Table Talk – Friday 12th January

Whitley Neil gin

Ginuary just gets better in Birmingham, as for the rest of the month The Canal House in Bridge Street and The Botanist in Temple Street are offering two-for-one deals from their New World Gin List. This includes Masons, Whitley Neill, Bombay Sapphire, Liverpool Gin and the Scottish handcrafted gin Caorunn.

Spangles

Spangles American Diner has closed up in Fargo Village, as the sweetie shop and café prepares to open a new tea shop in Leamington Spa. Opening on 3rd February, they are taking bookings now for their Beauty & The Beast themed afternoon teas.

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Pottering around

The Lost & Found Birmingham

If you haven’t tried the botanical themed cocktails at The Lost & Found, then you are going to have to wait a bit longer, as the bar is currently closed for a few weeks for a makeover.

Housed in a former bank on Birmingham’s Bennetts Hill, the decadent drinking den is set to get a new mezzanine bar reached via a spiral staircase and a striking, raised feature pergola.

The hidden bar will be getting a top-secret entrance makeover, whilst quirky design elements including antique mirrors and statement plant installation will be staying true to Hettie G. Watson’s passion for all things botanical.

Officially re-opening on the 2nd March, you can sign up now for some special offers during the soft launch in February. Visit www.the-lostandfound.co.uk/birmingham to reserve:

  •  50% off bottomless brunch on Sunday 25th February
  • 50% off afternoon tea, lunch and dinner on Monday 26th February
  • 50% off lunch and dinner menu, as well as free cocktails in the bar on Tuesday 27th February.

January 2018 events

Copy of Copy of January 2018

So what has January got in store for us? A new supper club in Stratford upon Avon, Burns Night celebrations in Warwick, Australian wine tasting in Stafford ,plus whisky tasting in Kenilworth and a big breakfast in Ledbury for starters.

Hope over to the Events page for all of the details.

Table Talk – Friday 5th January

The Ciderologist

The Talton Mill farm shop has launched a new Supper Club. The owners say it is all about bringing people together to enjoy good, honest food in quirky, rustic surroundings. Each event will feature a different culinary theme, using their home-reared or locally sourced meat and vegetables. The first event is on Friday 19th January (see the events page for more details).

Birmingham Whisky Club

The Birmingham Whisky Club has begun work on their first bar. Housed in the converted café of the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, there will be a selection of more than 300 whiskies to try when it opens next month.

Field to Fork festival carrots

Shropshire will welcome a new food festival this year. In a partnership between Shropshire Festivals and Harper Adams University, the Field to Fork Festival will launch at the university on 28th April with more than 100 food, drink and craft exhibitors.

 tamworth Brewing Company

Tamworth Brewing Company has launched a brewery tap and shop, which is the first new brewer in the town for more than 70 years. The micro-brewery in Market Street offers ale brewed on-site from the tap alongside other premium drinks and bottled beer to take away.

2017 – a year in food

Empty plate

I dread to think how many plates of food have been consumed this year in writing this blog, but it is with a big smile and full stomach that I review 2017 – a year in food.

The best thing I ate this year is a close tie between pollock, with loveage and seaweed at Restaurant 23 or the fish and chips by The English Indian at Digbeth Dining Club. The worst was a below par pasta dish at Lorenzo’s in Rugby which was bland and flabby.

Hats off to the friendliest staff at Salt in Stratford upon Avon (named Best New Entry in The Good Food Guide 2017) and the nicest chef award goes to Brad Carter for genuinely caring about his suppliers.

As I try and wean myself off gin, Seedlip was a welcome discovery as were the halloumi fries at Pharmacea and Becki’s Brownies salted caramel spread, that mysteriously finds its way into my bag at every food festival.

The only problem I faced this year was trying to get to all of the new openings in Birmingham, which  were well into double figures again. Street food chefs found permanent homes, London based operators expanded into the city, shops were transformed into cafes and new life breathed into refurbished pubs.

Independent craft beer bar Thorp17 and Digbeth Dining Club regular Meat Shack took over the former Stageside Bar and Restaurant building opposite Birmingham Hippodrome.  Birmingham’s first all vegan café Natural Healthy Foods opened in March and I have still to try their brunch.

After India, Argentina and the USA, Lasan Group looked to Italy for their latest dining concept and opened Izza! to serve sourdough pizzas, antipasti, cured meats and salads in the Selfridges Food Hall. The retailer also welcomed two new eateries from Italian San Carlo group, with a swanky new restaurant and patisserie.

The Mailbox welcomed Tom’s Kitchen by Tom Aikens, Kanteen opened in the Custard Factory and after a successful run of pop-ups, Ben Tesh opened his first restaurant Folium in the Jewellery Quarter.

Old venues were also given a new lease of life. Jewellery Quarter coffee house Brewsmiths was transformed into an Indian street food cafe The Indian Brewery with a bar selling craft beer as well.

Davenports Brewery bought The City Tavern in Bishopsgate Street and reopened it as The Bulls Head, with Indian street food snacks on the menu, which I reviewed back in October. The former Lisa Shepherd hairdresser in Temple Row became the second outpost of Turkish café Damascena.

Gin fans rejoiced as The Distillery was created from the former Fiddler and Bone pub, serving various gins, spirits and craft beers in a canal side setting.

Worcester had a flurry of new eateries open too. With good news for meat lovers as Friar Street Kitchen claimed to have the best steaks in town and Burger Shop and Carl Sampson at The Conservatory served up gourmet burgers. Also new this year is The Old Pheasant and after investing £500K into the makeover, the Shaker Group opened The Orangery Restaurant and cocktail bar with outside seating and private dining areas in Redditch.

We also were given plenty of choice for places to drink too. The gorgeous looking Bower House opened in Shipston upon Stour, Warwick welcomed Rigsby’s Cellar Bar, drinkers in Stone enjoyed the sunny weather on Edison’s roof terrace, craft beer drinkers flocked to Alsager’s micro-pub Kraftworks, inspired by Hungarian bars The Ruin opened in Digbeth  and in Leamington the secret Ape Hangers bar opened underneath Procaffeinate.

It wasn’t all good news though, in Birmingham we also sadly said goodbye to seafood restaurants Lobster Peninusular and Le Monde, French restaurant Annexe, tapas COMiDA@21 only six months after moving, Thai Edge, Meating and Two Cats Kitchen (despite rave reviews).  Over in Leamington Meatcure and Restaurant 23 closed, leaving the town without a gourmet burger café and one less fine dining restaurant.

What about our favourite chefs?  Aktar Islam announce that he was leaving Lasan and the group of restaurants he had built up with business partner Jabbar Khan to pursue new, solo projects.  Nathan Eades plated his last dish for Simpsons as he moved on to Cotswold’s pub The Wild Rabbit.  Chef de partie Louisa Ellis from The Wilderness wowed the judges to make it to the final three competitors in Masterchef the Professionals 2017.

Liam Dillon was awarded an AA rosette for The Boat Inn in Lichfield just six months after opening, Chris Monk moved from Le Champignon Sauvage to the Crown Inn pub Hallow Wild Shropshire chef James Sherwin hosted a demo at the first Ginger & Spice Festival in Market Drayton.

This year was all about food festivals for me. I enjoyed a day talking to producers and shopping at Stone Food and Drink Festival and even compered the second day at Ragley Hall’s  Food Festival. Next year I am also adding the Hereford Indie Food Festival to my diary.

Before we say goodbye to 2017, I’d like to say a massive THANK YOU! to the fantastic people who have grown, cooked and served all the amazing dishes I have eaten this year. As another tasty year comes to an end, I am definitely looking forward to an even more appetising 2018!

 

 

 

Table Talk – Friday 15th December

Maravilla Sour Purity Brewing Company

Earlier this year I visited Bruges and really got into fruit –flavoured beers, so I was pleased to read that Warwickshire’s Purity Brewing Company has launched a new Belgian style limited edition brew. Maravilla Sour is a ruby coloured raspberry sour, available at the brewery shop and online.

Origianl Patty Men

In the newly released Hardens Restaurant Guide, Birmingham has the UK’s fifth largest number of high scoring restaurants. As well as the expected Michelin-starred eateries Harborne Kitchen and Original Patty Men are also highly rated.

Restaurant 23

Sad to hear that one of my favourite local restaurants has closed. Restaurant 23 in Leamington shut after a gas leak in October, I just assumed that this was a temporary measure, but their Facebook and Twitter pages haven’t been updated since then. If anyone knows what has happened to Curtis Stewart and the team do let me know.

A Victorian afternoon tea in Coventry

As Coventry is still basking in the glory of winning the UK Capital of Culture2021, I thought I’d share with you one of the city’s small cultural attractions.

The Priory Visitors Centre is slap bang in the middle of the city centre opposite Nando’s.  Built over the remains of Coventry’s first cathedral, excavation work gave archaeologists the opportunity to uncover details of much of the original cathedral and tell the story of this amazing part of Coventry’s history.

Priory Visitor Centre & Undercroft is now open as a social enterprise and last weekend I took my mum there for a Victorian Afternoon tea.

Victorian afternoon tea

Our menu for this experience was prepared to authentic recipes by Leigh Waite from the Heritage Pantry – maker of the famous Coventry God Cakes  – and included these afternoon tea treats to get us into the festive spirit:

Cheese “Oliver” Twists

Surprisingly, one of our teatime favourites is a Victorian invention – we’ve added a touch of Dickens to fit the season

Potted Beef and Potted Ham

Another teatime classic, home cooked meats, all prepared, potted and butter sealed, served with oatcakes.

Pork pies with apple and cranberry with oatcakes 

Hand Raised Christmas Pies

A duo of classic pork pies, hand raised by CH Rowley Ltd of Arley, in the time honoured way, and topped with homemade cranberry and apple chutney, plus cider apple sauce.

 Dainty Sandwiches

Another classic – no afternoon tea is quite right without them, and they are the epitome of what a fine lady might have served up to her tea guests. We had cucumber and egg.

 Christmas cakes

Mr Fezziwig’s Festive Fruit Cake

Traditional mini sized fruit cakes, made to a Victorian recipe, and topped with a touch of marzipan and Royal icing.

 Heritage Pantry tipsy cakes

Mr Dickens Delight

A classic Tipsy style cake, inspired by the fabulous Mrs Beeton’s recipe.

 Victorian cakes

Rum Butter Tarts

Delightful little tartlets filled with fruit and spices, a change from mince pies to add a twist to our tea.

 Classic Victoria Sponge Cakes

The ultimate cake to grace our seasonal Victorian tea plate. They came in different flavours, such as almond, or even orange, but the mini cakes on our platter today were in the modern sandwich form of the cake that we know so well.

 Tiny Tim’s Treats – Handmade Rum Truffles

Crystallised chestnuts and handmade rum truffles.

All washed down with lashings of tea and mulled wine! For £20 per person it was great value and a lovely way to experience an afternoon tea with a twist.

Check The Priory Visitor Centre’s  Facebook page for future events.

 

Table Talk – Friday 8th December

Chefs

Bit of a chef’s special in this week’s Table Talk, as we look to Birmingham and Worcester for the latest moves and news.

After two years as head chef, Nathan Eades is leaving Michelin-starred Simpsons this weekend. Nathan is off from Birmingham to a lead the brigade at The Wild Rabbit Inn, a pub in the Cotswolds.

Congratulations to Louisa Ellis for securing a place in Masterchef: The Professionals 2017 semi finals. At only 22 Louisa is the only female chef in this stage of the competition. By day Louisa is the senior chef de partie at The Wilderness in Birmingham.

The Crown Inn in Worcester has appointed Chris Monk as the pub’s new head chef. Formerly of Le Champignon Sauvage, Chris has introduced a new seasonal a la carte menu that Birmingham blogger Meat and One Veg rated highly.

 

 

 

Table Talk – Friday 1st December

Amore wine importers

While I keep my fingers crossed for Coventry’s bid for City of Culture to be successful, it is heartening to see the growing number of independent food and drink businesses in Coventry. Another to add to the growing list, is a new Italian wine importer Amore . Set up by two cousins who buy Italian fine wines direct from vineyards to bring customers great wines at reasonable prices.

Kitchenorium dish

If you haven’t been to a supper club in someone’s home before, check out Cat Dutton in Leamington. Her Kitchenorium nights in January include  – Sunday Smorgasbord, Midweek Meat-Free, Comfort Food Feast, Turkish Tuesday or Veganuary Adventure. Evenings are priced from £24 BYOB.

San Carlo Gran Cafe

On Monday (4th) Italian restaurant group San Carlo will open their new Gran Café, with all manner of sweet treats from luxury gelato and sorbets to cakes, desserts and afternoon teas. Located on the ground floor of Selfridges in the Bullring, the café will also serve gourmet sandwiches, freshly-baked croissants, pastries and muffins.