Birmingham

Indico Street Kitchen, Birmingham

Seconds after walking through the doors of the latest branch of Indico Street Kitchen I am greeted by the General Manager

“Hello Simon”

“Hello, have we met?”

“No, we have a picture of you out back. We thought you might be paying us a visit”.

WHAT. (this word never looks correct in capitals).

It’s a bizarre admission and one that immediately puts me on the backfoot. If it is true, what is the purpose of telling me? To knock me off guard, perhaps, or to let me know that they know why I am here? Have they done it so that I am hesitant to write anything negative, given that they know my face and name, because that is never going to work. Sure I’ve been to Indico in Shirley, but as far as I can recall I’ve not met this chap. And anyway that was under totally different circumstance, one which was back when I went under a PR invite, whereas this involves a table for one straight after work, along with a bill of £33 for my dinner. I’m introduced to the entire team and taken to the table. Would I like papadum? Of course, and lovely they are too. Would I also like some Far Far? Actually given how this secret visit has panned out, I’d like to be far far away from here, please. Whilst the papad’s (or poppadum; same thing) are worth the £3 I wouldn’t bother with the multicoloured far far which taste of nothing other than cooking oil. I barely touch them. They appear on the bill at £2.45.

The menu is huge. In my eyes too big, though possibly perfectly pitched at the type of person who would be eating after a day shopping within The Mailbox, where Indico now replaces the truly awful Gourmet Burger Kitchen. And before I move on to my opinion on the food, it is without question a welcome addition to a bit of Birmingham that needs better places to eat. I’m given the full spiel on how to order: three of the chaat dishes, or a chaat dish and a main, or a thali and nothing else, or one tandoor and two chaat, or a lunch dish and a chaat if I’m not that hungry. I order a thali. Would I like to order a chaat dish with that? But you said… oh, of course I will, I’ll take the chilli chicken 65 you mentioned, presumably named after the minimum spend they aim for with every diner.

The food is nice. Just nice. Inoffensive anglicised Indian for tame English palates. The chilli chicken tingles rather than threatens, the sauce cloying like sweet and sour chicken from the local takeaway. It’s nothing in comparison to the similar version at Zindiya. The thali has a glorious dry spinach dish cut with loads of garlic, which is the undoubted highlight of the afternoon, along with a good naan, and a papadum which could have saved me three quid fifteen minutes ago. Dhaal is the Kate Moss variety; rich, smokey, and addictive, whilst of the two curries the creamy paneer one is better than the taka tak chicken, mostly because the quality of the meat isn’t that great. I don’t like the stodgy potato pakoras that would have bounced back had they fallen off the table, and should be slamdunked into the nearest bin. It’s a lot of food for £17 and something I’d consider ordering again. It certainly doesn’t need the extra dishes.

I’m asked if I want dessert to finish. And then asked again. And then asked again on the way out after I’ve paid my bill. At one point I almost say yes, mostly because they keep on using my name and I get confused and think I’m at the in-laws. It’s a difficult meal to think about in hindsight; I didn’t really enjoy it, but that was more to do with the constant overtly personal attention I received, over the food that was mostly pleasant in a mostly inoffensive fashion. They’ve gone from a space behind the ASDA in Shirley to a prime location in Brum’s most elite shopping centre and that takes balls way bigger than I’ve got. I’m sure that in time they’ll iron out the inconsistencies and have a restaurant worthy of its grand location. They’ll be pleased to see your face should you visit. They may even know the name of it.

6/10

A2B know my face and I am 100% okay with this

Digbeth Dining Club, Stars of 2019

For those who don’t know, Digbeth Dining Club is a weekly dining club in Digbeth. The clue is in the name, really. It’s the best street food (official) in the coolest suburb (official) in the country. And it’s ace. Really ace. I’ve covered off my favourite venders in the last couple of years (Buddha Belly and Flying Cows, if you really must know) and I’ll always have love for them, but it’s time to look at the newer venders I’ve tried this last year and a bit.

Fat Snags

Sossig’s, as the kids these days torture me with, but not just any sossig, but, for fucksake, a proper sausage (and breathe) made by Lashford & Sons to the Snagmeisters own personal spec. The obsession doesn’t stop there, the brioche buns come from a local baker whilst all of the sauces, bar the godly Pips hot sauce, are made inhouse. This is the hotdog of all hotdogs.

Dicks Smokehouse

It took me a while to try Richard’s food, but now I’m a fully-fledged convert. He know’s what he is doing; the meat is never oversmoked, always retains texture, and is paired-up with the right levels of acidity. This style of cooking is a difficult one to master, but they do it very well here. My Dad was very impressed, which is better than anything I have ever managed.

Only Jerkin’

Need help finding Only Jerkin’? Head straight to the biggest queue, wait, and then order some of the finest nuggets of chicken known to man. The key to eating here is to go big on the spice; you want plenty of the jerk gravy and as many of the sauces as you can muster. It’s these bits that really make Only Jerkin’ come alive.

Kebab Cartel

So edgy are the boys from Kebab Cartel that one of them held their stag party in Kiev. Mentalists. Back in Blighty I’ve become a big fan of the food; high quality meat, cooked slowly on a fuck-off rotating grill, carefully constructed to resemble something like you’d eat at 2am from a rat infested kebab shop, but is layered with big and bold flavours more akin to the better restaurants. I’ve also dropped two down my front in the last six months.

Beef on The Block

Everyone loves steak and chips, right? Unless you’re a cow. Or worse, a vegetarian. Those sassy ladies from Beef On The Block know this, sourcing quality cuts of bavette from the ever fantastic butchers, Aubrey Allen. The results are up there with the better steak restaurants in the city; tender meat with a lovely charred crust, chips, and a killer chimmichurri. Cooking all this to order only makes it more impressive.

(Photo by @thehangryblonde)

Yardbirds

Fried chicken between a bun. Fried chicken on a waffle. Fried chicken with buffalo sauce. Fried chicken. Glorious fried chicken. Clucking lovely fried chicken. You get the idea. Fried chicken. Crunchy coating, tender meat fried chicken.

Carcass

Not necessarily a DDC regular, but one that gets instant recognition thanks to one of the very best dishes I ate this year. A pork belly bun with delicate ribbons of fat cut through by a lively chimmichurri sauce and roquito peppers. Really outstanding. I always keep one eye open for them when they are back visiting.

Jade Rabbit

Big, brash, and in your face, and that’s just the owner, John. I’ve eaten a lot of Jade Rabbit this year because it always performs. Packed full of seasoning and spice, anything you order will be packed with loads of flavour.

Greidy’s

It was one of the founders of DDC who told me about Greidy’s. He said something about how good they are, to which I nodded, before coming back the following day to take my hangover out in full force. It’s good. Really good in fact. The sauces punch and burn in all the places and that chicken is fried with military precison.

Urban Cheesecake

It’s dessert time, folks. And this is one big happy ending you can have without lying about your whereabouts and visting the local massage parlour. A chunky slab of the sweet stuff adorned with unadulterated chocolately heaven. I like the caramac one, if only for it reminded me of those decades long ago when I was innocent and kind.

Wanna know how to get from A to B? Take A2B you numpty

Harbone Kitchen, November 2019

I can’t be bothered to trawl through older posts for evidence, but I’m pretty sure that at some point in the past I referred to Harborne Kitchen as the perfect neighbourhood restaurant. And it is. So perfect that we have decided to make it our neighbourhood restuarant and chose to spend our first night as Harbornite’s eating there when we really should be unpacking cookbooks and feeding ourselves. In short, the meal was everything we hoped it would be; sharp, precise, and nuanced. The flavour profiles gently layered up, proving that few chefs understand the finer details of ingredients than Jamie Desogue.

