Happy New Year!

Not long now until we welcome a New Year and in 2020 a trio of local chefs have a few surprises in store for us…..

2020 NEW OPENINGS

 

In Birmingham Masterchef Professionals 2019 winner Stu Deeley will be opening his own restaurant in the Jewellery Quarter and Aktar Islam is partnering with the Craft Dining Room team to open Craft English Garden; and over in Shropshire James Sherwin’s pop-up Wild Shropshire will be settling into their new home.

Going for gold

giphy

There has been Michelin stars, food industry awards and accolades aplenty for our West Midlands pubs and restaurants to celebrate this month.

Congratulations to Warwick’s Tasca Dali who has been awarded Best Spanish Restaurant of the year at the first Restaurant Awards 2019 – Midlands Edition. Owner Alex Gidon Clayton told the Warwick Courier: “I decided to open a restaurant in Warwick because I thought it was an amazing town with a good sense of community and history and place where I could take a risk to do something different. At Tasca Dali we try and give people the traditional way of Spanish cooking. We work with what is in season, what dishes are appropriate for the weather and what is good value.”

The Drawing Board in Leamington has been named the UK’s Best Beer Pub in Great British Pub Awards.The Leamington venue opened in 2015 and has created a beer selection including their own beer, Elephant Wash brewed with Old Pie Factory in Warwick. The team also own the DB Bottle Shop  at 3 Court Street,  which specialises in craft beer and Japanese whisky.

Monsoon Estates Coffee Company  has won nine (yes nine!)  gold stars at the national Great Taste Awards. The family-run business specialises in hand-roasted, small batch coffees and their  Ethiopian Guji Derikocha coffee was one of only six coffees in the UK to be awarded the top rated three stars.

When the Michelin awards were announced last week, there was good news for the West Midlands. Lee Westcott from Pensons restaurant   and Aktar Islam’s Opheem were awarded their first stars.

Still in Birmingham congratulations to The High Field  for scooping the Best Gastropub in the Midlands in the Food Awards England ceremony.

The Fab Four

There has been a glut of new restaurant openings in Birmingham over the last few weeks, with more on the way, so I thought that  now would be a good time to take a look at four of some of the exciting  new eateries.

Maribel Restaurnat Birmigham dessert

Maribel  quietly took over the space formerly occupied by Edmunds and now has chef Richard Turner at the helm. This Brindley Place restaurant offers “French influenced modern British cooking”. Birmingham food writer Paul Fulford visited on their opening night and you can read Paul’s review here

Baked in Brick

Street food fans are counting down the days until Baked in Brick opens a restaurant  in the Custard Factory (opposite Kanteen).  Owner Lee is swapping his converted Mini for a woodfired oven to cook his BBQ chicken wraps and Neopolitan style pizzas in the venue that will seat 60 diners.

Opheem restaurant Birmingham

Opheem is Aktar Islam’s new solo restaurant, which has been welcoming diners during a soft launch this week. From the beginning of June, diners can expect Dorset Cross hoggat cutlet, with date and sultana puree and green cardamom; slow braised ox cheek, with millet kichdi, girole mushroom and desserts including curd dumpling, with milk sorbet, milk skin, granite and yoghurt shard. It is on Summer Row, next door to his second new eaterie Mi Amore, which serves Italian dishes.

The Rebel Chicken Birmingham

Social media is clucking about  Rebel Chicken  Hot on the heel of Bonehead, this chicken joint in the Jewellery Quarter will be serving rotissetie cooked birds, with all the sweetcorn and slaw sides you’d expect when it opens on Friday 1st June. (Look out for tomorrow’s Table Talk with details of a 10% discount off food).

 

So four fab new venues for you to try in Birmingham!

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!

 

 

 

Birmingham chefs take centre stage

There are some familiar faces and a cross section of city venues taking part in the Foodies Festival this weekend.

Foodies Festival Chefs Theatre

 

To see the guys in action, here is the timetable for the Chefs Theatre.

Friday 15th May

12.00 Dhruv Baker – MasterChef Winner 2010

13.00 Nathan Eades – St Andrews Town Hotel

14.00 Ryan Swift – The Edgbaston

15.00 Robert Grzesik – The Warehouse Cafe

16.00 Nathan Eades – St Andrews Town Hotel

17.00 William Noblett – Ju Ju’s Cafe

Saturday 16th May

12.00 Dhruv Baker – MasterChef Winner 2010

13.00 Nathan Eades – St Andrews Town Hotel

14.00 Glynn Purnell – Purnells

15.00 James Wong – Chung Ying

16.00 Jackie Kearney – The Hungry Gecko

17.00 Nick Turner – Hotel De Vin

Sunday 17th May

12.00 Katy B – ‘Little Miss Meat Free’ Great Vegan Bake Off Winner 2014

13.00 Rachel Green – Top TV Chef

14.00 Aktar Islam – Lasan Group

15.00 Dhruv Baker – MasterChef Winner 2010

16.00 Matt Cheal – Simpsons

Entry to the Chefs Theatre is included in the ticket price. Tickets are released at the festival on the day and are available on a first come, first served basis and entry is limited – register for free entry at the Registration Point opposite the main entrance.

(Photo credits: Birmingham Mail and Birmingham Living)

Aktar Islam profile

Aktar Islam

I met Aktar Islam, the chef and co-owner of Lasan and Fiesta del Asado, at the BBC Good Food Show Summer. In between his interviews and demonstrations, we talked about his favourite ingredients, Birmingham as a culinary destination and his plans for the future. Read my interview on the Profiles page.