The Juke

Bop Kitchen @ The Juke, Kings Heath.

I was told about Bop Kitchen’s pop-up first by one of the city’s best chefs, who knew one half of the team, and then by my girlfriend who knew nothing other than she wanted a kebab. Both are perfectly valid reasons. So back to Kings Heath we go; first to the wonderful Grace & James for some cold rosé in the bright heat, then across the road to the equally wonderful Juke for a G&T and a kebab. That classic flavour combination.

It’s thriving. It would appear that the duo on the grills have brought most of South Birmingham with them. The Juke has never been the biggest of spaces and today they are open purely outside, with tables stretching out across York Road.

I’ll save you my pitiful pictures but these are the best kebabs I’ve eaten in Birmingham. Soft, pillowy flatbreads enclosing flavours that are reminiscent of everyone’s favourite pissed food yet skilled enough to have come from someone who knows their way around a chopping board. They remind me of a more polite Black Axe Mangal. The mutton kofta is pleasingly dense and full of ovine flavour, with hummus that’s retained a little texture and the occasional bite of pistachio. But it’s the chicken that you need to order. The pomegranate glazed bird and the hot sauce and apricot dukka, with the filthy addition of shards of chicken skin which crack between teeth. I’m in love with it and refuse to share.

They sell out by the time we finish up, which is excellent for a set-up only trading for the second time. I hope The Juke get them back and soon. It’s perfect beer food. I’m too old and grey and flabby to live somewhere that cool anymore, but it’s great to dip in and out of York Road. I really like The Juke. I really like Bop Kitchen. They make a great couple.

A2B took my drunk ass home for free.

Grace + James / The Juke, Kings Heath

I fucking love wine. Like really love the stuff. I do crushed grapes as well as the next man, unless that man knows more about the crushing of grapes than I do, which would be bad luck on my part. At present I am part of two wine clubs. I spend too much on wine and drink far too much. I hope the crash victim who is looking after my next liver likes crushed grapes less than I do. I’m hardly an expert on the stuff, though – if I am being honest now – have won stuff at blind tastings before. And let me tell you, the blind don’t taste that different. They just smell a bit mustier. I enjoy the process of learning whilst getting drunk; of new and old world styles; of grape varieties. Wine is a complex thing that turns most of us into far simpler humans.

I’ll admit to knowing nothing about natural wine. Nada. Zilch. Zero. I know that it’s supposed to be better for the enviroment and for our body, and I also know that the lack of sulphites is supposed to give a lighter hangover. The latter was a bit of information passed on to me by the somme-liar at Carters and proved to be total nonsense after the individual consumption of over two bottles. On the palate it is wild and funky like Rick James, occasionally being so fruit led it can taste like cider or perry. But these are just my observations from the last sixteen months when a dimunitive blonde turned up at my flat with several carloads of possesions and a five litre box of organic white from Wine Freedom. More recently we’ve had the opening of Grace + James up the road from us in Kings Heath. It is a genuine game-changer; one of our absolute favourite openings of the year. Part deli, part natural wine bar, they have succeeded in opening my eyes to natural wine. And it’s gorgeous inside, the neutral shop front giving way to a room of blush pink and tasteful additions. They do cheese, bloody good cheese at that, drafted in from the best in Europe. It is the only place in Birmingham I have seen a Saint Marcelin, which is a must-order should you find yourself in a similar position.

I still know nothing about natural wine, but I’m trying. We’ll sit and work through the bottles on the shelf, we’ll take advice from Henry and Sophie (who are presumably keeping Grace and James hostage), and we’ll make an evening of it listening to great music. Life is easy when it is this good. Grace + James is really rather marvellous.

I also fucking love beer. Like really love the stuff. I do hops as good as the next man, unless the next man is dressed as a rabbit in which case… oh, I give up. I also love music and the nostalgia attached to the dive bars of Americana when the brief pause between tracks was caused by one vinyl spinning back to its home and the next being flipped into place. It is this reason why I love The Juke, which convienently happens to be opposite Grace + James.

The Juke is a small but perfectly formed bar, ideal for those winter days and nights when the sight of outside would cause anxiety. They have a concise bar stocked with interesting spirits and craft beer takeovers on constant cycle. They have kitchen pop-ups and a small team for whom nothing is ever too much. What distinguishes here from all other places of similar ilk is the original 50’s Jukebox that sits to one side of the bar. It’s what the bar is named after. The options cover all decades and styles and is free, though this does leave it open for continous repetitive plays of Chic’s ‘Le Freak’ on a recent visit. I think you can learn a lot from other peoples taste in music: fans of Beirut come paired with works of JD Sallinger, whilst the Oasis fans can usually be found outside pissing up the front door. Me, I fill my time listening to Bon Iver and The National. Feel free to revert to whatever stereotype you want about that.

These two don’t share much in common other than an address and a passion to do the best they can. In that respect they have nailed it. Together they are part of a huge reason why York Rd is one of the best in Birmingham. It’s almost enough to make us want to move from Moseley to Kings Heath. Almost.

Transport by A2B Radio Cars