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!

 

 

 

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Table Talk

Table Talk 14.08.17

Beer of champions is – Goats Milk!

Congratulations to Warwickshire’s Church End Brewery for winning CAMRA’s gold award at the  Great British Beer Festival in London. Goat’s Milk is a blend of pale barley, crystal malt oats and  aromatic hops, that is the brewery’s best selling beer. Church End sales manager Paul Hamblett said: “We originally brewed and named it for a festival taking place in the Goat pub, and the beer just caught on.”

New Indian eaterie

Fans of The Indian Rasoi street food at Digbeth Dining Club (DDC) will be pleased to hear that the owners have taken over the former site of Adam’s restaurant in Birmingham. The new restaurant and cocktail bar, called Indian Streatery, is due to open on 17 August on Bennett Hill, with lunch and evening menus.

Birthday celebrations

While we are talking about DDC I need to wish them many happy returns! Celebrating their fifth birthday, the team have some exciting plans up their sleeve – including expanding into Nuneaton in September – but before then they are having a party on Friday 18 August.

With events across the Midlands DDC will be celebrating their roots in our original home — Lower Trinity Street, Digbeth where it all started. Lineup for the night includes:

Original Patty Men
Spectacular Goat
Low ‘n’ Slow
Baked In Brick
Flying Cows
Buddha Belly
Polenista
English Indian
Fancy Fries
Bournville Waffle Company
Esmies
Holy Moly Macaroni
Indian Rasoi
Pietanic
Platinum Pancakes
Street Souvlaki

(Tickets are available for the event now at £1.50 with entry on the door £2.50).

Jump into January

By now the post New Year ennui should have worn off, so I’ve lined up a great selection of food and drink events for you this month.

January 2016 events

My recommendations range from wine tasting with a cheesemaker and gin tasting to Burns Night celebrations and the return of the Digbeth Dining Club. As usual you’ll find the details on the events page. Enjoy!

 

Fabulous February

Over on the Events page you’ll find my top ten picks for food and drink events this month.

Feb events

The Sketts Fine Foods Market in Victoria Square and Food Market at the mac are great places to buy hot food to eat there and then as well as treats to take home.

Over a leisurely four courses,  Portugese and German wines will be tasted at Hotel du Vin and Square Door wine tasting dinners.

The art of tea is explored at Itihaas and following Chinese New Year Lap-Fai Lee tutors a Chinese Family Feast evening class at Harborne Food School.

Street food fans need to know that Leamington’s own Fresh Rootz make their debut at Digbeth Dining Club, while street food guru  Low n Slow is back at Brew Dog for a pop-up. Andy’s signature ribs, alongside ox cheek tacos and brisket fries will be on the menu.

The popular Opus Dinner Series continues with Carrolls Heritage Potatoes hosting the next evening. Over at their sister venue Bar Opus, you can shake it up with Sam during an hour long cocktails masterclass.

So whether you are food shopping with local producers, learning about wine regions, tucking into street food or mastering new culinary skills it all adds up to being a fabulous February!

 

 

Birmingham street food favourites

Canoodle

In case you missed it, here is the link to a great feature on street food in the Birmingham Post, with the Digbeth Dining Club traders in advance of their 2nd birthday party celebrations next Friday. http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/lifestyle/food-drink/birmingham-street-food-guide-whos-7607752

Secret Cellar Fair at the Custard Factory

Head down to the Custard Factory on Saturday for a new drinks festival.

Alfie Birds Design My Night

Running from noon – 7pm, the event will feature Summertime Wine Tasting Workshops by Loki; Whistlestop History of Gin from KitchInn; Alfie’s Mixology Masterclass at Alfie Birds and craft beers at the brand new Mockingbird Theatre.

Drinks will be served to the summer sounds of live music on the poolside stage, with delicious street food dished up by Digbeth Dining Club, winners of the National Street Food Awards 2014.

The workshops and masterclasses will run throughout the day, each workshop costing £15 and lasting for forty minutes.

Alternatively, for those who just want to settle down in the sunshine for drinks, Alfie Birds will be open for business, whilst Loki and KitchInn will offer the chance to buy their gin and wine by the glass or the bottle at their outdoor stalls, open all afternoon.

What’s on – food and drink events

May is set to be a busy month for food and drink events.

It started with a bang for the opening of cocktail bar The Edgbaston (which I will feature soon) and the biggest street food night in the Midlands at Digbeth Dining Club.

may events summary

From Crabstock in Northampton and a spring fair at the Newbold Comyn Arms in Leamington Spa to an Awadhi banquet at Lasan, I hope there will be something that you like the sound of. Details for my top picks are on the Events page.

Enjoy yourself and why not tw-eat me your pics @midlandsgourmet.

Vote for Midlands street food

Street-food-awards-Richard-Johnson

Richard Johnson started the British Street Food Awards back in 2009. Since then our appetite for dirty burgers, pulled pork, chicken fried in buttermilk and all manner of wonderful dishes cooked fresh to order in front of us has grown and grown.

Last year Birmingham’s own Digbeth Dining Club scooped the BSFA prize for the Best Street Food Event and next Friday on 2 May, they will be hosting the regional Central heats.

Digbeth Dining Club

On the night the winner will be determined by a public vote and announced live. This is your chance to vote for your favourite Midlands street food and get them a place to compete in the British Street Food Awards finals.

So with a week to go, which of the 20 mouthwatering street food operators at Digbeth Dining Club will get your vote?

To vote, simply download the new British Street Food app.

Street food spectacular

Roll up roll up for a street food spectacular. I need a little trumpet fanfare for this post.

The majority of our local street food traders took an extended break over January, but the good news is that Eat Street and Digbeth Dining Club are back and a new street food collective is being launched.

