Bloggers vs White Moose Cafe

I was going to keep my mouth shut, but fuck it, in a roundabout-kind-of-way it the actions of both Elle Darby and Paul Stenson affect me, so here is my thoughts on the recent shit storm that was White Moose Cafe vs Bloggers.

For those unaware, Ms Darby is a blogger and ‘social influencer’ who emailed Charleville Lodge, the Dublin hotel owned by Mr Stenson, essentially asking for a complimentary room. Mr Stenson responded by sharing the email on the Facebook page of White Moose Cafe, another business owned by him, along with a cleverly constructed response which shames her for asking. The public was loud and aggressive in its opinion, to which a proportion of Ms Darby’s fellow blogging fans reacted by leaving negative comments about White Moose Cafe on various review sites. As things stand, the White Moose Cafe has banned all bloggers from entering its premises.

I blog. But I’m not about to defend Elle Darby because a) I don’t want to, and b) I simply can’t. Anyone who has ever read my blog will know that I occasionally accept meals in return for reviews. Although I keep my opinion honest, I recognise that this is seen as the dirty side of blogging and I am trying to move away from it completely for my own integrity. Never have I dreamed of approaching any business asking for free meals. I find the process demeaning and it tarnishes the reputation of the word ‘blogger’ for those such as myself, who do it out of passion. Ms Darby has defended herself via a video on YouTube which is 13 painful minutes of her trying to play a victim. Total poppycock. She makes a living from places like this saying yes to her emails. She is naive and, worst of all, ill-researched. She has emailed a business that has a history of vilification for Facebook likes.

You see, I’m calling bullshit on Paul Stenson, a man who now looks like a people’s champ for standing up to the pique-assiette culture of blogging and social media influencers. Take a look at the history of White Moose Cafe and he has hit headliners for altercations with vegans, gluten intolerant, and now bloggers. Each one of these have gone viral garnering significant interest and raising the profile of the cafe to almost 200k followers on Facebook and countless thousands on other social media platforms, which help to sell a sideline business of promoting products on their social media. Request correctly and the business has a rates book they can provide for showcasing products. For all the public hate he has given to ‘social media influencers’, Paul Stenson himself is one, albeit in a very aggressive manner to fractions acceptable for hate. He is Donald Trump in a green, white, and orange suit. He is building a wall and the bloggers aren’t paying for it, because according to him they don’t pay for anything. Look past the fake reviews on TripAdvisor and he is the owner of two very mediocre businesses – no wonder he has to turn to the lucrative world of product placement (which, interestingly, features no disclosure on any of his media accounts. Naughty, naughty). And what better way to draw attention to those accounts than by ripping vegans, dietary specific, and bloggers to pieces? Paul Stenson is a pre-Brexit Borris Johnston. He’s fooling everyone. The White Moose Cafe are using the increased traffic from an attack on a social media influencer to gain financial benefit via their own influencer channels.

Will he really ban bloggers? I seriously doubt it, and I’m willing to find out when I’m in Dublin in June visiting a couple of it’s top restaurants. And White Moose Cafe. In the meantime I’ll be dealing with this in the best way possible; by ignoring both of the businesses owned by Mr Stenson and forgetting that Elle Darby exists. Combined they are the ugly side of social media; one using her status to gain endless freebies, the other using nasty attacks to increase their own standing. Both only exist because we pay them attention. Me, I’m switching off and hoping they go away.

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The Chefs Forum Lunch, UCB, Birmingham

Some things are worth knocking off work early. A nativity play or Sports Day spring to mind, but I don’t have any children of my own and ‘borrowing’ them is apparently illegal in the eyes of the law. Mealtimes are my baby, all 8lb 9oz of it, and I am never one to turn down an opportunity to mingle with the big guns of the industry. Offer me a chance to have a lunch cooked by some of the UCB’s success stories and I am going to snap your hand clean off. Tell me two of those have just finished on Masterchef The Professionals and I’ll have that annual leave booked so quickly Google wont have time to tell you about the time I got in trouble for ‘borrowing’ a child. It was for a Sports Day. I enjoy the competition.

