Sear and Smoke, Birmingham

Meat. If that one word isn’t to your liking, then you may want to shut down this window and go back to your hummus and crudites. For the rest of you, prepare for sympathy sweats and burger envy, for lumps of protein and token pieces of carbohydrates. The latest addition to this cities fast expanding food scene is an ode to fire and beast, to feeding using only the finest animals in the most skilled of hands.

Being a collaboration from Original Patty Men and Digbeth Dining Club it was never going to be ambiguous in name. They settle for Sear and Smoke, which makes sense given that pretty much covers off the cooking processes involved. It’s home is Crane, a beautiful old factory too close to St Andrews to be desirable. The huge ceilings, bare brick and steel framework feels like its already integral to the city and I feel slightly at loss to have seen this for the first time in my mid thirties.

I head straight to Flying Cows because a burger for breakfast makes perfect sense. There I take The High Flyer because that’s the award winner and award winners should only ever eat award winners if you want to go Full Pillock. I do. The aged beef is pink throughout, with the sweetest of bacon and Swiss cheese that has the same gummy feel as it’s American counterpart, only with the added bonus of actually tasting of cheese. Whisper it, but Flying Cows remind me of Bleecker Burger at their finest. It’s the burger I would choose from anywhere right now if given the choice. I wash it down with a cocktail from the Birmingham Whisky Club. And lovely it is, too. Far better than the whisky I usually wash my breakfast down with.

There are a dozen or so food traders here on the day, the cream of the local talent and some from further afield. From a little place called London we have Wingman, a chicken wing specialist who came to my attention when they won best of the best at this year’s British Street Food finals. I have the winning dish (see previous Full Pillock comment) that has the sweet, sour and hot profiles of Thai cooking all over their chicken and all down my jacket. Properly lovely stuff and easily the best chicken wing I have ever eaten. Taking second place at those awards was Baked in Brick, today cooking a 45 day aged rump cap as a special alongside some of the more usual suspects. The beef is gloriously tender, with a chestnut mushroom sauce enriched with bone marrow that transformed some very ordinary fries underneath into something far more magical.

I’m outside for a talk by a man who knows a lot about street food and more whisky. The air is stained by smoke and the smell of rendered fat. Low’n’Slow are to blame. Throngs of people have gathered round to watch him smoke pork belly over a make shift pit on the floor before being finished over a barbecue by the very farmer who supplies the pigs. The meat is stunning; aged pork with thick ribbons of fat that only a fool would discard. It’s a proper plate of food, with potatoes cooked with bone marrow and a fiery burnt salsa and sharp ‘slaw. He is bringing the theatre of Meatopia to a warehouse in the backstreets of Birmingham. This is the future of Sear and Smoke.

Original Patty Men are here with a friend – Dom Clarke of Canneat, a little place in Stirchley that I have much love for. I try the special which has their usual patty with ox cheek, gruyere, and ‘French soup’ onions. It’s one of the days more technically minded dishes, aimed squarely at a mouthful of umami. The ox cheek has been braised in reduced Guiness, the onions cooked down to a meaty gelatinous mess. It’s seriously good, I just wish I’d left more room for it.

I wanted to try more, though without my usual partner in crime I was defeated. Three hours after the start and the place was starting to heave, my attempts over, dictated by a bulging waistline and the arrival of a coven of my ex’s friends. I depart for a well earned snooze, awaking to a social media frenzy at the event as the night draws in and the bands begin to play. It seems that I was not alone in my love for it. It was a bona fide success, proof that Birmingham can play with the big boys. It was a faultless stepping stone to a more ambitious event next year. The countdown to the next Sear and Smoke has already begun.

Transport was provided by A2B Radio Cars. For more information please see http://www.a2bradiocars.com

Advertisements

Adams, Birmingham

Given that Claire whisked me away to Ynyshir for my birthday, it was always going to be a struggle to get close to her efforts for her birthday. My idea was a simple one; to saturate her with saturates, to become the quintessential feeder and ply her with good food over a sustained period of time. We end up doing eight meals in eight days, lots of daytime boozing and as many late afternoon naps. Central to this was a meal in the multi award winning Adams, which also has the added bonus of being the only decent restaurant in the city in which I have not been on a date to with a girl. I’ve been several times before with mates, on those long boozy lunches that end with hazy memories and self loathing.

