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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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.

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

Sabai Sabai, Birmingham

Turns out the North-South divide is universal. Here in the UK, it’s all dinner vs tea, baps vs cobs, chips and gravy vs jellied eels. Touch down in Thailand however, and it’s the milder flavours and dryer dishes of the North vs South Thailand’s seafood, hotter curries and love of coconut milk.

Being in the Midlands, we’re in the unique position of being in, well, the middle. According to a recent YouGov survey, people in the Midlands can’t decide whether they’re Northern, Southern, or nothing at all. Indecisive, you say? No identity, I hear? Nope, not at all. We just know how to have the best of both worlds, and that’s exactly what the fourth Sabai Sabai site in Birmingham city centre have done, installing not just one but two Thai chefs, one from the North of Thailand and one from (you guessed it) the South. Happy days.

A confession now. Despite living less than half a mile from their Moseley site, I’ve never actually visited Sabai Sabai; a combination of my laziness and a handy little app called Deliveroo mean that although you can often find me chowing down on a selection of my favourite Thai dishes, it’s always in the comfort of my own sofa, usually in my pyjamas. What can I say? It’s dark and miserable outside, I have Sky and I don’t have to socialise with people.

After visiting their new city centre site I can see that there are some things I’m missing out on by insisting on takeaway. The beautiful decor, for one; pretty light features, patterned ceilings and botanical flourishes. Save for my lone Swiss cheese plant, I definitely don’t have that at home. Then there’s the staff, including some recognisable faces from some of Birmingham’s finer establishments; friendly, knowledgeable and serving up a bit of humour alongside dinner. Again – much as I love Deliveroo – I wouldn’t credit the delivery drivers with much charisma and they never stay to pour my wine. Third? Cocktails. I can whip up a mean G&T at home but a lychee Martini? Piss off.

We start with the Sabai Sabai Meat Platter. At £12.95 per person, it’s certainly not the cheapest but the portions are large. Personally I wouldn’t choose this again – I’d rather order separately so I could have more of my favourite items and less of those I’m not so keen on – but it’s a great introduction to Sabai Sabai. The spare ribs are overly sweet for me, but I love the garlicky chicken wings which are braised before being finishing in the fryer to leave them falling-off-the-bone levels of tender. Lamb chops come pleasingly pink throughout, and the garlic, peppercorn and pineapple dressing it is good, although hiding a little meekly. Crispy duck rolls are fat and full of meat. Dunked in sauce they are addictive, and I hopefully eye up the rest of the table, but no one is giving theirs up. I understand.

Mains are a combination of old favourites and some new dishes I’ve not tried before. The Phad Thai never disappoints, but the unexpected star of the evening is braised Beef Short Rib in a Massaman sauce. The sauce is rich with spices, peanut and coconut and the topping of crushed cashew nuts and crispy shallots provide some texture to prevent the dish reaching retirement home levels of softness. The papaya salad is the definition of fresh – if someone could make this for me every day I’d be supermodel skinny in no time – and is a nice foil to some of the more meat heavy dishes on offer. In terms of sides, for me it’s the garlic fried rice every time; I could eat a bowl of this on it’s own.

My verdict? Us Midlanders have got it right. Whether the origins lie in North or South Thailand, pretty much everything I’ve tried at Sabai Sabai is delicious and deserves a place on their menu (and my plate). I’m sorry Sabai Sabai, that our relationship has been long distance for so long. I promise I’ll come and see you more often.

Sabai Sabai is located at 7 Waterloo Street (Birmingham City Centre) and also has restaurants in Moseley, Harborne and Stratford-upon-Avon. We were invited to dine as guests of Delicious PR, but all opinions and love of Sabai Sabai are my own (please see my Deliveroo account for proof).

Sabai Sabai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chien Lunatique at 1000 Trades, Jewellery Quarter

I’m calling it. Simon Masding is the unsung hero of the Birmingham fries scene. It’s a scene which – admittedly – is a little lacking, but even if Birmingham was a veritable chiptopia I would still bet on Mr. Masding to provide more pleasure per inch than anyone else I know.