We opt for the ‘choice’ menu and supplement it with the onion course, because it’s the onion course and I’m not leaving here without it. We get the nibbles and the bread course, and I order the liver parfait from the tasting menu to start because I’m a gigantic pain in the derriere. This seasons offering is the unconventional pairing of brambles, macadamia nuts, and white chocolate, that really works. The white chocolate creates a fatty layer at the roof of the mouth that holds in the liver flavour, the nuts a contrast, and the brambles the acidity to cut through it all. It’s all very clever. Claire has a mushroom and egg yolk thingy that is gone too quickly for me to try, but she would like you all to know that she very much enjoyed it. The onion course is every bit as good as I remember. I would say you all have to try it, but they’ve since taken it off the menu. The Bastards.

Mains show a different side to Harborne Kitchen, one that cements the choice in moving to this area. A fat fillet of cod has one of those pearlescant centres only acheivable with the correct amount of heat judged over the correct amount of time. The charred hispi cabbage the ideal bridge for a romesco sauce that is light and rife with metaliic, acidic, and garlicky notes. I have a cube of pork belly with head fritter, plums and swede. I’ve eaten elements of this dish in various guises and this is the best yet. The fritter has improved, now looking like a posh fish finger and less dense in texture.  The overall seasoning of the dish about as perfect as it gets. It’s the food that you want to eat after a tough day in the office.

Desserts include an upgraded version of the honey parfait that I’ve been eating since the first visit almost three years ago, and carrot cake with carrot ice cream and coffeee zabablione which I imagine is great at mantaining great eye sight. It was a seriously good dessert, and that is coming from someone who firmly believes that vegetables should be kept out of the sweet courses in a meal.

The kitchen is clearly on form, maybe more than ever, but there is something I want to mention before I finish this up and work on the cover letter for a job I want. The front of house here is a team that not only rivals the best in the city, but is one of the strongest I have seen anywhere in the last year. They all know their respective roles, ducking in and out when needed. And they have incorporated one of the great steals in a wine book that has small number batches of great wine marked-up at levels not seen enough in this industry, encouraging the diner to spend more on better wine. As an example the £90 wine we drank would be in excess of £150 elsewhere thanks to the set margin placed on top. It’s just another reason to visit one of the very best restaurants in a city crammed with immense talent.

I guess I won’t need A2B to get me here anymore, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing the same.

The Village, Moseley

I’ve lived next to The Village pub in Moseley for five years without ever writing about it. I guess I felt the same way as I did with the other places I drank in, which has something to do with the old saying involving doorsteps and turds and the golden advice which goes with it. I don’t want to upset the pub I live next to, in the same way I don’t particularly want them fawning up next to me whilst I’m trying to have a quiet pint because I said something nice.

But I’ve moved as of a week ago, back to Harborne where all the bitter food writers go to rot away. I can say what I want about The Village now and nobody can stop me. Nobody. Well except my girlfriend who proof reads everything before I post it. You know what? I liked it. I liked the refurb they’ve just finished with the low hanging lights, monochrome palette and clean lines. I like that the staff are drilled at checking whether you’re enjoying the food once you’ve actually started eating it and know not to harass you every single minute. I like that they’ve looked at the small detail and worked at making it all better.

After a well-made negroni we start with lamb kofta, tightly packed, almost like a merguez on a stick, a plate squiggle of something simultaneously spicy and cooling, and a properly-dressed salad. Simple things, but simple things done well. Then gently cooked prawns under a dusting of parsely and chilli, rolled about in plenty of garlic and a little ginger. There is bread on the side to pile it on to should you wish, or you could do the right thing and use it to soak up the juices from the bottom of the cast iron pan. I know what I did.

The main course is defined by the quality of the battered halloumi that replaces the more coventional fish. The chips need a bit of work, and the mushy peas need salt, but that halloumi is worth the niggly details. Soft and moreish, the cheese is essentially steamed within a batter that cracks and shatters in the right places. A more than competent tartare is all the acidity it needs. It’s oddly priced at 50p more than the pescetarian equivalent which means they either need to look at their suppliers, or revisit pricing.

