Tag Archives: Midlands

Birmingham’s First Ever Street Market Launches This Saturday!

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The official launch of BRUM YUM YUM’S Kings hEATh Streetfood Market is taking place on Saturday April 13 at 12noon. Birmingham’s first ever authentic streetfood market will bring together 15 of the country’s hottest streetfood traders, rare street music and an urban circus troupe to create a truly unique dining experience.

Most dishes are in the £3-5 range with lots of snacks and sharing plates on the menu. A selection of quality beer and wine will be served at very reasonable prices (£2 bottle/glass) and if the weather disappoints, visitors can soak up the atmosphere from covered dining areas.

Streetfood Market

Streetfood is the hot trend in dining. The rare combination of quality and value has sparked a huge, vibrant streetfood scene in London. Now Birmingham will see the streetfood revolution roll out across the city. Kings hEATh will be at the Village Square on the second Saturday of every month from 12noon until 6pm, with more markets at various locations across the city due to be announced.

The latest boost to Birmingham’s reputation as a centre of food culture is produced by local promoters BRUM YUM YUM. Director, Duncan Stanley learned his trade in show business as a touring apprentice with local reggae superstars UB40.

Duncan Stanley, director said: “I have a creative vision of what makes a really great streetfood market. A complete experience; a ‘streetfood show’ with quality food, drink and entertainment combined to create a special and unique vibe.

“People want to eat food that is sourced and produced with care and sold at an honest price. Streetfood ticks all the right boxes, so the initial response to our vision for the food events has been overwhelming. Our online following just keeps on growing and the BBC Good Food Show producers are in talks with us about featuring streetfood at their shows.

“Thanks to the support of Birmingham City Council, BRUM YUM YUM’S streetfood markets will be regular foodie fixtures.”

Highlights from the menu for the Kings hEATh launch include; local baby back ribs from the filing cabinet barbecue, the ultimate dry aged Hereford beef burgers, 10 hour roast Cotswold lamb, authentic Neapolitan woodfired pizza, south Indian pure vegetarian masala dosa, handmade Moroccan falafel and hummus, Bradford-Kashmiri halal curries, freshly made hot Belgian waffles, and Middle Eastern salads created by ‘The Deli at Edgbaston’.

Duncan Stanley adds: “If you love great food and drink come early & come hungry. Whatever the weather we will keep you and your family comfortable and entertained. We want our markets to create a family fun atmosphere, a family affair with lots to eat, drink and enjoy whatever your age. I guarantee you will leave happy.”

Find BRUM YUM YUM on twitter @brumyumyum or facebook.com/brumyumyum & get down to Kings hEATh on Saturday 13 April and every second Saturday of the month.

Stuart, Thomas and I will be there soaking up the atmosphere on Saturday and we hope you can join us too :-)

Birmingham Food Festival 2012

The Birmingham Food Festival is returning this coming Friday. I am planning on visiting with Thomas on Monday afternoon. Hope to see you there. Here is some more information about it :-)

The city’s tastiest festival Birmingham Food Fest will take place on 13-19 July 2012, returning after last year’s inaugural success with a week-long menu of food-filled events and restaurant offers throughout the city centre.

This year sees Visit Birmingham, the city’s leisure tourism programme, join forces with partners and leading chefs to showcase the very best of Birmingham’s culinary offer. Birmingham Food Fest kicks off with CBD Food Festival in Victoria Square on 13-14 July, a celebration of the diverse food and drink venues found in Colmore Business District, the city’s commercial heart. Brindleyplace’s super-spicy Birmingham Chilli Festival, which last year attracted thousands of foodie fans from across the region, will also be part of the fiery festivities.

Birmingham Food Fest will feature a mouth-watering line up of fringe events and irresistible restaurant offers as part of Visit England’s 20.12% campaign, promoting the UK’s visitor offer in the lead up to the Olympic Games. Last year’s festival saw an estimated 70,000 people tuck into food and drink offers from over 80 restaurants, leaving visitors hungry for seconds.

Emma Gray, Director of Marketing Services at Visit Birmingham, which is managing Birmingham Food Fest, said: “Last year’s Food Fest really helped put Birmingham on the map as a culinary destination and a haven for food lovers.” The festival saw 70,000 visitors descend on the city to sample our gastronomic delights, attracting nearly £1 million of media coverage and plaudits from influential international titles such as The New York Times, which named Birmingham number 19 in its ‘2012 must-see destinations’ shortlist due to its foodie credentials.

The Birmingham Chefs Alliance, which includes some of the city’s top culinary stars such as Glynn Purnell of Purnell’s, Aktar Islam of Lasan and Richard Turner of Turners Restaurant, have again stepped out in support of Birmingham Food Fest. David Colcombe, Head of The Birmingham Chefs Alliance and Chef Director of Opus Restaurant is currently flying the flag for the city’s foodie reputation stateside at Chicago’s Culinary Crossroads, an event showcasing the food and drink of the NATO nations ahead of the diplomatic summit in May. He said:

“Birmingham has long been home to some fantastic restaurants and chefs that have helped catapult the city into the gastronomic spotlight.

“The underground cooking scene taking root in the city and home-grown talent that continues to push the boundaries of culinary creativity, means Birmingham is quickly gaining recognition as an international haven for food.”

Guest Post From Eat The Midlands: Exclusive Interview With Marcus Wareing

Following on my recent visit to Hotel La Tour, I am pleased to bring you an exclusive interview with Marcus Wareing, the inspiration behind Aalto Restaurant. The interview was conducted by my friend and fellow Midlands foodie James Day of Eat The Midlands. Following a discussion on Twitter, I suggested that James ask the ‘guilty pleasures’ question below. I hope you enjoy reading the interview and thanks to James for letting me share it with me :-)

Being invited to a press lunch is always an honour, never a chore, but some don’t warrant an afternoon smoshing, and saying how wonderful a place is, when you know there is a long way to go. But when  the team at the new Hotel La Tour in Birmingham invited us to attend a lunch, joint hosted by Marcus Wareing, one in my position would be a fool to turn down – Marcus is the chefs chef – the man who helped Gordon Ramsay get to where he is (er was) and the very same man who told him where to go (in no uncertain terms) when they famously fell out in 2007 and parted their ways  via the courts – the result? Marcus retained his status at The Berkeley in London, at what was Petrus, and it was shortly renamed afterwards ‘Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley’ achieving Marcus 2 Michelin stars and a lot of industry acclaim thereafter – so what is he doing on a  cold day in May at a hotel in Birmingham?

Marcus, welcome to Birmingham – is this your first time?
No, far from it – I have been up and down the M40 or London-Birmingham train many times in recent months – since I got involved with the team and MD Jane Schofield at Hotel La Tour last year, it has been non stop – really exciting stuff – this is really out of the norm for me, but I was introduced almost by accident by a  mutual friend, and I loved their ethos, passions and focus, and before I knew it, I was involved in a privately owned new build Hotel in the centre of Birmingham!

So, the Aalto restaurant we are sitting in is ‘Inspired by Marcus Wareing’ Explain
The food you have tasted today has been born out of over 20 years hard graft from me, yes, but the menu, and creation has come from my protégée Chef Alex Penhaligon – I met Alex last year, he went for an interview as a head chef with Hotel La Tour, and not until the final interview did he know he would be working with me – I think he was a little shocked! Alex has spent 3 months in my kitchens in London – both The Berkeley and The Gilbert Scott – he is a real inspiration to me, and my team. I saw the same ethos and passions in him that I also have, and despite spending some years working in branded hotels, which though taught him systems, discipline, structure and good buying, he had lost some of his spark when he came to us, but I could see it was there, deep down – all I did was bring it out of him, and now he is here doing an incredible job.

So what is the Marcus Wareing ethos you mention?
It’s what makes us what we are, and what makes my food what it is. To me it comes from deep within – a drive, a passion, and a vision and above all a comfort in your own skin – You have to do this job for the right reasons, there is no point in thinking you will be the next TV chef – that’s not important, and it does not reward the soul – believe me I’ve seen it. Getting up at the crack of dawn, seeing fine produce arrive in your kitchen, and creating something from it is what the ethos is – and doing it for the customer, not some food critic or a camera, that’s what is important to me. When Alex started with us, I told him to watch, listen, learn and follow – he did just that, and absorbed every bit of it, and look at him now – lunch was incredible, and for almost 90 covers, is a real achievement – when critics like you are watching with your eyes, and cameras, it ain’t easy. {laughs}

So what is Marcus Wareing style food?
Its hard to say…very hard. My own food at The Berkley, where I am most services, and has my name above the door, comes from within – My life growing up in Lancashire, my family cooking, my dads passions, and my training for many years – The Gilbert Scott, which I love, is more influenced by the history of the building and the classics, more brassiere in  style, much like Aalto Restaurant at La Tour. But overall I try and understand what customers want these days – most people are well travelled, have experienced food from all over the world, know what they like, and are prepared to experiment, but in recessionary times like we are in, chefs like me need to appreciate that firstly, the meal may be more of a treat than it was a few years ago, money is tighter, so the experience is key – the front of house staff have never been more important – so you have to respect that, and share your passions with them, so they then instil it on the customer. Gone are the days of the big expense account – it’s now more about value – not discount, but added value in the ingredients the service and the memory they go away with. We have tried to carry that to the Aalto restaurant menu – its excellent value, and classic dishes, such as stew’s, pies, great cuts of beef, fresh fish,  and other ingredients, largely from local suppliers – you have excellent producers in the region including Aubrey Allen Butchers, and Mr Moydens cheeses, both appearing on our menus – not just because they are local, because they are good – I use Aubrey’s in my restaurants in London for that very reason. Select buying means we can keep the prices keen. Customers  will respect that and then hopefully come back.

What are your plans for La Tour Hotels and working with them?

The owners are a great, progressive and passionate – coming from good hospitality stock – originating from Hayley Conference Centres and they have big plans – and good backing. To me their first venture in Birmingham is a huge achievement –a  great investment – and I am proud to be involved. Hotel restaurants are not easy  – they have a stigma. So marketing such places to the potential audience is key – it’s a long game, but as long as the message and the offering is consistent, and the customer receives excellent service and quality sustainable value, then there is no reason why a good destination food venue such as this would not succeed.  Seeing the team today underlines that – you can see it in their eyes. I will continue to oversee the menu development with Alex and the team – they are all very hands on, as am I, and work with them to ensure the diners of the Midlands, and those who are staying in the hotel, enjoy what we have created, and bring their friends and colleagues – it’s a long game and I enjoy playing it.

Your wife famously helps you at the Berkeley, has she been involved with this?
Yes, she is over there. My wife is great, she operates a lot of the back of house business in my own restaurants, taking care of bookings, systems and staff development – I enjoy figures, and systems, and processes, which I agree, is unusual for a chef, but I still focus my attentions onto what goes out of the doors of my restaurant kitchen – I am at every service, and if I am not my customers are told – You can’t pretend anymore with the advent of Twitter – ‘cause someone will tweet they have seen you out with your kids somewhere maybe enjoying a pizza, when hard working customers are spending a lot of money thinking you are preparing  their meal – it’s not on. Saying that – I also prioritise my family, so if I need a service off with them, then I will take it.

What do you do to relax – Any guilty pleasures?
Yeah, I close my front door! I live for my family, my wife and my kids – that is my reality check, and what I work for – In 20 years I want to have a good life, nice holidays and a happy healthy family – you need to keep I touch with that so whatever we are doing together – a night in, a nice meal out, a pizza, great burger, or just a day in the house, it’s my escape – guilty? No, just pleasures I reward myself with.

How does your cooking at home – have your children shown any gourmet-credentials?
{Laughs} We all cook, and I enjoy it at home, simple dishes, but real good ingredients. Family meals are important. It’s funny,  my son had his 7th birthday at the Berkeley, he got all suited and booted, and the family turned up and I cooked for them – I was so proud – “this is what daddy does” – they could see what I was doing when I was not home, and he loved it, they all did. I saw that he really grew up that night, he was even in the kitchen afterwards watching everything go out off the pass to other customers and pointing out what he had had, and watching the brigade and front of house service. I was so proud of him

Did he tip?
No he didn’t, tight bugger! {laughs}

So what will be Marcus Wareing legacy?
{Thinks…} I am not striving for a legacy, I am striving to be involved, fulfilled, and successful in what is our relatively new business, but I don’t strive for TV, fame and media, I just strive for respect, earned, not demanded, that’s all.

Marcus Wareing thank you.

More on Hotel La Tour and Aalto restaurant http://hotel-latour.co.uk/restaurant/

Interview exclusive by James Day of ww.eat-the-midlands.co.uk & www.leisuremarketingltd.co.uk’  © ETM & www.leisuremarketingltd.co.uk 2012.

Behind The Scenes at The Birmingham Malmaison

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to have an experience of a lifetime – be in a restaurant kitchen during a Saturday evening service. It was not just any restaurant kitchen either, it was the kitchen of the Birmingham Malmaison. How did this come about I hear you ask? Well, a month or so ago I went to the Tuscan Wine Evening at the Birmingham Malmaison and got talking to their Regional Manager, Stephen. He wanted to know more about blogging and how we can write about restaurant food without really knowing about the effort that went into creating it. I pointed out that I am a cook not a chef and would not criticise a dish that I have no idea how to make myself. I then said, after one or three glasses of wine too many, that I would love to see a restaurant kitchen during service and Stephen replied ‘how about you come and see the kitchen here?’. Of course, I answered ‘yes’ straight away and at 3pm a few weeks later, I was being taken into the kitchen, ready to work my first shift.

I was greeted by Mark Walsh, Senior Sous Chef and in charge of the kitchen as Head Chef Brian Neath was on holiday and given some chef’s whites. I was then introduced to the other chefs and given a tour of the kitchen. The kitchen works nearly none stop from 5am-11pm as it has to deal with breakfast, lunch and dinner services, room service throughout the day and special events. The most important special event while I was there was cooking for Newcastle Utd Football Club who were staying at the hotel the night before their game with West Bromwich Albion Football Club. Others events included a dinner in one of their private dining rooms, a hen party and an afternoon tea.

I was completed amazed and enthralled by the whole experience. I loved seeing all the preparation and time taken to make each dish. I enjoyed seeing how a table’s food came together at the same time on the pass. I liked seeing all the techniques and gadgets they used to make sure everything was perfect every single time. I enjoyed the heat, the smells, the taste and the sheer adrenaline you get from being in a kitchen during service. I was very tired by the end of the night and I was only observing. About halfway through service, I even began understanding what calls Mark was making to other chefs and I understood exactly what  he wanted them to do. I can see why people want to be chefs- they want to make people happy and make them good food. This was evident from everyone I spoke to in the kitchen. After this experience, I would still very much call myself a cook and I will never be any more than that, but I wouldn’t mind going into a kitchen again, just to see the magic happening again.

I cannot find any more words to sum up the amazing experience I had so I will leave you with some pictures that hopefully will tell you more. Thanks to Mark and his team of chefs, Zara and Stephen for this absolutely amazing experience. I hope to repeat it again one day! :-)

Banfi Wine Evening at Malmaison Birmingham

Stuart and I recently went out on our first night out together since Thomas was born. We were invited to a Tuscan Wine and Food Evening at the Birmingham Malmaison Hotel, located in the Mailbox. We were joined by fellow Midlands Food Bloggers members Jules of Butcher, Baker and Julia of A Wannabe Foodie and their partners. The event was to celebrate Banfi Wines and the event was hosted by Dante Cecchini, UK manager of Castello Banfi and David Manson from Bidendum. The menu was designed by Head Chef Brian Neath. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by friendly faces and lots of wine and food to taste.

