Table Talk

A boozy table talk this week, with news of new bar openings in Coventry, Birmingham and Stratford upon Avon for you.

The Botanist Birmingham cocktail

The Botanist bar and restaurant has submitted an application for an alcohol license, which if approved could see them opening up in Unit 4 of the Broadgate Centre in the heart of Coventry. How the city will fare with hanging kebabs, watering cans of cocktails and even mini wheelbarrows to serve food remains to be seen.

The Canal House Birmingham craft beer

I missed the launch party due to train woes (maybe I should have taken a barge instead!) so I am keen to get inside the newly opened Canal House and try some of their home distilled gin. The former home of 18th century engineer James Brindley has been transformed into two levels serving food, premium craft beers and cocktails, alongside live music.

Limoncello at Veeno

Italian wine café Veeno has become the first restaurant to open at the Bell Court complex in Stratford-upon-Avon. The 90-seat venue serves wines from the family vineyard back in Sicily and Spuntini – platters of meats, cheeses and other appetisers imported from selected Italian producers.

Advertisements

Battle of the bars Gas Street Social v The Botanist

Two shiny new bars and restaurants have recently opened in Birmingham – in the Mailbox Gas Street Social and on Temple Street The Botanist. You can’t have missed the tweets and blog posts on these flying around!

I’ve visited both to bring you my knockout guide to which one packs the biggest punch for food and drink lovers in Brum.

ROUND ONE : LOCATION

round one

Canalside views from the decked terrace, next to The Everyman cinema

V

An airy oasis in the heart of the city centre, just off Colmore Row.

WINNER – GAS STREET SOCIAL

ROUND TWO: FOOD

round two

Menu split into Boards and Social Plates packed with fish, meat and veg dishes from arancini balls at £5.95 to a charchuterie board with meats from the Forest Pig for £15.95. Locally sourced where possible. Classic dishes of fish and chips, duck breast and rib-eye steak options for main courses. Six classic desserts including brownies and cheesecake.

V

16 starters including pan-fried garlic mushrooms served in a mini trowel for £4.95 and chicken liver paté hidden in a plant pot with the chutney in a wheelbarrow. Make your own deli board with four dishes for £9.95, more imaginative main dishes including chicken and chorizo pie, lamb tagine and hake fillet. The show-stopping hanging kebabs are popular (make sure you ask your server to pour the hot butter over your kebab the first time you visit). Again only a small choice for desserts, but rocking trifle and rum baba in vintage style glasses.

WINNER: THE BOTANIST

ROUND THREE: TO PLATE OR NOT TO PLATE

round three

The odd wooden board makes an appearance, but plate purists can rest easy with how their meals are served on white porcelain.

V

Plant pots, watering jugs, trowels and mini wheelbarrows are some of the gardening tools used to serve food, but there are some dainty painted plates as well.

WINNER – GAS STREET SOCIAL

ROUND FOUR : DRINKS

round four

Fun cocktails with The Socialite, Lunar Society Punch and Gas Street Cobbler topping my favourites. Thoughtful non-alcoholic drinks too. The drinks list is let down by over-priced wines and lack of premium spirits other than gin.

V

A huge list of inventive cocktails, mixing herbs and botanicals with premium spirits from a Watermelon and Sage Sling to a Rose Mai Tai all around £8.  Thirsty drinkers, and those with deeper pockets, could share a watering can for £24.95 or punchbowl for £100. Also 16 gins and more than 70 different beers to choose from.

WINNER: THE BOTANIST

ROUND FIVE : DÉCOR

round five

Industrial glamour of a loft apartment with wood and metal, softened with pops of cobalt blue paint and squashy upholstery in the wooden booths and long tables.

V

Shabby country chic in pale green and white. Distressed wood, cabinets of nick nacks and painted floral tiles in the open kitchen brighten up the comfortable eating and drinking areas.

WINNER: THE BOTANIST

ROUND SIX : OWNERSHIP

round six

Independently owned by Midlands couple Adam Freeth and his wife, Adam has been shaking cocktails for more than a decade.