The interior is smart here, with a polished team operating on a level way above the one star currently bestowed by Michelin. The noise levels are low and it is more intimate than I recall, but perhaps that is a more a reflection of the company I’m in keeping of tonight. We quickly receive a number of amouse bouches; artichoke crisps with earthy purees of the same vegetable and black truffle, and squid ink macaroon with creamed cod’s roe filling. This is followed in rapid succession by tuna sashimi with ponzo jelly and a tartare of steak with charcoal mayo. The last of these is the star, the meat of real quality and the charcoal mayo giving the flavour of roast beef without heat touching it. It’s not my first encounter of the use of charcoal in a similar ilk, but it’s right up there with L’Enclume for precision delivery.

This is a kitchen that means business, that much is clear from the off. Bread comes as two types of sourdough with whipped lard and the richest of butters. First course is a successful pile of lightly dressed crab meat shrouded by pickled kohlrabi, with dots of a puree of apple and another of soy mayonnaise. It is precise in the balance, a light yet punchy dish to properly start the show with.

And then comes the only technical error of the meal. A veal sweetbread with finely sliced raw mushroom blanketing a mushroom ketchup, and a cup of shitake broth on the side. The umami rich mushrooms are the perfect foil for the creamy sweetbread had mine not been undercooked and gummy in texture. It is worth pointing out that Claire’s sweetbread, smaller in size and with a requested black pudding dish from the a la carte, was perfect, and I watched in envy as she demolished it with pleasure. We move on to a thick fillet of monkfish, the fish meaty and pearlescent, with crayfish and bisque. The bisque was astonishing; bold and with a good acidity level from vinegar and lemongrass. Ginger provides a sophisticated background heat that lingers.

We share an optional course of lobster with peanut satay. I say share – the cold chunks of crustacean disappear so quickly I only get one piece. The bit I try is superbly cooked without a hint of chewiness, the satay an unusual match that seemingly bolsters the meatiness of the lobster through the use of umami. Indeed, much of the food here relies on an almost Japanese use of vinegar and umami to give clarity and depth to dishes. This is again apparent with a pigeon dish that has another unique pairing of Colton Bassett and brambles. Who knew that pungent blue cheese went so well with the gaminess of pigeon? Not me, that’s for sure. Yet they sit side-by-side with one another, separated only the tart flavour of the berry. It’s really very clever.

The following course is without doubt my favourite of the night. Scallop, seared heavily and opaque in the centre, with a various onion preparations and a tempura of eel. It’s up there with the best dishes I’ve eaten this year, true to the scallop and perfect in balance between the sweet and acidic elements. We love the lightness of the tempura almost as much as the purée of white onion that showers everything in acidity. It overshadows the duck that comes afterwards. The rectangle of breast meat is perfectly tender, the heart of the bird an accurate blushing pink. We finish it, of course we do, using the last of the bread to mop up the last of the light jus, all whilst talking about the dish that came before.

If I remember one thing about our first dessert it’s how quickly it was eaten. The tart plum only marginally tempered by the sweeter elements as a transitional course into the final sweeter moments. The pistachio sponge (microwaved, El Bulli style?) threatened to disappear into thin air whilst the brown butter added a wonderful nuttiness to the plate. This is a grown up dessert, which is great, because I think I am one, though I’m not sure that Claire’s age qualifies her to be one yet. The last course is listed as ‘raspberry, lemon curd, clotted cream, sherbet’. I could probably stop this right here and leave you with that. It’s brilliant, a riot of the sharp and the sweet and the playful, the star being the raspberry sorbet that had astonishing depth of flavour. It’s everything a dessert should be.

This being a birthday treat I’m not going to say how much it cost, other than pointing out that with a good bottle of champagne and a nice bottle of red it would be a mortgage payment to some. Sweetbread issue aside, if was for me a clear indication that Adams is up there with the absolute finest in the city, with inventive cooking that nudges the boundaries without trampling all over them. Some of the dishes, like the crab, the tartare amouse, and the scallop were truly outstanding and as the seasons change it will be a place that we will come back to soon. And for Claire, she loved every second, grinning for days on end and sharing pictures of the meal with anyone who feigned interest for more than a second. That is all the reaction I need to tell you that Adams is worth every penny. It’s a special restaurant worthy of any special occasion.

9/10

Transport was provided by A2B Radiocars. For more information please see here http://www.a2bradiocars.com

MEATmarket, London

I read a lot of other blogs and a lot of lists. I’m fun like that. Almost always food, always a mixture of the good and the bad; there are those I look up to and those I read to make myself feel better. It’s important to keep your eyes on both the sky and the dirt. One of the things I read a lot about is burgers. Outside of Brum I know about as much about them as I do monogamy and modesty, but my girlfriend loves them so it’s in my interest to keep her happy. I’d have never had found out about Bleecker without reading other blog posts, and those same posts always list MEATliquor (and it’s offshoots for which Covent Gardens MEATmarket is one) as one of the true originals to the burger scene in this country.

So I’m not quite sure what has happened. Maybe the very businesses that they have inspired have surpassed them in quality and delivery. Maybe there offering isn’t as good as it used to be. Maybe it was actually never that good. I don’t know, I can only base it what we had, and what we had was okay. The burger that I see on most lists is the Dead Hippie, a double patty of just pink beef in slender proportions with their famous Dead Hippie sauce that is seemingly a mustard mayo given a kick up the arse with chopped pickles and Worcestershire sauce. It’s messy and difficult to hold (these are plus points, honestly), with a bun that gets too soggy too quickly. The beef is good, but not up there with the best; it’s a little chewy in parts and we chow down on bits that possibly shouldn’t have made the cut. The sauce adds a nice acidity and the diced onions are welcome. It’s a good burger, I’ve just had much better.

The double bacon cheeseburger baffles me for crimes against bacon. We’re back on that double patty and bun though this time with additional thin layers of something dark brown that tastes vaguely of pig. It’s bacon, minced and reformed again, because, y’know, sometimes a rasher just isn’t good enough. They’ve destroyed the essence of what it should be, the fat content and the crisp shard of pure pork flavour, turning it into a just another layer of something brown and grainy that detracts away from a pretty good burger. We switch our attention to battered fillets of chicken breast that give the impression the oil was not hot enough. The batter is flaccid in good places, soggy in others from a coating of buffalo sauce. It makes a bit more sense when dipped into the blue cheese dip.

There is a revelation in the form of a Hot Mess, cylinders of crisp potato that ooze a pungent blue cheese and jalapeno sauce, and less of one with green chilli fries that blast heat with every mouthful. It’s a credit to MEATliquor that the sides are genuinely interesting and I’ve seen very similar options pop up elsewhere, including Birmingham, in a blatant bit of plagiarism.

The bill for all of the above and a couple of soft drinks came in at a few pence under forty quid, which would have been value had we enjoyed lunch. The truth is we both walked away full but underwhelmed, struggling to see what all the fuss is about. I can think of three burgers I’d rather eat in Birmingham and at least another three in London. The burgers at MEATmarket may be of legend, but the competition has not only caught up, but surpassed them.

6/10

Lord of The Pies, Macclesfield

Given that our run over the previous week took us up and down the country, eight meals in as many days in some of the most established and revered restaurants, if someone would have told me that one of the best things I would eat would have come from an unassuming spot in Macclesfield town centre, I would have laughed in their face. Hard. Yet here we are, sat in Lord of The Pies looking at empty plates and discussing how much space we have in the freezer. Answer; lots. We stock up. More on this later.

There is something very special about a pie when done correctly. Golden pastry encasing a steaming hot filling; not a pastry lid on a stew like some would have you believe. Lord of The Pies isn’t just a great name, it’s a great pie shop, serving undoubtably some of the best pies I have ever eaten. A beef and ale pie has long braised meat in a sauce so lacquered you could paint your walls with it. Or your nails if you want to look extra pretty for me. It’s ordered with a mash potato with black pudding that makes the colour as filthy as it tastes. Gosh, this is heaven. Likewise a chicken balti pie that has plenty of meat and even more attitude, clearly made by someone who gets spice more than my local curry house. Fat wedges accompany this time. It just makes more sense. They have crunchy edges, and a centre that offers no bite. Price wise all of this is around 20% cheaper that Pieminister and 400% better. I’m no accountant, but even that is math I can get on board with.