It all started back in September with his Kebabylon pop up at my favourite Jewellery Quarter haunt, where I declared his sweet potato fries “the best sweet potato fries I have ever eaten”. I’ve been chasing those batons of goodness all round 0121 ever since.

He’s now back at 1000 Trades for January, slinging gourmet hot dogs made from Lashford sausages (some of the best sausages in the Midlands, if you’d missed that memo) and a variety of toppings that are more genius than Donald Trump on a Twitter rampage. “Do we really need fries?” asked my dining companion. A disgusted look gave the necessary answer; we ordered fries. At Chien Lunatique potatoes of the hand-cut, skin-on variety accessorise the dogs, and at first I’m disappointed because I truly am obsessed with those sweet, sweet, sweet potato fries. But when they arrive it’s love at first bite. Masding has done the double – won the FA Cup and Premier League, if fries had legs and could kick a ball into a net. God, I love the way that man handles a potato.

But enough about fries. It’s the dogs we came for, and they are just as good as the chips. There’s eight on the menu, each utilising a different flavour of Lashford sausage. We slept late – it’s one of those overcast, blustery days when the duvet is reluctant to release you from it’s welcome hold – and so I order ‘The Churchill’, reasoning that it’s technically brunch. Seams of black pudding run through the sausage, and a simple garnish of bacon lardons complete this homage to pigginess. It’s not ostentatious – in fact it’s almost laughably simple – but the use of the best ingredients possible means that this pork-and-bread combo is heads above the sausage baps that I usually stuff in my face after a night on the sauce.

Our other chien veers more towards the lunatique end of the spectrum. The sausage mix is given a decidedly Brummie vibe with the addition of Balti seasoning before being topped with tzatziki, onions and poppadums. I don’t think I would ever have ordered this – my cynical side immediately thought “gimmick” – but I’m bloody glad my boyfriend did. It’s almost as if he knows something about food. It’s a massive punch of flavour, the best six inches of pork anyone has ever served me. I’ll be coming back for more of this.

I could bang on about these bangers for hours, but that would be wasting time of yours that you could be spending eating as many of these hot dogs as you can before Chien Lunatique pops down on 3rd February. Make like a French ski instructor and allez vite!

The Chien Lunatique pop up will run until 3 February at 1000 Trades, 16 Frederick Street, B1 3HE. WEBSITE.

Harborne Kitchen, Harborne

Our first trip to Harborne Kitchen is so good that we book straight back in for two weeks time, when my Mum is in town. My Mum is nothing like Dad; no demands of tablecloths and central heating in the height of summer, just the simplicity of a good dinner. And I know she’ll love it here – as I do – because it’s not stuffy, part of a new wave of restaurants who deliver high-end cooking without all the pretension. We’re Northern, so we like that a lot.

But back to the original meal here. A Saturday lunch on a day when British Summer Time was in full flow. And by that I mean it pissed it down, nonstop, all day. Even on such a miserable day, the dining room is bright and airy; a room big on natural light, walls in blue and white warmed by copper and beech. In case you can’t tell, I really love the decor.

With nowhere to be in any rush we take the full lunch flight of five courses for the far too low price of £35. We get nibbles of hot gorgonzola donuts that are as amazing as they sound, fermented carrots that are not quite as good, and fish skin crisps with a fancy rosemary vinegar spritzer. The latter convert me from fish skin hater to fish skin fan. They are pure salty goodness, and when combined with the vinegar transport me to the seaside. Bread follows; a house sourdough with whipped butter. We have since purchased this bread directly from them to eat at home. As should you. It really is that good.

The first proper course of lunch is my favourite. Jersey royals, wild garlic veloute, soured cream and herring roe. It’s a list of my favourite things to eat, with the exception of the roe which is hardly ever stocked at Moseley Co-op. It’s clean and precise, warming yet refined with every flavour distinct. Salmon next, cooked mi cuit, with lightly pickled cucumber and buttermilk. It’s light and fresh, the perfect fish course for what is already turning in to a lengthy lunch.