The premise of the lunch is to fund raise for The Chefs Forum Education Forum, a rather marvellous foundation that helps to alleviate some of the financial worries of young people training within the industry. We get four courses from five chefs, each associated with the college, or foundation, in some way. It’s a line-up that attracts the finest of the industry; restauranteurs, suppliers, chefs. It’s a privilege to be involved with something so worthy.

The food is a success from start to finish. Masterchef finalist and chef at The Wilderness, Louisa Ellis, works with little more than a cauliflower and yeast to pickle, roast, and purée the vegetable into a layered dish which is rich and, dare I say it, meaty. Head chef of Opus, Mark Walsh, dusts butter poached halibut with a tarragon powder that seasons with a subtle anise. Discs of kohlrabi cloak cubes of swede, whilst cockles nestle around a buttery Jerusalem artichoke purée. There is a lot going on, but it’s all held together by a burly chicken dressing. A sorbet appears from Alicias – a new company that I suggest you keep a firm eye on.

We get pork and smoked eel from the Modfather of culinary Brum, Luke Tipping, and his Masterchef disciple, Leo Kattou. It tastes like pork wrapped in smoked bacon, with leek and nuggets of squid ink dyed tempura pumpkin that I’m nicking for home. All presented in that clean and attractive manner that anyone familiar with Simpsons will easily identify with. Dessert is from The Edgbaston’s Olivier Briault, a dark chocolate cremeux sitting on a dacquois and feuillentine base, which is a posh Kit-Kat to those that don’t have a slight obsession with classic Ducasse desserts. I do. The addition of blood orange is not only seasonal but clever as it brings enough acidity to stop this and the cognac ice cream being too rich.

The triumph of the day is two fold; good money is made for the foundation and the UCB shows off the future of the industry. Not a beat is missed in service from those still in training. Glasses are topped-up regularly, every dish plated at the same angle. We finish on a roll call of the chefs and the students to much applause. Chefs never seem to be able to take ovation; it’s not in their nature. They work mostly out of sight with the desire to feed and nothing else. It’s what I admire about them and it’s what the students look up to. It is clear the foundation is doing great things and long may that continue.

This was a pay what you want event and I made a sizeable donation to the foundation.

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Sabai Sabai, Birmingham City Centre

Sabai Sabai seem to be spreading faster than Australian Flu. First Moseley, then Harborne and Stratford-Upon-Avon, now the city centre, on Waterloo Street in the bustling business district. The new building is beautiful, an old bank that lends itself to sturdy square proportions with a smart interior of neutral colours and geometric light fittings. It’s sultry and smart, ideal for the targeted clientele of dates and business accounts. It’s a very nice place to have dinner which explains why it is full a couple of weeks after opening.

This is an organised outing with other bloggers who all seem to be practicing the fake smiles they will wear when I win Best Food Blog again in June. We are given food and lots of it, too. Some I am familiar with from my local Sabai Sabai in Moseley and some I am not. It’s a larger menu here from a larger kitchen. This surprises me little as the kitchen in Moseley is so small you couldn’t swing a cat in there. Not that they would ever allow cats in the kitchen. That’s for a dubious takeaway around the corner to do.

From a platter of starters a few dishes stand out. Chicken wings come from a well reared bird, just like my girlfriend, softly braised until the bone slips out cleaner than the gnasher’s of a dental hygienist. It is a side to Thai cooking I’m not au fait with, a delicate cook over a punchy one pan blast and I like it. The flakes of meat and subtle spicing could easily be mistaken for French bistro cooking. A jaunty cut of duck spring roll is better for the proportion. Spring rolls are too often all pastry – here the casing serves as nothing more as a vehicle for a mass of soft duck meat with the occasional bite of al dente veg. Lamb chops have good quality ovine correctly pink whilst pork spare ribs are too saccharine. In every case the spicing whispers rather than shouts. The taste of the protein is king.

Now let’s talk beef short rib. Fat, unctuous short rib cooked so softly that the meat can be spooned cleanly away from the bone, in a mellow masaman curry rich with coconut milk. This is show stealer. The must order. It has contrast with every mouthful, real depth and fragrant high points. It is one of the finest main courses to be found within the city centre.

We look to other dishes once the bone has been scraped clean on the short rib. Pad Thai is all too familiar; silky noodles, soft chicken, the bite of peanuts and raw chilli heat. It’s a classic for a reason. Monkfish and aubergine comes in the most textbook of green curry sauces. All the fundamentals of Thai cooking are present; salty, spicy, sweet and sour, which happen to also be my four favourite Spice Girls. It has bags of personality.

We have Weeping Tiger, which contains zero tiger and serves only as a metaphor because it will leave you crying for more. The beef sirloin is accurately cooked to medium rare, coated in a toasted rice powder that punches with umami. I took to Twitter to say it was the best beef since Biggie and Tupac. I will never better that. It goes fantastically well with sprouting broccoli in a puddle of something bright and acidic.

This quantity of food leaves no room and we settle for a well made espresso martini to send us on our way. Sabai Sabai being good is of no surprise, both Harborne and Moseley cook to a very good standard, but this was perhaps the strongest meal yet. The decision to put both North and South Thai chefs in the kitchen has paid off: There are no dud dishes here, the Northern dishes kick with more fire, those from the South fresher. The latest instalment of Sabai Sabai is a brilliant addition to the city.

The meal was complimentary as part of an event organised by Delicious PR.

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Chien Lunatique at 1000 Trades, Jewellery Quarter

A new year, a new pop-up at the delightful 1000 Trades. It doesn’t take much to get me here – the promise of a cold pint and a hot plate of food usually does the trick – but the latest offering got me hotfooting over to the Jewellery Quarter within hours of them tweeting about it. Sausages. Three syllables of happiness. And not just any sausages. Lashford’s, Birmingham’s own multi award winners, something that I would one day like to emulate when I learn the correct of use of an apostrophe. Chien Lunatique turns these sausages into hotdogs. The January diet can go on hold for a day.

The result is one of the best pop-ups at 1000 Trades in a very long time. The dog’s skins snap with quality fillings and are pimped by toppings that add interest. A Churchill has black pudding in amongst the pork sausage mix, lardons scattered across the brow. It’s the very essence of pig; a fumble in a sty of happiness. The Balti sits on the opposing end of the spectrum, with the pork barely detectable due to a hefty whack of garam masala and cumin. It is properly delicious, topped this time with poppadoms and tzatziki that works in a similar fashion to raita. Both come in a brioche bun that defies physics and holds its shape throughout.

With this we have the kind of beans I want at home with my jacket potato – and that’s a compliment. Packed with chorizo and garlic and chilli and teenage angst, these are less of a side dish and more of a tourist attraction. And the chips. Sweet Mother of Mary, those chips. Skin on and fried to bronze, these may well be the best chips in Birmingham outside of George and Helen’s. And if that last reference means nothing, you and I are simply never going to cut it as mates.

With the dogs costing between £6 – 7.50 this is not an expensive meal, but it is one that lingers in the memory. The chef behind this is Simon Masding, a man who has many concepts within that bearded head, though none as effective as this. Chien Lunatique might be his best ever work and we’ll be back again before the stint finishes at the end of Jan. It quite simply is excellent.

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Best 10 Dishes in Birmingham For Under £10

Are you broke after overdoing it at Christmas? Yeah, me too. Still, don’t let that keep you in the house eating leftover turkey and microwave dinners. January is depressing, though if you know where to eat (and I do), there is some exceptional food to be had for not a lot of money. So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty; here are the best ten dishes to be had in Birmingham for under a tenner. All independents doing brilliant things, who need your support more than a big corporate with a mid-week discount voucher.

1) Chicken Tikka, Zindiya, £7.00

Zindiya do many, many things brilliantly, but there is nothing better on that menu than the chicken tikka. The stuff of local legend, these fat morsels of skewered and tandoor’d fowl are the best example I have ever tried. Dress them in the mint sauce, eat and wash down with a pint of Lawless. These are worthy of a trip to Moseley at least once a week.

2) Scotch egg, Pure Bar and Kitchen, £6.00

Not just any scotch egg. Served warm and with a runny yolk, atop of shoestring fries and beer ketchup, it is probably the best scotch egg you will ever eat. This comes as little surprise when you learn that the menu design is headed-up by Michelin starred Simpsons. The ultimate in bar snacks.

3) Hell Shack burger, The Meat Shack, £7.50

The slogan ‘dripping filthy goodness’ may be a little salacious, but don’t let that stop you from missing out on these beefy beauties. My pick is the Hell Shack, a fiery blast of smashed patty, green chilli relish and a hot sauce which will hurt more on the way out than on the way in. It will end up all down your chin and possibly your top, and it may hurt a little, but it’s worth every second of the eating.

4) Singapore Carrot Cake, Blue Piano, £5.95

Yes, you are reading that correct. Carrot cake. Just not as you know it. Containing very little in the way of actual carrot, this is a spiced savoury cake made mostly of rice flour and mooli, a variety of radish, topped with scrambled egg, spring onion and chilli. It’s so good you’ll consider having it again for dessert. Which you should, apparently it’s a common request.

5) ‘Nduja, Honey, and Chorizo pizza, Otto, £9.00

Otto understand how a good pizza works; a seriously hot oven that blisters dough in a couple of minutes, and impeccably sourced ingredients. My choice showcases those top meats in all their glory. Chorizo and ‘nduja – a spicy and malleable salami – with the heat tempered by honey. It sounds like it doesn’t work. Trust me, it does.

6) Potato Churros, El Borracho de Oro, £5.50

These are so addictive the government are voting to classify them. I jest. I have no idea how they are made – my guess is they’re mashed, mixed with a little flour and then piped into a deep fat fryer. Whatever the process, the result is a savoury potato stick that begs to be dunked into blue cheese dip. Delicious.

7) Alabama Slammer burger, Original Patty Men, £7.50

Brummies love an OPM. Drake loves an OPM. Everyone loves an OPM. Realistically everything on the menu could have made this list, but we’re going leftfield to say ditch the beef and order the Alabama Slammer. Think of it as a Zinger burger for those in the know, with deep fried chicken thigh in the lightest of batters. Stick this is a bun with ‘slaw and hot sauce and what you have is a bona fide winner.

8) Hummus Kavurma, Cappodocia, £7.95

What possibly could be better than hummus? How about hummus topped with crispy bits of lamb and its dark, syrupy cooking liquor?! This relatively new Turkish restaurant in the Jewellery Quarter takes bashed up chickpeas to new heights with this addictive blend of the spicy meat and soothing layer of hummus it beds on.

9) Char Sui Bao. Chung Ying Central, £4.00

Tender slices of marinated and slow cooked pork, hidden inside the fluffiest of steamed milk buns. Sold? Me too. Available at all three Chung Ying sites, I suggest that that you try them in the comfort of the central location over a cocktail or three. The cheapest dish on the list, you’ll still have change in your pocket when you order another portion.

10) Vegetarian Dosa, Gateway to India, £4.99

Don’t let the Broad Street location put you off, this dosa is worth the risks of a stag party slalom. A rolled savoury pancake the size of my forearm, filled with a potato, cumin and mustard seed blend, it is served with two chutneys and a vegetable curry. All for a fiver. The rest of the menu may not come close to this dish, but if I worked closer it would be my lunch of choice on a daily basis.

Otto, Jewellery Quarter

At the far end of Otto is a blackboard whose scrawling catches my eye. It is titled ‘The Producers’, going into detail about the charcuterie, cheese, flour, tomatoes, and olive oil. It is a biological passport of provenance. A statement to sourcing. And all of this from a little place serving pizza and not much else. Prezzo this is not.

The menu is concise and cleverly put together. Eight pizzas, with starters (some flatbreads, and a couple of sharing boards) using up the same bread, meats, and vegetables as the pizzas. We order a couple of Negronis that are as well made as anywhere in the city.

The oven that our pizzas are in is ticking at 400 Celsius today, which cooks the dough to a blistered crust in under three minutes. The dough is good, up there with the best in the city though a little short of London’s pliable best, but it is the toppings that stand them miles apart. My order sees fennel sausage stand in for a lack of chorizo, with ‘nduja and honey. It is excellent; meaty and rich, the honey tempering the ‘nduja’s more aggressive qualities. We also add meat to an otherwise vegetarian choice of ricotta, aubergine, and artichoke. The meat, coppa ham on this occasion, sits in comfortably amongst the healthy stuff. The veg is brilliant, the oozy ricotta more so. In both instances we apply liberal amounts of a chilli infused oil that has heat without losing the peppery quality of the oil.

So two very good pizzas and Negroni’s for under £40 – drink more modestly and you could shave at least a tenner off that. I was impressed with Otto, they seem at ease with what they offer and that is reflected in a service that is both personable and efficient. This at present is the best pizza in Birmingham.

8/10

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Fumo, Selfridges, Birmingham

The fit-out for Fumo at Selfridges is said to be one million sterling. A crazy amount of money for any restaurant, but a particularly obscene sum given (and yes, the clue is in the name) that it is within the confines of a shop. When I initially heard the plans, I thought the owner had lost his marbles. And now that I’ve sat inside the fourth floor restaurant, it is clear that someone else has found them and sold them back to him at a massive profit. It is a mass of polished calacatta, the kind that I sell for a day job and wonder who is buying it at the sort of money it commands. Answer: Here. It smells of money. Of high heels with coloured soles, of oversized handbags with padlocks, and of perfume made from the tears of Romany gypsies. I may have made the last bit up. Even the tables are thick marble, ours a large disc in the centre of the room big enough for six big gents and six bigger egos.

In the ninety or so minutes that we take to have lunch the queue outside would grow substantially. It is clearly working. The format is small plates, intended for those who can share. I can’t. The cuisine is Italian in the friendliest of senses – all prime cuts and smiles and things on toasted bread. There is no offal to be found here. I do wish I could find working organs in an Italian restaurant in Birmingham. Even if I do have to walk through Juicy Couture to get to them.

I get over myself with a bulb of burrata that has been marinated from the inside-out with black truffle, in the same way I like to marinate myself inside-out with red wine. Its more odour than flavour, just like the girl outside the doors waving cardboard strips of Channel no.5, though it works well with folds of Parma ham with glistening fat. I have pillowy gnocchi in a Grana Padana sauce, served in a basket made from the same cheese. I’ve had it before at other restaurants in the same group. It’s kitsch, but it is also tasting better than it ever has before. The basket has textural purpose as opposed to purely presentation.

Pork belly is substantial value for £9, roasted until the fat and meat knits together and the skin crisps up. On the side is an out of place wedge of charred cabbage from a chef who has been watching too much Masterchef, and a puddle of gravy that has a hit of balsamic and happiness. Next time I’ll know what to expect and order this alongside the mash potato with truffle. There is a polite ragu with clusters of beef mince that clings on to lengthy strips of pasta like a failed relationship. The last dish to arrive (this is small plates – they come when they are ready) are delicately fried prawns. The heads come away from the torso with the lightest of tugs and we savour both; dunking the body meat into a mayo sharpened with lemon and sucking in those lovely head juices. Not advertised are the courgette fries which come with it. These are superb, equally light and moreish.