And so we’re back to those empty plates, Claire looking at her untouched Forest Gin, me my local beer. We’ve barely said a word to each other for twenty minutes. She eventually exhales, nailing it with the simple description that these are everything that you imagine a pie could be, but never are. She’s right, but then she’s always bloody right. We get to the counter and chat to the charming server, asking for reccomendations and then ordering them to take home. Some two days later and I’ve eaten two so far; a pork and black pudding one, another of wild boar and apple: Claire is fully aware she needs to get more before she is welcome back in Brum. I’m not prepared to wait until Christmas when I’m next in Macclesfield at the in-laws, Lord of The Pies is now my life. I’m in this for the long haul.

8/10

Pastaio, London

Not so long ago I was asked for the best Italian restaurant in Birmingham. “There isn’t one”, I said. “Pick another cuisine or go to London”. Whilst harsh, I stand by what I said. Our best Italian restaurants are universally average and I would argue that the food coming out of my kitchen is a damm sight better than the majority of theirs. Give me notice and I’ll braise down some ox cheeks and use the liquor to transform them into a ragu of rich meat. Expect this with homemade tagliatelle and a dusting of aged parmasen. Good Italian cooking isn’t difficult – I can do it, for Christs sake – we’ve just anglicised it to the point of pure laziness.

I have places that I go to for fresh pasta, places that I’m not going to publicise because the queues are large enough already. And then I see a tweet from Nigella Lawson of a potato ravioli with gravy, an oozing egg yolk and white truffle. Take me there and invite Lawson to bring the party whilst you’re at it. As soon we get off the train it’s straight over to Pastaio where a fifteen minute wait has us seated in the week old restaurant.


We try four dishes which is enough to make me want to come back, but possibly not in a mad rush anytime soon. The biggest dissapointment is first; a toastie of sorts with mozzarella, honey, and n’duja. I note the n’duja last because this is barely present – the tiniest of blobs that sits off centre. I’d imagine in it’s full glory this is a dish to savour, just not today.


Pasta is why we are here and that is obviously where their heart lies. With no ravioli and gravy party we plump for wild mushroom tagliatelle. The pasta is silky smooth, the mushrooms delicately cooked with garlic. It’s a joy. Diminutive shells of malloredus pocket a ragu of sausage meat. It’s a grower of a dish, one that I end up clearing despite not enjoying the chewy croutons that work the jaw.


The day belongs to cacio and pepe and bucatini – a 2017 pasta dish if there ever were one. The thick pasta coated in a sauce of parmesan, butter and toasted peppercorns. It’s decadent and brilliantly judged, the ultimate in comfort food.


With dinner booked for two hours later, we opt against dessert, despite developing envy from the neighbouring tables tiramisu. Cheese toastie aside, we had an enjoyable lunch at Pastaio, even if it’s not the earth shattering moment of pasta perfection we longed for. It’s destined to be a success, with long queues in Soho a certainty once word gets around. Me, I’ll be patiently waiting for the potato ravioli and gravy before I consider joining the back of it.

7/10 

Lasan, St Pauls Square, Birmingham

It is impossible to mention the new Lasan without referring to the old. It is a restaurant that I am very familiar with, one widely regarded as the best of it’s kind in this city, thanks in part to it’s association with TV food mahatma, Aktar Islam. Aktar has now parted with the group and the restaurant has had a well needed spruce. Gone are the hard wooden lines and non-existent lighting, in comes a softer, more approachable look of pastels and patterns. It’s almost colonial in feel, like they play fine jazz to those awaiting food on the curved bar that sits adjacent to the dining room. And they do play jazz. I’m a massive fan of the refit.



Without wishing to play down the offering, you get the feel that the chase of a Michelin star has gone, replaced with a desire to feed with more traditional methods whilst still keeping to the refined style that has made it so popular. This is reflected with an ease to the service; staff are happy to chat, some dishes are rustic in their presentation. It’s less stuffy and more congenial – a place to return to time over rather than just special occasions. Accolades are excellent, but it’s paying customers that pay the bills.


It starts as it always has, with umami bombs of pani puri, filled to the brim with a pungent tamarind water and as good as they ever get. These come with greaseless poppadoms and dips to range from a familiar made from mango to a pineapple one that’s new to me. We try samosas made with the lightest of filo pastry, the filling of minced venison more than capable of standing up to the spicing.



Another starter of chicken is a solid piece of  workmanship. From the kebab made with coarsely ground mince, to the paté patty with the background funk of offal, and precisely trimmed drumstick, it sings with deft spices and well judged heat. Soft shell crab has the lightest of chilli batter that packs the biggest of flavour, with a crab cake packed with brown meat that reinforces the crustacean flavour. It’s hard to pick fault with any of the starters. Looking back, I can think of no fault at all. 


The biriyani that follows has cubes of goat at the base, braised so that they collapse under the interagation of the fork, with a dry curry that packs real power and crowned with a flurry of rice, crisp shallots, and herbs. I wish that the dish arrived wearing a pastry cap so that the aromas are released tableside, but this is a small detail given the quality of it all. We scoop on to excellent garlic naan, and, even better, roomali roti that is so thin it could be parchment paper. It’s great to see this bread, the most tricky to make, being properly showcased.



A steel tray comes bearing a shank of lamb, coated in marinade and slowly cooked. It’s an accurate bit of cooking; the meat coming away from the bone with ease. Pickled onions have enough astringency to cut through the chilli heat, with pots of raita and dhal for light and shade. That dhal returns in a larger pot – it has to, it’s glorious. As good as any dhal I’ve eaten anywhere. The lentils slow cooked and as smokey as a jazz club. 


Dessert course defeats us, and I sense a dissapointment from the waitress that we are really missing out on something. It’s okay, we’ll be back. Soon. This was my most consistent meal here to date, wholesome and confident in it’s new identity on the plate and in it’s space. I have no doubt at all that Lasan is currently the best Indian we have in Birmingham. 

9/10

I was invited to dine at Lasan

Transport provided by A2B Radio Cars. Download the app here http://www.a2bradiocars.com

San Carlo, Grana Padano lunch 

When I were in my late teens some friends of mine had a t-shirt made that read ‘there’s only one Simon Carlo’, a wonderful present that fed my ego successfully until we found out that Birmingham had two us, with the other being my cousin. I didn’t want the t-shirt after that, especially when he turned out to be far nicer than I ever will be. Still, there can’t be that many of us Carlos traipsing around the city, stealing women and breaking hearts, and besides, I bloody love being a Carlo; it’s part of what defines me, the surname that has become my nickname, that has become the only bit that people ever remember about me. I’m even willing to share my surname with a certain Italian restaurant, just as long as they keep it classy in return.


My visits to San Carlo have not been nearly frequent enough. It was one of the first places I ever took a girl on a date to, me thinking that the waiters would find my ‘Mr S Carlo’ debit card as funny as I. They don’t – they only care for flexing giant phallic pepper mills whilst staring intently into my date’s eyes. I’ve been a handful of times since, and today I’m here to try a selection of autumnal specials all showcasing Grano Padano cheese. This works for me, there is the promise of truffles and plenty of wine. And cheese. Don’t get me started on my love of cheese.


Of the three dishes we try the first is my favourite by some distance. Two large gnocco that I incorrectly call gnuddi on Twitter afterwards. I can feel my Father’s forefathers’ spit hit the ground in disgust at my naivety. They are light and coated in cornflour for a contrasting crisp exterior. It’s the sauce that makes it; a rich cheesey puddle with the umami backnote of Worcestershire sauce. Plenty of black truffle might be more extravagental fragrance than flavour, but it’s one that I’m happy with. It’s perfumes the dish with an unmistakable autumnal scent.



Mushroom risotto arrives in a wheel of cheese for full theatrics. What is plated is a good risotto with plenty of mushrooms, a pinch of salt away from being perfect. The base has the depth that I assume comes from a dried porcini starting point with good quality stock absorbed into the arborio rice. The choice of rose wine as a pairing is a brave one, but works due to the acidity levels. A tuile made from the Grana Padano is formed into a basket, and inside has gnocchi in a pokey Gorgonzola sauce. It’s nice but lacks the same effect of the first two dishes.


