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.

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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

Indian Street Food Class, The Spice Club

As you can probably tell from my blog, I have a massive love for Indian street food. Since moving to Moseley my tried and tested hangover cure has become chicken tikka and aloo tikki chaat from Zindiya, eaten cross-legged on the floor so we can watch TV without staining the sofa. Trust me, it works.

But despite my adoration for the cuisine of the sub-continent, I have managed to reach my 26th year with pretty much zero knowledge of how to cook it. My repertoire stretches as far as a single chickpea and potato curry; a damn good one, I’ll admit, but after the billionth time it can get a little dull. So when I heard from the lovely Han Eats that Monica was bringing her The Spice Club cookery classes to Birmingham, our names were the first on the list.

The class lasted 3 hours and the format went a little like this: cook delicious Indian street food dish, eat said street food dish, cook another delicious Indian street food dish, eat second street food dish, leave happy and very, very full. Perfect for people like me, who can’t go more than about an hour without stuffing something in my gob. And after a slightly heavy Friday night, I was thrilled to see that the first dish we would be cooking was my favourite hangover-busting aloo tikki chaat (spiced potato cakes on a bed of chickpea curry), followed by chicken Kathi rolls (paratha filled with sukha chicken and a pickled lime and onion salad).

Monica was a fantastic teacher, making everything seem simple and giving us plenty of time saving tips along the way; for example, did you know that microwaving garlic bulbs makes them super easy to peel? With a small class size of six everyone was able to get involved in each part of the dishes, whatever their cooking experience, and it felt more like cooking with a group of friends than a formal class.

And the results? Stunning. Even with our amateurish skills we managed to produce some incredible tasting food, and after trying the same dishes on a recent trip to India it’s clear that Monica has absolutely nailed her recipes. They were so good that I recreated both at home the very next day with the help of the recipes we were given. I’ve been practising ever since and my parathas are slowly getting rounder.

If you’re even slightly into Indian food (or want to discover it!), I’d definitely recommend giving one of The Spice Club classes a go. It was such a fun way to spend a morning, and I came away with amazing memories as well as recipes. Monica runs a variety of classes, including vegan options, so you can choose the vibe that suits you (Kashmiri cookery class, I’m coming for you next).

I’m not gonna lie, I’ll still be phoning in the Aloo Tikki Chaat from Zindiya when I’ve overindulged in gin, but from now on my hangover free days will be spent in the kitchen making my own.

The class cost £55 and was held at the Kitchen Food School in Digbeth and ran from 11-2. Details of upcoming Birmingham classes can be found here. If you fancy trying some of Monica’s recipes, check out her Spice Diary blog.

Original Patty Men, Digbeth

Credit to Original Patty Men for the photo. I forgot to take any photos because I was so hungover and the food was so delicious.

On Sunday afternoon my hangover was in full swing and there was nothing in the fridge. Original Patty Men was calling my name.

I’m ashamed to say this was my first visit to Original Patty Men. It’s been on my ‘list’ forever and I’ve had countless recommendations but have somehow never made it there. But now I’ve been. And it was amazing. And I want to go again and again and again.

Sadly it was a bit cold to sit outside (goodbye summer…) but I loved the laid back industrial-y vibe inside. The menu is short and sweet with 3 burgers plus specials. Details of the specials & other burger porn can usually be found on their Twitter (@originalpattym).

We went for both the specials; I had the ‘Alabama Slammer’ and he had ‘There will be Blood’.

The ‘Alabama Slammer’ (pictured) was a fried chicken burger available with either a white mayo-based sauce or a chilli sauce made with Pip’s Hot Sauce & butter. It’s basically a McChicken sandwich on steroids. Like, as in, the ‘Alabama Slammer’ is an Olympic gold medalist and the McChicken Sandwich is your dad going for a jog round the park. Because they use chicken thigh, the fried chicken is juicy and delicious and full of flavour. It’s smothered in delicious sauce and served in a Peel & Stone bun. It literally couldn’t get any better. OPM, can you please put this on the menu full time?!

‘There will be Blood’ was black pudding, sauerkraut, pickles, mustard mayo and rigatello cheese. According to him it was “gooey and glorious, the cheese was really melty and it was fucking tasty”.

We also ordered a side of the ODB fries which come piled high with OPM spice mix, jalapeño slaw, sriracha mayo, crispy onions and spring onions. These tasted amazing but I would have added more heat to the jalapeño slaw. I would also have added more sriracha mayo. Because sriracha mayo is delicious.

Original Patty Men may not be Michelin-starred but it is rated THIRD BEST RESTAURANT IN BIRMINGHAM on Trip Advisor (that most reliable of sources) and has 5 stars on Yelp. Clearly no one needs me to tell them how amazing it is but, for the record, it’s amazing.

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