Sausage roll

Greggs, The Battle of The Sausage Rolls.

The farce that has recently occurred over the Greggs vegan sausage roll is truly an accurate representation of where this country presently is. I half expected there to be a singular man outside the Kings Heath branch; bald-headed, with his Costa Del Sol burnt bonce protected by a cap. He would be assessing the customers joining the back of the queue, staring each down with his bulging, bloodshot eyes and occasionally screaming a muffled ‘SAUSAGE ROLL MEANS SAUSAGE ROLL’ through the Stone Island scarf that blocks out the bottom half of his face. He wasn’t there of course, though I admire the tenacity of anyone who can get so passionate over something so trivial. What a set of absolute lads.

My first and possibly only trip to this branch of Greggs is to try a sausage roll made of sausage, and another sausage roll containing no sausage. To see what the hysteria and twitter meltdown is about, and why the gammon of this country are getting so protective about a pork product. As a bit of background, this would be only my second and third Greggs rolls, the first being in late November of last year when a colleague dumped one on my desk. I don’t have much to go on.

The appearance difference is notable in that one is greasy, the other is not. The meat version secretes a fattiness that you wouldn’t want near a nice item of clothing, whilst the vegan version looked like the sausage roll that you forgot to egg-wash, which it is. They taste pretty much identical: of pig, which is both alarming and surprising. The Quorn version perhaps a fraction higher in black pepper, and with a more sturdy texture. I prefer the vegan version. Repeat. I prefer the vegan version.

Such is this feat of engineering from Greggs HQ, I am confident that you could serve the vegan version at a buffet and pass them off as the meat equivalent. But this is the bit I don’t get: Veganism is a movement that has animal welfare at its very core – I don’t understand why a vegan would want to eat something that tastes of cooked pork. I am a conscious meat eater; we eat less meat at home to ensure the animal we do has had the best life possibly, and I’ll eat every cut and organ out of respect. From this perspective the vegan roll appeals to me. I can’t imagine the pork in the meat version is free range for the price they charge, so the vegan is a success for replicating the taste without the slaughter. I’m talking myself into a vegan lifestyle here. I should stop this immediately.

Wing Wednesdays at OPM and Kilder, Digbeth

Hype is a horrible thing which we’re seeing loads of in Birmingham at present. Baos, fried chicken, ramen, Indian street food; you name it and we’ve been subjected to the same cleverly marketed Twitter launch that see’s everyone proclaim it to be the next best thing. I blame The Blaggers, those who punctuate with examination marks and think that by quote retweeting ‘can’t wait to try this’ will see them first in line when the PR soup kitchen starts handing out free meals. And for what? In almost every instance these launches have disappointed, with businesses forgetting that they should really be focusing on getting the product right before the branding. The very hype is misleading others into thinking that it is good without even trying it. It is this very reason that I tend to keep that giant gob of mine closed until the food has entered it.

I was having one of those ‘just look what we’ve created’ moments recently in an not-be-named location that absolutely sells more than just fried chicken and is not named after a previous member of Oasis. I was chowing down on some very average wings when out of the corner of my eye saw the rarely spotted Patty Man doing the same. We exchange a brief chat over the chicken wings. “They’re alright”, I say. “Come try ours” he grunts (the Patty Man communicate only by grunt). I admire his confidence and take this as a challenge.

Cutting to the chase, those wings are some of the best I have ever eaten, shitting all over the place with the over-hyped chicken. We order one set of each, including the special. Each one has high quality bird with delicate meat and crisp skin, the latter being a very important detail that seems to allude many a chicken wing.  I like the honey wings and waffle special least because it appeals less to my savoury tastes, but the rest, whoa, I’m in love. There are wings in barbeque sauce, and another in a tangy white sauce with notes of vinegar, mustard and horseradish. Like the time I simultaneously dated two girls called Helena, I can’t mentally separate the following two. Both the Korean gochujang wings and the buffalo are knockout brilliant. The former has its fingers on the pulse with the most 2018 of wings, the latter a proper take on a classic. Both have the same thing in common; a pitch-perfect balance of heat and acidity. With these we have chips with garlic, parmesan, and parsley. They are not needed but quickly disappear.

It was around the time of this visit that they also opened Kilder in the unit next door. A completely different offering to the burgers (and weekly wings) at OPM, Kilder has a wider drinks menu and a menu that looks to the tried and tested traditional British values of stuff that works with beer. The room is more complete than next door, the seating more suited to longer stints than the nature of burger joints. In the corner is a fridge with the cheeses and cured meats that make up the majority of the menu. They have Queens of Stone Age playing loudly over the speakers. I like it here.

The food is superb. Really superb. It owes a lot to the careful sourcing of the ingredients and the rest to the virtues of keeping it simple. Of the stuff on bread I thought it would be ‘nduja and honey on sourdough that would steal my heart, but it is the cheese and ham toastie which does it, the cheese blend an ideal combination of more perky hard varieties and the oozy gentle ones. That’s not to say the other isn’t good; the ‘nduja in particular has the tang of offal lurking underneath the abrasive chilli notes. I want to know who they get it from so I can keep it in my fridge. And then there is the pork pie, which, if I ever did Birmingham’s best dishes for under a fiver, would be right at the top of. The warm water pastry crumbles between finger and thumb, with a pleasing amount of bone jelly. The pork mixture is heavy on the black pepper. It is an absolute joy. I initially thought that the ratio was out on the sausage roll, but I quickly realised that any less meat and we’re stepping into Greggs territory. It is a monster that we dispatch half of, before finishing up later on at home. Even the olives are brilliant.

I think that Kilder will be a slow burner and that sits fine with me. Be it for whatever reason, but people tend to be less excited by minced meat between pastry than they are between buns. I’m cool with this; I’ll gladly take it upon myself to keep the business going whilst the masses slowly hear about it. The bill for both occasions was around £40, though it goes without saying that is possible to spend a lot less and still leave full. Both Wing Wednesdays and Kilder are worthy of your time; put down the burger for two evenings and give them both a go. There is no hype here, merely perfectly executed food. Just how it should be.

Wing Wednesdays at OPM 9/10

Kilder 9/10

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