Slim Chickens – Grand Central Birmingham

Full disclosure: I paid for this entire meal, well other than a pot of BBQ sauce. I can explain though. You see, I couldn’t spot anywhere on the electronic terminal to add ‘extras’ such as sauces. A kindly member of staff (probably realising who I was) offered me it for free. However, please don’t let you think this has clouded my judgement on the shit food.

As my grandfather used to sing, “Chick, chick, chick, chick, chicken, let me cover you in buffalo sauce and put you in a tortilla you stupid, fucking bird.”

Grandfather was an angry man, but boy did he love fried chicken. He used to serve it to American fighter pilots during one of the wars probably.

Next scene

Grand Central. “Just popping to Grand Central to run some errands,” we’ve all been there. You see, my watch doesn’t work properly. The hand designed to count seconds just slightly juts back and fourth between 34 and 35. The manufacturer of said timepiece told me to go to one of their stockists, and blow me down there was one in Grand Central.

To cut a long story short, they wanted to charge me £25 to send the watch to the manufacturer.

“Couldn’t I just do that myself?” I asked.

“Yes,” the shop assistant responded.

“Very well, I shall have my watch back and I’ll go and get myself some lunch”

That is LITERALLY what happened, there’s no room for exaggeration here.

What to eat though? Terrible macaroni cheese? Crap tapas? No, let’s go and try that new chicken place.

Slim Chickens

First things first: the name. Is it a play on ‘slim pickings’? As in, there’s not much choice? Or is it something to do with Louis Burton Lindley Jr, better known by his stage name Slim Pickens,  who was an American rodeo performer and actor? I guess we’ll never know.

The other reason it’s a crap name is it makes me think of weird, skinny chickens trapped in cages. I want to eat big, fat fucking chickens not scrawny bastards.

There was quite a queue when I approached, a queue I briefly joined until I realised they’ve got those electric payment terminals, I hopped over to one and competed to get my order finished before the bloke next to me.

A buffalo chicken wrap, fries and a sparkling water was my order. What? Yes, sparkling water, look, I’m watching my figure.

Let’s start with the fries – shite. Bland, lukewarm, shite.

Buffalo chicken wrap – quite shite. A modicum of buffalo heat on a miniscule amount of quite reasonable tasting chicken encased in a noticeably cold wrap.

£8.95.

You’d have got the same thing and better chips for less than a fiver from McDonald’s.

A burger from Bonehead would have been 45p cheaper. Christ, that’s just made me sad.

TOP TIP

If you want to watch someone rubbing the raw chicken in buttermilk grab this seat for  the hottest view in town.

 

Apocalypse Cow at Ghetto Golf Birmingham

GIFTED – that’s right, I didn’t pay for this. Sure, you can stop reading now if you think that means you won’t be getting good, honest opinions, but then ask yourself – why would I lie to you? Have I ever lied to you? Why are you so suspicious all the time?

If I lied to you then I’d possibly start lying to other people – like a domino effect… I’m going to be honest with you here, I shoehorned in ‘domino effect’ so I could do an analogy about the Vietnam War throughout this review, to relate to the name of the folk supplying the food at Ghetto Golf.

However, I don’t think I can be bothered. Let’s see how we get on. Like John F. Kennedy’s escalation in Vietnam, let us begin.

Lasagne bites at Apocalypse Cow in Ghetto Golf Birmingham

Apocalypse Cow. Think: Burgers and Fries. Got it? Good. Now forget burgers and fries because before I ate any burger or fries I stealthily ate some Lasagne Bites. I hid amongst the neon dildos to avoid detection, like the Viet Cong may have done, and greedily stuffed them down my throat. They were surprisingly nice as I’d anticipated them tasting like something from Iceland.

Burgers at Ghetto Golf Birmingham
Burgers at Ghetto Golf Birmingham

Burgers. We had a Blue Moo and a Mother Clucker – one of them is beef and one of them is chicken, I’ll leave you to decide which is which.

The Moo is a single patty, with some brisket on top and blue cheese. Sadly I couldn’t taste much blue cheese, the brisket didn’t add much. Similar issues with the chicken burger, it didn’t taste of much and the chicken was a little tough.

Unlike Lyndon B. Johnson’s involvement in the Vietnam War, things got significantly better.

Salt and pepper chicken fries at Apocalypse Cow in Ghetto Golf Birmingham
Salt and pepper chicken fries at Apocalypse Cow in Ghetto Golf Birmingham

We ordered the salt and pepper chicken loaded fries. Time for another disclaimer (see I’d never lie to you). I feel it necessary to inform you that I fucking love chips. I love chips like a fat man loves chips. And no, I’m not being paid by big potato (although if this is possible I’d be happy to – I’m looking at you AHDB Potatoes).

These chips came with some crispy chicken, spring onion, chilli, hoi sin sauce and sriracha. If I’d been pissed / hungover I predict I could have polished off about 400 portions of these, before having a massive heart attack and having my corpse incorporated into a mini golf obstacle.

Cheesecake at Apocalypse Cow in Ghetto Golf Birmingham
Cheesecake at Apocalypse Cow in Ghetto Golf Birmingham

Just as Richard Nixon did, we ended the war with Reese’s Cheesecake. Cheesecake covered in Reese’s pieces, chocolate and peanut butter sauces.

(Nay)face palm here, it was very nice indeed.

The Oyster Club Birmingham

Let’s play a word association game, I’ll say a word and you have to say the first thing that comes into your head.

Me: Oysters

You: SEX! GAGGING! SEA CREATURE!

Whoa there, well I’m certainly glad you didn’t accompany me to The Oyster Club last week.

As a man of impeccable taste you won’t be surprised one bit to hear that I like oysters, there’s something about slurping something from a shell and dribbling sea juice down my chin that really does it for me.

Having dined at Adam’s a couple of times I had high hopes for this place (I could have used the word eatery there but I wouldn’t do that to you).

Seeing tempura oysters on the menu filled me with joy and nostalgia. I first had something similar at The Merchant’s Tavern nearly six years ago, it was the night I told my wife I love her on the top deck of the 242 bus – a simpler time.

Here, I found myself declaring my love once more, the tempura oysters were delicious. I could have sat eating them until I needed an awkward hospital visit.

“What seems to be the problem, Mr Boy?”

“I ate 400 oysters in 15 minutes.”

“FETCH THE PUMP.”

For my main I had halibut and chips, I’d read a few people mention the price of this – and having to buy the chips separately, I could be wrong but I think they’ve amended their prices. Now, I know some of you are never going to agree that paying £23.50 for fish and chips can be justified, however, I’m here to tell you you’re wrong.

It was so good, I went all quiet as I ate it. The light batter on the perfectly cooked fish was a delight. The big, fat chips perfectly salted and vinegered.

Washed down with a reasonably priced glass of Picpoul it’s a perfect pay day treat.

My only gripe was the dessert, we shared a chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream. The ice cream didn’t taste of much and the fondant didn’t taste too dissimilar to one you’d get in an M&S 2 for £10.

So, in summary I’d highly recommend perusing the menu at this Birmingham city centre eatery.

Wing Wah Birmingham

*Picks up mic, turns cap backwards*

♫ I’d really love to be alone without all the
Ache and pain and the April showers
But it ain’t long before I long for you, like a
Ray of hope, coming through the blue moon

When it all gets dark again
The whole thing falls apart I guess
It doesn’t really matter ’bout the rain
‘Cause we’ll get through it anyway
We’ll get up and start again

‘Cause we could be gifted, gifted, gifted
We could be gifted ♫

That’s me using the Lighthouse Family song ‘Lifted’ to inform you that I didn’t pay for this meal.

“Very clever,” you’re thinking.

Well, hang on a second and let me tell you that this night also involved karaoke, where if you were so inclined, you could sing the Lighthouse Family.

“Wow, you really are the most important thing to ever happen to food blogging in the Midlands.”

Dim Sum in Birmingham

I’ve been craving dim sum for a little while so when Paul Fulford was kind enough to invite me along to Wing Wah I was delighted to accept.

On arrival I was greeted with a Bellini and a chat about rice wine, which resulted in me downing a shot of rice wine – my kind of hospitality.

We enjoyed an extensive Dim Sum menu which included prawn dumplings, sweet char sui pork buns, soup dumplings and buns shaped like mushrooms with a salty and sweet custard inside.  

Dim Sum Wing Wah Birmingham

I particularly enjoyed the scallops cooked served with glass noodles and the abalone – mainly because I’d never think to order abalone but now I would.

We were then hit with a selection of the larger dishes from the a la carte menu, highlights included fillet steak with truffle, very tasty crispy aubergine and duck in plum sauce.

Beef and truffle
Beef and truffle

Karaoke in Birmingham

Full of wine and very tasty food a few of us headed downstairs towards the karaoke rooms. These private, themed rooms include Bollywood, Mongolian and traditional English pub.

Buble warning:

BUBLE
BUBLE

Will I return? Yes. Where will you find me? In a karaoke room, knocking back rice wine, singing the Lighthouse Family and ordering plenty of dim sum.

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.