A lifestyle blog all about Birmingham, UK.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

REVIEW: Tom's Kitchen, Birmingham

Since Tom's Kitchen arrived in Birmingham early last year, I have fallen in love with it a little bit more every time I have visited. Recently, I headed back for my fifth visit to experience the restaurants Spring/Summer menu and it was the ultimate treat. With a relaxed vibe, fantastic flavours and excellent service, Tom's Kitchen is like a fine wine; it just keeps getting better. 

Sitting in The Mailbox in Birmingham city centre, Tom's Kitchen boasts sleek and elegant decor and I always appreciate how the restaurant has been designed in such a timeless style. I headed there on a miserable Monday evening, but the huge smiles on each worker upon arrival was a warm welcome and I was shown to my table. 

Being a work night, me and my guest chose to stick to soft drinks and the water provided before taking a good look at the new menu. The Spring/Summer menu is full of flavours, with lots of fresh, fun options available. We started off with a dish to share 'for the table' and we chose the Crispy Pork Skins, which were a great start to the meal, which came with a delicious smoked apple puree. 

For starters, I chose to try something I have never had before; Steak Tartare, The dish came with black garlic mayo, turnips, puffed rise and mustard seeds. It was absolutely delicious and I was shocked that I hadn't tried it before! The combination of flavours was simply beautiful. My guest opted for the Spicy Devonshire Crab Cake which came with cucumber and quinoa salsa, which was also super tasty.

The mains menu was an incredibly difficult one to choose from; with Steamed Mussels, Lamb Hotpot and Fish and Chips on the menu, I was back and forth for a while just choosing what to have. I eventually went for the Roast Shetland Salmon, and there were no regrets. The dish comes with cous cous, chorizo, squid, clams, mussels and saffron sauce. I absolutely love seafood dishes, and this was the best I'd had in a long time. My guest chose the gorgeous Chicken Schnitzel, which came with dukkah courgette, aubergine puree, cashews and tomato sauce which was also very much enjoyed. For sides, I went for the super smooth Spring Onion Mashed Potato, and my guest went for Triple Cooked Chips which came topped with truffle and parmesan. 

I'm not always a dessert kind of girl, but after seeing the selection on the menu, I couldn't turn one down. I fancied a light dessert after a super filling meal, so I went for the totally gorgeous Chocolate Mousse, which came with honeycomb, lime granite and lime jelly, which took me back to my favourite childhood dessert - with an adult twist! My guest went for Creme Caramel which came with honey ice cream and honey, which was a refreshing end to the meal. 

One thing I have always admired about Tom's Kitchen is the super relaxed vibe and how spacious it is. Admittedly, it was a Monday evening, so it was never going to be a packed restaurant. But I have also been in the restaurant on Friday and Saturday evenings in previous visits, and can confirm that it never feels too busy and rushed. In fact, the staff at the restaurant are incredibly polite and can't do enough for you.

The restaurant is on the pricey side, but is reasonable for the quality of the food and drink, as well as the service. In my eyes, it is the perfect place to head to for a celebration meal, or if you just fancy treating yourself and enjoying some incredible food. Even after my fifth visit to the restaurant, I still absolutely love it, especially with a wonderful Spring/Summer menu! 
Tom's Kitchen: 10/10

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Independent Beer Festival to arrive in Birmingham

A brand new independent beer festival is coming to the second city this summer, celebrating the best of beer culture in the Midlands and Birmingham’s place right at the heart of it. 

The inaugural Lock & Key Midlands Beer Convention will be held at The Bond Company in Digbeth, Birmingham from Friday 20th July to Sunday 22nd July. 

‘Lock & Key: Midlands Beer Con’ is brought to you by the people who support the growing beer scene and run beer-loving businesses across Birmingham and beyond. 

The key team behind the event include Birmingham bars Cherry Reds and The Wolf, and the Midlands Beer Blog, with support from a number of other Midlands businesses. 

The festival will focus on local breweries, but also national favourites, hosting their own bars and running talks and free tastings. 

Local breweries confirmed so far include Burning Soul Brewing Company, Birmingham Brewing Co, DE14, Black Iris, Green Duck Beer Co, Neon Raptor, Twisted Barrel Ale, Fixed Wheel Brewery and GlassHouse Beer Co. 

Pop up bars from Midlands businesses, such as The Wolf and The Pint Shop, will bring beers from other popular breweries, some of whom will be attending a session to do Meet the Brewer events.

Alongside a host of great breweries, Lock & Key will also showcase great street food from local vendors including Original Patty Men and Warehouse cafĂ©. As well as local crafts, chocolates, ice cream and games. 

Jen Nadin, from Cherry Reds, said “Birmingham has a fast growing number of breweries and craft beer bars being eagerly received by our diverse, beer loving, community. We’re here to celebrate everything that’s great about beer and give you a splendid day out. 

“You can expect keg, cask, bottles, cans, street food, free pop-up tastings, barges, market stalls, brewers, discussion groups, and hopefully sunshine, all in a beautiful canal-side setting.” 

Sessions will take place on Friday and Saturday at 11am to 4:30pm and 5:30pm to 11pm and Sunday from 11am to 4:30pm. 

The Sunday session will be a family fun day, with parents of under 18’s able to register for free child tickets on Eventbrite. To purchase tickets, or for further information, head here

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to host summer shows in Birmingham

Lakeside Proms will be heading to the NEC this summer, for two open air performances by the internationally renowned Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. 

Having performed in major concert venues across the world, this will be a unique opportunity to experience its classical sounds in Birmingham. 

An idyllic setting for an outdoor summer’s evening, the NEC Lakeside will play host to the event, offering two different styles of music across the weekend, with each show concluding with a dramatic firework display finale across the lake. 

On Saturday August 4th, the Symphonic Rock will take to the stage, where visitors can hear their musical heroes come to life for one epic night, in the must-see show of classic rock anthems and hit songs. 

The show will feature a spectacular light show to accompany the iconic music of Queen, Bon Jovi, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, The Eagles and many more. 

On Sunday August 5th, The Music of John Williams will take to the stage. The Orchestra will celebrate the musical brilliance of John Williams, undoubtedly one of the world's most respected film composers. 

In the action-packed show, the Orchestra will perform his superb orchestrations and legendary melodies, including music from the likes of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T., Harry Potter, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, Hook, Fiddler on the Roof, Home Alone, and War Horse.

Tickets for both events are now on sale. Get them here

Birmingham theatre to welcome An Officer and a Gentleman

Get ready to be swept off your feet with the world premiere of new musical, An Officer and a Gentleman, arriving at Birmingham Hippodrome next month. 

The musical, set to take to the stage from Tuesday 15th - Saturday 19th May, is based on the 1982 Oscar-winning film starring Richard Gere which tells the story of Zack Mayo who is in training to become a US Navy Pilot. 

When Zack rolls into boot camp with a bit too much of a swagger, drill Sergeant Foley doesn’t make life easy for him. When he falls for local girl Paula Pokrifki and tragedy befalls his friend and fellow candidate, Zack realises the importance of love and friendship and finds the courage to be himself and win the heart of the woman he loves. It’s only then he can truly become both an Officer and a Gentleman. 

The musical includes the hit song from the movie Up Where We Belong along, with 80’s classics such as ‘Alone’, ‘Don’t Cry Out Loud’, ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’, ‘Toy Soldiers’ and ‘Material Girl’ and features one of the most iconic romantic scenes ever portrayed on screen. In fact, An Officer and a Gentleman is one of the highest grossing films of all time.
The screenplay is by writer and director Douglas Day Stewart which was based on his personal experience as a Naval Officer Candidate, and the book was co-written by Douglas and Sharleen Cooper Cohen. 

Jamie Wilson is the lead producer on the current productions of “Crazy For You”, the forthcoming world premiere of “Nativity! The Musical” and Curve’s production of “Sister Act”.

He said, “I am thrilled to be presenting An Officer and Gentleman – The Musical and working once again with Chris Stafford, Nikolai Foster and the team at curve. For the last three years we have been working on bringing this memorable and iconic story to the stage, and hope that this new adaptation becomes as loved as the film.” 

Director Nikolai Foster said, “An Officer and a Gentleman delicately charts the lives of working class, military folk in America in the early 1980s; important lives, often pushed to the margins of society. We are proud to be working alongside the film's creator Douglas Day Stewart, producer Jamie Wilson and an incredible creative team to present this beautiful and inspiring story.
"This brand-new adaptation includes iconic 80s songs which create an entertaining, uplifting and original piece of musical theatre, we are excited to share this world premiere with our audiences here across the U.K". 

Get tickets here

REVIEW: Revolucion de Cuba, Birmingham

Having enjoyed myself at Revolcion de Cuba in Manchester a handful of times, I was intrigued to how they would bring a taste of Havana to Brum. It is a restaurant that had been on my list since it launched in the city last month, and on a sunny Friday evening recently, I headed there after work to immerse myself in Birmingham's own little corner of Cuba. 

Sitting on Temple Street among the streets other big chains, Revolucion de Cuba is just a short walk away from both Snow Hill and New Street and being in a super busy area, it is the perfect location to head to to take you from evening into night. 

Upon arrival, the first thing that hit me was the atmosphere. It was buzzing with everyone from people who had just finished work to hen parties and the place was totally alive; something I hadn't seen from a venue for quite a while.

The venue has a huge bar which offers a superb selection of rum and plenty of seating, making it a cool place to head into for a drink or two without feeling pressured to have something to eat too. The decor is super cool, authentic and colourful - everything a place promising to bring Cuba to the city should be. 

We were shown to our table and immediately started checking out the cocktail menu - and what a menu it was! It boasts classics like Pornstar Martinis and Mojitos right through to super cool options which really pack a punch, like the Carnival Tropicana and Cherry Mai Tai. I went for my all time favourite; the Amaretto Sour, with a Bajan twist. It was delicious and the perfect cocktail to sip on during my meal.
We chose our starter and mains from the 2 Courses menu. I understand that this menu wouldn't have as much choice as the main menu - but there really wasn't much selection at all unfortunately. For starter, I chose the Roasted Sweet Potato, which was topped with spinach, peas, sour cream and bacon bits. It was gorgeous and packed full of flavours! My guest chose the Calamari, which was served with garlic aioli and was also a very tasty dish. 

For main, I chose the Mushroom, Bean and Spinach Burrito which was served with Tortilla Chips and Black Beans. It was delicious and very moreish, but did feel more like a lunch dish than an evening meal. My guest went for the Cuban Cheeseburger, which was served with rum mayo and and fries, which was also very much enjoyed.

Now, don't get me wrong, nothing beats a good atmosphere in a restaurant. However, there was a live band on who, although talented, made the venue incredibly loud. So loud in fact that the waiter struggled to hear my orders and it was impossible to have a conversation with my guest. Even when the band took a short break, super loud music boomed out of the speakers and in all honesty, it was just TOO much.

I understand that on a Friday night, people are looking for a good time and indeed it does have a brilliant party vibe. However, for me it was just too loud and made my experience there not as fun as I thought it would be, as it was hard to focus on anything but the noise, taking away the focus on the food and drink and more about the party. I love a good party vibe, but even I have a line! 

As I haven't been in the restaurant on a weeknight or a sleepy Sunday afternoon, I can't comment on if it is loud then also. But on a Friday night, it was just too much all at once. 

Despite this, the food and drink were tasty and don't get me wrong, the venue is super cool and fun - but more if you're about to go on a night out with friends as the music and atmosphere would be really enjoyable - if that is what you are looking for. 

RATING: 7/10
PLEASE NOTE: I am lucky enough to review lots of places across the West Midlands on this blog. I did not pay for my meal at Revolucion de Cuba and I had been invited to review the venue. All reviews are honest and my personal opinion. I am under no obligation to write a good review if I honestly didn't enjoy the experience. 

Sunday, 22 April 2018

REVIEW: Don Diego, Edgbaston

There is nothing I love more than discovering new places - and being instantly shocked that I haven't been there every weekend of the past year. But discovering new places that offer an incredible menu as well as excellent service and fantastic wine, is my dream way to spend a Friday night. Not long ago I headed along to Don Diego and I can confirm that it is the ultimate hidden gem. 

There is so much going on in Birmingham city centre, but I must admit, some of my favourite spots are outside of the city. Don Diego is based in Chad Square in Edgbaston, just a short drive from the city centre but totally worth it. The decor is warm, cosy, and very welcoming. I headed along to the restaurant with three other Brum Bloggers and we were invited in with open arms and soon found out the story of Don Diego. 

