Table Talk – Friday 6 March

James Sherwin has a thrilling announcement for foodies in Shropshire – his pop-up Wild Shropshire has finally found a permanent home!

James Sherwin chef Wild Shropshire.jpg

He says: “We’re thrilled to have had the official sign off from the bods in suits and have been busy knocking down and rebuilding walls. We’re also having heated discussions regarding the bathroom decor, we may even throw it over to a Facebook poll to give you the final say.

“After much teasing we can also reveal our new location! We will be in Green End, Whitchurch, conveniently nestled in beautiful North Shropshire. Our opening date is 3rd April and bookings are now live on our website.”

Hatton Arms Warwick exterior.jpg

In other news, Hatton Arms in Warwick has re-opened. Here is what Coventry Live and Eat With Ellen  think of the revamp and new menu.

 

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.

Table Talk Friday 23rd March

The Jekyll & Hyde gin parlour

Birmingham’s Jekyll & Hyde bar is offering two new ‘Parlour Packages’ one savoury and one sweet when  you are a little peckish. Cheese and  charcuterie from local deli Anderson & Hill for £20 and eight sweet treats from Miss Macaroon with strawberries and a bottle of Prosecco, from £25. Bookable via their website with 24 hours notice.

The Riverside Inn Aymestrey.jpg

Two local hospitality businesses have made it to the finals of the Visit England awards for excellence. Cotswold Distillery is one of three venues shortlisted for Guided Tour of the Year and The Riverside Inn at Aymestrey in Herefordshire is nominated as Pub of the Year. Winners will be announced on 23rd April.

Moyden's Cheese

BBC1’s Countryfile programme on Sunday 25th March pays a visit to Shropshire, so look out for Moyden’s Cheese  and chef James Sherwin from Wild Shropshire pop-up, who both feature in the programme.

Table Talk 23 February

James Sherwin

The Wild Shropshire pop-up has found a permanent home. From Friday 2nd March James Sherwin and his team will be delighting diners from Ternhill Farm House, a beautiful Grade II listed Georgian property near Market Drayton. Wild Shropshire will have a weekend residency, serving a multi-course tasting menu with the option of a matching wine flight.

Jack and Alice cafe Tring

What used to be a branch of Natwest on Warwick High Street is being converted into a coffee shop and wine bar.  Jack and Alice already has two other branches, but this will be the first for the Midlands. The new venue will be open daily for coffee and breakfast, afternoon tea and cake, then wine and cheese in the evening.

The Cross dinner

Diners in Kenilworth have an opportunity to enjoy three Michelin-starred fine dining, when Jacques Marcon, head chef at Régis et Jacques in France, will make special appearance at The Cross. On Thursday 8th and Friday 9th Marcon will join Adam Bennett’s brigade to cook a six-course lunch and a seven-course dinner.

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!

 

 

 

October events to fall for

October 2017 events

For a mellow October I have picked a dozen events for you to eat, drink and discover some of the best chefs and producers in the West Midlands.

The first is a Salt & Earth pop-up by  Nikki Astley (formerly Two Cats Kitchen ).  He has chosen the recently opened Kanteen in the Custard Factory as a venue to showcase an eclectic menu with Latin American and Eastern influences  – including octopus. There are six dates to choose from.

I will be heading over to Staffordshire for the Stone Food & Drink Festival at the weekend and seeing what local producers have in store for foodies.

Shropshire chef James Sherwin is holding a special tasting dinner at Alderford Lake, Whitchurch. Look out for an exclusive competition on the blog to win a pair of tickets for the Saturday 28th October Wild Shropshire evening later in the week!

Two other themed dinners have caught my eye this month. Taste of Leamington is a mini tour of Sabai Sabai, Momenti, Eleven and Oscars restaurants in the town to raise funds for local charities. Over in Brum, chef Tom Aikens will be in his Mailbox restaurant to host a five course Beef Dinner, which includes a butchery demonstration.