They don’t have the dessert I want which we take as a signal to finish up and head off. Dinner with wine works out to be £40 per head, which seems very fair given the opulent surroundings and quality of food. I honestly wasn’t expecting much at Fumo, it’s in a shop and the menu seemed a little identikit, but I’m happy to stand corrected when I’m wrong. They cook with skill and there wasn’t a dud dish to be found. I’ll gladly brave the shopping crowds to eat here again. I liked it, Fumo. I liked it a lot.

8/10

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

Scott’s of Harborne, Harborne

On the lunch we visit Scott’s of Harborne the paint has barely given up its odour. It’s new, just five weeks old, with the glazed white tiles that mark the table tops and walls still gleaming and wooden frames unblemished. They built this place themselves, they would later tell us, and you can tell they are rightly proud. It looks great. I’ll even forgive the jaunty toilet seat that non-consensually bends you to an acute angle like a prison shower victim. It doesn’t let you cogitate, which is good thing when you only have one loo.

And they’re trying hard to succeed. Maybe too hard. Being usually a champion of generous portions I will go against my own words and say that they either need to reduce portion sizes or increase the prices. At present I fail to see where the profit margins are. Take the lamb kofta’s with hummus, grilled courgette, and sourdough flatbreads – its £4, less if you order multiples like we did. The lamb had been spiked with pine nuts, the hummus perfectly serviceable. It is a very clean tasting plate of food and a cheap lunch in itself, which is fine if you’re the frugal shopper. I personally think it’s too kind.

The best bits happen to be the most simple. Wedges of chorizo in lacquered red wine sauce, and square chips of potato with aioli and a tomato sauce. That tomato sauce would reappear throughout the brunch and needs more swagger, though is a good starting point for now. In some cases, such as the meatballs, the lack of punch allows the quality of the beef to shine. These three, squash ball in size, are another £4. It’s a very nice bit of food.

The only real let down is the baked eggs. That tomato sauce has sweet corn this time for company but it is not enough to stop it from veering into boredom. We save it by taking focaccia from the ever-excellent Peel and Stone bakery, dipping it in a little of the treacly balsamic vinegar and piling the egg and tomato on. Suddenly it has character. We finish up with a goats cheese and sundried tomato tart. The pastry crumbles in all the right places, the filling is plentiful. We take the rest home to enjoy later on.

Thirty quid buys more food than we need, when half of that could fed the both of us. It’s a lovely place with lovely staff and I desperately want them to be a local success, something that the full dining room is clearly in agreement with. But please make the most of these busy periods by putting cash in the till. Make the people of Harborne pay for something this nice. They can afford it.

7/10

Hen and Chickens, Jewellery Quarter

Claire has been banging on about the mixed grill at the Hen and Chickens since we met, which, if you’re either of our previous partners reading this, was seven lovely months ago and not a day before. We had come into the city centre with the intention of going to a vegan restaurant but sometimes tofu and quinoa just doesn’t cut it. Actually, never does tofu and quinoa cut it. We opt for the Hen and Chickens, beloved of my beloved on account of the mixed grill that is her benchmark for a mouthful of protein. And I’m happy with this. It’s a pub, I can drink beer and eat meat. I can pretend to pay attention to her whilst watching the football over her shoulder. Very happy indeed.

It’s hot in here. So hot Nelly wrote a song about it. The recent refit is a smart move towards bare brick walls, leather booths and dark wooden tables. It’s a close space and our table is initially a spill over area for those either side of us. We fallout over the size of the mixed grill, I want to spend the extra £4 on a large, whilst Claire wants a medium, which is not an analogy for our relationship. I win, which is an analogy for our relationship.

She was right, which is absolutely an analogy for our relationship. It’s massive, a group feed rather than just the two of us. It’s all good, some of it is spectacular. The green chicken is part of the latter; spicy with marinade seemingly full of chilli heat, it knocks spots off the more conventional chicken tikka and that is one of the city’s better versions. We love the chicken niblets, which are thigh drumsticks coated in a thick cornflour batter, and chunks of a firm white fish coated in a batter fragrant with garam masala. Sheekh kebab could maybe do with more heat, but chicken wings make up for it with aggressive spicing that penetrates throughout the meat. In short, it’s a monster feed for seventeen quid. The reason to come. If you’re not ordering this you’re simply missing out.

Stupidly, we order more food and it fails to hit the same dizzying heights of the mixed grill. Masala fries are as passable as frozen chips coated in garam masala will ever be. A chicken balti initially starts off as one dimensional until the spices slowly start to reveal layer-by-layer. By the time we finish we are chasing the last dots of sauce around the bowl with a very good garlic naan.

All this, a pint and a gin comes in at £36, and we leave with half the mixed grill in a bag which serves well for lunch the following day. The Hen and Chickens wasn’t one of the original desi pubs, but it did take the appeal of places like The Vine and stick them in a more convenient and appealing location. I liked it, it’s probably my favourite at this point in time. And that large mix grill is a reason to go in itself.

8/10

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The Plough, Harborne

It was three years ago, when this blog was in its infancy, I first wrote about The Plough. This was before the awards and the accolades, when the number of my twitter followers was lower than my sexual partners. It was the first place I ever gave a perfect ten to, but nobody read the blog, so frankly who cares. As the blog has grown I’ve continued to go The Plough and I’ve felt a tinge of guilt that one of the best places in Birmingham amassed a total of 600 views, whilst now a write-up of a shite brunch and subsequent fallout with a tv licence pilfering ‘comedian’ gets many multiples of that within 24 hours of posting.

So now I’m going to abuse my readership by jumping back on that Plough to churn up the ground once more. It’s still the best pub in Birmingham. The city continues to grow in its brilliance, with many excellent pubs coming since, and this little spot in Harborne continues to adapt and knock spots off them. I could bang on about the drinks, including a cocktail program curated by Rob Wood, a stellar whisky collection, and the damm right naughty wine list, but you’re here for the food. And quite rightly so.

A recent dinner proved they are much more than just pizza and burgers. Garlic bread sits in the small plates section, arriving dotted with mozzarella and ‘nduja, each cancelling the others more verdant qualities in all the right ways. It has now overtaken pork scratchings as my favourite partner to a pint. A tangle of pulled beef brisket with sweet potato is the dish I go to to find comfort. I break the yolk of the fried egg and load on to thickly sliced toasted bread. The meat is tender without being mush, and I suspect there is spice involved – maybe Worcestershire sauce – in the cooking of the hash. It’s rich, and it requires the apple chutney to cut through it all, but it’s also bloody lovely.

A fairly recent addition has been the Cubanos – toasted sandwiches to you and I. We have the chicken, smokey with paprika, with bacon and Swiss cheese. Much like the rest of the menu here, its unfussy in concept and massive in portion. It shares a plate with fries that we can’t get excited over, and a perky salad that we do thanks to the clever additions of black bean, feta, and avocado along with the usual suspects. Have this (or the pork, it’s equally good) and ask for all salad and no fries. This was not my suggestion if they say no.

I simply can’t go 38 months and not rave about the above pizza with ‘nduja and mascarpone. This has been on for about a year and is the dish we always order – the perfect balance of heat and cooling. The above picture is not from the recent dinner, but two weeks prior. Don’t @ me, whatever that means.

Looking back at what I wrote back then, it’s clear The Plough have mastered consistency – they still have staff that react to the smallest of gestures and yet know when to leave you alone. They still keep beer in impeccable condition and still only use the finest of ingredients. In short,they are still the best pub in Birmingham. Nowhere else comes close.

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