Baked in Brick, Digbeth

An early memory of mine involves a statuesque neighbour and his classic Mini. I recall watching him get in with wonder: as a small girl he seemed almost a giant, six foot tall with a broad frame larger than my boyfriend’s ego. He would dip down, swinging his head and lead leg in simultaneously to enter the tardis-like interior with ease. This was a man who could eclipse the sun from certain angles, fitting into a car that looked the perfect size for an eight year old schoolgirl.

Merely getting into a Mini Cooper would be far too simple for Lee Desanges. Three years ago he decided there was much more that could be done with the chassis; he stuck a pizza oven on the back and a grill on the front, then wrapped those oh-so-massive arms of his around the street food industry and suffocated them of every award going. Off the back of that success, Baked has moved into some permanent bricks of his own, tucked away in a corner of Digbeth’s Custard Factory. It is a beaut of a restaurant with exposed wood, metal caging, and a mural on the far wall where you can spot nods to Lee’s journey to so far. That is, of course, if the massive Mini bursting through the wall doesn’t distract you. Outside is one of the nicer sun terraces in the city. Inside or out, it is a very nice place to eat.

On both our visits, the majority of our meal comes straight out of the pizza oven. We have a serrano ham pizza finished with shavings of Lincolnshire Poacher, another with robust meatballs of pork and a yellow pepper ketchup, and most ludicrously a carb squared white pizza topped with boulangere potatoes and smoked chicken. With blistered bases and the softest of crusts, the composition is pretty much perfect. Is this the best pizza in Birmingham? Probably. More specifically, is that white pizza with spuds my favourite in the entire city? Absolutely. Oh no, I’ve morphed into Josh from Love Island.

The dish that grabbed the majority of awards for Baked in Brick was his beef shin calzone, and it is properly glorious; rich beef in a lengthy marinade of red wine that has just a hint of spice and garlic heat. In amongst the meat are teeny wild mushrooms for an earthy kick. It is a dish that only improves when slathered in a blue cheese dip full of more umami. What a plate of food this is.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just a pizzeria though; dishes such as the oak smoked burrata with tomato and pesto and their ever rotating lunch menu – think anything from burritos, curry and salt beef sandwiches to salad and mezze platters – show off Lee’s innate understanding of flavours and make me want to relocate my office to Digbeth.

It’s impossible not to love Baked in Brick. They have seamlessly moved from street food to restaurant without losing sight of what has made them so successful. And with winter approaching at a frightening speed (my bets are on Christmas songs any day now), the fact that Lee’s food is now available under roof makes me very, very happy.

Find Lee’s bricks at The Custard Factory, Gibb Street, Birmingham, B9 4AA. Website.


Zindiya, Moseley

Zindiya and I have grown up in Moseley together. I’ve been here fourteen months now, replacing them as the newbie in town two months after they opened. We’ve come through hard times together, mostly involving my hangover, occasionally stemming from their oh so fine cocktail list. And it’s amazing living so close to them; it’s impossible to have a bad meal there. I can easily recount the menu from memory, tell you what I want to eat based purely on my mood without looking down at the paper on the distressed wooden tables.

We’re also growing outwards together; just like my waistline after too few gym sessions and too many burgers, their menu is expanding. Which is obviously more bad news for my waistline, but absolutely brilliant news for everyone else. Over two trips I’ve managed to tick off pretty much all the new dishes and I can confirm they are b-a-n-g-i-n-g.

We kick off both visits with Zindiya’s Raj Kachori, a miniature version of the famous Rajasthani dish. The crispy wheat vessel is similar to that of pani puri, but here encases potato, lentil, chickpea, pomegranate, sev, tamarind and mint and coriander chutney; essentially all the elements of their chaat in a little bomb of deliciousness. Think pani puri evolved Pokémon style and you’re on the right track.

I might (definitely) have mentioned before that Zindiya’s chicken tikka is legendary, and it’s now joined on the menu by the Hariyali chicken tikka, a green version with fresh spinach, coriander and mint running through the marinade. Our heated discussion over which of the two is best nearly ended in violence, so you’ll have to be the judge; I’d probably order both to be on the safe side.

Authentic is a bit of an odd term to use whilst eating street food inside a restaurant in a middle class Birmingham suburb, but the moreish rounds of aubergine, fried in crisp gram flour batter and dredged though a sweet-sour tamarind sauce, remind me so much of my sub-continental travels that I think it’s warranted here. It takes the palate to similar places as the crispy aubergine dressed in honey, soy and chilli at El Borracho de Oro (which, if you haven’t already, is one of my Brum ‘must eats’) and is just as good at it’s Spanish cousin.