Duck liver parfait is gunned on to a shard of cracker and topped with crisp chicken skin. The liver is light in texture and big on offal flavour, with the addition of cherry providing enough acidity to cut through the richness. It’s pretty much perfect in my eyes.

The use of offal follows through to our lamb main which has slivers of tongue, cuts of neck fillet, and rolled shoulder meat. With this is smoked potato, olive purée, lovage purée, radish, sheeps curd and spiced aubergine. Still with me? Good. It’s a lovely bit of cooking, but far too generous in size even for me.

We get to watch some Kitchen wizardry with the first of the desserts. The pastry chef uses liquid nitrogen to turn an orange into flaky bits of frozen heaven in front of us. Along with the yogurt sorbet it’s a perfect palate cleanser for the last course. Milk and honey in various forms finishes us off. It is incredible, especially the honeycomb and the honey parfait, the milk ice cream and the dehydrated sheets of milk. It’s all incredible. Just go and thank me later.

Back into the time machine and the Sunday lunch two weeks later confirms that Harborne Kitchen is my favourite place to eat. Without going into the same detail as above we have an amazing confit chicken dish with black garlic, roast dinner with beef and Yorkshire puddings, all finished off with gooseberries and nettles for dessert. My Mum loves it. Of course she does; you only have to look at me to see she is a woman of taste. Harborne Kitchen can do no wrong; Birmingham is full of great places to eat, but for me there is nowhere better.

Harborne Kitchen is, unsurprisingly, based in Harborne at 175-179 High Street, B17 9QE. Check out their website here.

A boozy evening at Gusto Birmingham

Now there’s not going to be too much “foodie bullshit” in this post, because quite frankly we were so well looked after – and the company was so good – that I didn’t pay nearly as much attention to the food as I usually do.

That’s not to say that the food isn’t great – it really is (see my previous post here) – but I think that’s kind of what Gusto is all about. Because you can always guarantee that the food, drinks and vibe will be right, you can just concentrate on having a fucking good time with your chosen companions.

I’ve never seen the bar area in Gusto empty. And for good reason. One of the things I like most about Gusto is that it has a proper cocktail menu done much better than many “cocktail bars” I’ve been to. On this occasion, we were treated to a selection of the bartender’s favourites which did not disappoint. The Grape and Cherry Spritz, probably my favourite of all, is less sweet than it sounds and delightfully refreshing. The Vanilla Rum packs a punch without being at all harsh, whilst the Elderflower and Peach Martini is sweet and very sippable. For something a bit different, try the Coconut and Cherry Sour.

What did I eat? To start, I had the creamed garlic mushrooms which I will now order every time I visit Gusto. They are ultimate comfort food, rich, creamy and (unsurprisingly) garlicky, topped with crisp shallots for some added texture. The only time I might make an exception is to order the dough petals instead. Actually, fuck it. I’m going to start ordering both and dipping the dough petals in my garlic mushrooms.


I followed this with the white crab, chilli and garlic spaghetti. Simple, tasty and with a generous helping of crab, it was a lovely main. Although I admit that by this point, @barrysherwin61 had fed me so much red wine that I was losing interest in the food and agreeing to all kinds of things…

Sticky toffee pudding satisfied my craving for a sweet ending. Big enough to satisfy, without being so heavy that I couldn’t extricate myself from my chair after the meal. I would have liked a tiny bit more sauce, but my dad tells me that it’s not civilized to eat dessert from a bowl so I guess I need to up my standards. Forgive me, I’m from Macclesfield.

Gusto regularly change up their  menu, with the next one due in April, but all the dishes above have a permanent slot (for good reason). Come and try them; come and try the cocktails. If you want to eat and drink somewhere buzzy, relaxed and really well decorated then Gusto is your place.

Disclaimer: We were guests of Gusto so dinner was on them. However I’ve been many times before before and paid, and I will again – I genuinely rate it. 

Find Gusto at The Grand Hotel, Colmore Row, B3 2DA WEBSITE