Burger

MEATmarket, London

I read a lot of other blogs and a lot of lists. I’m fun like that. Almost always food, always a mixture of the good and the bad; there are those I look up to and those I read to make myself feel better. It’s important to keep your eyes on both the sky and the dirt. One of the things I read a lot about is burgers. Outside of Brum I know about as much about them as I do monogamy and modesty, but my girlfriend loves them so it’s in my interest to keep her happy. I’d have never had found out about Bleecker without reading other blog posts, and those same posts always list MEATliquor (and it’s offshoots for which Covent Gardens MEATmarket is one) as one of the true originals to the burger scene in this country.

So I’m not quite sure what has happened. Maybe the very businesses that they have inspired have surpassed them in quality and delivery. Maybe there offering isn’t as good as it used to be. Maybe it was actually never that good. I don’t know, I can only base it what we had, and what we had was okay. The burger that I see on most lists is the Dead Hippie, a double patty of just pink beef in slender proportions with their famous Dead Hippie sauce that is seemingly a mustard mayo given a kick up the arse with chopped pickles and Worcestershire sauce. It’s messy and difficult to hold (these are plus points, honestly), with a bun that gets too soggy too quickly. The beef is good, but not up there with the best; it’s a little chewy in parts and we chow down on bits that possibly shouldn’t have made the cut. The sauce adds a nice acidity and the diced onions are welcome. It’s a good burger, I’ve just had much better.

The double bacon cheeseburger baffles me for crimes against bacon. We’re back on that double patty and bun though this time with additional thin layers of something dark brown that tastes vaguely of pig. It’s bacon, minced and reformed again, because, y’know, sometimes a rasher just isn’t good enough. They’ve destroyed the essence of what it should be, the fat content and the crisp shard of pure pork flavour, turning it into a just another layer of something brown and grainy that detracts away from a pretty good burger. We switch our attention to battered fillets of chicken breast that give the impression the oil was not hot enough. The batter is flaccid in good places, soggy in others from a coating of buffalo sauce. It makes a bit more sense when dipped into the blue cheese dip.

There is a revelation in the form of a Hot Mess, cylinders of crisp potato that ooze a pungent blue cheese and jalapeno sauce, and less of one with green chilli fries that blast heat with every mouthful. It’s a credit to MEATliquor that the sides are genuinely interesting and I’ve seen very similar options pop up elsewhere, including Birmingham, in a blatant bit of plagiarism.

The bill for all of the above and a couple of soft drinks came in at a few pence under forty quid, which would have been value had we enjoyed lunch. The truth is we both walked away full but underwhelmed, struggling to see what all the fuss is about. I can think of three burgers I’d rather eat in Birmingham and at least another three in London. The burgers at MEATmarket may be of legend, but the competition has not only caught up, but surpassed them.

6/10

Nosh & Quaff, Birmingham

Way before I started eating and writing about the nicer places around Birmingham, I used to read about them and not eat at them. I would buy the Birmingham (then Evening) Mail on a Friday only, moving just past halfway to Paul Fulford’s weekly piece. There you would have found a small picture of his small and shiny head in the upper left and two hundred words or so of Paul’s concise writing below. His occasionally acerbic, always honest writing style was an early favourite of mine, more so on the occasions he slipped in a subtle knob innuendo. He’s my neighbour now, which I still find bizarre, and occasionally I get to spend time over dinner with him, taking in his stories and counting the wrinkles on his face.  A couple of nights back I met him at 7pm sharp at Nosh & Quaff where in the deep red leather booths you would have found the unlikely combination of a Birmingham food legend and Paul Fulford, the ex restaurant critic for the Birmingham Mail.

There is a valid reason for us being here.  Back when I first wrote about Nosh & Quaff the menu was even shorter than Paul; lobster, burgers, some ribs.  I liked it, others less so, finding the options too limiting and the pricing aggressive.  Two years and a little introspection later, we have a full page of options and a considerable decrease in the pricing.  I think it needs it.  Downstairs is still a beautiful space of marble and deep red leather with ceilings high enough to fit my ego without the need to crouch, it just now has the kind of pricing and options to fill it more frequently.  There is a large industrial room  of bare brick and wood upstairs that they should turn into the city centre location of Fiesta Del Asado, a stablemate of the same group.


The hotdog is one of those items that has fallen in price.  Impeccably sourced from the Big Apple Hotdog company it is now half the price of the fifteen quid it used to be, with only fries losing their tray gig.  It showcases what N&Q is all about; quality produce, generous portions, and an underlying guilt that you probably will need to run your dinner off the following morning. It is worth the run. The dog snaps, the bun is sturdy enough to hold everything else in place. Order this and ask for a bib to come with it.  


From the newer items are rib tips that really transpire to be precise cubes of unctuous pork, slowly cooked and glazed in a funky BBQ sauce.  This is a lot of pig for £4.50.  Chick Norris may be a dreadful name for a burger but is a hefty bit of dinner.  Two hulks of free range thigh meat in one of those thick American buttermilk batters with bacon and processed cheese. Heat lurks in the background with enough tang in the ‘slaw to cut through the richness of it all. As far as the composition of a burger goes this has it all.



American portions mean only real Americans will have room for desserts.  For the rest of us it’s a small dent in the wallet and a lie down.  I still really like Nosh & Quaff, they’re not pushing boundaries but they are taking a familiar cuisine and applying quality ingredients with precise cooking.  It’s managed to improve what it previously was, now with a menu with enough scope to warrant repeat visits.  And all in the company of a man who definitely makes the list of my top 172 food writers.  Life really doesn’t get much better. 

Mr Fulford picked up the bill, I got the Uber home.  I guess that makes us quits.    

Meat Shack, Birmingham

 

I have a lot to thank Meat Shack for.  They ended ‘The Carlo Great Burger Drought’, that ripped through the country between 2006 and 2013 when I decided that burgers were shite.  Looking back I was probably right, in Birmingham anyhow, when our casual dining scenes was as stale as the sesame seed bun that compresses the cows arsehole and eyelid together at McDonald’s.  We had very little to shout about other than a couple of Michelin starred places that the majority could not afford.  And then Digbeth Dining Club happened.  I remember eating the food of passionate traders who were producing far superior dishes to those in their own bricks and mortar, at a fraction of the price.  The Meatshack was one of those places, the first burger I had eaten for, I think, seven years.  I was coerced by a mate and never looked back – it was everything that I wanted a burger to be.  I remember talking about it sometime after to an equally epicurean pal, how those burgers, along with many other wonderful dishes at DDC, would eventually shape our future restaurants in Birmingham.  I was right.  I am always fucking right.

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The transition of street food to restaurant doesn’t happen overnight.  Products are to be tweaked.  Locations found.  Funds raised.  In the case of Meat Shack it’s taken five years to go from the little black and white tent to the bright and illustrated space upstairs in the new Thorp 17 building in China Town.  It’s caused local hysteria with those who love their food.  Expectations are high and for the most part they have nailed it.

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The slogan here is ‘dripping filthy goodness’, a phrase that they have presumably stolen from a swingers club, but actually relates to the process of cooking the beef patty so that it retains the juices.  It is exactly as I remember them being, if not as pink in the centre as they once were.  We try two different burgers, both of which are excellent.  Hell Shack is a brute, a relentless assault that has the Rib Man’s ‘Holy Fuck’ hot sauce at it’s core and a green chilli relish playing back-up when a back-up probably isn’t required.  Still, if you order anything with a hot sauce called ‘Holy Fuck’ you expect serious heat, and serious heat is what you get.  I fucking love it, and I can swear all I want here, because if they can say fuck on a menu, I can use it all I fucking want in my post.  Sorry, Mom.  If heaven existed I know you’d be pretty appalled with me right now.

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You can look again now because the next paragraph contains zero curse words.  The Dutch Piggy is at it’s purest form a bacon cheeseburger.  It has two cheeses; a classic American cheese that owes its existence to the invention of plastic as much as it does to milk (this is not an insult – American cheese is the best for burgers) and another, Edam, I think, that has melted in a far more conventional sense.  Together with the bacon it works to accentuate the beef flavour rather than wipe it off the face of the earth like the hot sauce does.  They are two burgers for very different customers.  Both are very good indeed.

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There are no fried pickles on today, leaving us with onion rings and fries topped with a spicy mayo.  The latter is the weak link here, unremarkable in texture with not enough of the mayo, which itself could do with more attitude.  The onion rings are the best I’ve tried, though at £3.50 for six they should be.  The batter cracks and then disappears in the mouth.  It makes me wish that the Frickles were on to try.

We’ve waited five years for this to become a reality.  Is it worth it?  Undoubtedly yes.  We eat within the first few hours of the first day they are open to the public and already the team have mastered the service and the cooking.  It’s slick and personable, maybe more than you ever expect a burger restaurant to ever to.  I never doubted their ability to make the jump, but I am seriously impressed with the professionalism and accuracy of it all.  Meat Shack is destined to be another Birmingham success story, and hopefully one that will inspire some of the other traders to do the same.

8/10

Bleecker Burger, London

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Bleecker Burger almost never happened.  It was the last entry on our itinerary for the weekend, after the three star and the trendy Thai place and shite patisserie, only making the cut because it was close to our hotel in Victoria and we needed somewhere to go for breakfast.  Which, yes, it does qualify as on account of it being some meat in a bun.

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And, despite its late inclusion, when we where sat on the train home discussing the three star and the trendy Thai and shite patisserie, we both agreed that the best thing we ate came the black fronted, yellow chaired, spot near Victoria station.  Where bits of aged beef mince are compacted and cooked to medium rare, held together by a bun that stays in working order.

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We try two burgers.  A Blue Burger has the patty in a blue cheese sauce that whacks with umami.  Its good, very good even, but it pales in comparison to the Bacon Cheeseburger that allows the quality of the beef to shine with just a little American cheese, a rasher of crisp bacon and white onion.  It is stunning.  As much as I love Original Patty Man back home, this is as good, if not better.  Even with another lunch planned in less than three hours I am sent back inside for another for us to share.  Our later lunch is worth jeopardising for this.

The Angry Fries divide us, but this is my turf so let me tell you that the mixture of blue cheese and hot sauces is an inspired one, one cooling the other, full of umami and funk.  The other half thinks that they detract from the spud but she watches Keeping Up With The Kardashians, so read into her opinion as you want.

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And there you go, maybe the best twenty-six quid I have spent in a while, overshadowing some very serious food had throughout the rest of our weekend.  But it’s created a quandary of it’s own – my five or six trips to London a year are to eat new food, not return to the same places, yet it will be impossible to not have a Bleecker whenever we come back.  I thank the chef on our way out, telling her that it was probably the best burger I have eaten.  She smiles and thanks me in a way that makes me think she has answered to that on many an occasion before.  I can believe it. The burgers here are the real deal, as good as any you are ever likely to eat.

9/10
Bleecker St. Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Byron, Birmingham

Byron comes to Birmingham on the back of a big reputation down south, where they are dotted around the sprawling city for Londoners to get their fill. I always found the reputation bewildering; London is not short of good burger options in the same way that it is not short of superiority complexes – why would a high street burger chain be mentioned along with the likes of MeatLiquor or Patty & Bun? In my frequent visits to the capital I had never had one, because, in all honesty, there was always a more interesting option. Now it’s finally here after working its way around the country, in a prime spot on New St, and I have no get out clause. I heed my call.

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It turns out those pesky Londoners are right. It’s a proper burger, made from the right cuts of cow and cooked correctly. We try two on the second day they are open and both are impressive, mostly down to the patty, which is beefy and accurately cooked to the medium they tell us it comes to as standard.  A ‘Smokey’ has the patty on possibly the best bbq sauce I have tasted – smokey, full of umami, with just a little heat in the background.  Crisp onions for texture and smoked bacon to reinforce just why it is called what it is.  A ‘B-Rex’, the most expensive of the single patty options at £10.50, comes with more of that bbq sauce, a greaseless onion ring, jalapeno’s, American cheese, and pickles.  There is a lot going on, but its all balanced impeccably, the jalapeno and pickles elements with enough acidity to stop it all being too much.

We have a side of fries topped with a gooey cheese sauce and bacon that wasn’t crisp enough that we probably wont order again, and chicken nuggets that we certainly will.  The nuggets are lovely morsels of breast meat that work well with the bbq sauce it comes with and better with the chilli sauce they leave on the table.

And here’s the thing:  Honestly, I expected to hate it.  I thought it would be another Five Guys mess of overhyped crap.  I couldn’t be further from reality, it is miles ahead of that rubbish and the likes of GBK. whom you would consider to be its naturally competition.  It will clean up in Birmingham and rightly so.  My only issue is the price, which at around twenty quid a head for a burger, a side and a drink is more expensive than Original Patty Man, who happen to produce the best burger in the city (provided you are happy to queue for it of course).  But as far as burger chains go, well done Byron, you’ve just jumped to the front of the high street queue.

8/10

Byron Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cau, Birmingham

Today it’s a whistle-stop visit at Cau, a new South American style steakhouse in Brindley Place. Inside the monochrome interior is broken up by lucid green wallpaper that echoes grass, whilst clouds dangle from the high ceiling. Its an odd space, seemingly kitsch and intent on dividing opinion. With little time to wonder around the menu, we plunge straight in to the beef for mains. The cow, or cau as they would have it, would prove to be very good, maybe even surprisingly so, full of deep bovine flavour from an animal properly sauced and hung. The sirloin appeared central to the plate with no accompaniments – a ballsy move that lives or dies on the quality and cooking of the meat. It was cooked rare as requested, and correctly rested so that the meat juices had remained where they should be and not on the plate. The seasoning was exact and the flavour of the cow good. It was hard not to be impressed and impossible not to love. On the side came chips the size of a fat mans thumb, which were crisp on the outside and fluffy in the middle. At fifteen quid it was a serious bargain.

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A burger also impressed.  Stacked high, the patty came pink as requested, with an onion ring, American cheese and piquant ketchup.  What made it was the addition of sticky bits of braised short rib, that reinforced the bovine flavour and added a subtle fattiness.  It wasn’t easy to eat, but then the best things never are.  More of those fat chips and another fifteen quid left us replete and pleased with the afternoons work.

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We never took desserts, though the website shows some interesting options.  Perhaps next time, eh, when I can also explore a seemingly well crafted list of Malbecs.  Cau impressed for having a product that far exceeds the mid price range it promotes.  And they deliver via those efficient scooter boys over at Deliveroo, which makes that steak / burger dinner at home all the more luxurious.   I normally insist on several dishes before I can give a score,though in this instance I can confidently say that if you’re looking for a lump of Cau, you’ve come to the right place.

8/10

Cau Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Original Patty Men, Digbeth

I’m all for competition. It breeds an environment where the best product and most savvy of businesses survive.  Its vital for the food industry in keeping profit margins at an acceptable level for the customer and for keeping the owners on their toes.  Rivalry breeds respect and results.  Though occasionally competition is futile.  Every now and then a leader emerges that is unbeatable, rendering everyone else to fight to for second or third place. Federer at tennis a decade ago, Google for search engines, America at obesity.  Now I’ve tried the burgers at the permanent home of Original Patty Men you can add them to that list.  Everyone else should turn off the gas on the grill, go home, and work on that pulled pork recipe.  Or whatever horrid trend is next in line to dominate 2016.

I’ve had the burgers before.  I’ve queued with the rest of them at Digbeth Dining Club and Seasonal Markets for my fill.  Street food is everywhere in Birmingham; we do it better than anywhere else, with OPM (as it will herewith be referred to) topping the bill alongside my other favourites Bournville Waffle Company and Baked in Brick .  Its just I like the queues as much as I trust the English weather.  Which is why I was a tad excited to park my fat arse on a chair in their new gaff under the arches in a Digbeth passage near Moor Street station car park.

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I could go on at length about the make-up of the burgers.  How the aged meat is coarsely ground and tightly packed.  How the high heat sears a crust full of umami and retains a blushing pink centre.  Its a thing of beauty that almost leaves me to be able to communicate only in profanities.  Oh, fuck it.  They are fucking amazing.  We try one in a glazed Krispy Kreme with maple glazed bacon where the potential over-sweetness is held at ground level by the savor of bovine hung for a good period of time.  Another sees the components of a cheese burger with a spiced mayo and crushed pork scratchings.  It sounds more outlandish than the reality; the pork rinds are there to provide an additional layer of seasoning and texture.  Its all very clever and extremely moreish.

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The small but perfectly formed menu has a few sides from which we try smokey home baked beans and chips topped with slaw and more of that spiced mayo.  The chips are good, taken up another level by the toppings which offer crunch and a little heat.  Better are the beans with bacon and a steal at two quid a pot.  They have no sweet courses on offer today, due to the local bakery that supplies them being too busy.  I consider requesting a Krispy Kreme for dessert.  Only grilled.  And with bacon and a lump of charred cow.

 

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We settle a bill which fails to reach thirty quid including a couple of drinks and look to the doors where a queue of waiting people are already starting to form.  That queue is only going to get bigger and bigger -Its inevitable with a product this good.  Forget Goodman’s, Byron, or the one at Burger and Lobster that costs £20.  Forget Dirty Burger or Meat Liquor or anywhere else that the capital has to offer.  OPM’s are the best burgers that I have ever eaten.  Digbeth, long home to the countries best street food, now has a resting place for one of the jewels in its crown.  I for one, could not be happier.

9/10

 

 

 

Deliveroo; Chilli Dog Dog’s / Heavenly Desserts

If you are one of the dozens of people that follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that I am partial to food from Chilli Dog Dog’s. I occasionally post pictures of their food, which, if you are not familiar with their back catalogue, mostly amounts to buns containing protein and other stuff that tastes nice. These food porn images have led to a bit of an on-line bromance with Simon, the cordial chap that slaves behind a grill in the backyard of The Prince of Wales so that I can get fatter. He humours me, which is an achievement in itself. Outside of Twitter our relationship extends to me being a drunk and him working in a beer garden that I often drink in. I am a big fan of his cooking, so when those nice fellows at Deliveroo suggested that I have a dinner on them, there was only one place I was going to fill my boots at.

I keep on returning to Chilli Dog because the standard is consistently high. In a market saturated with burgers and hotdogs he takes prime ingredients’ and doesn’t mess with them – a concept that I wish would catch on. Given the nature of this blog I should be out trying others and probably wishing that I hadn’t, but I don’t because I am fastidious and difficult with the food that I eat. I am also intrinsically lazy, so praise to Deliveroo for saving me the hassle of changing out of my pj’s and getting my dinner to me within forty minutes. Even if the man on the scooter had to handle over the goods to a rotund ageing man in a dressing gown.

The food which arrived may have had the precision knocked out of it a little by the short ride up the road, but it was hot and packed with all the flavour that I have come to expect. A cheese and bacon burger was the star; the texture tightly packed, the beef flavour massive from the coarse meat of an animal that had been properly aged since its offing. Thick, cured bacon gave smokey notes which were eventually wiped away by the pickles. Everything served a purpose. It wipes the floor with any other burger locally and you’ll be hard pushed to find a better one in the city. A Mexicana Dog has toppings of guacamole, cheese sauce, sour cream and jalapenos. It’s not conventional, though it works because the sausage is of extraordinary quality from Lashford’s. The pork flavour inside the crisp skin is ramped up enough to handle enough to handle everything that is thrown at it. It’s messy, but then the best things in life are.