Keema pav is probably the least exciting of the new dishes that we try, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not good. It’s a comfort food kind of dish – the Indian equivalent of a shepherd’s pie or a chilli – comforting, warming flavours that I imagine will come into it’s own once Britain stops trying to be a tropical country and gets all miserable again.

Zindiya’s sister restaurant, Tap & Tandoor, do a wicked chilli paneer so it’s great to see it on Zindiya’s menu (along with a chicken version for dedicated carnivores). The punchy Indo Chinese sauce is sweet and sour for grown ups; more spice, less sugar and Zindiya’s trademark quality ingredients.

As well as traditional street food dishes, Zindiya like to put their own twist on things. Dessert samosas are nothing new but instead of taking the safe option and stuffing them with chocolate, they’ve used Gajar Ka Halwa, an Indian dessert of carrot, milk, sugar and nuts, as the filling. I know, I know, it sounds weird, but trust me on this one. It works.

I didn’t think it was possible for Zindiya to get any better, but the new menu is so good that I can definitely see some of the dishes ousting old favourites when I order. Either that, or I’ll just get them all. Sorry waistline.

Zindiya is at 21 Woodbridge Rd, Moseley, B13 8EJ. WEBSITE.

The Ivy, Birmingham

In possibly the most exciting thing to ever happen in Macclesfield, my parents have an incubating duck in their back garden. I know, hold on to those pants of yours before the gust of elation whips them clean off. It’s just sat there, keeping the eggs warm, giving my Dad disapproving looks through the patio doors for watching Naked Attraction in his sixties. My Mom is ducked off about it because she has to contend with the dog going ducking barmy at not being able to eat it. And as cute as they are to look at, I’m siding with Betty the terrier. I ducking love eating duck.

Duck meat makes up two of the four dishes we eat at The Ivy in Birmingham, but before we get to the food let’s talk about that dining room. It’s a stunner; 1920’s glamour in shades of lavender, burnt orange, and jade. We are sat in one of the booths under the gaze of the stain glass windows. This must be one of Birminghams most beautiful seats for food.

One dish withstanding, the food is very good. A starter of asparagus, mozzarella, and pesto is light and impeccable in delivery; the mozzarella has an air of burrata in texture, a million miles from the ball of rubber that so many places wheel out. A salad of duck is even better, the five spice dressing not overpowering, the richness cut through by cubes of compressed melon, and toasted cashew to bring texture. If all salad was this good, I’d be a Victoria’s Secret model.

The duck main is a red curry, rich with coconut milk, fragrant and generously spiced. The meat is tender, and there’s a lot of it; pretty good for a brasserie curry. I’m less keen on the seabass, which is served whole and battered into submission by the olives, capers, and fennel that accompany it. In hindsight I wish I’d never ordered this, given that there were a dozen or so other dishes on the menu I’d rather have eaten, but I was trying to be healthy. Given the copious amounts of wine I’d already drunk, I should have just ducking given in and ordered the shepherd’s pie.

With portions generous in size dessert defeats us. It seems that The Ivy is already a smash hit in Birmingham, turning tables away on a packed midweek evening and heavily booked up for weekends to come. I can see why; the food is not the best in Birmingham by a long distance, but the service is polished, the prices fair, and it’s definitely the dining room to be seen at the moment.

Find The Ivy at 67-71 Temple Row, Birmingham, B2 5LS. WEBSITE.

Wing Wednesdays at Original Patty Men, Digbeth

The popularity of chicken wings as a meal is a bit weird, if you think about it. Compared to something like a burger, the effort to volume-of-food ratio is pretty damn high. But irrational as it is, I love a ‘wang’ as much as the next ‘thang’, and it’s good to see more places popping up around Brum to fill the wing shaped hole left by the Butcher’s Social.

One such hole-filler are burger legends Original Patty Men who have turned their attention to the other side of the farmyard for ‘Wing Wednesdays’. I’m not going to write War & Peace about chicken wings, but this deserved a post because OPM have got. it. nailed.

Their menu has four regular choices of wings (Buffalo, BBQ, Gochujang, Alabama), plus a rotating special, currently Chicken ‘n’ Waffles. We ordered them all, but if you’re not as greedy as us then feel free to close your eyes and point; whatever you land on will be world class. There’s tang, heat and sweetness in the various sauces, not a soggy chicken skin in sight and the battered Alabama and Waffle wings have perfect crunch even when doused in white sauce or honey respectively. Oh, and make sure you order fries to scoop up the last bits of sauce once you’ve finished the wings.