The menu and the wine was as follows:

Pinot Gigio Toscana San Angelo

Canapés; Pecorine risotto balls

L’antipasto; Mediterranean vegetables & cured meats

Le Rime Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio

Il primo; Hand made pumpkin & sage tortellini

Rosso di Montalcino & Belnero Sangiovese/Merlot

Il secondo; Veal ‘osso busso’, puré de patate, olio d’olivia

Brunello di Montalcino

formaggio corso; Bra formaggio, Piemonte

Florus Moscadello di Montalcino Vendemmia Tardiva

Il dolce; classic tiramisu

The Pinot Gigio with the antipasti and starter was excellent. It was light and refreshing and complimented the cured meats and vegetables. It was my kind of wine – the sort I could (and did!) drink too much of! The risotto balls were amazing and something I will definitely have a go making at home.

The tortellini was expertly hand made. It was very thin and light. The filling was rich without being overpowering. I wish my pasta could look and taste this good. The Chardonnay was a lot smoother than the Pinot Gigio as you would expect. The Pinot Gigio was more crisp and light and although it was my favourite, Stuart preferred the Chardonnay.

The Veal ‘osso busso’ was our dish of the night. It was so tender you only had to look at and it fell off the bone. It was my first time of having this veal cooked this way and I certainly will be having it again. We had two red wines to try with this course and my favourite was Belnero Sangiovese as it was not as dry as the Merlot and had a more rounded flavour with the Veal.

The red served with the cheese course was a bit rich and intense for me. I still enjoyed it but not as much as the reds with the main course. The selection of cheese and crackers were fantastic but my favourite part of this dish was the onion chutney. Its sharpness cut through everything else and refreshed the palette.

For dessert, we had a classic tiramisu. I love coffee but dislike coffee flavoured desserts. I tried the tiramisu but found the coffee way too sharp, rich and overpowering. The regional manager Stephen very kindly asked the staff to bring out another dessert for me which was a lemon tart. This was much more up my street and the pastry was light and crisp and the filling tasted divine.

After a well needed cup of coffee and a final chat to Jules and Julia and their partners, we suddenly found ourselves as the last to leave. It was a wonderful night and one I would love to repeat again. The Malmaison run a few events like this a year.

Many thanks to Zara, Stephen, Brian and the rest of the team for a fantastic evening. I will be having another adventure with the Birmingham Malmaison soon so please stay tuned :-)

PS: You can read Jules account of the event here :-)

BBC Good Food Show Winter 2011

I have been trying to write this post for ages but it kept on getting put on the bottom of the pile. I would like to say sorry to Ginny and Sharan for it taking so long to write and thank them for a fantastic day

When Thomas was 4 weeks old, we went to the BBC Good Food Show Winter 2011 as guests of Belling.  As this was my first time taking a child to the NEC, I was interested to see how my experience would compare to previous visits. There will be more about this later. First, the most important thing, the food.

When we first arrived, we went straight to the Belling stand and were lucky enough to meet Brian Turner. He is a lovely guy, very funny and exactly like what you see on TV. We were then joined by Louise of Comida Y Vida, her Mum and Grace and Louise and Sous Chef J of Good Food, Great Fun and Gluten Free. Brian did three cookery demonstrations on the stand including a Get Set Cook! challenge (similar to Ready Steady Cook) where he showcased some of the show’s finest producers and recipes from ‘Tweet Pie: The World’s Shortest Recipe Book’ sharing recipes from the people of Twitter.

After having a great time at Belling, we went and saw old friends Tim of Macaroons and More and Kate from Gower Cottage Brownies. After a quick catch up with the gossip, lots of admiring of Thomas and stocking up on vast quantities of both their products, we then saw James Day of Eat The Midlands and Suree Coates of the King and Thai for lunch.

After lunch, we moved onto the The Little Round Cake Company, which is based in Shrewsbury and sells a wonderful range of cakes including Tweeners (bottom left of picture) which are big enough for two to share but not a massive cake. The raspberry and white chocolate tart (top left in picture) was my favourite. We then moved onto Life, Fork & Spoon by James Martin which is a revolutionary new ready meals concept by James Martin, delivering great food to your door. I am hoping to try it soon as it is only based down the road in Worcestershire. After a very tiring day, Thomas and I headed home for some much needed rest. :-)

Tested By Thomas

This is new thing that I have running across both my blogs and a page for it will appear on both blogs soon. Thomas and I have started travelling around testing out baby changing facilities and general reaction to children/babies in restaurants, pubs and so on. We will be reporting on our findings so the readers of my blogs can be informed and know where the best place is to take your children. You can read the first post on Jo’s Nursery here.