Let’s start first with the big news from Flic and Barny at The Jabberwocky.

Scoff

“We have started a street food collective Scoff with some of our fellow outdoor chefs – the Hungry Toad, Spectacular Goat, Big Daddies Diner and Meat Shack.

“There are a fair few people out there who want to support the street food industry, but don’t know where to start. They have an idea for a market, or a piece of land, and don’t know where to go next. Individually all we could do is wait until they sort themselves out, hope that they didn’t go under and keep half an eye on the twitter feed. Now we’re actually in a position to help.” Follow @ScoffingFood for updates.

Eat Street Leamington Spa

Leamington Spa is the hometown for both Flick and Barny plus the street food market Eat Street. Joining the traders for their debut is You Me & A Cup of Tea.  With a passion for whole-leaf tea they will offering a ‘proper’ brew during the market. @umeandacuppatea

You’ll have to a bit a bit longer for the Digbeth Dining Club which returns on Friday 7 February. On the line-up are Meatshack, Esmies Seafood Kitchen, Fat Duck Spuds and Low ‘N’ Slow.

As this is my partner’s favourite (he gets meat sweats just thinking about it) I thought that I’d tell you more about Andy Stubbs.

Low N Slow burger

Andy is a regular at DDC. He specialises in slow-cooking locally sourced ingredients to perfection. He prepares, cures and smokes meats at home before taking them out with his stand, cooking them and serving them al fresco at street food events, markets and shows.

Andy’s signature pulled pork is smoked with oak and hickory and cooked for a mammoth 18 hours before being served with his own homemade coleslaw and BBQ sauce in a brioche bun baked by a fellow Brummie artisan. Andy’s other trademark dish is 12-hour beef brisket chilli with ranch coleslaw. He also makes his own pickles and cures his own hickory bacon.

Due to bad weather forecasted for Sunday, the Flying Flea street food market in Moseley has been postponed, with the next event scheduled for Sunday 23 February. I’ll add details of these traders to the Events page on Monday 3 February.

Flying Flea street food

2013 review

Happy New Year!! Before I share news on restaurant openings, restaurant offers and events for 2014, please indulge me while I take a quick look back over last year.

I was lucky enough to meet some fabulous new producers, attend great events and savour the culinary talent of local chefs and share them with you on my blog. So here are some of my highlights from 2013.

Kings HEATh street food market Birmingham Mail

It took until 2013, but Birmingham’s first monthly street food market burst into our lives. Duncan Stanley’s Kings HEATh market launched and proved an instant hit. This is monthly food extravaganza where the 20 or so traders feed customers with every international dish that you can think of. With a couple more years’ experience under their belt, congratulations to the Digbeth Dining Club who brought home the Best Street Food Event from the British Street Food Awards in London.

BBC Good Food Show

More accolades were served up to local businesses. For the first time the BBC Good Food Show held a competition for the best street food in the Midlands. The candidates were so good that there were three winners! The Jabberwocky and Fresh Rrootz from Leamington and Squisito Deli from Warwickshire won a lot of new fans at the BBC Good Food Show in April.

It is no coincidence that I voted for these three food heroes, they are passionate about what they do and love introducing people to great food, so I feature them regularly on Midlands Gourmet Girl.

SONY DSC

Not to be left out, Leamington Spa launched its first street food market Eat Street. @EatStreetLeam This small, but perfectly formed, market delighted local office workers and students, desperate for a changing lunchtime menu.

Seeing your food cooked freshly to order in front of you and being able to engage with the chefs that prepared it for you will always be a winner. In the more traditional restaurants, three chefs made notable entrances.

Andy Waters

Andy Waters made a triumphant return to Brum by opening Waters on the Square. As his own restaurant Chef’s Dozen closed, Richard Craven found a new home just outside Stratford upon Avon, leading the brigade at the Fuzzy Duck . Also on the move, Alex Claridge left the Warehouse Café and catered for vegetarians at the funky new Bistro 1847 in the Great Western Arcade.

The Village Moseley Birmignham Mail

Bistro 1847 was one of a host of new venues that opened in Birmingham city centre as steak house Anderson’s opened a new place in the country. I think that the residents of Moseley are the luckiest in the eating and drinking stakes, as three good looking new venues opened. The Village, Bohemia Bar and Caféphillia are making Moseley one of the best neighbourhoods in Birmingham to eat and drink.

The Regency Arms Leamington Spa

Not to be outdone, Leamington Spa is catching up with Birmingham as a foodie hotspot too. The Regency Arms showed how good quality food helps make a pub a neighbourhood favourite.

The Larder bundt cake

Being able to do more food and drink shopping locally became attractive, with the new Cheeses in Warwick and Barkers Deli in Warwick, The Larder in Leamington Spa and Squisito deli’s new shop in Rugby.

Warwick Rocks food and film festival Leamington Observer

Two new food festivals shook up the traditional expectations of a food event. Thanks to funding from Warwickshire County Council’s Operation Footfall, Warwick launched a new food and film festival. http://www.warwickrocksfestival.co.uk . Under their successful Warwick Rocks branding the town rocked for a week of food markets and drive in movies in August.

Future Foodies Birmingham PostWith another first for Birmingham (or Birmingyum as it is being known) food blogger Ahmed from Dine Birmingham created and launched the inaugural #FutureFoodies. This exciting food and drink fair brought local independent producers together with social media – which will return in June 2014.

All in all a great year!

Thank you so much for reading my blog and following me on twitter, I really appreciate your support. I blog for love (not money) and will continue to keep the site focussed on unearthing those brilliant local independents for you.

As well as the regular reviews, destination guides and essential diary dates I have a few surprises in store for you this year, so keep following for updates!