The restaurant is a family run restaurant of two Spanish brothers; the one cooks and the other serves. It's quite simple really, but having such a small team really reflects in the restaurant itself and it is obvious that they have thought about every last inch of the place, it is also wonderful to see such a bond between siblings and seeing with my own eyes the passion that they put into their venture was truly heart warming.

We started off with a bottle of wine between the four of us and a handful of olives, before taking a good look through the menu and deciding what we would all have. There wasn't a huge selection on the menu, but that really didn't bother me in the slightest as what was on the menu was a brilliant range of flavours. Give me several plates which will blow my socks off over a massive menu with boring dishes any day of the week!

We decided on four starters for us all to share. We went for the King Prawns with Chillies and Garlic Lobster Bisque, Warm Goats Cheese with Salad Leaves, Honey and Mustard Oil, Fishcakes with Pea Puree and Horseradish Roulade and Fried Whitebaits with Paprika Aioli. Each starter was absolutely delicious, with my personal favourite being the Fishcakes which had been cooked to perfection.

Choosing the main meal was probably one of the hardest decisions I have had to make in a long time. With Butterfly Chicken, Cod Loin and Lamb Shank on the menu, it was a difficult choice. I eventually ended up choosing the Duroc Suckling Pork Belly which came with Cider Apple Sauce. Oh my life. It was absolutely beautiful and the best pork belly I have ever had - and believe me, I have had a lot of pork belly over the years. The highlight was definitely the apple sauce though, which was totally delicious. We enjoyed our mains with a side of vegetables.

Other options on the mains menu include Grilled Octopus Leg, Beef Casserole and Grilled Swordfish, making it by far the one of the best menus I have seen in a long time.   

For dessert, I went for the Mousse of Crema Catalana with Ginger Compote, which was tangy, fun and of course, tasty. It was super light and fluffy and a wonderful choice for dessert after a filling starter and main. 

The service was also fantastic, considering the fact that it was just the one man doing it! He told us all about each dish, recommended what we might like the most and was incredibly considerate, without being too pushy. 

I can honestly say that my time spent at Don Diego was one of the best culinary experiences I have had in a long time. It doesn't have the amazing decor like some places in the city, but it is really all about the food and the super calming and relaxing atmosphere, offering a welcoming alternative to a busy city centre restaurant. I honestly cannot wait to return to Don Diego in the near future and enjoy a gorgeous meal all over again. 

Don Diego: 10/10

Sunday, 15 April 2018

REVIEW: The Ivy Temple Row, Birmingham

To say that there has been anticipation for The Ivy arriving in Birmingham would be a total understatement. It seems like every other person has been excited for the restaurant to launch, and it finally did this week. 

In fact, the restaurant has received thousands of reservations and is very much the new place to be in the city. So when I was invited along to taste the breakfast menu and have a good look around the place, I immediately cleared my calendar and made sure I'd be there. 

The Ivy Temple Row still boasts the sophisticated glamour and exclusive vibe of its Covent Garden restaurant, but with more of a focus on accessibility. 
Upon arrival, I was totally overwhelmed with how strikingly beautiful the place is. I imagined that it would be incredible of course, but it is so much more than that. With top to bottom art deco vibes, stylish prints and a whole load of colour, it is unlike anything else in Birmingham. 

Lets just say, at The Ivy, the more extravagant style, the better. The decor isn't for the faint hearted, but it is absolutely wonderful, especially for people like me who crave OTT decor and endless colour. It is romantic and classic, and at times it felt like I was in a 1950s movie with a fantastic atmosphere and a huge amount of excitement in the air, that I haven't experienced in a very long time.
In fact, the decor was by far my favourite aspect of the restaurant. It is completely captivating and impossible to take your eyes off everything from the walls to the tables. 

We were taken up to The Archer Room, which overlooks St Philip's Cathedral and was named after after the cathedral's architect Thomas Archer, for a spot of private dining. We were shown the breakfast menu and whilst we made our decision for the most important meal of the day, we were treated to tea, coffee, and a Beet It juice which is a delicious blend of beetroot, carrot and apple. We were also given a selection of pastries to enjoy.
On the menu, we had the options of crushed avocado on toast, hot buttermilk pancakes, eggs royale or eggs benedict and a range of others. I've said it before on this blog, and I'll say it again: I LOVE eggs royale, so I saw it as the perfect opportunity to see what twist The Ivy would put on my favourite dish. Needless to say, it was absolutely delicious and packed full of flavour which got me set for the sunny day ahead.