Courses are on the large side and we have no room for dessert, though plenty of room for more wine. As the evening rolls out the bar fills up; first with suits, then with those who dip into Moseley for weekend drinks. The old village hall deserves to be a focal point of the community, and with the recent refit they are once again on the right path. I spent five years of my life looking at this building with only the ocasional desire to wandering inside. I won’t make the same mistake now that I’ve moved out of the area.

7/10

I’ll need an A2B to get here in future

Jazz Roast @ 1000 Trades

The point of arrival was the precise moment my head went from sceptic to believer for the Sunday roast at 1000 Trades. I’ve become bored of the gentrification of the roast, with the smears and the clean lines; the plate with too many empty voids between the two slices of meat, the lonely potato and its inflated Yorkshire pal, backed up the endless stream of side dishes and part-players, rolled-out like a Pierre Gagnierre course. Right in front of our eyes the roast has done a Paul Potts: we fell in love with its wobbly silhouette and imperfections only to be given a new slender version that hums the same tune through pearly white veneers. But not here. This is a roast that your mother and her mother would be proud of, layered up like a winter outfit and crammed in tight like a replacement bus service. This is how a roast should be done.

The fundamentals are here. A billowy Yorkshire pudding, chunks of potato that have been boiled, then allowed to steam, dry out, tussled, and then roasted until the edges sharpen. There are thick batons of parsnip and carrot, a coiffured scoop of mash potato, tenderstem broccoli, a celeriac puree, red cabbage, and a puddle of gravy that demands donning wellington boots and jumping into. Those ordering protein are rewarded with generosity and pretty much perfect cooking, whether that be the chicken supreme with delicate flesh, or the cannon of sirloin cooked to a spot-on medium rare. The latter might look strong at £17 on paper, but there are restaurants in this city (I’m looking at you, Gaucho) charging almost double that for a lone cut of cow nowhere near this good. Toss a coin between this and a place in Digbeth for bragging rights as to the title of Best Sunday Roast in Brum.

With this we get cauliflower cheese, that turns out to be an entire cauliflower bathing in molten cheddar whilst wearing a shower cap of breadcrumbs and thus completely defeats us. Bloody tasty though. And prior we have a sharing board to start; with smoked chicken, smoked salmon, smoked duck breast and was the mackerel smoked? It must have been. It’s the nicotine replacement service for the gentile; a plume of delicate proteins each with their own acidic accompaniment. Eating this will dent your chances of finishing the roast, but don’t let that stop you from ordering it. Like everything else we ate it was pretty much faultless.

They had a tarte tatin which had my name on it (not literally, though this is a wonderful idea that I would gladly endorse), but I was too replete and margainly too hungover to entertain it. Instead I pay the bill and head back home for a deserved snooze. I should probably take this moment to point out that 1000 Trades recently won big in The Guardian’s annual OFM awards. It’s a testament that every detail is looked at, analysed, and then perfected, from the rotating kitchen to the ever-changing beers, the natural wines, the upstairs cocktail bar, and this, Birmingham’s most wholesome Sunday lunch.

If there were an award for best taxi, A2B would have it in the bag

Gino D’Acampo My Restaurant, Birmingham

Convicted burglar Gino D’Acampo has opened a restaurant in Birmingham. He is so keen on you knowing this that he has not only stuck his name above the door, but also emphasised that it is his restaurant, just on the off-chance you think his name might be used to endorse another restaurant that he also won’t be cooking in. The ego doesn’t stop there; inside is a shrine to D’Acampo, with pictures of him posing with various celebs gracing the decor that is presumably based on his favourite airport departure lounge, right down to the padded stools at the bar knocking out the most acerbic of Prosecco. Just in case you need reminding of his credentials outside of chewing on a kangaroo bollock live on TV, the menu is there to remind you at all times. Dishes are gathered from Gino’s TV shows and cook books, and those cook books are of course available to purchase in the restaurant. Everything has it’s own soundbite description from Gino just on the off-chance that you forget you are in his restaurant, eating food cooked by a chef who has probably never met him. It’s like they decided that the primary reason to visit is to experience the pastiche life of the chef, rather than to actually eat food. A notion they have successfully carried over onto the plate.

The food itself goes from good, to lacklustre, to downright awful. To their credit, the front-of-house remove the plates that haven’t been eaten from the bill without being asked, which softens the experience just enough for me to say that if you were ever in the area and Oyster Club, The Ivy, Fumo, San Carlo, Adams, Pint Shop, Pure Craft, Pieminister, Gusto, Rudy’s, Indian Streatery, Chung Ying Central, and Hotel du Vin were all shut I could probably recommend a dish to eat here. That dish is the bruschetta, the first and best thing I ate all afternoon. The tomatoes are carefully dressed with a lick of vinegar, I think a touch of sugar, and lots of salt. It’s simple and effective. I just wish I could say the same about the rest.

The recipe for the paté can be found on page 18 of ‘A Taste of The Sun’ which I implore you never disgrace your kitchen shelves with. It should never have left the kitchen. Freezer cold, the butter on top had to be cracked apart with a knife. The paté underneath grey and granular from overcooked livers, whilst the promised addition of masala is replaced with a backnote of iodine. When asked what he thought of the dish my dining companion noted to staff that ‘the ratio of bread to paté was good’, which is more barbaric than anything I have to say.

From main courses we get seabass that is a little overcooked, but at least servicable, with lentils that are undercooked and tragically underseasoned. A bowl of cavolo nero and tuscan cabbage might look like the remains of a heavy night on the booze but at least has decent flavour. The last dish is pasta and ragu – the acid test for any Italian restaurant worth its salt, and this was once again lacking salt. The pasta is fettucine; the thicker, more clumbersome Roman sibling of the tagliatelle, which was passable despite not being my personal choice to sit with the watery ragu that has the blunt metallic notes of concentrated tomato that hasn’t been cooked out long enough. It’s twelve pounds of misery, enough to make the staunchest of remainers vote to leave the EU. This isn’t Italian food. The accent is faked, the gesticulations purely for show. I’ll leave you to work out where I’m heading with this.

We have the sense not to order dessert, though if you do you could be treated to tiramisu, or rum baba, or chocolate torte; all lovingly made by Gino on TV and then recreated by his kitchen using the recipes from his cookbooks. As previously mentioned our bill wasn’t much because the excellent front-of-house removed the bad bits, but does that make it acceptable? Absolutely not. We ordered four dishes, two of which were sent back. I ate that very afternoon to put some food in my stomach. With its city centre location and celebrity association no doubt punters will flock here to see what it’s about. To make them come back is a entirely different scenerio and they are going to have to be much better. Fantastico it is not.

4/10

Wanna know what is fantastico? A2B Radio Cars

Laghi’s Deli, 2019

At 5.45pm on a cold Wednesday evening, Laghi’s Deli is rammed. There are people in the bar area discussing work over large glass domes filled with red wine, whilst the restaurant area is packed with those elbows deep in plates of pasta. It’s great to see: some two years after I first stepped foot into here it appears that Laghi’s has reached it’s full potential, one where it has correctly cemented itself as the true authentic Italian in Birmingham. Sure there are others that rely on the same identikit menu with the same tricks and over reliance on a giant pepper grinder, but for real Italian food, for it’s silky pasta, it’s heart, it’s familiarity, you come to Laghi’s.

I’ve been coming fairly solidly since I first wrote about it. The food has got stronger and stronger, with the kitchen cooking more regional dishes from Bologna over what we are told that British will enjoy. This is not the place for spaghetti with your bolognese, nor cream with your carbonara, though if you are the kind of person who expects the above perhaps you’re reading the wrong Birmingham restaurant blog.

On a visit we take full advantage of a recent delivery of truffles from Tuscany. We have little crostinis topped with scrambled egg and black truffle, and taglioni with a lightly smoked cheese sauce and white truffles; a dish that seems very popular in the room, perhaps due to it’s perfume, or the extremely fair price of £30 to try the most prized of ingredients. There are sticks of fried pasta dough to dip into an arrabbiata sauce the right side of fiery, and deep fried bits of cardoon and artichoke, the quality of which are really quite something. I’m told that Luca personally picks the veg via skype from a buyer in Milan’s vegetable market. The mass consumerism of Bella Italia this is not.

