Bonehead, Birmingham

I love seeing new independents opening up in Birmingham, especially when they’re bringing something new to the table. Sorry Indian street food, I love you, I really really do, but surely we’ve reached our quota now? I want my chicken any way but tikka, so the news that Bonehead were bringing fried chicken and liquor to Birmingham was music to my millennial ears. A gentrifried chicken shop. See what I did there? You’re welcome.

It’s a short menu and we make a dent into almost all of it in the name of research, starting with wings in a variety of coatings. I like that the chicken is all ethically raised Cotswold White, and the wings are fat and good quality. However I find the original batter anaemic in colour, under seasoned and a little floury. Not the best of starts, but then come the sour and hot buffalo wings with ranch sauce, which have us fighting over the last wing, and the hothead, which have good flavour but are more lukewarm that hot in terms of chilli fire. I can (pretend to) handle my heat, I want more.

Having gone to a chicken pop-up at The Meat Shack which served as a prequel to this opening, I was, in all honesty, a little disappointed by the burger. They’re good, don’t get me wrong; the fried chicken thigh is generously proportioned and would be described as moist if the word didn’t make me shudder. But they just don’t excite me that much. I’d like to see some of the more interesting toppings from the pop-up, rather than the same wing flavours and sauces rehashed into a burger. I need more variety, and a reason to rush back. Basically, I l want some gochujang mayo vibes up in here. Pretty please?

What did make me want to rush back, though, are the loaded waffles; potato goodness dressed in the comeback sauce and a ‘slaw that is sharp and damn-right delicious. They’re more interesting than fries, and a slight 90s childhood throwback which I love.

So here’s the thing; I liked Bonehead and really admire what they are doing, but I didn’t LOVE it. Not like I thought I would, anyway. I can’t see myself craving one of these in the same way that I do with The Meat Shack, or OPM. I can’t see myself waking up thinking about eating one. But the queues on the weekends say this will be a roaring success, and it’s great to see another independent in the John Bright Street area. Unlike many others they haven’t had time on the street food scene perfecting their trade, so given some time to settle into their skin (and some gochujang mayo – I’m not letting this go), Bonehead should be a great addition to Birmingham.

Visit Bonehead at 8 Lower Severn St, Birmingham B1 1PU

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Bosco Pizzeria, Bristol

Working away is such a bore. You have to lug a suitcase around, you sleep badly in strange beds and you have to hang out with work colleagues instead of your actual friends. The one perk? Dinner allowance.

A long, drizzly day of tax training in Bristol meant there was only one thing I wanted to spend that dinner allowance on; pizza. My training course was inconveniently scheduled on a Monday, so many of Bristol’s pizza places were closed, but thankfully Bosco was open to welcome us with open arms. And pizza.

And lovely pizza it was, too. Neapolitan style with a good char on the crust and the perfect level of flop in the middle. The menu is split between pizzas rosso and bianco, all with a variety of proper Italian toppings (no chicken or pineapple here folks), and there wasn’t a single pizza on there I wouldn’t have happily ordered.

Of those we tried my favourite was the Funghi; a white base with cremini and porcini mushrooms, mozzarella, Parmesan, marscapone and truffle oil which brought an earthy funk to cut through the richness. The Emilia Romagna, from the pizza rosso menu, was a showcase of simple, quality ingredients and the pangrattato topping worked brilliantly. My only gripe was that the oil from the wood roasted peppers made the whole affair a little too wet in parts; order it without and you’ve got yourself a brilliant pizza.

There’s a pasta menu at Bosco too. It’s small – which I always take as a good sign – an all killer no filler kinda pasta list. We take a pappardelle duck ragu; the sauce is rich and pleasingly full of tender fowl meat, piled upon thick ribbons of good pasta. I’m only sad we didn’t have room to try the Cacio e Pepe.

The portions were generous – enough to warrant the boxing up of leftovers – and even on a Monday the Whiteladies Road branch was buzzing with people crammed around tables to fill themselves with wine, carbs and happiness. I like it here, and to me it pushes home the point that we are desperately in need of good, casual Italian dining options like this in Birmingham.

So yes, working away from home is a bore. But eating leftover Bosco pizza in my hotel bed, without having to worry about crumbs? That’s pretty damn good.

We dined at the 96 Whiteladies Road branch of Bosco, BS8 2QX.

Lucky Duck, Jewellery Quarter

There have been some mixed responses to the new Lucky Duck opening in the Jewellery Quarter. The announcement that it was opening generated massive amounts of hype, followed by vociferous complaints that it wasn’t as perfect as the expectations that people had loaded onto it.

And yes, there are definitely areas that need work. But my duck noodle bowl felt nourishing and hearty, with a perfectly soft boiled egg joining pak choi and pink breast atop a well seasoned broth filled with tangles of noodles, spring onions and chunks of dark leg meat. It warmed my belly and my soul. Consistency might be an issue for Lucky Duck at present, as I’ve heard from others their bowl had seasoning issues, or the breast wasn’t quite right, but it is their first week after all; I think it’s fair to cut new restaurants a little slack in their opening weeks while they tweak things.

There was more accurate cooking in the fillings of the bao; pork came meltingly soft, while the aubergine regained the perfect amount of firmness and the battered cod has a heavenly crunch. The flavour combinations are simple though, and I’d like a bit more funk. I found myself wishing for the texture of sesame seeds or crushed peanut, the fire of chilli, or the aromatics and colour of fresh herbs. The buns needed more fluff and lightness, and veered too much towards stodginess.

All of this is easily fixable though, and what a wonderful spot this will be to eat if they can do so. The bijou space has been beautifully designed, light and minimalistic with pale wood and plenty of swoon-worthy blue and white tableware that had me vowing to conquer Asian cookery to justify purchasing my own. Little details like the origami flowers pick up the same colour scheme and show the love that has been put into the restaurant. Lucky Duck also has an admirable ethos when it comes to sustainability – such as rewards for bringing your own takeaway containers – but if I wasn’t the type to read about restaurants on the internet I wouldn’t have known this; it might be a good idea to include a small note or mention with the menu so that people are more aware.

Feedback seemed to be welcomed on our visit, so I’m betting that this place will come on in leaps and bounds. With a little bit of time and work, Lucky Duck could fly.

Lucky Duck is located in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter at 21 Caroline Street, B3 1UE. Website.