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

The Backyard Cafe, Kingswinford

Is forty minutes too long a time to travel for brunch? I don’t think so. I’ll often hop on a train for a good lunch, or drive three and a half hours to remote Wales for a dinner, so why not an earlier meal? We have inbuilt in our psyche a notion that the first meal of the day is less lavish than the latter ones; that it is more convenience than occasion. It is nonsense: breakfast is the basecamp of the day, the very foundations to build upon. Get it right and the rest simply falls into place. Get it wrong – or even worse miss it – and you spend the rest of the day playing catch-up. ‘We march on our stomachs’ said Napeleon, and he was named after three blocks of layered ice cream, so he must know a thing or two about food.

So last Saturday we left Moseley and took the drive to Kingswinford, all for a morning feed. It wasn’t a blind expedition; I know Richard Alexander can cook given his previous CV of street food and the client dining floor of my girlfriend’s work, but this is my first visit to a small town inbetween Stourbridge and Dudley. The new place is set back from the road, on a row of shops adjacent to Morrisons. Inside it is modern and fresh, with white-washed walls and foliage creeping out between the bars in the ceiling. On the counter where you pay is an inviting selection of lacquered cakes and patisseries. We’ll get to those in no time.

The resulting meal is one I’d travel for on a frequent basis. One that is not only pitched ideally for it’s location, but has enough in the cooking to make it stand-out amongst any of its competition across the West Midlands. A welsh rarebit sandwiches clumps of ham hock between the cheese mixture and a thick slice of toasted bread, with a fried egg that oozes its bright orange yolk at the nudge of a fork. This is my kind of breakfast; a dish that is built upon the principles of flavour and nothing else. Opposite me is a sandwich packed to the edge with soft roast pork, stuffing, and apple sauce, served with a shard of crackling, roast potatoes, crispy onions, and a pot of gravy for the leftover bread. It is happiness on a plate, though at £7.50 there can’t be much in the way of profit. It is mind-bendingly good; honest cooking that is full of technique which is not going to be fully appreciated (I’ve had worse crackling in two star restaurants). Sure, it is never going to win awards, but it will win hearts, mine included. This is food for everyone, cooked by someone who just happens to do it better than most.

We were supposed to eat a selection of cakes to drag this post out, but then the sticky bun happened. It arrived on the table, the crust full of dark lamination, with a side pot of something sweet and buttery that had hazlenuts bobbing on the surface for good measure. We pour over the glaze and eat before deciding that sharing is never going to happen in this circumstance. We order another. Eat another. Debate ordering a third and decide that would be excessive even for us. The bun could be served anywhere in Birmingham; at any of our brilliant coffee houses, in any of our fine restaurants. It is technically perfect; sweet and delicate, the layers peeling away with ease. It is £2.75. Honestly, the people of the Black Country have no idea how lucky they are.

Coffee is good if not spectacular, and service is well meant and cheery by a young team. The bill comes in at less than £25, which is embarassingly cheap for the skill that has gone into the cooking. On the way back we discuss what could be bettered, whereupon we both agree nothing. The Backyard Cafe is the end point for a chef and his partner who want to cook modest food in a location a stones throw from where they live. It just happens to be exceptionally well done. Right now this for me is the best of its kind in the region. It may or may not be close to you geographically but that should not stop you from hunting it down. This is food worth travelling for.


Before anyone gets on my back, they don’t have a website.

White Moose Cafe, Dublin

The White Moose Cafe don’t like food bloggers, or least they pretend not to like food bloggers. I don’t blame them; I don’t like a lot of them either, yet the fact remains that they have made their feelings known very publicly and barred us troublesome freeloaders from their modest and shy little cafe under the hotel they also own. But I wanted to go and see what the fuss is about, so I dropped them a polite little tweet;

They never responded. How rude.

Undeterred, I decide that I can’t be in Dublin and not go. We’d already booked the best restaurant in town, and the place voted as Ireland’s best breakfast. We’ve targeted the highly rated bistro and drinks at the place they say is the city’s best cocktail bar. How can we not go to the world famous White Moose Cafe? If I’m not allowed to be there I’ll have to go in disguise. Here is me inside the cafe wearing an eye patch and fake moustache;

They never suspected a thing. The Fools.

We order at the bar; two drinks, a full American (a full Irish with pancakes), and something called a breakfast burrito. I ask if the eggs are free range: they don’t know (my guess is not judging from the pale yellow yolk). The table we sit at is filthy, cleaned some ten minutes after, mere seconds before the food arrives and some five minutes before the drinks do. It’s not a great start. Maybe they should spend more time looking at the detail in their cafe than plotting the next social media publicity attack.