There is no shortage of drink events being held in October either. The Wine Gang will bring their Winter Wine Festival to The Cube, Birmingham for a day of tasting over 200 different vintages. If you would like to learn more about natural Austrian wines, then  Carters of Moseley has a Meet the Winemaker event to try. The Bluebell in Henley in Arden is showcasing  South African wines, meanwhile over in Kenilworth The Cross is repeating its popular Costswold Gin Dinner.  It is a taste of the deep South with New Orleans cocktails at The Church in Birmingham and Westons Cider will be celebrating the harvest with an evening tour and light supper in Ledbury.

Full details over on the October events page.

If you go to any of my recommended events I would love to hear how you get on. Also if there is anything coming up in November that you think I should know about, drop me a line on midlandsgourmetgirl@gmail.com

.

Meet the chef – James Sherwin

James Sherwin

James Sherwin describes himself as an experimental chef and keen forager. As the chef behind jamesinaspace pop-up restaurant nights and Wild Shropshire concepts, you may recognise him from his appearances on the Channel 4 show The Taste and Masterchef.

The 38-year-old father of four from Whitchurch was previously a paediatric nurse before following his passion for cooking and he has evolved from a home cook to a professional chef who is not afraid to push the boundaries.

As he prepares for his next tasting dinners, at Alderford Lake on Friday 6th and Saturday 28th October, I got to ask him a few questions for this month’s Meet the Chef feature.

Have you always wanted to be a chef?

I didn’t want to be a chef until I hit my 30’s, I think it was a midlife crisis 😉

Who taught you to cook?

This is a difficult one, ultimately I think I’ve taught myself, there were certainly people that helped along the way (my first head chef etc). However in terms of my style and what I do, a lot of it has been self-discovery. I’ve always had a very clear idea of what I’d like my food to be, so I’ve always pushed my learning in that direction.

Which chef has been the biggest inspiration for you?

I think the answer to this is two fold, ultimately (and I’ll sound very uncool saying this) but Jamie Oliver inspired me to cook, without his tv shows then i doubt that I’d have started at all. From a professional point of view and what I’m doing now then it would be Magnus Nillson of Faviken. His whole approach just spoke to me, the first time i read his book it was like a switch had been turned on in me. The hard part is taking that inspiration but turning it into your own thing. Other than that then I’d say Simon Rogan of L’enclume or Christian Puglisi of Relae.

Where have you eaten your best ever meal?

I know the cool answer would be some obscure street food stall (I hate street food, completely bored of it!) however it would be a toss up between L’enclume or Relae. L’enclume was brilliant across all 19 courses and I got engaged there, however Relae was like nothing else, the plates were so minimal in design that the amount of flavour they contained was shocking……I’ll never forget the carrot dish I had there!

What are your favourite ingredients to cook with?

I started an allotment this year so that I could be sure of the quality and freshness of what I use (if you’re food is minimal then the ingredients have to be banging). So it’s not one ingredient but basically anything that I can pick myself. It does mean though that I’m doing a lot less cooking now, I’m enjoying the ingredients in their natural raw state as they have so much flavour.

How would you describe your style of cooking?

 James Sherwin plating up

This is hard without sounding like every other chef, ultimately it’s modern British food. As I came into this older I missed the Marco Pierre White/Gordon Ramsey heyday so I’ve come in and been influenced my Magnus of Faviken, James of Biota or Christain of Relae, so very natural, vegetable based cuisine delivered in a minimal way.

I hate that people feel the need to fill a plate with things that aren’t needed for the sake of making my the dish look bigger.  Everything is hyper seasonal  – we don’t have seasons anymore in the UK  and hyper local.

What can diners expect from your Wild Shropshire events?

James Sherwin hare fillet

My guests will get a multi course surprise menu. It’s a surprise firstly so that I can come up with it at the very last moment based completely on what is perfect at that time and also to bypass any pre-conceived ideas anyone may have about any of the courses.

I feel that people can quite often decide whether they like a dish before they’ve even put it in their mouth based on previous experiences with ingredients. By having a secret menu that is revealed at the end of the evening, guests can eat each course without past experiences colouring their opinion of what is in front of them.

Find out more about James at https://www.jamesinaspace.com