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 – 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.

Birmingham in UK’s top ten cities for eating out

Birmingham has secured fifth place in the latest edition of Harden’s Best UK Restaurants 2017.

This annual guide is based on one of the country’s most detailed surveys of regular restaurant-goers. In Harden’s 26th poll of diners 7,500 participants contributed 50,000 reviews for food, service and ambience.

hardens-uk-restaurant-guide-2017

Congratulations to top scorers Adam’s, Carters, Lasan and Original Patty Men with 5/5 and Al Frash, Gourmet Burger Company and Jyoti with 4/5.

The full listing of Birmingham restaurants (including a new entry for Rofuto) are:

Asha’s
Edmunds
The Karczma
Lasan
Opus Restaurant
Purecraft Bar and Kitchen
Purnells
Purnells Bistro
San Carlo
Simpsons
Turners at 69

Venetian Tapas in Birmingham

Birmingham claims to have more canals than Venice, so how apt that Cicchetti is coming to the city! Opening in late May, Fumo will serve Venetian tapas in a new £2.5 million restaurant in the heart of the city centre from the San Carlo Italian restaurant group. Fumo will also feature live music on Friday and Saturday nights. http://www.sancarlo.co.uk