We finish up with coffee and more wine, talking to the nice cheese man about nice cheeses from Northern Italy and trying to convince him to join us afterwards at the pub. I could go on and on about the different types but I seriously doubt anyone ever reads this looking for informative news. Instead let me tell you that the three dishes I tried are specials until the end of November and are bloody lovely. So lovely in fact that I now want to give my namesake a proper lookover once again. There is a simplicity to the best Italian food that San Carlo gets, how certain ingredients work together with the minimum of fuss. How dishes should be seasoned and then finished. It is another reason why I am proud to be a Carlo.

I was invited to the press event.

Transport provided by A2B Radio Cars. Download the cashless app here http://www.a2bradiocars.com

San Carlo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fiesta del Asado, Edgbaston

A full midweek dining room is a sight that makes me happy. Those who eat on school nights are committed gluttons, a different breed entirely to those that only go out on Friday and Saturday evenings. They know where the good stuff is at and they don’t want the hassle of waiting six weeks for it. They are the beating heart of the trade, the key to a sustainable business. If you can put bums on seats on a Tuesday and Wednesday night, you’ve succeeded. I doff my cap to you.


We arrive on a Tuesday night when winter is flexing its muscle. It is dark, with wind and rain beating against the windows. On an evening when I really don’t want to leave the solace of my sofa, Fiesta Del Asado is full, turning away those who have chanced it without reservation. Those fools. What impresses most is this is not a location suited to passing trade; it is on a stretch of the Hagley Road where intermittent hotels are joined by a healthy prostitution trade, and, even worse, TGI Fridays. Eating at Fiesta Del Asado is a deliberate choice that evidently requires pre-planning whatever day of the week.


It is a handsome dining room where large wooden tables are adorned with little but candles. The restaurant focuses on the Asado style of Argentina with hunks of meat cooked over applewood on the grill that is central to the kitchen. We start with small plates of padron peppers and sobrasada, a spreadable chorizo, with toast. Both revel in their simplicity, the best of ingredients worked as little as possible. We move on to a plate of Iberico ham, with deep flavour and ribbons of soft fat that threaten to disintegrate from the body temperature of finger and thumb.



They do other meats, but we only have eyes for the beef tonight, for which we take two very different preparations. Slow cooked brisket arrives in a thick red wine gravy, almost mulled star anise, cinnamon and clove. It is a classy bit of cooking, more so with the addition of fried potatoes and sweet corn that add body and texture.


It is the bavette that shows off what they really do best here, fired aggressively over the grill so that the steak has a charred crust and the centre a perfect medium rare.  All it needs is a lick of bright acidity from chimichurri and you have a complex bit of cow far more flavoursome than any bit of fillet.

Not even the most charming of waitresses could tempt us into a dessert, leaving us to finish up on a very fairly priced Malbec and vacate our table to those still hoping to get a steak dinner tonight. This was my first trip to Fiesta del Asado in around three years and I’d honestly forgotten how good it is. It’s not cheap, but the steaks here are as good as any in the city. Don’t just take my word on that; there’s a dining room full of people who all share my opinion.

8/10

I was invited to dine at Fiesta del Asado

Transport was provided by A2B Radio Cars. Download the app here http://www.a2bradiocars.com

Fiesta del Asado Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rofuto, Birmingham

The view from Rofuto is still my favourite in Birmingham. I always like to be sat on the right of the restaurant, looking away from the bustle of the city centre and out towards the serenity of Edgbaston. Beyond there it’s home, Moseley, if you’re asking. There’s something comforting about being able to pick out your address, like coming in to land on a plane, even if you’re a few streets out from reality.



The view here doesn’t change, but the menu has been gently tweaked from an all Japanese affair to one that now encompasses a more pan-Asian feel. The trio of bao we try would never have existed in the old Rofuto and maybe that’s an argument for it staying under it’s old guise. They are the nights biggest let down, three claggy milk buns each over promising and under delivering. Chicken katsu needs more katsu, duck needs more contrast than just a sweet hoisin, the kimchi with the pork needs brighter acidity and high notes. All three are flatter than Norfolk and marginally less inbred. Prior to this are fat sticks of crispy pork skin with a dip of fermented yuzu. These are as good a crackling you will try, the yuzu sharp and funky enough to cut through the richness.



Our other starter has been on the menu since the opening and with good reason. Chicken Yakitori are marinated in soy and mirin, grilled so that the edges catch. The flurry of crispy leek on top offer a little vegetal respite from the richness. It’s a dish that is rooted in Japanese cuisine for good reason. They are wonderful.

Without that menu expansion we would  never have had Korean lamb chops, and for  that I’m glad it happened. They are charred and filthy on the outside, pink in the centre. They have fire and a trimmed bone that wants away the need for cutlery. We leave four bones and consider ordering another four more. We don’t because we have the duck egg rice and sweet potato fries to keep us going. The latter are dusted with a kimchi powder that adds a layer of heat. I am not a fan of sweet potato fries, though Claire is, and she declares these the best in the city.




Pork belly is in hindsight a kind of rehash of everything that came before it. The pork skin is back, as is the fermented yuzu, the crispy leeks and sweet potato. Central to this is pork belly, poached and then roasted. If I am being picky (and it’s my blog so I’ll do as I wish), I happen to prefer the cut pressed and roasted so that the layers of fat render down. This is a little too fatty for my western palate. Not that this stops us from scraping the plate clean.

It is the sweet courses that have seen the biggest improvement. A yuzu cheesecake is fresh and delicate, but the plaudits are saved for a chocolate fondant with cherries. It’s a dessert that I would never normally touch as I’m not the biggest of fondant fans and this not being 2003, so it’s a good job I’m in the company of someone young enough to not remember them first being put on menus. The fondant is perfectly made, oozing molten chocolate in the same way I do with sleaze. The whisky macerated cherry is a genius addition, but it is the cherry sorbet that takes it, all deep autumnal fruitiness. I even like the twee addition of cherry sherbet. It’s a stonking dessert that I wish I’d ordered for myself.

We’re in and out the front door in just over an hour, which feels rushed given that it’s difficult to leave here with a bill for two south of a ton. This is my fourth visit to Rofuto and the second time I’ve written about it. I think that after eighteen months we’re seeing a kitchen in control, even if those baos need binning. I like it, and although it hasn’t set the city alight in the way I initially thought it would, it still offers something different in a setting that has a wow factor. If ‘the view’ is your thing, which I know it is to some, you have a choice of here or Marco Pierre Shite, and for that there really is no choice at all.

Transport provided by A2B Radio Cars. Download the app here http://www.a2bradiocars.com

The Heisenbar, Digbeth


It’s a dreary Thursday night and we’re in Digbeth patiently waiting outside a 40ft RV to be let in at 7pm sharp. Inside there are men in yellow boiler suits, test tubes, and various other scientific equipment. It’s science, bitch. Tonight we will be cooking blue meth – not the standard meth because that can be easily obtained elsewhere in Digbeth for a lot less than the forty quid ticket fee. I look around at the other guests to this press night; a hearty mix of hacks and media types, some industry workers. Meth is not their usual choice of Class A but they will go with it tonight.



The blue meth is of a course a reference to Breaking Bad, the product of six seasons of cooking before Jesse Pinkman drove howling into the night and Walter White lay dead on the lab floor. And we’re not making real meth, because that would be slightly illegal however tempting. Instead we’re here with drinks hero, Rob Wood, a man who knows more about spirits than Derek Acorah. The deal is six cocktails and two plates of food from Los Pollos Hermanos, the chicken shop owned by Gus Fring.


Over the course of two or so hours we extract the flavour from jalapenos using a process called nitro cavitation, whip up a clear cocktail that tastes like blackberries and raspberries, and find the elusive blue meth within a lychee and prosecco cocktail complete with suspicious plastic bag of blue powder that may or may not be popping candy. We finish with ‘Breakfast with Walter Junior’ which is essentially a White Russian with cereal. And eggs. And bacon. Everything we make is brilliant. Here there are no half measures.


This being a food blog I should point out that the food consists of chicken wings and macaroni and have not had the same amount of effort put in as the drinks. They should have thrown in some pizza on the house. Not that this matters; Heisenbar is the perfect ode to one of TV’s greatest shows, an evening of fun and plenty of booze. For fans of the show it’s the perfect way to get methy.

There are limited tickets still available here; eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-breaking-bad-cocktail-experience-tickets-38134851367?aff=es2

 I attended a press evening for The Heisenbar. Transport was provided by A2B Radio Cars. Click here to download the app http://www.a2bradiocars.com