Bravo, guys. You’ve done those chickens proud and made hump day that little bit more manageable.

Original Patty Men is at 9 Shaw’s Passage, Digbeth, B5 5JG

Wayland’s Yard, Birmingham

The city centre is rarely somewhere I venture for breakfast or brunch. On weekdays I’m in too much of a rush, with maybe enough time to grab a coffee before I head into the office for a thrilling day of tax. And on weekends? Why would I, when within walking distance of my front door I have Lewis’s, Damascena, Bloom, Zindiya and more serving up some of the best brunches in the city?

But then I saw two words on the Wayland’s Yard menu that made me reconsider. Those words? Eggy. Crumpets. My other half and I are obsessed with crumpets – we’ve been known to have actual physical fights over the last in the pack – so anywhere that dips them in egg before topping with halloumi, chilli jam, spring onions and fresh chilli is guaranteed to get us through the door.

And did it live up to expectations? In a word, yes. A generous portion full of sweet, salty and chilli flavours that had us immediately planning our next visit. Their signature full English (‘Wayland’s Big Brunch’) is a hit too; I can’t think of many better I’ve had in the City Centre. There’s a couple of missteps on the plate – the sweet potato hash balls are too dense for my taste and avocado hummus is a combination that should never have happened – but the rest more than makes up for it. Smokey heat and garlic runs through the beans, griddled mushrooms have been taken to a perfect level of bite, eggs are runny and the meat is good quality and locally sourced. I also have to shout out to the fact they use Netherend Farm butter, which I stockpile whenever I see it for sale because it’s bloody lovely.

With all this accompanied by great coffee and welcoming staff, it’s a breakfast I’ll definitely be back for. And it’s convenient location on Bull Street means I’ve even found a new stop for my pre-work coffee dash.

The Birmingham branch of Wayland’s Yard is at 42 Bull Street, B4 6AF. Find more details on their website.

My meal was complimentary for review purposes.

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

The Horseshoe Bar and Grill, Hall Green

In the two or so weeks since I ate at The Horseshoe I’ve sent three people to eat their mixed grill. It’s a recommendation that’s gone down well; one now skips the gym nearby to get his fix. I’m so proud. This verbal pyramid scheme is great in principal but not so good for my blog stats. I should probably share it with everyone, even if it means having to wait a little bit longer for my dinner.

And that mixed grill is definitely worth shouting about – it’s hands down the best in Birmingham. Fifteen quid will get you three types of chicken tikka, two types of kebab, lamb chops, chicken niblets, and a quarter of tandoori chicken. It’s all very good but ask for my opinion (and by reading this you indirectly are) and I’d pinpoint the achari tikka with the tang of pickle, and the green tikka with a chilli heat start and herbal finish. We go a little bit crazy over the lamb seekh kebab and full on bonkers over its chicken sibling. There’s very little to not like – the chicken niblets maybe at a push – but it’s all well executed. I gather that they’ve added prawns of recent. And that’s nice of them. Just as long as they’ve left my chicken seekh and green tikka untouched.

It’s at this point that I should point out that they offer two menus; the one with the mixed grill, that you should order from, and a European menu that only a moron would consider eating off. Given that the chefs here are Indian, asking for Italian is practically racist, and besides, I’ve eaten at Jimmy Spices; I’d never put myself through that again. The curries we have are good, maybe not the gloriously high standard of the mixed grill but certainly very good. My boyfriend is a bit methi chicken barmy and here the fenugreek flavour takes its time to fully unveil. When we finally get there it is worth it. I like the lamb a little bit less. There is nothing wrong with it, I just only like it and it loves me. I have a similar problem with ex boyfriends and Jesus.

I love yellow dhal so I insist on ordering it, even though it’s definitely too much food. It’s thick and spicy, like Mel B, and we load it on buttery paratha. These finish us off; nowhere to go but bed with no hope of dessert.

Service was so good it’s impossible to think that we are in a pub in Hall Green, but I’m glad we are given that I now know it to be a nice stroll from Moseley. It was impossible not to be impressed with The Horseshoe. It’s the kind of place you’d gladly tell your friends to go to, which I already have, and now I’ve put my love for it in writing, you really have no excuses not to give it a go.

The Horseshoe Bar & Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato