Jewellery Quarter

Cappadocia, Jewellery Quarter

Google tells me that Cappadocia is a geological oddity in a semi-arid location, with homes carved directly into rock faces by Bronze Age cave dwellers. It sounds just like Dudley. And just like the Black Country’s finest, I wasn’t overly enthralled by the thought of going. It was another night of eating out, and I had a job interview the following morning and blah blah blah you don’t care for my whining about going out too much and quite rightly so. I know that I should really be thanking that God who doesn’t exist for my life of excess, not moaning and bitching and choosing to ignore the pain that starts across my chest and travels down my arm. And so I have made it out, sat in a lovely new Turkish restaurant in the Jewellery Quarter with a waiter who has taken a real interest in my name. I’m going to enjoy it. Really, I am.

It turns out that not enjoying it is not an option; the place is a total joy, one of those meals where you look at one another and the eyes say it all. At some point whilst stuffing my face with kebab I think I called one of the best finds of 2017, which I’m sticking with on the proviso that you stick to my suggestions . Top billing goes to a plate of loose hummus topped with crispy bits of lamb, complete with cooking liquor the deep brown colour of unapplied fake tan. Someone realised that hummus would be better burnished with meat juices and they are right. Find this man and bring him to me for further interrogation immediately. It is up there with the very best ways to spend £8 in Birmingham. I want to be preserved in this when I kick the bucket.

Prior to this we try some cold starters with flatbreads that fold easier than a Philip Green owned BHS. We love the baba ghanoush with fat chunks of aubergine that is so smokey it should come with a public health warning. Less love for the strained yogurt and cucumber which I am reliably told reaches ‘peak dill’ by my companion, but really doesn’t taste of much at all, and we’re back in the good books with a spritely Russian salad, though I am unsure what provenience it has here. Perhaps holding an airbase in Turkey has given them the right. And they make their own chilli sauce, a smokey pungent blitz of burnt vegetables and lots of chilli. It goes well with the halloumi and spiced beef sausage starter that is exactly as it sounds.

I admire the mains because they are intended to feed, not be photographed by idiots like me for Instagram. Both plates consist of bits of sheep and poultry, some rice and some bulgur wheat, and an attempt at salad. Everything we eat is a success, mostly because it tastes of what it is supposed to, which is animal, salt, and smoke. Best are the minced kebabs; the spiced lamb sheekh and chicken sibling which we tear apart with hands, douse with the chilli sauce and load on to the flatbread below that have soaked up the good bits.

If they do desserts I never saw them, though this is no bad thing. My suggestion is simple; book here and have the lamb and hummus for starters and follow it up with the minced kebabs combination. Throw in a medium sized glass of wine and your bill is under £25.00. Tip them. Thank them with all your heart for the meat sweats. Ask for some of that chilli sauce to take home and don’t look too disheartened when they say no. Go home and tweet me to say thanks for bringing it to your attention. I will probably ignore you. Do all of this and you will find a rather lovely Turkish restaurant. I can’t promise it will all be brilliant, but parts of Cappadocia are as good as it gets.

8/10

I was invited to dine at Cappadocia

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

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Masdings at 1000 Trades

Let’s talk battered pickled spicy pineapple rings. A hybrid of the fritters at your local Chinese takeaway and frickles, those battered fried pickles you’ve ordered at The Meat Shack. They are sweet and acidic and hot and more addictive than a Tetris session on Hillbilly Crack (not that I would know. Honest.). They are just one part of one burger at Masdings, providing a sharp astringency and some sweet, sweet love. And they are also available as a side. I tried one on the burger and then ordered more as a side. I expect you will do exactly the same.

That burger is called The Heizenberg and it is what you should be ordering when you get to 1000 Trades this December. At it’s core is an 8oz hockey puck of a beef patty, robust in flavour and cooked just a little past the medium rare they promise. It comes with bacon that has been cooked in Maple syrup and chipotle mayo. It is utter filth and a substantial feed for £8. With the lamb burger sold out on our visit, we order a Smokey Robinson that has a similar offering to The Heizenberg, only with the addition of smoked cheese and minus those battered pineapple rings. My heart may lay with the the former, but I’m happy to kept the latter as my dirty little secret.

A portion of chips with halloumi and chorizo is perhaps the closest we get to Masding’s other business, the Mediterranean influenced Kebabylon. These are brash and a hearty lunch by themselves at £4.50. Indeed, all of this feels like really value with the food elements coming in at £22 and the evening’s beers far more than that. I can find very little to dislike at Masdings other than that awful abuse of apostrophes which hurts to these chubby fingers to type. The residency is on until the 22nd of December and is well worth a visit.

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

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

Ox and Origin at 1000 Trades

This potentially could have been even more pointless than my usual crap.  A piece on a two week residency which I eat and subsequently post just as they finish, and no place I can direct you to in which to eat the food you are about to view.  It’s the ultimate middle finger; here, look at this wonderful food.  Too bad you can’t eat it.  I almost never bothered because of that very reason.  Except you can.  Well, kind of.  Stick with me on this and like all of my personal misdemeanours, it will slowly come out in the wash.  

I am sent here by The Pope.  No, not the Nazi in Rome, but one far wiser, richer, and  more sadistic from Sutton Coldfield.  When he says something is good, it’s good.  And the food served by Ox and Origin here isn’t just good, it’s argubly the most accomplished residency to have come to 1000 Trades thus far.  

It’s small plates here; a hotchpotch of styles that is somehow glued together by a kitchen that understands how to layer flavour without overcomplicating.  We take a punt on a sweet corn dish because at £3 it’s worth the risk.  It has been roasted on the cob, basted in a little Siracha hot sauce and littered with flecks of toasted coconut.  What I expect to jar and fight for attention, is in reality a simple progression of heat, salt, and sweetness.  It’s a very clever bit of snackery.  


Other dishes are far easier to geographically pinpoint.  A ragu of ox cheek is all northern Italy with classic French technique.  The meat is spoonable, with two pillows of vivid green gnocchi, and a deeply flavoured sauce made from a reduction of the braising liquor.  Salsa verde completes it all.  We both agree it’s the best thing we eat all night.  This is closely followed by rump cap of beef, served rare with smoked walnuts and more of that salsa verde.  Three ingredients that each know their place on the plate.  



My date, whose images I have stolen in case you had noticed the improvement, is less convinced by the composition of the pork dish.  The belly cut is excellent; softly rendered to that gelatanious mix of meat and fat.  It appears with a spring roll of lightly spiced vegetables and a peanut sauce that is a more luxurious relative to satay.  There is saltiness, acidity, and heat in every mouthful.  I love it.  Much simpler is a tomato and burrata dish with tomato consommé and a little basil.  It’s too quaint in the company of its peers.  A dish that’s still wearing it’s bow tie at midnight, whilst the others are unbuttoned to the naval and sharing a toilet cubicle.  


Dessert feels like a bit of an afterthought.  Strawberries in various guises with piped droplets of white chocolate, blobs of pistachio creme, and a yogurt sorbet.  It eats well enough but there’s little excitement to be had here.  

The food hits £38, and we drink a bottle of wine in the mid-twenties, leaving a bill of thirty quid per head, or just over sixty quid if you happen to also live my girlfriend.  My usual advice would be to go immediatley and thank me afterwards, except they are on to Saturday 12th, with Twitter pointing towards an almost fully booked ending to their residency.  But alas, it doesn’t end there.  We get speaking to one of the chefs who tells us that the day time job is one of a private chef, where a similar menu can be had from as little as £30 per head.  They’ll even do the washing up afterwards – it’s almost worth it for that alone in our house.  So there you go; either go the brilliant 1000 Trades for a pint and pray for a table, or treat yourself to a rather wonderful meal in the comfort of your own home.  I think I’ll do both.  Sod it, I’m worth it.  

I have no affiliation at all with them, but they were nice enough to stop and talk to us about the food, so I’ll return the favour with a link.  For affordable private chefs with marigolds go to https://www.ox-and-origin.com/

Rajdoot, Birmingham

We live in a society that isn’t kind to restaurants.  One that eats them up and spits them out.  One that is so fickle it could be a contestant on Love Island.  A staggering 90% of restaurants in this country fail within the first twelve months. Why? I don’t bloody know, I’m not a restauranteur; I’m an over opinionated twerp with a keyboard. But the ones that I have seen demise with my own eyes have been poorly judged concepts (lobsters), rotten locations (sea food restaurants above Café bloody Rouge) and just bad luck (Comida, you were brilliant and you’ll be back). It almost puts me off my dream of a little Italian restaurant of my own. Almost. The restaurant business is not a lottery, it’s a cleverly thought out line of ticked boxes and processes, as my good friend Barry Sherwin has pointed out to me on many an occasion. And he knows a thing or two about opening these places. So there.

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Once past that opening year it’s no guarantee that it’s an easy ride. Profitability and longevity are the two things that the industry craves, and to achieve this takes hard work and constant reflection. The machine chugs along, driven by trends and an ever changing customer focus. React or die, it’s as simple as that. Take a chameleon approach and you might see two, maybe five, even ten or twenty years if you’re really lucky. But fifty? There can’t be too many successful businesses that even dream of reaching half a century. Rajdoot have, which is a crazy number given that I would have been but a twinkle in the eye of the raging hormonal body of my fifteen year old pubescent father when they first opened in 1967. I struggle to comprehend pieces of furniture that are fifty years old, never mind places to dine at. How they have achieved this is too much for this pea brain to take in.

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Maybe a good starting place for an explanation would be the service. It’s old school slick, customer orientated and polished to a high sheen. We are seated in a plush waiting area and watered, given menus and then taken to a sultry dining room way bigger than it first appears, which is a talent they share with me.  Our corner table is adorned with thick white linen, preloaded with crisp poppadum’s and a spritely chopped onion salad.  A singular candle sits on one corner, more a romantic gesture than a lighting requirement.  At first I assumed they were going all out because they knew I was coming, though it would later transpire they had no clue at all about me.  I like that.  They go to this effort for everyone.  Which probably goes someway to explaining the buzzy dining room on a midweek night.

What also explains the mostly full room is the food, which, on our meal here puts it in the upper echelons of its type in the city.  Its wonderfully traditional, rich and decadent.  We share a platter to start that is probably too much food to successfully proportion our meal.  Like we care.  We each devour the mini fillet of chicken shaslik we have each been portioned to, and make light work of crisp samosa with the most fragrant of potato and pea filling.  We cloak batons of shish kebab with onion kulcha which, with the ingenious addition of mint yogurt, turns it into the most delicious lamb sandwich you could wish for.  Only the tandoori chicken lets the team down for being on the dry side.  It still gets eaten.

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We go for two of the chefs recommendations for main.  He clearly knows what he is talking about.  On paper the Murgh Kebab Masala looks like a tarted-up description of a chicken tikka masala.  Thankfully, it is nothing of the sort.  The kebab is a tightly packed mixture of minced chicken and herbs that have been skewered and blasted through the tandoor until the outside is charred and the centre is just cooked through.  The sauce is nutty and complex, heavy on the spices that trouble the nasal passages, not the other ones.  I just wish there was a little more of it.  I want to glaze the supple garlic naan with sauces this good, and whizz it the individual grains of pilau rice.  The other main was a lamb chilli bhuna that doesn’t disappoint.  It’s heady and spicy, littered with chilli and chunks of pepper.  The tender lamb is a testament to the virtues of patience.  We wipe the bowl clean with the last shreds of the naan.

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They make both gulab jamun and kulfi in-house here, so we request a smaller portion of each to try both.  Indian desserts are often a massive disappoint, but these were lovely.  The gulab jamun was not over soaked in syrup, the kulfi delicate and sprinkled with crushed pistachios.  They work surprisingly well in the company of each other.  If you can find room for dessert, I suggest you harass them into doing the same for you.

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I’d not eaten at the Rajdoot before this.  I guess that I’d been scared that a business open for that length must be old fashioned and reliant on the aging regulars for custom.  I couldn’t be any more wrong.  It’s done fifty years because they serve precise and comforting Indian food with the sort of service that shames many a Michelin starred restaurant.  It is rightly a stalwart of its kind in the city.  I already cannot wait to go back for more.

8/10

I was invited to dine at Rajdoot by Delicious PR

Rajdoot Tandoori Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Little Borracho at 1000 Trades

A quick post on the latest wonder to reach 1000 Trades. Little Borracho is an offshoot of El Borracho de Oro, the much loved Spanish restaurant near Five Ways. Now the term offshoot may be a tad unfair given that the owner, Emma, is working the galley kitchen herself, giving a clear insight to how she intends the dishes to be.

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Put simply, the food is brilliant. Emma can really cook, I told her this, and I say that in the least condescending way possible. I am used to seeing her work the dining room with that personable charm she possesses, but it so happens that her ability in the kitchen is as good, if not better. Slices of aubergine are fried to a crisp without a hint of grease, finished with honey that clings the sesame seeds and chilli to its surface. It’s vibrant Barcelona in the industrially Jewellery Quarter. Chicken skewers have accurately cooked morsels of breast meat with petals of onion and pepper that still retain a little bite. The last dish is a new one to me, Calandracas, being a beer battered croquette of ham and cheese, with a little chorizo in the middle.  Those three little bad boys of oozy fun are my new favourite snack in town.

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And behold, my lateness / laziness brings good tidings!  Hot off the press is the news that Emma has extended her stay at 1000 Trades until the end of May, leaving absolutely no doubt that you should drag that arse of yours down to try it.  1000 Trades is a great place doing great things and with Little Borracho in the kitchen, there is no better area than the Jewellery Quarter to go for a nosh.

Little Borracho is the 1000 Trades residence until the end of May

HowNowBrownCow at The Brown Lion, Jewellery Quarter

Anyone familiar with the Jewellery Quarter will know that the Brown Lion has changed hands many times over recent years. Be it for whatever reason, it’s a space that has struggled to fulfil its potential, seemingly whilst the rest of the area flourishes. Now, under new ownership, it looks great; part English boozer, part New York loft apartment. Neutral colours, bare brick walls, and reclaimed wooden tables. Its unfussy and efficient. Thankfully low on pretention.

The food here comes by the curious name of HowNowBrownCow, a conceptual kitchen mostly formed from burgers and burritos, with the option of gravy to dunk ones food into. I’m sold. Tell me one thing that cannot be improved by dipping it in gravy? Exactly, you can’t. Cheese? Check. Chips? Check. My future mother-in-law? Quite obviously, check. It’s an idea that is seldom seen outside of London, and one that I’m chuffed is finally here.

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We get straight to the point and order stuff to be dunked.  A Twisted New Yorker has fat folds of pastrami over a coleslaw piquant with French mustard.  There is melted cheese and a fried egg whose yolk is slowly working its way on to everything else.  As far as things between a bun go, this is up there with very best in the city; OPM, Byron, and The Lord Clifden.  Actually, I take that back.  Fuck The Lord Clifden.  We try a caramelised onion burger, deep with the beefy kick of a properly aged bit of cow that comes alive when plunged into the meaty gravy.  Its an assured bit of cooking, comfortable in keeping it simple and letting the ingredients speak for themselves.

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The burritos here are rice-less.  I know, it took me a few days of looking at the menu to come to terms with it as well.  Turns out that I know nothing about this, and that this is perfectly acceptable.  We take the advice and order the jerk chicken one, which transpires to be far less out there than my brain initially tells me.  The chicken is boldly spiced with allspice and chilli heat, the mixture of peppers and onions all glued together by molten cheddar.  Its the perfect bastardization of culinary cross-pollination, moving seamlessly from one style of cooking to another.  The same applies the falafel burrito; you eat it and then wonder why you’ve never had it before.

They do chips that have gone through several processes to become both crunchy and fluffy, which I hope to see available as poutine the next time I return.  And return I will.  Time and time and bloody time again.  Its the perfect comfort food in comfortable surroundings at comfortable prices.  Its exactly what the Jewellery Quarter needs.  No, sod it.  Its what Birmingham needs.  In a city now obsessed with fine dining and how many Michelin stars we can beat Manchester by (to which I include myself), its a culinary intravenous feed hooked up directly to the soul.  Now pass me that gravy, I’m going for a swim.

9/10

How Now etc etc at The Brown Lion is no more.  The pub lives on to fight another day.

The Brown Lion Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kebabylon at 1000 Trades, Birmingham

1000 Trades is one of the newer additions to the increasingly burgeoning Jewellery Quarter, located discretely in a listed building on Frederick Street, a few doors down from the equally new The Button Factory. It’s a New York dive bar style space of bare brick and square wooden tables, with an emphasis on craft beers and wine.  I like it there.  The service is warm and the bar well chosen.  There is an attention to detail in every tap and in every box of wine.  And they are proud to be a part of Birmingham, wearing its talent and history proudly on its walls.  It deserves to be a success as much as anywhere in the city.

They also have an interesting concept for food, with a gallery kitchen at the back of the bar hosting residencies for the cities up and coming talent. In their short life thus far they have had spells from the excellent Chilli Dog Dogs and another from the Chef patron of Two Cats Kitchen.  They have others lined up and it is my intention to give a quick post on each, depending on how much time I have and how little they have insulted me on Twitter.  First up is Kebabylon, brain child of Simon Masding, a young gent with an eye for a pun as well as a gap in the market.

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Kebabylon is a simple concept:  Take the grease-laden, vomit inducing bits of air blown carcass meat that we digest at 2.30am when our will is weak and make up it something far more elegant and digestible.   In short he’s nailed it; taking the meat / salad / flatbread combination and making it something new whilst still retaining the appeal.  We try two of the them, the first being tender bits of chicken with tomato, olives, feta, and properly made guacamole and salsa.  Its called ‘Med in Brum’ which makes me like him even more.  The second has more of that chicken with salad, jalapenos and a ‘slaw made with scotch-bonnet.  It could have been spicier, but I left thinking just how much I would crave one after a few pints, which I guess is the point entirely.

With this we have some killer sweet potato fries, one topped with lemon hummus, another with the salsa, chunky cut and with loads of lime.  Both work because the fries are crisp and the toppings fresh with citrus acidity.

The bill totalled under thirty quid with a pint of the good stuff and a glass of a dry Italian white, which itself was a bargain.  Kebabylon is on until the weekend – go check it out if you can and get a few beers in whilst you’re there, though it has the legs to run beyond here and become a staple of Birmingham.  1000 Trades will then continue with its next instalment for which I will be back in a few weeks.