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Lunch of the week.

lunch lost and found

What: A pulled-pork pitta, with baked apples and onion marmalade, served with a homemade slaw, mustard-dressed salad and a side order of truffle macaroni cheese. Really good-sized portion!

Where: Lost & Found on Bennett’s Hill

With: My brother on an emergency shopping trip. Yes, there is such a thing.

The Drink: A Smokey Joe cocktail made from Buffalo Trace bourbon, Hickory smoked Pepsi cola (!),  Black walnut bitters and Maple Syrup. Sounds like Beyonce’s pre-tour diet but was actually really complex and tasty.

Smokey Joe @ Lost & Found

Smokey Joe @ Lost & Found

The Cost: £15 pp

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Pub Crawling towards The World’s End: Brum’s Best Drinking Pubs

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Drinking like there's no tomorrow: Paddy Considine, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost on their Newton Haven pub crawl. NB drinking 12 pints in one evening is probably not advised outside of your dreams.

Drinking like there’s no tomorrow: Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Eddie Marsan on their Newton Haven pub crawl. NB: drinking 12 pints in one evening is probably not advised outside of your dreams.

After watching The World’s End last Saturday, my first thought was ‘Quick! Let’s find that old Sisters of Mercy album and dance around to “Lucretia My Reflection.”’

My second (slightly more productive) thought was ‘If I had to visit twelve pubs in Birmingham and drink a pint in each before a robotic apocalypse, which ones would I choose?’

So I made my list, and in the event of said robotic apocalypse, I’m all sorted. Would these pubs make your list? If not, which ones would?

1 The Pub: The Hare and Hounds, High Street, Kings Heath, The Drink: Purity’s Ubu  Why? The Hare and Hounds is always a hive of activity, usually involving some live music, and this coupled with Purity brewery’s presence at the Moseley Folk/ Jazz Festivals make this combination a no-brainer.

2 The Pub: The Prince of Wales, Alcester Road, Moseley The Drink: Oakham’s Bishop’s Farewell Why? If J.R.R. Tolkien likes a pub, there’s good drinking to be had. Although I’ve blogged on its epic beer garden before, The Prince is first and foremost a drinker’s pub. The front is a model Victorian boozer almost puritan in its restraint, while the back is just drinking-Disneyland. I chose Bishop’s Farewell purely because I thought the name would be apposite (damn those evil-natured robots –damn them all to hell!) But I have confidence in the beers on tap at this place, which I certainly can’t say about all the pubs I’ve visited over the years.

3 The Pub: The Anchor, Bradford Street, Digbeth The Drink: Hobson’s Mild Why? By now my dad would be complaining that he was missing out on a mild (although he’s been missing a particular mild – Ansell’s – for many years now). I don’t know why more pubs don’t keep one on draught permanently, so kudos to The Anchor for making sure they do. A four-time winner of CAMRA’s Local Pub of the Year Award, they really put in the effort to support smaller breweries. Let’s hope the robotic apocalypse doesn’t occur before Digbeth gets further in its regeneration because The Anchor deserves to be visited, and often.

4 The Pub: The Old Contemptibles, Edmund Street The Drink: cloudy cider Why? Although it’s owned by Nicholson’s (which some drinkers object to but in these straightened times it’s hard for free-houses to keep afloat) there is always a decent selection of cask ales, regular festivals and during the summer, usually a fab selection of ciders that transport you out of the city centre and into a fantasy Somerset farm, preferably under an apple tree. Also, I’d be getting hungry by now and it’s always good to eat a pie with a massive lamb shank sticking out of the top!      

5 The Pub:  The Jekyll and Hyde, Steelhouse Lane The Drink: Hendricks Gin and Tonic Why? Although I’ve had great times washing down Bathtub Gin, Lovehearts cocktails and a mixture of Gin, jam and lemon juice served from a teapot in the upstairs Gin Parlour, this is the end, folks. Time to go back to basics. J&H boast that they treat gin like whisky, i.e. there’s one to suit almost every palette. Well for me, it’s got to be Hendricks and Fentiman’s with a lime (or maybe cucumber, no, definitely lime). I hope they have that  DJ there that plays all the MoTown stuff.

6 The Pub: The Rose Villa Tavern, Warstone Lane, Hockley The Drink: Gwynt Y Draig Happy Daze Cider Why? I’m not really a fan of Hoxley/ Jewellery Quarter pubs on the whole. They are not what you’d call down to earth. And drinking should be an easy-going, enjoyable process, not dependent on dodging queue-cutting morons who pretend to wear glasses, eyeing up someone’s thrift-shop purchase quota, or enduring extra-loud house music when I want to conduct a conversation. It’s not really the pubs’ fault (apart from the music volume); it’s more that the clientele can be tricky. But they seem to like it that way and each to their own. But tonight I’m making a couple of exceptions; the Rose Villa Tavern has always been a little different, more tranquil, and I’ve gone for the Welsh cider on tap at last month’s Cider Fest (to appease Dad again, Welsh as he is).

 7 The Pub: The Black Eagle, Factory Road, Hockley The Drink: Ansell’s Mild Why? I just said I wasn’t a fan of Hockley boozers so why am I back here? Well, for one thing I have never been to this pub, but tonight there’s a first (and last) time for everything. It has brilliant reviews and is a multi-award winning CAMRA favourite. Do you remember the advert for Fry’s Turkish Delight back in the day? This One with the Rudolph Valentino lookalike? Well that’s only the landlord! I know – it’s blowing my mind! But best of all it keeps Ansell’s Mild on tap – the mild of my Dad’s dreams. Having found out about this place, I’m going to take him this weekend! He’s old, so why wait?

8 The Pub: The White Horse, York Street, Harborne The Drink: Hanson’s Porter Why? There is plenty of healthy competition among Harborne’s pubs. The Plough won CAMRA’s Rising Star award in 2010 though some locals on well known beer forums accuse it of being a wee bit too expensive on the beer front, as the hub of Harborne’s gentrification. I’ll bow to popular opinion on this one. The White Horse has ten real ales on tap, a beer board just like my final pub choice (plenty more pints to sink yet though) and friendly, slightly incontinent spaniels (obviously we connect on a number of levels).     

9 The Pub: The Tap and Spile, Gas Street The Drink: Doom Bar Why? This was our local for a couple of years, it’s nothing special, but it stays open later than pretty much everywhere else in town, always has Doom bar and Greene King on tap and descends into a reliably cheesy karaoke session during which  everyone at the bar imagines themselves to be Freddie Mercury, Steve Perry or Dave Lee Roth. Fun Fact: The husband almost got into a punch-up here with a 6 ft 4’’ Glaswegian who didn’t like more than one person in the pub to wear a hat. My husband wore one, guess who wore the other?

10 The Pub: The Victoria, John Bright Street The Drink: Brooklyn Lager on draught Why? I’m hoping the world ends on a week night because by Friday night this place is rammed. Also I don’t want to be on the side of the bar with the sticky carpet. And, the barman here looks like my husband’s good friend (and epic drinking companion) Terry, which is comforting.

 11 The Pub: The Post Office Vaults, New Street The Drink: Chimay White Why? By this point in proceedings I really don’t care anymore so let’s up the alcohol content with some of the hoppy Belgian white stuff. I’m so pleased the POV has been a success story, it’s always rammed in the evenings, has over 300 foreign beers available now (including the decadent Deus Brut des Flandres which I would have bought if I hadn’t just spent all my cash at the previous ten pubs) and my dad can even have a third pint of mild! Not bad for the little cellar that could.

12 The Pub: The Wellington, Bennett’s Hill The Drink: Whatever you’re selling the most of today, good sir Why? This is the granddaddy of Brum’s CAMRA pubs, a World’s End if ever there was one*. The adult equivalent of a sweetie store, each pump glistens with promise of flavours yet to come. Again, it gets absolutely rammed on weekends but that’s not when I’ve had my best times here. There have been cosy chats, loud impassioned debates on international policy (oops, that kind of broke the rules on polite pub conversations and almost got some of us chucked out), sightings of Neil Morrissey (in the back alleyway, puffing on a ciggie), a thirty second heart to heart with a barmaid about my late mother, and epic, epic all-day sessions here when I was a student. Always loved that you can bring in food and eat it here (they even supply the cutlery); the scene of many a guilty MacDonald’s meal and Christmas Market bratwurst. But this place has made me happy (and a bit dizzy), so I’d have my last drink here.

 

*There is. In Camden. Went there last week. But they were accepting cash only. Boooo. 

Brum’s Best Beer Gardens

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public domain imagehttp://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=35287&picture=cool-beer

public domain imagehttp://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=35287&picture=cool-beer

You know how it is, we wait months for a sunny day then two come along on consecutive days.

Everyone rushes out to take in the Vitamin D.

‘This is it’ they cry.

‘Summer is finally here!’

You rush out to buy a new summer wardrobe, you debate buying a gas barbecue. You debate building an outside wood burning pizza oven.

Then suddenly, as quickly as it arrived our ‘Summer’ is over and we are once more flung back into the overcast existence of typically British weather.

The point is at the moment we should seize the sunny days as they occur. With this in mind here are my top five Birmingham beer gardens ahead of this weekend’s May Bank Holiday.

The ever so cool beer garden at The Lord Clifden is more fun than it sounds.

The ever so cool beer garden at The Lord Clifden is more fun than it sounds.

I wasn’t sure about this place in the Jewellery Quarter until recently. With its abundant collection of modern art (including a Banksy no less!), too-cool-for-school clientele such as Damian Hirst and Observer Food Award, I thought it would be trendy to the point of alienation. I’m half expecting Proudlock and Phoebe from Made In Chelsea to make a special Shoreditch-lite pilgrimage at some point.

But it turns out this beer garden is held in good regard by locals for a reason. Lots of seating space, a ping pong table, a constantly repainted/ graffiti-clad/ muralised  post box and its own beer make for a decent afternoon.

Apparently the garden has just had a makeover and if you want to want to check it out then you’re just in time for one of their Kitchen Disco parties this weekend on Sunday 26th. Entrance is free and from 2pm sounds and BBQ smells will be emanating from the garden. Roasts will also be on until 9pm too.

The good news is that there will be music events in the garden all summer providing a good opportunity to take a chance on this local institution.

The Figure of Eight's beer garden.

The Figure of Eight’s beer garden.

Now, now – we mustn’t get snotty about this being a Witherspoon place. For all the branding, they do at least keep pubs running that would have gone under as indies.

I have included this on the list because it does have the biggest beer garden in the city centre and a rather nice one at that. It was right around the corner from where I used to live. The drinks and food were cheap, there were never any fights, it was well-lit in the evenings and it was just an easy-going place to hang out which is all you can ask from a beer garden. Enjoy.

Jekyll & Hyde's beer garden has and Alice In Wonderland theme. Photo courtesy of joskitchen.co.uk

Jekyll & Hyde’s beer garden has and Alice In Wonderland theme. Photo courtesy of joskitchen.co.uk

As regular readers will know, this is one of my favorite bars in the city. It has a tiny beer (or should that be gin) garden out back with twinkly lights and Lewis Carroll murals. It gets crowded so best for an early drinking session (but that just means it can be first stop on your bar crawl).

This bank holiday it will unusually be open on Sunday (26th) but not Monday and there will be lots of Blues/ Motown/ Loft music all weekend (here’s a handy link to what’s occurring on which night).

OK, girls might appreciate this particular page of J&H's cocktail book more than any red-blooded males out there but it does give you an idea of the inventiveness on offer.

OK, girls might appreciate this particular page of J&H’s cocktail book more than any red-blooded males out there but it does give you an idea of the inventiveness on offer.

They also have what I consider to be the BEST BANK HOLIDAY DEAL  – £4 cocktails have been extended to all day and night on Saturday and all night on Sunday so a good opportunity to grab a whole bunch of the best gin & tonics in town!

Beer garden at The Prince of Wales. It is a pretty extraordinary place.

Beer garden at The Prince of Wales. It is a pretty extraordinary place.

When it’s a bonafide sunny afternoon in Brum, I like to go to the epicenter of pub garden awesomeness and that means Moseley Village. Just a 15 minute hop on the No. 1 bus from Town Hall or Broad Street and you are transported to Birmingham’s liveliest suburb.

The Prince should be on the list of best pub gardens in Britain, never mind Brum. For it is not just somewhere to take your pint and sit, it is a veritable beer garden complex not unlike the beer gardens in Munich’s English Gardens yet this is way more British in its eccentricity.

It's wine in a shed - how could you not love this place?

It’s wine in a shed – how could you not love this place?

Not only is there a ridiculously huge amount of seating but you are covered in the event of a downpour, you are heated in the event of a strong breeze and you are table-served in the event of sheer laziness.

It gets even better: dry ice cocktails at the Mo Tiki bar.

It gets even better: dry ice cocktails at the Mo Tiki bar.

I know, brilliant, right? Well it doesn’t stop there. Within the garden is a wine bar (Shed du Vin), a cigar bar and a Tiki cocktail bar. All this and a stage for the inevitable folk band performances (well, it is Moseley). There is a definite party atmosphere here which is really infectious – I dare you to come here and not have a good time. No really, I have some great dares lined up. Bring it!

A mere 2 minute stroll down the street from the Prince is this Mitchell’s & Butler’s owned (though you wouldn’t guess it) city boozer with another A1 beer garden in the rear. I told you – Moseley does this sort of thing better than most places.

41_thefightingcocks_gardenhero_03

     You remember at school when there was an annual Parents’ Committee barbecue and it was held at the farm of one of your friend’s dads? No? Just me then. Well, this beer garden reminds me of those kind of barbecues.

So many nooks and crannies to hide out in this place. I once took shelter on a leather couch in a barn here! There are the obligatory fairy lights, the music, the occasional hog roast. Like The Prince it is a really great place to while away the evening. And people mingle good-naturedly, a bit like parents at a barbecue.

And a special mention goes to…

  • The sun terrace at the top of The Cube
Spectacular view from the top of The Cube and it's slightly closer to the sun.

Spectacular view from the top of The Cube and it’s slightly closer to the sun.

Although I’ve heard mixed reviews of the Marco Pierre White restaurant attached, the terrace is pretty stunning. I’ve only been there at night and was not so impressed by the cocktails (or some of the clientele) but my old hairdresser told me that  she and her colleagues would retire there during sunny lunch hours to have a beer and sit outside.

Thinking outside the box, it could be worth a go.

Happy bank holiday folks, have a good time and maybe I’ll see you at one of the above 🙂 .

Drat! Foiled by fate and Nazis…

Sorry for the break in posts. My husband finally finished his Masters thesis so we took a ‘staycation’.

I had hoped to be posting on the Juniper Cinema at Jekyll & Hyde this evening but due to our urgent need to find employment, the husband is in London on business and I am all alone… Annoying too as tonight they are showing Iron Sky, a film that keeps eluding me. It always sells out when shown at The Electric – I guess it’s the classic combination of Nazis in space (genius). I think even if it is a stinker, it’s hard not to pull for a film that was financed mainly by public donations from people who fancied seeing a film about Nazis in space. I love a good underdog story.

Hogarth’s Gin Lane: Jekyll and Hyde is on Steelhouse Lane – do not confuse.

The other news is that our lease is up at the end of next month. This may mean moving to another flat in the city, or more likely, moving to a new city (sniff). This really chaps my arse (teehee) as it means I may not be able to carry on Brummed Out (full on sob). I am so disappointed as I have so much stuff planned for this blog and I have come to love Brum. The Brummies. And our flat.

But I promise to keep on blogging right up until the moment we get out of Spaghetti Juction. Maybe even beyond that. And who knows – we might even return…

The View from the Top: drinks at The Cube

Hey look mum, I can see my house from here: braving the vertigo to look through the Tetris blocks.