V

Part of the Living Ventures Group, which started in Manchester and has extended to London. The Botanist Birmingham is run by a well known local face Julian Rose-Gibbs (ex The Victoria).

 WINNER – GAS STREET SOCIAL

So in the battle of best new bar in Birmingham with three each IT’S A DRAW!

Gas Street Social scores well for the canalside location, locally sourced produce and independent ownership , whereas The Botanist gets the thumbs up for its mahoosive choice of drinks and stylish décor.

April’s hot new openings

Its April at last! I’m not doing a good job of waiting for Nomad and The Botanist in Birmingham, as well as The Mock Turtle and Drawing Board in Leamington Spa, to open their doors.

I’ll be visiting all of them over the next week or so, but in the meantime to whet your appetite here is what you can expect from these exciting new additions to the Birmingham and Leamington restaurant scene.

Nomad

Nomad montage

Known for his vegetarian masterpieces at Warehouse Café and Bistro 1847,chef Alex Claridge is branching out on his own with pop-up Nomad. The three month residency  at the Kings Heath Café starts on Friday 3 April but move quickly if you want to bag a table!

Alex says “I want to cook food that excites me. Nomad is a collection of ideas, focusing on memory, place and nature.  I want to explore these things through cooking.”

The Birmingham Mail has already had a sneak peak at the menu, which includes dishes to surprise and delight diners – including moss, filthy duck wings, fresh ricotta in ashes and white chocolate, caramel, pepper dulse, popcorn. If you miss out on this pop-up, a city centre Nomad residency is planned for June.

The Botanist

The Botanist montage

On Monday 6 April, the wrought iron gates of Chamberlain House in Temple Street will reveal The Botanist bar and restaurant.  The first foray into Birmingham by the Living Ventures group, we are promised barbecue, deli and rotisserie food with an extensive 45 cocktails and 82 bottled beers. All under the care of general manager Julian Rose-Gibbs (ex The Victoria).

The Mock Turtle  The Mock Turtle montage

The collaboration of The Jabberwocky with The Cake Doctor was bound to get my pulse racing! Two of my favourite street food chefs are opening their first restaurant together, in the unlikely setting of an assisted living development for the over 55s.

Flic explains; “The development company at Queensway Court want a fresh, local caterer who won’t provide jail-house slop. We want a Jabberwocky restaurant where we can serve toasties, tea and all the other foods that make us happy. Leamington has tons of cafés, but down that end, where the retail park lurks, the best you can get is a chain coffee and a defrosted vac-pack of cake.”

Queensway Court is open to the whole community, so everyone can enjoy a Manwich to a Sunday roast with some of the finest cakes for afters, seven days a week from 8.30 am when they open on Thursday 2 April.

Drawing Board

Drawing Board montage

The Regency Arms pub in Leamington Spa sadly closed its doors in January this year. Perhaps the good value menu by resident chef Christophe Charpentier and live music weren’t enough to keep the venue going, which is a huge shame as I liked the place.

Details on this new opening are scant, but the owners are teasing us with their refurb pics on Twitter, showing glimpses of comic book art, with a tentative opening date around Thursday 9 April for the handsome two storey Newbold Terrace pub.

So a busy week ahead trying the menus of Nomad, The Botanist, The Mock Turtle and Drawing Board awaits!

Photo credits: Birmingham Mail, Nomad, The Botanist, The Mock Turtle, Drawing Board

2015 food adventures

Happy New Year!

In 2015 I’m looking forward to eating at The Smoke Pit in Northampton, sipping cocktails at The Botanist in Birmingham and learning some new cookery skills at Harborne’s Food School, which I will be writing up as new blog features for you shortly.

2015 food adventures

I am also very excited about two new food events  in Warwickshire that I am working on. They will launch in March and September so I will be updating on you on these fantastic new events as soon as I can!

 

Charge your glasses

charge your glasses

As Birmingham is buzzing with the news of two new bars opening soon – Bar Opus at One Snowhill and The Botanist in Temple Street, my latest In the Basket feature is everything you need to charge your glasses. From cocktail classes to hand crafted gin, I hope that you will have fun with these liquid heroes.