The Good Food Show was our first complete day out together and we were very impressed. The organisers of the show had set up a parenting room in a suite, adjacent to the show with bottle warming facilities, a fully kitted out changing area with free wipes, nappies etc. and lots of places to feed your baby. It was all every parent wanted and more. We used it twice. It was quite quiet though so whether it had not been publicised enough I do not know. The queues for the normal NEC changing areas were quite long so maybe it was not. I only used the normal NEC facilities at the end of the day as I was leaving and was I quite glad of the extra parenting room as I could only just get the pushchair in there. How they cope at peak times I will never know.   Parking at the NEC was quite tight too and I only just had enough room to get the pushchair and Thomas out of the car. Perhaps, the NEC could provide parent and child spaces somewhere too.

We would like to thank Ginny and Sharan for a great day out at the show. We look forward to returning in the summer when Thomas will be able to try some of the food for himself! :-)

Bullring Announces Opening Date of Birmingham’s New Landmark – Spiceal Street

The city’s newest dining destination, Spiceal Street at Bullring, is to open on Thursday 24th November.

The new street of restaurants, located in the St Martin’s Square area, is set to shake-up Birmingham’s dining scene as it welcomes two new restaurant brands to the city, ChaoBaby and Browns Bar and Brasserie. Thai banquet-style restaurant, ChaoBaby, adds a new dimension to the dining out experience in the form of exciting live food theatre as diners watch on whilst food is cooked and prepared in the open kitchen.

The second of the new restaurants is the utterly stylish Browns Bar and Brasserie (officially opens 25th November), which offers a range of signature cocktails and a blend of classic and modern dishes. Both are joined by locally-run handmade burger Co., which opens its flagship restaurant on Spiceal Street, offering shoppers only the finest and freshest ingredients.

A spectacular performance between human and machine at 11am on Thursday 24th November will mark the opening of new dining quarter before ChaoBaby and handmade burger Co. open to the public. The unique performance follows a partnership with Arts Council as part of the Arts Nation initiative, and has been created by Leamington Spa based dance theatre company Motionhouse. Visitors can expect to see three diggers and six dancers unite in a mesmerising dance routine. Dancing with extraordinary grace, the machines carve the space, pivot and wheel their human partners whom they lift, nudge and shift in a poetic display to celebrate the completion of Spiceal Street.

The celebration will continue throughout the day as the new restaurants take to St Martin’s Square to offer visitors the chance to sample their food. There will also be music provided by DJs during the day followed by another atmospheric performance from Motionhouse at 6.30pm.

Tim Walley, General Manager at Bullring, commented: “We’re pleased to announce the opening date for Spiceal Street and we’re sure our visitors are too. As a centre we’re famed for our strong fashion offering and with the addition of Spiceal Street we’re confident that we can say the same about our catering offer too.”

The three new restaurants will sit alongside the existing five eateries in the vicinity, including Nandos and Pizza Hut, which have both been extended as part of the new development, and Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, Jamie’s Italian, which opened during late 2010.

A new water feature, containing poetry co-written by two local poets, Simon Turner and popular spoken word performer, Steve Camden (aka Polarbear), a green wall and a public art commission created by Wolfgang Buttress, will also be unveiled on the day.

The new dining quarter will open late into the evening allowing visitors to dine after the centre’s shops have closed at the city’s new dining and socialising hotspot.

I have been lucky enough to sample the fare at Browns and handmade burger Co. before they have come to the Bullring. You can read my reviews about them here and here. I am looking forward to trying ChaoBaby as the concept seems really interesting.

I am hoping to go to the Spiceal Street opening event but it depends when Bump makes an appearance. I hope to see lots of you there! :-)