Call me slow but I finally made it up to the bar at the top of The Cube on Saturday night.

My friend has just scored a new job (and a pay rise – you go girl!) and feels on top of the world right now so we thought this would be a suitable venue for a celebration.

We really just went for the view. Another friend who has just moved into The Cube, says the building is rumbling discontentedly about the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse (the bar is part of this restaurant and attached to the Laurent Perrier Champagne Bar on the 25th floor). Rumours of problems with staff and management seem to be reflected in the decidedly mixed Trip Advisor reviews that point towards an establishment with much potential but many unresolved issues.

The Good:

After getting in the wrong lift (and being followed by a gaggle of similarly clueless bar seekers) we took the express up to the 25th floor. The elevator door opened on to throngs of Brum-glamazons, heading to and from the bar. The surprisingly narrow opening to the main room led out onto a large curving sun terrace.

The feted view stretched out before me, through the Tetris-like façade of the building on to the canals and Broad Street below. It stretched out as far as the horizon. For a moment I was Blake Lively in that perfume ad, staring in awe at the thousands of twinkling lights and the potential of the metropolis, while Midnight City thumps in the background. Then the record screeched off as the husband pointed out ‘ugh, look at the burned-out car and that derelict warehouse – what a view!’

I chose to look beyond this aesthetic bump in the vista. The city is its flaws surviving alongside its gems, after all. We took our seats at a table on the furthest edge of the terrace. I gingerly looked over the edge and my vertigo eased slightly as I discovered a small ledge on the floor below. There would be no tipsy toppling tonight!

And just then, the sky burst into colour. A firework display to mark the end of Arts Fest was beginning over in Centenary Square and we undoubtedly had the best view. The explosions were reflecting perfectly on the mirrored walls of The Cube and the whole terrace burst into applause at the end. It was unexpected and magical.

It was also bloody cold up there.  To make the most of the terrace, a few discreet but well-placed halogen lamps wouldn’t go amiss.

Another plus was the behaviour of everyone on the terrace. If this building was on Broad Street, there would no doubt have been a drunken tragedy by now. But here, everyone was polite, courteous and, well, refreshingly un-Brum-night-outish. It’s good for the city to possess a variety of nightlife and for its entertainment to extend beyond the predictability of Broad Street.

The Bad: Firstly, the bar needs more staff. A long wait to be served is expected on a Saturday night but when the bar area is permanently five-deep, something has to be changed. Is it really worth the expensive prices when the drinks are being made by inexperienced bartenders? I was told I could not order a B52 (one of the easiest cocktails I know) because no one had enough experience to mix it. Not good enough Marco.

The bar knows it has the best location in town. Why not make the rest of its features as special? Bring in some showy mixologists who can also train up the rest of the bar staff. Get in a pianist or a smoking- hot house jazz-band. Some of our group also thought that the bar and restaurant were too brightly lit for the evening. This bar could be seductive, grown-up and glittering with candles  to let the city lights speak for themselves but the over-reliance on indoor halogens means the atmosphere loses the dangerous allure of a truly great bar.

Drinking a martini, having a Blake Lively moment.

The Ugly:  The terrace was pretty well-behaved as I mentioned but over in the bar area there was some big-game hunting going on and we quite enjoyed the people-watching safari. On the way down, we realised why the lift area was so crowded. Gaggles of tactically undressed girls were scoping out who was in the lifts. Was it anyone worth flicking their hair for i.e. a footballer? There was a slightly mercenary quality about these wannabe wags. It can’t have done much for the self-esteem of the majority of male customers.

It wasn’t just the girls who exhibited questionable ‘animal kingdom’ manners. During a marathon wait at the bar,one of our group was surreptitiously felt up by the obligatory Saturday night ‘bar perv’, although this happens everywhere doesn’t it and just one is quite low for a bar in terms of bar-perv statistics.

So all in all it was a good night, but not great. We went up for the view but could have more drinks in better surroundings for a fraction of the cost. Yet I haven’t given up hope that this place will iron out some of the kinks and develop into a must-go venue in a year or two.

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