The real stand-out moments here are with the pasta. A dish with porcini and coarse sausage meat is dressed in a sauce that contains a touch of cream that bites with lots of black pepper. The rolled pasta has integrity amongst such great company, being the texture it needs to bring every together en masse. Even better is the white crab meat wrapped in a ravioli of jet black squid ink, with onion jam, and a scamorza sauce that threatened to over but actually just gently lifted everything. This is a killer dish; the work of a chef not afraid to play the bold and delicate together, showing a skilled touch at balancing flavours. It might just be my favourite dish on the menu.

I returned again last week for a Sicilian wine dinner, where the kitchen showed they are far more than capable of turning their hand to an entirely different style of cooking. The food was mostly reminiscent of what we ate a couple of months back, with lightly fried panelle, oily fleshed sardines with plump sultanas and pine nuts, and ricotta frittas that leak soft cheese with every mouthful. When it is good – like the perkily dressed octupus salad, or the mussels gratin – it is very, very good indeed. We finish on cannoli better than any we personally ate in Sicily, including those from the reveered Pasticceria Maria Grammitico in Erice. The wine too was superb. But then it was handpicked from the Tenuta estate so it would be.

Now the disclosure bit. I’ve gotten to know Luca since he opened the restaurant and consider him a friend. We’ve been for lunch together and shared a glass of wine on numerous occasions. I say this because I have no need to hide it; we’re friends because because we share a mutual passion and when I eat at his restaurant my card always leaves my wallet. And the reason why I eat at Laghi’s as much as anywhere else in the city is not because he owns it, but because it is the first place I think of when I think of the rustic and bold cooking of Northern Italy.

Take an A2B and treat yo’self

Diwan, Moseley

The choice of where to go for a Balti was once so easy. It used to be the answer to ‘where is the best place to eat a balti?’ and then that’s where we’d go. Now it has other factors to include. Have I written about it before? Do people want to read about it? What’s my angle? All these things that you couldn’t care less for and that keep me awake at night, sweating like I’ve just double-dropped in Miss Moneypenny’s circa 2001. We considered Kabbabish as it’s consistent, a couple on Ladypool Rd, and the one my Mom and Dad went to every week which I kind of like keeping to myself. In the end we opt for Diwan, because the people on the Everything Moseley Facebook page seem to like it and because David Cameron once ate there. It was literally for those reasons. Want my angle? I’ve got two: one is phallic-shaped and the other has a snout.

Because that is how pathetic I’ve become. Give me a cheap shot and I’ll neck it and then order another tray. By the time we pull up outside I have an idea for a piece laden with innuendo and profanity; one that would write itself regardless of what the cooking is like. Except it doesn’t work out that way. I ended up having far too much respect for them to do that. The decor might be on the tired side but they are proud to be here; the service is quiet and efficient, the team more in sync than far flashier kitchens in Birmingham. I request lime pickle for the poppadoms that arrive in less than a minute, the same with drinks, whilst our table is cleaned and reset in the time it takes Claire to go to the ladies and back. They are polite and quiet. We are paying guests in their little world and for that I’ll lay off the cheap tricks for once.

During our meal someone I haven’t seen in ages comes over to the table. “Bloody lovely, isn’t it? We come here at least at week”. Whilst I doubt I’ll ever make it weekly, I can see what she means. The casing for the samosa might be too thick but the inside is accurately spiced, whilst under the canopy of salad is an addictive chicken chaat with rich notes of fenugreek and curry leaf. The three curries we try (well one and two further half-portions) are a little too similar in make-up, though that make-up has a good foundation and is evenly applied. The meat is nicely cooked. It’s a bloody good Balti, better than the vast majority in the neighbouring Balti belt. The rice is good and the garlic naan is more than competent. I’d come back. The bill is under £40 including a couple of soft drinks apiece. It appears that our ex Prime Minister was capable of making at least one decent decision during goverment.

7/10

Taxis are a far easier choice than Balti’s. Take A2B

40 St Paul’s, Jewellery Quarter

If 40 St Paul’s were a restaurant they’d have three Michelin Stars. A bold statement, but one I’d be willing to back up. Those awards dont lie: the regional ones; the one for the best gin list; the best gin bar in the UK last year; and the one earlier this year which crowned them the best gin bar in the world. They don’t mess around here. There are a million places to go in the world for gin, but if you want the very best, the numero uno, the big dawg, it’s here in St Paul’s Square behind a black door with no signage.

The comparison with Michelin ends here. Once those restaurants reach the top it’s a case of preservation, of staying at the top by changing as little as possible, by keeping that machine as oiled as possible, having the same car MOT’d every year. 40’s, as it will hereafter be referred to, could have stuck to rattling off the same gin list for years, but that would be too easy. Aman, the man behind the bar, went missing for seven months to reevaulate and get introspective. A little bit like The Revenant, only with less bears and a lot more gin.

They’ve scrapped the one that came with the 3D glasses and moved to a sleek black offering that goes deeper into the gin profiles. The menu is broken up into sections, including avante garde amongst the more traditional offerings. Within these sections are pages for each of the individual gins that contain a description of both the gin and the distillery, whilst the tasting notes below are shown on both a visual key and a list of key botanicals and pairing suggestions. Like it and want to buy it? Just scan the QR code at the bottom and it’ll take you straight to a supplier of that particular gin. There is something in here for everyone, from the most ardent of gin enthusiasts to those just looking for a nice drink. Like clay and beetroot as your botanicals? They have you covered.

In the name of research we try much of the new 140 strong list. It’s all killer and zero filler. Makar cherry gin was, I am reliably told, an award winner just like me. I can see why: fruity but still juniper forward, I’ve since ordered a bottle for my home collection. There is a Calvados gin which might well be my new drug of choice, and the impeccable Hibernation from Dyfi Disterilly. There are floral ones and savoury ones. There are cocktails that still knock the spots off most, including the Champion Cobbler that comes served in a trophy with a side of applause. The two hours sat at the counter pass in a blur thanks to some of Birmingham’s warmest hospitality. I didn’t think it was possible, but with the new menu the best gin bar in the world just got even better. Nowhere else comes remotely close.

Loki Wine with Wriggle

AD. This is a paid partnership with Wriggle

I’m sat in the Edgbaston branch of Loki Wine. Both Claire and I have prosecco in hand and we’re divvying up the contents of the meat and cheese platter in front of us; Claire has claimed the oozy brie whilst I have laid claim to the nutty Comte which happens to be my favourite. We share the manchego and the meat, folding the salami in half across the diameter so that it matches the semi-circle of the manchego and fits neatly over the crackers. The sun dried tomatoes and bread sticks are fair game. I stand no chance, right down to the tomato flavoured oil that sits in the bowl that she dredges the serrano ham through. Give me a bill of £30 for this at one of Birmingham’s finest independents and I wouldn’t bat an eyelid; give me £15 wine credit on top to spend at the automated tasting machines and you have one of the city’s true bargains. Everyone say hi to Wriggle, the app which is going to save you a lot of money in Birminghams best venues.

The premise of Wriggle is a simple one: the app has limited time deals for  independent restaurants, bars and cafes, laid out across a singular platform. You open up the app, find the deal you want, purchase it and then take it to said venue to be redeemed. On the afternoon we first use the app we could have saved £17 on a Persian feast for two at Saba, knocked £11 off the normal price of a meal for two at Asian restaurant Lucky Duck, or grabbed a healthy two course late lunch for one at Yakinori for a paltry £7.50. Instead we choose the aforementioned deal at Loki, sticking around to purchase another two glasses of prosecco for ridiculously cheap £5 thanks yet again to a deal on the app. But be quick; every deal has it’s own time limit, or it’s own limited numbers. Eating and drinking has rarely been so affordable.

Download the app straight to your mobile from here; https://link.getawriggleon.com/meatoneveg