Jailbird – Birmingham

When I heard Nosh & Quaff no longer existed, and Jailbird had taken its place, I was very pleased. I was very pleased because the name ‘Nosh & Quaff’ made me want to rip my eyeballs out. Seems excessive doesn’t it? Well, let me tell you a little anecdote and see if you still feel that way.

It was August 2017 and I was walking through London’s Oxford Circus area, when out of nowhere I saw a restaurant called ‘Scoff & Banter’.

My heart started racing. I looked away. I was shaking. I must have imagined it. Was this a dream?! Surely they haven’t called their restaurant that? I slowly turned back to take a second glance – there it was, as clear as day: ‘Scoff & Banter’. I fainted.

The next thing I remember was waking as paramedics were trying to get me into an ambulance.

“Where’s my girlfriend?” I shouted.

“It’s OK Mr Foodie Boy, you’ve had a bit of a funny turn,” said the paramedic trying to calm me down.

“Unhand me! I need to find my girlfriend.” I got up and ambled away, blood pouring from my head.

“Sorry Sir, who are you here to see?” the receptionist at my girlfriend’s work enquired.

“Fuck off you square,” I screamed as I entered the lift.

“Rob, what are you doing here? What’s happened to your head?” The woman in my life asked.

“We need to go… NOW.”

“What’s going on?”

“There’s no time to explain, but something bad has happened and we need to go NOW.”

We went home, packed up our stuff and headed to Birmingham safe in the knowledge Brummies wouldn’t call a restaurant anything that dreadful.

It’s been great living in this fine city for the past nine months, with the exception of the involuntary twitch I’d get when too close to the sign for ‘Nosh & Quaff’. So, there you have it.


I was fortunate enough to be offered to try the menu at Jailbird by the most delightful Paul Fulford.

The space has changed considerably, with the downstairs bar area far brighter and more inviting than its predecessor. The upstairs restaurant is very smart, comfortable and has plenty of exposed brickwork which I enjoy stroking.

To start I thoroughly enjoyed scallops and bacon. The scallops were perfectly cooked and the sweetcorn offered a pleasingly sweet contrast to the salty bacon. Sweetcorn’s sweet and bacon’s salty – who knew? I really am a fine addition to the food blogging world. Scoff.

For main I had a 16oz Flat Iron steak, mainly because the other steaks on the menu were 20oz, 28oz and 40oz – and I’m not manly enough for that.

It was perfectly medium-rare as requested and a quality piece of meat. The massive chunky chips didn’t do much for me, but then I’m not really into massive chunks of potato. I’d prefer frites with my steak, probably because they fit better in my delicate nosh hole.

We quaffed some Australian Shiraz, and I even managed to fit in a chocolate tart because my dedication to obtaining type 2 Diabetes is unwavering. Banter.

It was a splendid evening and the next time I fancy a considerable portion of meat I will return.

Lima – London

I woke up in London the other week, London is a place in the South East of England, it’s famous for all sorts of things, like did you know it’s got its own crisp restaurant?! Mad!

When I got up on that Sunday morning I felt surprisingly fine considering the amount of booze I’d consumed the day before. So fine in fact, I thought, “I might treat myself to a nice lunch.”

A bit of time spent on popular search engine Google.com lead me to settle on Peruvian restaurant, Lima – it’s got a Michelin star and a tasting menu for £45 (lunchtime only).

Upon departing the hotel the hangover kicked in, not helped by the fact that London was muggier than Danny Dyer stealing your grandmother’s purse.

For those of you unfamiliar with hangovers – they are ideally spent in a cold, dark room with a packet of beef monster munch, a toffee crisp and a can of coke. They are not to be spent walking around London in the heat.

A 45 minute walk later… I arrived at the restaurant and waited for the couple with two small children ahead of me to get sorted out. They sat at the front next to the large, open doors where a lovely breeze was floating in.

Asked where I wanted to sit, I settled on the back of the establishment as hangovers are not improved being near small children.

The back of the restaurant was approximately 400 degrees. I asked for a beer before I sat down as beer is cold and can also make a hangover go away.

The tasting menu is called the ‘Peruvian experience’. I settled in and waited for Nolberto Solano to start playing the pan pipes.