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Side dishes from here are usually bypassed in my attempts for a quick nosh between beers, though this time we try a variety to turn it into a main meal. Out of the additional carb’s we order only nacho’s disappoint by being far too salty, even for my taste buds. Chips have crispy exterior and fluffy centres thanks to several cooking processes, whilst a mac and cheese has pasta with just enough bite. What holds them all together is molten nacho sauce, thick like custard and cheesier than four bar stools containing the members of Westlife, for which I would love the recipe for.

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It was a different proposition for the second Deliveroo of the evening.  I was aware of Heavenly Desserts in the sense that I had seen the constant queue of people that I was never going to wait in:  I simply don’t like sweet things enough to stand around and wait in line with strangers for them.  What arrived twenty minutes from order on my doorstep would be my first experience of them; quality was generally high, though everything was very sweet.  A chocolate cheesecake was intense on the cocoa flavour and light in texture, the accompanying Belgian chocolate ice cream equally indulgent.  It’s a chocoholics dream (which I hasten to add, that I am not) and a relative steal at £4.90.  For the same price a waffle, a wheel trim in size and appearance, felt less value.  The sweet batter was a little heavy, the sugar levels in the white chocolate sauce relentless, even more so with the addition of whipped cream that was packaged separate.

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The highlight of the Heavenly Dessert order was a special that was a play on Ferrero Rocher.  Chunks of waffle, intermingled with crisp chocolate pieces and chopped hazelnuts, nutella and cream, topped with a massive scoop of hazelnut ice cream.  If the waffle was one-dimensional this was a riot of texture and temperatures, with familiar flavours cleverly pronounced.

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A final quick word on Deliveroo, because they covered my dinner and therefore deserve it.  The on-line ordering is simple, the delivery process efficient and hassle-free.  It is never going to replace my obsession with dining out, but it does continue to give me options of eating at great places on the nights when I want the comfort of my own home.  In instances such as Heavenly Desserts its a no-brainer:  Why queue for thirty minutes in a store when you can have your sugar rush delivered to your front door in twenty?  And with Chilli Dog Dog’s, well you should regardless, because its bloody brilliant.  Go on, treat yourself.  You deserve it.

Chilli Dog Dog’s 9/10

Heavenly Desserts 7/10

Deliveroo picked up the bill on this occasion, though I’ve since ordered (again) on my own accord.  Mostly because I appreciate nice food and so do they.  Go check them out at http://www.deliveroo.co.uk

The Plough, Harborne

Every neighbourhood dreams of having a great local pub. A boozer within staggering distance home that is friendly, with good beers and food that hasn’t been blitzed beyond recognition in a microwave. Sadly, only a tiny percentage are this lucky. Pubs in general are a dying breed. Some close because the culture for a pint or six after work is diminishing, others because they fail to react to a market that is forever changing. Birmingham is a city blessed with enthusiastic young souls trying to buck this trend. There has been a boom of pubs changing hands and reinventing themselves as places that offer a cut-above in both beers and grub. Some have failed miserably, others range from mediocre to very good. One is outstanding.

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Being the difficult bastard that I am, I realise that I am sticking my neck on the line by calling The Plough outstanding, but believe me, it really is. They have done what others neglect and grasped the basic needs of the customer. The beer and wine selection is current and well kept. The service both friendly and unobtrusive. They make you feel valued, which is an achievement in its own right, given the piss-poor service too often encountered from across a bar. And there is the food.

A humble pizza seems a good place to start. It is the acid test of ingredient quality; there is no hiding behind technical wizardry. It is a sum of its parts. A pizza with salami, pancetta and chorizo lives or dies on the quality of the charcuterie. Fortunately for the chef here, he knows where to shop for cured meats. The mixture of tastes and textures from the different parts of the animal backed up by some quality mozzarella and fresh chilli to give comfort and bite. The base is crisp and slightly charred with just enough chew. It is the best pizza I have had outside of the original Franco Manca in Brixton. If various bits of preserved pig isn’t your thing, another pizza, this time with halloumi, courgettes and broccoli proved they understand the needs of vegetarians equally well.

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The menu here has an emphasis on comfort. The cooking processes are kept simple and allow the quality of the ingredients to do the talking. A stew has chicken and more of the top-class chorizo listed as its primary ingredients, though in reality owes its depth to the tomato sauce, layered with garlic, black olives, paprika and peppers. I wipe the bowl clean with the hunk of sourdough served alongside it. A burger comes topped with more minced meat – this time a ragu – that provides a textural difference, as well as the recognisable flavour of a punchy chilli con carne. Its also bloody good fun to eat. Dirty food in elegant Harborne. I just wish I’d remembered to take a picture of it.

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Dessert could easily have been cheese cake, or an eton mess, though I plumped for a sizeable wedge of white chocolate tart. The pastry short and crumbly, with any potential sickliness from the cocoa butter offset by an embedded raspberry coulis and a scoop of accompanying passion fruit sorbet. It was indulgent, clever and thoroughly satisfying.

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They recently rid the bar here of the majority of conventional spirit brands to offer smaller craft distilleries the opportunity to hog the limelight. This sums up the ethos of The Plough perfectly; every tiny detail is analysed to provide a better customer experience. If every neighbourhood had a local like The Plough the world would be a better place. I honestly cant remember ever enjoying a trip to a public house as much. Best in Birmingham? Absolutely. In the country? Quite possibly.

10/10

The Plough on Urbanspoon

Five Guys, Birmingham

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Vegetarians are for life, not just for Christmas. A preposterous statement I know, but one I can boldly state as I live with one – most of the time anyhow, in between her random cravings for chicken in black bean sauce or sausage. Meaty cravings aside, over time I have come to understand that cooking for a vegetarian requires thought and consideration; they won’t accept humus for lunch every day, nor a nut roast every Sunday. They rightly expect meal times to have the same variation as a carnivore. You can’t be half-arsed with a vegetarian.

So a restaurant shouldn’t be permitted a half-arsed approach either. If you don’t want the hassle of dietary-specific customers, it’s easy; don’t cook for them. Simply refuse to prepare food that they will eat. Fry the chips in lard, grate foie gras on hummus, blend anchovies in to every salad dressing and they will take their business elsewhere. Don’t tell them they can have a grilled cheese sandwich, which transpires to be two soggy buns with a slice of processed cheese in the middle. And don’t, under any circumstances, be so lackadaisical about making it that the top bun is on upside down. This travesty against the sandwich is how much Five Guys care about The Non Meat Eaters and this is one of many reasons why I hated Five Guys.

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I appreciate that the majority of those that step in to the self-absorbed Five Guys won’t have to go through the trauma that we did. They will be here for the meat and for that they will do marginally better. They will have no doubt read the countless articles that line the walls here, proclaiming for all to hear that they are kings of the burger. Let’s keep it simple; they’re not. The patty has good beef flavour, but is devoid of any moisture thanks to it being cooked to well done. The bun was again damp and of the optional toppings only the pickles seemed remotely remarkable. More notable was the fries, properly tasting of potatoes, though for four quid for a regular portion I’d not only to expect them to taste of them, but to come with that particular spuds family tree.

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The price of the food here is comparably to a motorway service station Burger King and if we are take the two of them then Five Guys does offer a marginally better experience. The reality though is that you won’t find Five Guys on a motorway station sandwiched between Costa Coffee and Subway – they have far bigger ambitions than that. It’s coming to a high street near you armed with mediocrity. Birmingham has a burgeoning food scene with dozens of better lunch time options than the drivel that they mass cater here. We don’t need Five Guys. We have pubs with ambitions and street food stands like Meatshack and Original Pattie Men that make the burgers here look like McDonald’s. Which they are in essence. Five Guys is Ronald McDonald in a fake fur coat. You have been warned.

2/10

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Five Guys on Urbanspoon