The Ivy have a huge breakfast menu and offer everything from crumpets and omelettes to kippers and yoghurts. Their main menu is also worth shouting about and is surprisingly a large menu with a wide selection to choose from. Just one scan over the main menu made me certain that I will be definitely heading back sooner rather than later, especially for an Afternoon Tea!  

The venue also offer a huge selection of Ivy branded beverages and cocktails, and with a gorgeous and totally on-trend bar, it is the perfect place to sit and enjoy a drink - or two.
Although the restaurant do advise to book a table in advance, there are a number of tables available for walk-in diners for you to pop in an experience The Ivy. And that is exactly what it is; an experience and so much more than just a bite to eat. I can't recommend this place enough, and I couldn't be happier to see it so at home in our city. Get ready to fall in love with The Ivy.

The Ivy: 10/10

Friday, 6 April 2018

Review: Wicked at Birmingham Hippodrome

We all know the story of The Wizard of Oz and we have probably all felt joy when the Wicked Witch of the West was pronounced dead. But, was the Wicked Witch really that wicked, or was she an innocent victim of a corrupt regime. That is exactly what Wicked, now on stage at the Birmingham Hippodrome, sets out to explore.

To say that the audience was happy for Wicked to be back in Birmingham would be a total understatement. The atmosphere was unlike any other that I have experienced at the theatre, and magic was certainly in the air. Last time the production was in the city, one in ten people in Birmingham saw it. You can almost guarantee that this year, it'll be even bigger. It is on until the end of month and it is completely sold out! 

Wicked, based on the novel by Gregory Maguire which was inspired by L.Frank Baum's 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz', has thrilled audiences around the world and is in its 12th year on London's West End. It tells the story of Elphaba and Glinda - AKA the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda The Good.
Student witches Elphaba and Glinda become unlikely friends whilst studying at Shiz university, which ultimately leads them to meet the Wizard of Oz. However, whilst Elphaba is desperately trying to do good, she becomes the victim of a wicked scheme. Despite Elphaba and Glinda still being secretly best friends, their magical abilities send them down totally different paths. 

It was the hugely talented Amy Ross who completely made the role of the misunderstood Elphaba her own. From her totally captivating vocals, with the main highlight for me by far being her performance of the production's best known song Defying Gravity. We followed Elphaba from her sweet, innocent side who cared deeply for her sister right through to the evil witch she becomes. But, despite her becoming wicked, the audience can't help but completely adore her, as we know that in fact, she is the good witch. 

Helen Woolf took on the role of the sickeningly sweet Glinda, and she did an absolutely fantastic job. Her vocals were absolutely beautiful and she made the audience love and hate her at the same time, as well as making all of us laugh throughout, especially in her performance of the super catchy Popular. Other stand out performances came from the extremely evil Madame Morrible, played by Helen Walsh and the The Wizard, played by Steven Pinder, who showed us a completely other side to the wonderful wizard we all thought we loved. 

As well as the huge amount of talent on stage, the stage itself was simply jaw dropping. We were transported from Shiz University to Emerald City and everywhere in between, with smooth scene changes and hugely imaginative scenes, including a dragon above the stage that would occasionally surprise the audience. 

The production itself is often described as 'prequel' to The Wizard of Oz, the story actually takes place prior, during and after the familiar Oz tale, and with thanks to occasional nods to the classic story, including a scarecrow, tin man and lion, as well as the iconic red shoes, the audience is never taken too far away from the tale that inspired the show itself. 

Wicked was, by far, one of the best shows I have ever enjoyed here in Birmingham. From incredible sets and costumes, to the beautiful songs and the captivating story itself, I was totally immersed in the show from the very beginning, to the stunning end. There are so many reasons why Wicked is as successful as it is. Not only does it celebrate friendship and diversity, it also brings the incredible atmosphere like no other show. It is simply breathtaking!
Wicked is on stage until April 29th, 2018. It is sold out, but is worth keeping your eye out for tickets that may become available. 

Wicked rating: 10/10.  

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