rum Wray and Nephew.

For Friday 9th and Saturday 10th a one-off menu has been created for the weekend offering Tiki fans 2 for £10 on the favourite tipples of the past ten years.

Owner Matt Scriven said: “I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone and what we have achieved and I hope our customers continue to love what we do for many years to come.”

Island Bar Birmingham

The team at Island Bar are asking customers to share their best memories over the years, using the #Island10 to collate a decade of anecdotes and pictures, with the best ones winning drinks.

Happy birthday Island Bar and cheers for a decade of mixing it up in Birmingham!

The Butchers’ Social : Part 2

The Butchers' Social logo

How far would you travel for the best chicken wings you have ever tasted?

For fans of the much-loved Butchers’ Social, all they need to do is put Henely in Arden into their satnav, or like me jump on a train to find the former pop-up’s permanent new home.

Butchers' Social Henley in Arden exterior

In what used to be the Italian restaurant Matricardis, slap bang in the middle of the High Street, I found Mike Bullard juggling a deep clean of the kitchen, overseeing building work and proudly showing people round his new restaurant. He had only had the keys to the property for only a few days and was planning to quietly open over the Bank Holiday weekend.

His former business partner Jamie Desogu is working on creating the Harborne Kitchen, which is due to open in the Autumn. This means that Mike has been able to take the winning combo of craft beer and chicken wings and have some fun in adding new dishes to the menu.

Mike Bullard chef and owner the Butchers' Social

Mike said; “We’re going to keep it simple, cook some great food and really enjoy the service.”

Butchers' Social chicken wings Birmingham Mail

The initial menus feature four different types of chicken wings – salted caramel, honeycomb and bacon, Frank’s hot sauce, beer and honey plus buttermilk and BBQ sauce in half or full kilo portions.Brunch and dinner choices include monkfish cheek, fennel and cumin pork belly and who can resist truffle and parmesan fries!

Fixed Wheel beer

Drinks wise there are craft beers from the Birmingham breweries that Mike knows – Fixed Wheel, Sadlers, Two Towers, his favourite gin from Costswolds Distillery and English wines including Nyetimber.

Service times have been tweaked too, open Tuesday to Sunday 9am to 3pm for brunch and dinner 6 to 9pm (9.30pm at the weekends).

With circa 60 covers and a big garden space there is plenty of room. Look out in the New Year for more news as Mike is looking to completely overhaul the interior and open a couple of B&B rooms upstairs.

The Butchers’ Social 97 Stratford Road, Henley in Arden.Birmingham B95 5AT

What’s on in September

September events

This is my favourite blog post to write, where we can look ahead at some of the great food and drink events that are coming up.

The Great Leamington Bake Off

September is the start of the food festival season, so book trips to Leamington Spa and Stratford upon Avon and for tastings, chef demos and food and ale trails.

The Gin Festival

Gin fans should brace themselves for the Gin Festival where more than 100 different gins will be showcased including the new and exclusive Tarquins “Single Estate Tea” Gin.

Rachel Barnett St Paul's Club wine tasting

Wine buffs can enjoy the launch of the first Wine Club by Bar Opus or an Australian wine and gourmet evening hosted by wine expert, Rachel Barnett. Real ale lovers can mix craft beer with history on the Tolkien Tour  with the Jewellery Quarter’s Two Towers  brewers.

Birmingham is hosting two very special events in September.

British Street Food Festival 2016 logo

Live music, beer buckets, food quizzes, fire pits, retro gaming and street art  will provide the backdrop to the British Street Food Awards, hosted by the Digbeth Dining Club. After four regional heats the public gets to vote for the winner. Michelin-starred chef Simon Hulstone and The Telegraph’s food writer Xanthe Clay will decide the judges’ favourites live on Sunday.

Itihaas Birmingham

At the Curry & Comedy dinner broadcaster, comedian and chef Hardeep Singh Kohli is teaming  up with Itihaas’ head chef, Updesh Shrivastava, to create a bespoke menu for 200 guests  in the Botanical Gardens.

Valrhona Chocolate & Peanut Butter Brownie, Jude's Vanilla Ice Cream The High Field

Give the diet a miss on Thursday 29 September for the first Pudding Club at The High Field, where guests will tuck into six desserts  – including a Valrhona chocolate and peanut butter brownie with Jude’s vanilla ice cream.

Please check the venues’ websites for ticket details and availability and let me know me if you are going to any of these fab events.


From riverside to rooftops – have an alfresco Bank Holiday

For the last long weekend of the summer let’s make the most of it and get outdoors! From riverside to roof terraces, here are five places to enjoy eating and drinking alfresco over the Bank Holiday weekend.

The Saxon Mill Warwick

At The Saxon Mill in Warwick you can watch barges and ducks glide past on the river whilst you dine outside.

The Lord Clifden beer garden

For a more urban outlook, the beer garden at The Lord Clifden contains a BBBQ and you can also play table football and ping pong.

Simpsons restaurnat Birmingham patio

Simpson’s Restaurant has a delightful garden and decked patio for 30 guests, complete with a new water feature in Birmingham.

Jephson Gardens Leamington Spa

In Leamington grab a snack from Aubrey Allez, Coffee Architect or The Larder 23 to enjoy in genteel Jephson Gardens – a park complete with boating lake.


The Jewellery Quarter’s Button Factory has a large roof terrace complete with astro turf and parasols where you can also reserve tables.

Cook. Eat. Stay.

Mousley House Farm Cookery School building

In the Warwickshire village of Hatton, you’ll find a new cookery school which is quietly encouraging adults and kids to get stuck into good food.

George MHF Cookery School

Run by George (pictured) his wife Charlie and chef Nick, the picturesque countryside is a tranquil setting to brush up on culinary skills at Mousley House Farm Cookery School.

Mousley House Farm Cokery School Warwickshire

As the name suggests, the cookery school is housed in a welcoming farmhouse, with five workstations, including a lower height unit for wheelchair access and a central island for Nick to demo.

MHF Cookery School veg patch

The kitchen is flooded with light and is airy thanks to the patio doors that open out onto a fruit orchard, vegetable patch and herb garden to pick fresh ingredients. Guests can even collect freshly laid eggs from the resident chickens!

MHF Cookery School interior

Nick’s extensive career as a chef has taken him from ski chalets to the private dining rooms of Stratford upon Avon via festivals in Oxfordshire, where he has honed his teaching skills.

MHF Cookery School aprons

The School offers day courses that run from 10am – 3pm and three hour evening classes in cuisines ranging from Spanish to Thai as well as specialised classes. I wish that the pre-uni course had been around when I was packed off to study!

Prices start from £69pp for two sharing a work station. You can read about their upcoming Spanish Tapas class over on my September events page, or check their website for more details.

Dining room MHF Cookery School

Guests can also use the dining room, which is waiting for delivery of a huge farmhouse kitchen table, that can be hired out for team building events, meetings and such like. Plus there are three holiday lets for up to 14 people to enjoy the tranquil setting even more.