What follows is a breakfast that the ever polite Claire describes as ‘inexcusably bad’ but I will say is a fucking shambles. I was expecting mediocre; some kind of very average food made popular by very clever marketing. The reality is far worse than that. The Full Irish is a disaster; cheap sausages that taste of very little, the tell-tale sign of cheap bacon injected with too much water as an unappealing white residue. Chunks of black and white pudding have been overcooked so much they crumble to sawdust under the pressure of a fork, whilst cheap horrid beans have been warmed up in a microwave. The poached eggs are pale but at least competent, the same with the hash brown. A spoonful of mushrooms that have the texture of slugs; half of a tomato. We have toast but no butter and still no butter when we ask. Pancakes on the side are stodgy and bring on a diabetic coma. The burrito is just some of the same shit rolled up in a tortilla with the addition of jarred salsa and a snotty ‘avo cream’ – a turn of phrase that can fuck itself almost as hard as the notion of ever coming back here.

We pay, thus distinguishing ourselves far apart from the bloggers, and allowing a full opinion to be broadcast. I never really took their latest attack personally; it wasn’t aimed at blogs like mine, and I could see it for the cheap marketing trick it was. But it does open them up to criticism against their own business. Had we had this experience at a nondescript cafe I would have wrote it off and paid for another elsewhere. But The White Moose? They attract business via a clever marketing campaign and should have been able to back it up. The food is, for a lovely Irish term I heard repeatedly, shite. The service not much better. And when those breakfasts come in at a touch over 25 euros for two it’s pretty unacceptable. Do they care? I doubt it. The idiots paying for breakfasts and brunch here are nothing more than a byproduct for the t-shirt sales, marketing tours and Snapchat income. My guess is that this is real reason bloggers have been barred. They don’t want the world to see just how bad it is.


Kanteen, Digbeth

The area in and around The Custard Factory is one that seems to drift in and out of cultural importance in Birmingham. My Dad remembers when it really was a Custard Factory, worked in by his friends, when they would meet in The Old Crown for a pint and whatever lads in the 60’s did back then. My first introduction was thirty years afterwards, during the dingy hip hop nights at The Medicine Bar, and then again some years afterwards at the ill-fated Alfie Birds. Now, it feels rejuvenated and ready to take on the city again. Old Crown withstanding, Digbeth Dining Club started it, Ghetto Golf, Clink, and others have followed. Once again the area has a purpose. The Custard Factory is thriving.

It is at this point I pull back the curtains and reveal Kanteen in all it’s glory. And, believe me, it is glorious. It has purpose and a desire to feed the community at prices that work out to be no more than a Pret sandwich. The glass fronted space has depth on the inside. It is cosy and smart: almost homely. They do stuff on bread and stuff with eggs in the morning, then later on turn to hot stuff in boxes and cold stuff in boxes. There is a quiet emphasis on feeding all forms of diets and keeping it healthy. Please erase that last sentence from your mind. The food here has flavour in abundance and that is all that matters.

I come with Hubbie-to-be Greg, who arrives in a ravenous mood having recently only been surviving on Slimming World meals, whatever they may be. We order widely; two from the eggs section and three from the bread, which I can now confirm is three too many dishes for two people. I’ll get the disappointing dish out of the way first: A mass of kale on toast with torn bits of burrata and gremolata. Tearing apart the burrata into small pieces has lost the cheeses integrity – the oozy cream quality that is buried like treasure in the centre has disappeared on to the chopping board and the toast below. It’s nice, and the gremolata is impeccably made, but they should cut costs and move towards a mozzarella.

But everything else is bloody brilliant. Black pudding from Clonakilty has more earthy depths because of chopped hazlenuts, then quickly pulled back up by slices apple. Its an inspired bit of topping for wedge of sourdough toast. It has light and shade. It eats like a dream. Likewise the chorizo, red pepper and goats curd on toast. There is a reason this combination is everywhere; it works. This has poise and balance, with high quality chunks of chorizo. And it’s under a fiver. I told you it was great value.

Both of the dishes ordered from the egg section have them poached so that the whites have just set and the yolk becomes self-saucing. On one the egg sits on folds of Serrano ham with broken potatoes and tomato. Lemon aioli gives it an almost Benedicts edge. The other has merguez, the spiced lamb sausage native to Northern Africa, braised in a cassoulet style tomato sauce, with that gremolata returning to stop it all getting a bit rich. I can’t pick between the two, so have one for breakfast and the other for lunch. It’s brunch. You’re allowed to.

Replete, we take a peanut butter brownie home that Greg assures me was delicious, though could well still be hidden with his PS3 and porn stash in his forbidden items drawer. Walking back we discuss the merits of Kanteen for which there are many. What may read on paper as a collection of healthy things piled onto one another is in reality a finely tuned wholesome feed that just happens to also be good for you. Kanteen is something different to the current offering and something very good indeed.


Transport was provided by A2B Radio Cars. Download the app here

Caneat Cafe, Stirchley

On the day we go for brunch at Caneat Café the ever-changing menu has an item listed as ‘green eggs and ham’. It sounds like something my Mother would have turned out for dinner by accident, along with ‘southern fried chicken and black chips’ and ‘beige sausages with beige mash’.  It is, of course, a nod to Dr. Suess and his beginners books, but then you knew that already.  What you don’t know is that this may be the best brunch dish I have ever eaten, certainly since this blog started.  Two softly boiled and halved eggs lounge on thick sheets of ham and sourdough.  It’s the green bit that makes it, a phrase I haven’t used since describing a boil I once had.  It’s zingy and bright and full of herby notes of coriander and parsley.  It has a depth that goes way beyond a little place in a tired row of shops in Stirchley.  It manages to take ham and eggs on toast and rocket them skywards after a quick detour via every taste bud.  If you go, which you absolutely should, and this is on the menu then you absolutely should order it.  It’s not on the menu, then my life is automatically better than yours.  But then we knew that already.

And so to the rest of this short post on Caneat Cafe, a pale wooded, plant heavy, square room on a high street that is fast becoming the place for independent’s on this side of the city.  We take the stroll from Moseley and arrive late morning to a full house, ordering the green eggs and two other dishes.  Of those three the banana bread is the most conventional, smeared with peanut butter, and topped with both sliced banana, blueberries and pumpkin seeds.  There is a drizzle of something sweet and lemony.  It is a well put together bit of breakfast.

Look deeper and there is a nutty professor at work.  Roast peaches on brioche are hardly ground breaking, but the miso caramel that lurks underneath is.  It has a deep umami flavour that makes it a salted caramel for adults.  There is yogurt and more of that lemony stuff.  The result is a deeply satisfying plate of sweet things.

They do sweet things and quiches that we turn down, despite some glowing references on both.  And it’s cheap, with these three dishes and two drinks failing to hit £25 for the two of us.  What I love about this place is the focus is on the eating, not about pretty plates that look far better than they taste.  All three dishes had flavour in abundance; quirky little turns that enhanced the taste of the main event.  The chef is a man of obvious talent; dare I say maybe too much talent for the location it is in.  Stirchley needs places like this if it is going to fulfil its potential.  I hope the people of it reward it by filling it on a daily basis.  Caneat?  I will eat.  And frequently, too.


Lewis’s, Moseley

Two weeks ago Moseley Village was voted the number one place to live in the country, just nine months after I made the switch from Harborne. A coincidence? Unlikely. It is, as the judges rightly point out, a great place. Without wishing to turn this post into a episode of Location, Location, Location, it is a youthful, vibrant and genuinely exciting place to live. It’s slightly rough around the edges in a nice, unpretentious way. I am pretty sure I could amble down to the local pub in my dressing gown and no one would bat an eyelid – something that warrant an ASBO back in Harborne. And yet, despite my obvious love affair, it falls short where my previous residence came up trumps. Moseley is seriously lacking in places to get good, casual food. It has pubs that try to emulate The Plough which fall tragically short of doing so. It has Italian restaurants that dream of being anywhere near as nice as Bounissimo. Yes, it has the brilliant Carters, though a trip there requires prior planning and a spare ton in the bank. I would be lying if I haven’t been frustrated with the quality of food within walking distance of my home.

All of this makes the following admission all the more difficult. There is great food to be had in Moseley, though by sharing it I have further reduced the odds of being able to put my fat arse on one of their fifteen or so chairs.  Surprisingly its in the shop, well, delicatessen to be exact, that I buy my filled pasta from.

Lewis’s is hardly a secret locally.  Visit on a weekend morning and be prepared to wait for a table, for here is probably the best breakfast in the city.  Homemade baked beans see pulses long simmered in a tomato sauce spiked with hot paprika and dotted with brindisa chorizo that laughs in the face of its cheaper versions.  Underneath toasted sour dough soaks up the good bits, whilst a poached egg adds further luxury.  I could eat this everyday and not get bored.  I may actually try.  By the way you can buy the chorizo whilst you wait.  And so you should, its a cracker.


A brunch dish had another poached egg atop of griddled halloumi, spinach, and tomato.  This time toasted bread was present not to soak up the juices but to give texture.  It was a phallic shaped pepper grinder away from transporting me back to the Mediterranean last summer, where they share the ethos of a few ingredients of high quality sitting on a plate together and making perfect sense.  More of this approach was present in a salad of roasted beets, sweet potato and goats cheese.  Pumpkin seeds add crunch, rocket gives gentle pepper notes.  Its earthy, fresh and seasonal



A special saw eggs benedict given a shake-up, with serano ham and a truffled hollandaise in place of the usual suspects.  I am not usually a fan of anyone messing with classics, though here it made sense, making it equally lighter and more luxurious.  Espresso from Monmouth Coffee Company is predictably brilliant and more than makes up for the lack of booze.


The tragedy of all of this is that I seldom get to eat it whenever I want.  Being a deli its opening times never stray deep enough into the day for me to grab my dinner.  I suppose this means I have something to look forward to come Saturday morning and believe me, Lewis’s is well worth the wait.


Lewis's on Urbanspoon