Is it fair to judge a restaurant with an almighty hangover? I’m not sure, I’ve either decided it is – because you’re looking for the restorative qualities of the food, or it’s not – because you spend most of the time while eating it thinking you’re about to die.

Fair or not, here’s what I thought.

First to arrive was a bowl of ceviche.

To my massive surprise, a bowl of raw fish actually went down pretty well, as did the next dish ‘Duck escabeche’. Two rather miserly pieces of duck on top of a delicious, sweet and acidic brown sauce – a sauce so shiny I could see my own face in it – which in my state was not appreciated.

At this point I was starting to feel a bit better, so much so I messaged a friend about meeting up for beers after lunch.

Then the next two dishes happened and it all went a bit down hill.

To celebrate Peru’s Asian influences a plate of stir fried veg came out, and they were massively uninspiring.

Then cod with a prawn on top. After dismantling the prawn and having a bite, the taste of full intestinal tract filled my mouth and I wondered what I’d done to deserve this misery.

The cod was sufficiently forgettable that I’ve forgotten eating it.

We were back on track with the suckling pig dish, but by now I was flagging and cancelled the plans I’d made twenty minutes earlier.

The strawberry dessert arrived and I remember eating it very quickly because I urgently needed to get on a train to take me directly to bed.

All in all, it was decent. Although I don’t recommend prawn shit on a hangover.

Brunch recipe – Hashpanc™

Hi, have you ever heard of brunch? No? At the FoodieBoys we think it’s going to be absolutely massive.

Brunch is a period of time between breakfast and lunch, thus how it got its clever name – although we’d have prefered leakfast, but sadly we don’t make the rules.

Brunch items often involve muffins, smoked salmon, hollandaise and all sorts of other nonsense.

Is that enough text before we get into the recipe yet? Or do I need to prattle on for a bit longer with SEO rich wording about how my grandmother used to make this recipe back in the war for Winston Churchill?

Hashpanc™

“What the absolute fuck is that?” I hear you cry.

Thanks for asking, it’s a clever brunch recipe involving hashbrowns and pancetta. Clever.

Ingredients

  • Hash browns – as many as you want, depending on how obese you’re feeling.
  • Pancetta
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • White wine
  • Butter
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Parsley

Method

  1. Put some hash browns in an oven.
  2. The second thing you’ll want to do is put a frying pan over some heat, I chose the hob in my kitchen but you’re allowed to use anything with sufficient heat to cook pork – ask your mum. (I’m telling you to ask your mum as she is probably knowledgeable about that sort of thing, it wasn’t a crude joke about your mum and pork)
  3.  I cook the pancetta a bit first so it starts to crisp up.
  4. Then add some chopped shallots. A shallot is an onion but for people that are better than you.
  5. Add some garlic, and a splash of white wine if you happen to have a tiny bit of white wine sitting next to the oven (that’s the only reason I added it).
  6. Add a cock of butter, why not?
  7. Plate up.
  8. Put some cheddar cheese on it because we’re all going to die.
  9. Sprinkle some parsley on top because it’s compulsory to put parsley on everything.

Little Blackwood – Moseley

‘Little Blackwood’… sounds a bit like a very niche category of pornography doesn’t it? It’s not, it’s a restaurant in Moseley.

I actually went about a month or so ago on the day it opened but I never got round to writing a review. Sometimes these things just happen, often for reasons outside of your control, like your brain isn’t working or your fingers drop off.

Little Blackwood is the new restaurant run by Richard Blackwood’s little brother – Chef Ben Taylor. I presume he’s Richard Blackwood’s little bother, but must admit I’ve neither asked or researched this – if you’re so concerned, do it yourself.

To begin I had an old fashioned and some wine. Don’t believe me? Fine, proof of this below.

For my starter I had the squid, pork crackling and chimichurri – I always order things accompanied with chimichurri because it’s fun to say and also sounds like something an A-list celebrity like Richard Blackwood might call his children.

The squid was beautifully cooked and the dish worked really well, the crackling could have been a little smaller so you could get it on your fork – but that’s a minor complaint, and meant I got to pick it up and eat it like a man.

For my main I chose the duck with carrot purée and boulangere potatoes.

The duck was very nicely cooked and the potato was delicious. I must give a mention to the guinea fowl Thai green curry that the woman in my life had – it was bloody good.

For dessert we shared three deep fried bao with various sweet fillings – mango sorbet, a mint chocolate chip ice cream and white chocolate. The white chocolate was our favourite – I’m lead to believe ‘white chocolate’ might be the mischievous nickname Richard Blackwood has for Ben.

Summary: Really enjoyable dinner, excellent food and very reasonably priced wine. I will definitely be returning.

Purnell’s bistro – Birmingham

I’m about to blow your mind, seriously, sit down before you read this next bit.

I just realised that ‘Glynn’ is ‘Lynn’ with a G at the front. Had you ever considered that? I hadn’t. Now think of all the other potential baby names just sat there waiting for use:

  • Glaura
  • Glouise
  • Glily
  • Glisa
  • Glinda
  • Glorraine

I know?! Frankly I could finish this blog right here and it’d have been worth you clicking on it – a great return on investment.

I like Glynn Purnell, almost entirely based on the fact he is also being a Birmingham City fan, but also because he is good at presenting Saturday Kitchen Live. I’m yet to visit his restaurant because I’m a bit scared I won’t like it and will be sad.

Last weekend was my father’s birthday so I thought I’d treat him to lunch. He said he’d like Indian or Italian so I decided to ignore him entirely and take him to Purnell’s Bistro.

I walk past the Bistro pretty much every day, so have always been intrigued what it’d be like. Upon finding out he does a 3 course set menu lunch for £20 it seemed like a winner.

There are only two choices for main, starter and dessert but fortunately there was something we all liked the sound of for each.

The goats cheese tart with black olive tapenade to start was really good, although it did leave me wondering, ‘when does a piece of puff pastry become a tart?’

The blade of beef with confit tomatoes and onion purée for main was pretty good, although it did leave me wondering, ‘are these really confit tomatoes?’

The Earl Grey panna cotta with pistachio biscotti was excellent, although it did leave me wondering, ‘why don’t I have a tongue like a fucking giraffe so I can lick this stupid pot clean.’

It was a really good lunch, especially because it wasn’t hurried (possibly because they weren’t overly busy) but it meant we got to have a few beers, a bottle of wine and a couple of cocktails after – plenty of time to discuss what a fantastic son, and human being, I am.

On the basis of this I’ll definitely be giving Glynn’s restaurant a go once I’ve got some money.

Peel’s – Hampton-in-Arden

Lots of dashes in that title, not very easy on the eye. I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped reading there. Although, if you just read that sentence – you did keep reading, and if you stop at this point I will blame you… anyway, shall we get on with it?

“So, for your 28th birthday I thought I’d take you to John Peel’s favourite restaurant.”

“Who’s John Peel?” my younger fiancée shot back at me.

“Just a little joke, it doesn’t matter. I’m taking you to Hampton-in-Arden.”

“Is that a real place, or another little joke?”

“Not unless you think a village and civil parish in the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull is a joke?!”

“No.”

I booked us a room at Hampton Manor and dinner at Peel’s. To be honest, such a grand gesture on her 28th was a foolish move, what the fuck is she going to expect for her 30th?

As I’m originally from Solihull (please forgive me) I know of Hampton-in-Arden. A kid I went to school with had a gigantic house there that I went to a couple of times, his dad told me off once and it still haunts my dreams.

I’d heard about the Michelin starred restaurant in the village and occasionally contemplated suggesting meeting my mother there for lunch, but I’ve always considered it a bit too much of a cheek to do the whole:

*Bill is placed on the table*

“THANK YOU DEAREST MOTHER FOR THIS KIND GESTURE,” said while bowing.

Before she’s even looked at it or discussed who’s paying.

So, there’s your backstory and here we are.

Picture this: I’m sat in the lounge drinking a blood orange Collins, think a Tom Collins but with blood orange in it, when suddenly some rather delectable amuse bouche are bought out for us to enjoy.

Next thing you know I’m on the floor, on my back, smashing the amuse bouche against the rocks they’ve been served on – before devouring them like the hungry otter I am deep inside.

“How were they for you?” Lovely Luke the restaurant manager asked. Not even flinching at the fact I was on all fours and squeaking.

“Very nice, thanks.” The lady friend replied.

“Ross, our sommelier will be with you shortly to discuss your wine options.”

Quick as a flash I was back up and human again, otters famously hate wine.

After a brief chat with ravishing Ross, we ordered some white to go with the first few courses and a nice bottle of red for the remainder.

To the food. As with most tasting menus there were some courses that stood out more than others.

For me, the langoustine with leek and ginger and the wagyu beef with spiced cauliflower and black garlic were the highlights.

The two desserts also really need special mention, the first: blood orange, star anise and caramel, washed down with an expert pairing suggested by Ross was an absolute treat. Followed by the chocolate, sherry and vanilla which was equally good – and I’d hit that point of being so satisfied with life that I’d have quite happily sat there drinking until they put me to bed.

Fortunately, the staff didn’t have to face putting me to bed, although I’m sure they would have as they were bloody lovely.

Absurd Bird – Exeter

I’ve seen some absurd birds in my time – no, not that type you vile, sexist pig. Actual birds.

Here’s the most absurd bird I’ve seen during the course of my life so far:

A few weeks ago I found myself in Exeter, I’d tell you why I was there if it was any of your fucking business – but it’s not, so keep your beak out of it.

After a few gins at Crocketts bar – I quite like it there, and a couple of ciders at The Old Firehouse – I like it there. I decided I needed food, I’d walked past ‘Absurd Bird’ earlier in the day and was pretty intrigued to find out which of our weird, feathered friends they were serving up.

“Perhaps it’s Pelican?” My woman friend suggested.

“We can only hope.” I answered.

After being seated it became pretty obvious that the only birds for consumption were chickens…

Chickens are not absurd, the only thing absurd about a chicken is that humans eat the eggs they shit out with alarming regularity.

We ordered wings: 6 x buffalo & 6 x smoked garlic parmesan and lemon and some chicken tenders.

The tenders were OK in that way chicken tenders you buy from Sainsbury’s when you’re hungover are OK.

The wings were shite. The buffalo were the better of the two because FRANKly you can put that sauce on anything and it’ll taste better. Honestly, try it. Anything. Yes, even that.

The smoked garlic Parmesan and lemon were an insult to chickens, garlic, Parmesan, smoking and lemon.

It tasted like tepid PVA glue.

After informing the waiter that I don’t really like the taste of PVA glue he offered to get us another type in exchange, we went for the crispy buttermilk wings in the hope of avoiding another sauce disaster.

They were shite too.

Sorry chickens.

Harborne Kitchen

1) Harborne Kitchen, I’ve got one one of those. It’s a kitchen in a house in Harborne that I borrow from a man I pay loads of money to every month.

2) Weather! Remember the ‘Beast from the East’ a couple of weeks ago? Well, I do.

In the house mentioned in 1. there is a boiler and a central heating system. The beastly snow resulted in the boiler packing in for a few days. (Yes, I poured warm water on the fucking condensate pipe.)

The delightful man I generously donate cash to refused to send anyone to look at his broken boiler, or to give us any money for a heater, so with the house utterly pissing freezing we decided staying in on the Friday night and cooking in our Harborne Kitchen was totally untenable, so instead we booked a table at Harborne Kitchen.

3) This was my fourth visit to Harborne Kitchen and it was also the best. “Why was it the best?” Thanks for the question. It was the best because it had heating, booze and fantastic food.

Now, if you want to read someone talk about the food properly read this – as he had the same menu I enjoyed.

baked celeriac, blue cheese mousse, pickled quince and celeriac broth

baked celeriac, blue cheese mousse, pickled quince and celeriac broth

We had intended to do the three course menu for £30, but then I looked at the six course tasting menu and the chicken liver parfait, cod curry and wagyu brisket dishes sounded too good to miss out on.

“Why have you posted a photo of celeriac above then?” Again, thanks for the question, it’s nice to see you’re engaged. The reason I posted that was because frankly it was the one course I wasn’t that bothered about, but it was delicious and the celeriac broth aroused me so much that my penis peaked out from within myself where it’d been hiding for warmth for the past two days.

“Can you please tell us a little more about your penis, please?” Not right now, I’m going to post a couple of pictures of my other two favourite courses then sign-off .

Welsh wagyu brisket, Longhorn fillet, mushroom and chive

Passion fruit and chocolate cremeux, popcorn ice cream, caramel

I may have ordered that dessert above twice, because I am a fat shit and it was tremendeux – that’s probably French for tremendous and is also a play on words with cremeux!!

“Haha! That’s amazing, there really is no doubt that you’re a massively welcome addition to the Birmingham food blogging scene. London’s loss is certainly Birmingham’s gain!” Thank you.

The food at Harborne Kitchen really is exceptional and what makes it an even better experience is the atmosphere and service. The service here was easily better than two of my Michelin experiences in Birmingham, it’s not pretentious, but it’s thoughtful, attentive and the staff seem to like working there – and it shows.

I did have a chat with Head Chef Jamie Desogus but frankly don’t remember what I was banging on about, probably because I was drunk on warmth, great food and three pints, two bottles of wine and two espresso martinis.

Bloody marveleux.

 

 

The Butchers Social – Henley in Arden

Mothers! You’ve all got one, they might be lovely, they might be horrid, they might be dead, but whatever the circumstance – you’ve got one, get over it.

I myself have one, and she has one too. The one belonging to her is my GRANDmother – she acquired this label because she is over 14 feet tall.

As you can imagine, getting a table to celebrate Mother’s Day can be somewhat difficult when you’ve got a four metre, 93-year-old with you.

Not being the type to give up easily, and also wanting a free lunch (baby boomers have more money than me) I sourced a lunch venue – the Butcher’s Social in quaint, old Henley in Arden. “The ice cream here comes from Poland now, Rob,” grandmother informed me.

I’ve been to the Butcher’s Social before, just before Christmas, but never wrote it up – mainly because I couldn’t be arsed, but also because the service was rubbish, and I hate moaning about places on this stupid blog as I think the restaurants in question will have me killed. In short, they forgot two of the sides we’d ordered and it ended in a ridiculous back and forth about whether or not we’d ordered them in the first place. Little do they know, I know for a FACT we ordered them, as when my step-dad asked for the Aubergine, I went, “oooh, fancy,” one of many attempts to break an awkward silence that evening. Anyway, as that lad in the Lion King says, “it doesn’t matter, it in de past.”

Going totally against the last sentence, cast your mind back to Mother’s Day…

The table was booked for 12:30, two of us got there BANG on time as the last thing I need is the Foodie Boys becoming known as the Tardy Boys. However, my mother and other ensemble didn’t get there until 12:40. They sat down and we had a bit of a chat, as you do.

At 12:45 we were asked if we knew what we wanted, we requested another couple of minutes. Fine, as far as we could tell, the waitress left – but then returned a minute later to tell us we need to order soon as they, “need the table back.” Alright, ya charmer.

Now, I’m fat enough to have eaten in enough establishments to know that often tables will have a set amount of time before they have another sitting, it can be a bit annoying, but it’s fine – provided they have told you in advance. Here though, nothing when I booked, nothing when they rang to confirm the booking, nothing when we first sat down.

FOOD

I had the fillet of beef carpaccio to start, and it was a really tasty plate of food. Served with crispy kale and fried shallot rings it went down a treat.

Fillet of beef carpaccio

For main I had the cod, everyone else had roast beef, which all looked pretty good – compliments were aimed at the Yorkshire puddings. The cod came with a bone marrow sauce on top, which intrigued me, and it worked pretty well.

Cod with bone marrow

Cod with bone marrow

Dessert was a treacle tart with a hazelnut ice cream (which was supposed to be vanilla). It was what I can only describe as MEH.

Treacle tart

Back to the service

We were given the menus for dessert and ordered another bottle of wine. The wine was bought over, poured and desserts were ordered.

Five minutes later the waiter came back to inform us that when we get the desserts we’ll have 20 minutes to leave the table, but you’re welcome to go and sit in the bar then.

“Is there anywhere to sit in the bar?” I asked.

“I’m not sure.”

I think the looks on our faces prompted him to go and have a look, and he did find us a table – as much as I’d liked the idea of a massive, old woman out on the street swigging wine.

NOW…

you may think all this sounds like I’m being unreasonable, and maybe I am, but what really did my nut in was we sat in the bar, ordered another drink and before we left (an hour after being moved) I went back towards the dining room to pick up our coats. Around half of the dining room was still empty, so the desperate need for us to move on seemed totally unnecessary.

At the end of the day, it’s a communication issue, but frankly I think it’s quite an important one. Your food could be absolutely world class, but making diners feel like they’re an inconvenience will always leave a sour taste.

Please don’t hurt me.

Two good, two bad – January 2018

I’ve done a fair bit of eating and drinking over the past few months but frankly, haven’t been bothered to blog about it – I can only apologise. Please, for the love of Christ, forgive me.

It’s not really fair to compare the four places I’m about to write about, but then when did I ever say this blog was going to be fair?

Let’s start with the bad, that’s what you’re here for.

The Botanist – Temple St, Birmingham

I went here after work as I wanted a beer, after the beer I realised it was fast approaching the hours of dinner (that’s the evening meal to any Northern simpletons reading), I looked at the menu and thought, “do you know what? Despite this being a chain, I’ll go against my better judgement and stop being such a snob,” good move dickhead.

I opted for one of their ‘Famous Hanging Kebabs™’ that’s right, they’ve trademarked hanging kebab – must be pretty special!

Well, blow me down! Look at it!

Botanist Hanging Kebab™

Botanist Hanging Kebab™

For just £13 I enjoyed a Lamb Kofta Hanging Kebab™. It was basically some of those lamb kofta things you buy to eat on train journeys from M&S, on a stick, with a handful of chips. Rubbish.

Scott’s of Harborne – High street, Harborne

This was one of those new independents that pop-up in Birmingham, and then all the curated ‘you must go here’ channels start telling you how you must go there.

It was my birthday and I’d taken the day off work so headed to Scott’s for breakfast.

My flat white was a ghastly affair, but there’s no time to go into that.

Avocado, salmon and scrambled egg on toast, think it was in the region of £8.

For £8 I’d hope the smoked salmon wouldn’t have been a bit rescued from the back of the fridge, where it’s sat since Christmas day three weeks previous.

Supposedly, the tapas in the evenings is good, but frankly, I won’t be taking the risk.

Anyway, bored of that.

Good things!

Adam’s – Waterloo St, Birmingham

Yes, that’s right, the Michelin starred restaurant was good! Very good in fact.

We took on the tasting menu like the absolute bloody troopers we are.

The highlights:

Veal sweetbread with mushroom ketchup and shiitake tea – one of those courses that before you’ve had your last bite you’re already thinking about how you want it again.

Veal sweetbread Adam's Birmingham

Dreadful picture (and I’d already started eating it)

Scallop, bacon dashi, pata negra and salsa verde. I mean, just look at it.

Scallop, bacon dashi and salsa verde Adam's Birmingham

Delicious

I’d been waiting to go to Adam’s for a very long time and the food certainly didn’t disappoint.

Salt – Church St, Stratford-upon-Avon

“Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing of her gallèd eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!”

Not my words, the words of William Shakespeare. I think what he’s getting at is: on Sunday it’s nice to go to Stratford for a bit of a walk and some food, and do you know what? The old fucker is absolutely spot on.

Roasts were on the menu at Salt, but I’m so often left underwhelmed by roasts that I opted for cod, lentil dhal and spiced butternut squash puree, and it was a very good decision. It was a cracking plate of food. Luck would have it that two of the people I went with eat so little that I got to try some roast beef anyway – and it was also excellent.

The dessert of chocolate, spiced orange cake and barley crisp went down a treat too.

Roast cod and dhal Salt Stratford

Roast cod and dhal

Chocolate, spiced orange cake and barley crisp Salt Stratford

Chocolate, spiced orange cake and barley crisp

Why do I take photos of food so close up? What is wrong with me? Will I learn?

Join me next time and find out.