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.

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Rum tasting at The Plough, Harborne

It may be due to the brief spell of sunshine the U.K. is currently snatching (last week we were hotter than Spain, don’t you know?! In your face, Costa del Sol. We don’t need you anymore. Welcome to Costa del Brum), but rum is definitely having a moment. 

In the past month alone I’ve been to two rum festivals and drunk more rum cocktails than I can count (especially after a few rum cocktails). 
But probably the most interesting rum-based activity I’ve undertaken recently is a rum tasting evening at The Plough. Along with most of Birmingham I love the Plough but until now, I’ve never made it to one of their spirit master classes – run by Spit Wine School – so I was pretty excited to get all education-y and learn more about rum than that (as the great MJ once said) it don’t matter if it’s black or white. That song was definitely about rum, right…?

Our guide on this voyage of rum discovery was Tom Bartram, who has spent over 10 years working in the drinks industry and was clearly incredibly passionate about the spirit. Over the course of the evening he guided us through a tasting of seven different rums, whilst also giving us the low-down on the history and distilling process of pirate water (note: this is definitely not the technical term). To prove I was listening and not just getting pissed, let me hit you with a fact: the origin of the word rum isn’t entirely clear but many think it was first used around 1650, and derived from ‘rumbustion’, a slang word for ‘uproar’. Judging by my behaviour after a few too many rums, I’m happy to go with this explanation. 

As I might have already mentioned, I’ve drunk a lot of rum recently, but it’s one of the spirits I probably know least about. We tried a range of rums such as the Cuvée de L’Ocean, an “Agricultural rhum” with an almost tequila-ish vibe, a darker rum with a hint of whisky to it’s character, and (my favourite by far) the Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva which had a creamy, banoffee flavour. Throughout the tasting I was amazed at the variety there was within the spirit; it’s something you just don’t appreciate when your only experience of rum is the standard brands.

The spirit masterclass was a brilliant insight into the world of rum and I left feeling a lot more knowledgable (as well as pretty tipsy – maybe not recommended if you have a big day at work coming up). Who says you can’t drink and learn at the same time? The evening costs only £17 and (let me hit you with another fact here) as rum was worth more than it’s weight in gold at one point, I reckon that makes it an absolute steal. Cheers!

Thank you to The Plough for having me. Details of all Spit Wine School classes can be found here.

The Plough Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tacos & Tequila at The Plough, Harborne

The Plough is one of those pubs that everyone should have on their doorstep. Hip-but-cosy interior, great food, relaxed vibes, and very, very good looking staff…

The latest addition to their menu is “Boca Grande”, a tacos and tequila night held on Wednesday nights. I was invited down with a few of my friends to try it out, and was impressed to find that even on a mid-week evening the place was brimming with people eating, drinking and being merry.

Tequila is not my drink. Anyone who has drunk tequila with me will know this is true. I bloody love Sangria though, so I couldn’t resist trying a Tequila Sangria. And then another one. Although I’m sure they’re far from authentic, they were satisfyingly boozy and went down very easily. The tequilas are listed in order of  strength/maturity so if you prefer a more oaky flavour go for the Anejo, which has been aged for longest. If not, go for the Blanco, which isn’t aged at all.

Suitably refreshed, we ordered our food at the bar. The menu has five tacos to choose from – I think the selection changes regularly – and you get four for £12.50. Clearly this means you need to eliminate one; a difficult choice for someone as indecisive as me. On this occasion I went for the spiced pork belly, hot smoked salmon, mixed bean chilli and slow cooked brisket. Sorry chicken.

I started with the mixed bean chilli, which turned out to be my favourite. The heat of the crushed beans worked perfectly against the fresh and zesty lime and avocado, with a hint of tangy feta rounding off each mouthful.

The beef brisket was tender and moist and the blue cheese gave it a nice twist. I drizzled mine with pineapple and habanero chilli sauce which was a definite winner. On the subject of chilli sauce, The Plough has put together a mean selection of chilli sauces to accompany their tacos. From classics through to the more unusual (Wet Fart anyone?) there’s definitely something to suit everyone, including a special Boca Grande edition of Pip’s Hot Sauce.

I found the hot smoked salmon disappointing; I thought it was a little bit bland and could have done with more chilli, ginger, and smokiness. It was far from terrible though – I still would have eaten another if you’d given it to me.

The pork belly was another favourite, with the sweetness of the apple and caramelised nuts giving it a nice warmth and fruitiness. Pork and apple is a classic combination, so it was interesting to see it in a taco rather than a classic pub-style dish.

To finish off the evening, we went for some classic Mexican desserts; Eton Mess, chocolate bread and butter pudding and pecan pie. Oh, wait…

They were all delicious – the perfect level of sweet and stodgy – and with portion sizes as large you’d expect from a pub. A particular mention needs to go to the pear and brandy Eton Mess, which was so big you could use it to put someone’s window through.

Throughout the whole evening, the staff were friendly and attentive and the atmosphere fun and buzzy. It was perfect for a casual dinner with friends and I’ll definitely be going back – with so many specials and offers our next challenge is ‘A Week at The Plough’!

Disclaimer: We were invited for dinner as guests of The Plough so weren’t charged for our meal. But don’t worry, my reviews are always honest – I would hate to give a bad recommendation! 

Find The Plough at 21 High Street, Harborne, Birmingham, B17 9NT. WEBSITE.

The Plough Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato