Saint Kitchen, Jewellery Quarter

The last time I ate in Saint Kitchen it all went to shit. I had a breakfast there and got embroiled in a row with a member of staff when I didn’t finish my food, who then took it to Twitter and said some defamatory things about me, to which I got pissed off and said nasty stuff back. Some man from the TV who now lives too close for comfort then became involved and I continued to act like a prick when he was nasty to me, which didn’t help when I went to an awards ceremony, won the stupid thing, stayed up all night and sent said man from TV a picture of the award from my local pub the following morning. Another man, this time from the radio, tried to have my award taken away whilst man from TV blocked me. I then said some really mean things to which telly man kicked off and I ended up on page four of the local paper with my dad phoning me and telling me to behave. Sorry dad. Anyway, I learnt my lesson and now live the model life and still see TV man in the pub from time to time where we pretend not to notice each other. It wasn’t my finest moment and thanks Liam, you absolute arse. The End.

I said I’d never go back. Then they were taken over and I had a really nice and brief online chat with a lovely new owner who almost won me over by saying that Liam no longer worked there, and absolutely had me convinced when she was so obviously proud of the food coming out of the kitchen. I should probably let you know that she offered to get this lunch in and that I turned the kind offer down. One, I wanted to support by giving instead of taking, and two, given the history with Saint Kitchen any praise from my part should be genuine.

So get ready for praise. It’s improved greatly on the old set-up and is very good, if certainly not perfect. The coffee is lovely, up there with the best in the city, and team on the lunch we visited friendly and cool and not Liam. A brunch dish with mushrooms and various greens on sourdough is perked up by romesco and green harissa sauces, and is very well received. My order, a bagel with eggs and chorizo jam, is chosen because the words chorizo jam give me a stonker. It turns out to be the best thing we eat by a distance; simple and packed with flavour, that jam is more a chunky sauce but my chin wears it with the same pride. At six quid it’s also firmly on my Brum bargains list.

Alas, it’s not all to this standard. A sausage roll has technically sound pastry work and is well seasoned, but ultimately lacks oomph and is a slog to finish. Patatas bravas are nothing really of the sort; the spuds are good but the spicy tomato sauce is far removed from what it should be and it’s under seasoned. It’s also too wet overall. But really does this matter? Not to me. I’m personally happy to have the option of great coffee in that area, knowing that I can stay for a bagel and that my girlfriend can eat well if she wants. Moreover I’m happy that I can do so in an environment where I’m wanted as a customer. The new(ish) Saint Kitchen can stay, I’m a fan.

You’ll be pleased to know A2B is also a Liam free zone

Electro Brunch at Gaucho, Birmingham

It’s 11am on a chilly Saturday morning and I’m drinking a Bloody Mary in the chic dining room at Gaucho.  This is my kind of brunch, a booze propelled two hour blast of unlimited food and drink from booths that are more comfortable than my bed.  There is a DJ playing the kind of music I expect would make an Ibiza chill out compilation album whilst the floor buzzes with staff.  One comes to our table and asks what we want to order. I say it’s time to swap the drink to an Aperol Spritz. He meant food. Still it’s 11.05am and I have my priorities in order.

Over the two hours we eat and drink as if this were a challenge, pausing only to take in the occasional gasp of air. Steak and eggs seem the obvious place to start in a steakhouse.  The meat is of high quality, briefly shown heat to still retain a pinkness inside, with a fried egg because this is still breakfast, after all.  It’s simple and delicious. Likewise a eggs Benedict that has the traditional ham replaced with salt beef.  It’s bordering on genius in concept, not a million miles away from steak with bearnaise sauce.  We would go later back for seconds and then thirds.

The humble sausage sandwich is given the upgrade with chorizo and chimichurri  between charred ciabatta that we resist the temptation to smear inch thick with brown sauce. Beans on toast is pimped with chunks of chorizo in an almost indentical vein to what I do at home, only with a lot less butter. Fried provoleta cheese is rich and guey with onions that have been cooked down to a jam-like consistency. One of our group have this and suddenly we all ordering it in envy. It’s that kind of dish.

Fuelled by more spritz’s we gravitate towards a sweeter finish to the meal.  French toast comes with an addictive peanut butter dulce de luche that is all nutty caramel and sweetness.  We insist that it makes a return on pancakes with banana and maple syrup, half joking that we’d like to purchase a jar of the stuff. It’s no joke. I really want a jar.

All of this comes at the price of £45 per head.  To put it into perspective it is the most expensive brunch in Birmingham, but arguably the best value.  To the best of mine and Googles knowledge, all of the others offer one dish with the unlimited drinks.  This is as much a dining experience as a drinking one, decadent and comfortable, as much as you can fit in.  They really know what they are doing here.  As far as two hours go, it’s pretty much the ideal start to a weekend, leaving us with the choice of more booze or an afternoon snooze.  We choose the former.  Of course we do.  Way too much fun was had to have it any other way.

I was a guest of Gaucho at the brunch and did not pay


The Bell, Bellbroughton

Given the opportunity, my girlfriend would have had us upped and moved to Belbroughton some time ago.  She yearns for a small cottage in this quaint village just far enough away from the city for me to not be able to invite a club full of people back to ours at 4am.  She sells the dream with stories of being able to walk a dog down the hill to one its numerous pubs for a quiet pint and a game of darts.  Utter rubbish.  I am yet to meet a dog that could play me at darts.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the village on the peripherals of the Clent Hills a lot, I just cant see me wanting to live there whilst my feet are slender enough to go dancing in a pair of tasselled loafers.  But I also know I have very little choice.  I am a man wanting a simple life with working eardrums and for this it will likely happen a lot sooner than I would like.  I suggest we go for lunch to assess the quality of the food.


The Bell is our destination.  Its the gateway to Belbroughton from the less than picturesque A491.  Its a big pub, looming from its perched hillside position.  Inside it feels warm and vast, full of coves and twists and turns.  I sit there and think how difficult it would be to wait tables here.  Some nibbles arrive in the form of flavoured filo pastry.  I ask the waitress what flavour they are; she tells me she doesn’t know, but that they are vegetable crisps. Its not the greatest start.  Bread arrives, a substantial portion for four quid, with olives, balsamic and olive oil, and a butter which tastes more unpleasant the more we have.  I think its the astringent bitterness of raw garlic, though I don’t go back for seconds to confirm.


My starter sounded much better on paper than it looked on the plate.  A wedge of Brie, crumbed and coated, oozing on to a apricot chutney that was sweet and little else. It was a saccharine gloop, crying out for acidity and texture, not three sorry pieces of wilted rocket. Far better was a hearty bowl of linguine, full of the advertised crab, prawn and chorizo, and fantastic value at £9.



Ham and chips is a simple, but beautiful thing when done correctly.  Here was two slices of good quality ham, let down by everything around it.  Two eggs, cooked to a solid yolk that I could have played squash with – yes, they were changed when I mentioned it, but really, with no sauce it is obvious that the dish needed a runny yolk for moisture.  Along side this was a wedge of raw pineapple which would repeat on me all day and skin-on chips, a fine concept had the spuds been washed correctly.  The gritty potatoes returned with battered halloumi; a dish slowly appearing on every gastropub menu.  Here was a decent rendition, the bland cheese sitting nicely with good mushy peas and a tartar sauce in need of more poke.



Service was slow, and that is me being kind, leaving no time for a dessert that I probably would not have had anyway.  Even at early lunch the place was thriving, with more pouring in through the doors as we trudged disappointed back to the car.  Maybe these people see something in The Bell that I missed.  I wont be returning, not even when I give in and live within walking distance.  The search for my future local continues.


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