Birmingham

Out and About in Brum: May 2016

May has been a busy old month!  I’ve been travelling a lot with work (although nothing glamourous – Norfolk, Somerset, London (not the nice touristy parts either; the parts that make EastEnders look like Downton Abbey…)) and we’ve been preparing for our hollibobs in Croatia; it seems a long time since A Brummie Home and Abroad has actually been abroad! (OK, so it’s only two months ago but it seems so much longer…).  Closer to home Mr Fletche and I have visited some new places and revisited some old favourites…oh, and I had my first proper spa experience which was documented in much more detail here.

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May’s a month of two Bank Holidays, and we don’t let the occasion pass without at least one Bank Holiday Sunday drinking session.  The first Bank Holiday Sunday nicely coincides with Actress & Bishop’s regular “Ska Sunday” so we invite some friends along with us for a drink or two.  Mr Fletche and I fuel up first with a  Sunday Roast in the Bacchus Bar before starting the drinking in earnest at The Old Contemptibles.  This is where we meet up with Ann and Ian and have a catch-up before crossing over the Great Hampton Street footbridge to the Actress & Bishop.  I’ve seen this pub through many phases… the cattle market of the mid 2000s when it was all pop and cheese, the great indie nights of the late 2000s when you could sing anthemic tunes at the top of your voice whilst moshing with a stranger, the nights when there is a strange undercurrent of possible trouble fizzing in the atmosphere and glasses get smashed with the frequency of a drunken egg and spoon race… But Ska Sundays nver fail to make me smile.  Stick on a bit of “Rudy” or “Gangsters” or “Mirror in the Bathroom” and Mr Fletche and I transform from sensible and sedate to Tigger and Zebedee on a bouncy castle.  If anyone wants to start up a “Ska-Robics” class then I am in…  We want to carry on the drinking once the band is done, and we move on to the Queens Arms.  Except they’re closing.  Its 10pm on a Bank Holiday Sunday so we groan and complain for a while before deciding that after  seven hours of drinking and dancing, home is probably a sensible alternative destination

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In our mission to work our way around recommended Sunday roasts, we find our way to the New Inn in Harbourne.  Mr Fletche and I had gone for a late afternoon walk at Uffmoor Woods and decided to call in on our way home.  We park up, walk over to the pub and I find a free table in their busy garden whilst Mr Fletche goes to order drinks and grab a menu.  Except once the drinks have been poured, Mr Fletche is politely informed that there is no food being served.  What?  We selected this particular establishment BECAUSE of its Sunday lunch menu.  Their website clearly states that Sunday lunches are served until a particular time and we have arrived well before that time.  We down our drinks, Mr Fletche grumbling that he now won’t be able to have a drink with his dinner as he’s driving.  How about the Junction I suggest?  Nope.  A sign outside says that Sunday lunch is served until 6pm-ish – it is now well past that time.  We end up at that little-known small local independent… The Slug & Lettuce.  They are at least serving food.  I have extolled the virtues of Harborne’s  drinking and dining scene to Mr Fletche for years, but this time around it failed to deliver.

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On Friday 13th, I walked under no ladders, crossed paths with no black cats and broke no mirrors.  But I did go and see Solihull Theatre Company’s “South Pacific” at the Solihull Core Theatre (formerly known as Solihull Arts Complex).  It was cheesy and a little bit cringey in places (and some of the accents wandered around like Littlefinger’s in Game of Thrones), but it was a lot of fun!  I love theatre but hate paying theatre prices so I’ll definitely look at supporting more local am dram productions in the future.  Of course I come out of the theatre convinced that I too could have a future on the stage.  Except I can’t dance, can’t sing and probably can’t act either.  My only future on stage is likely to be sweeping up.  Still, I can belt out a showtune or two in the car when no-one else is around…

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My love of street food is no secret, but it was the first time Mr Fletche and I had headed to Kings Heath’s monthly collaboration with Brum Yum Yum.  The sun kindly decided to make an appearance so we decided to pop over for lunch before doing our food shopping.  We learnt a valuable lesson – two in fact.  Never drive to these events when it is blatantly obvious that after one pint of Purity from the beer bus, the temptation to have a second is greater than Eve and her apple.  Lesson two.  You’ll never truly enjoy these events when the shadow of a trip to Lidl/Aldi/Asda is hanging over you.  We do the usual walk around before deciding that Charlie Dumplings is our lunchtime fare choice number 1.  With The Pork Society providing round 2.  We sit in the sunshine by the church listening to the live music, and it’s almost like we’re at some hip and trendy festival, not yards away from Kings Heath High Street.  We hate to tear ourselves away to do that inevitable food shopping but the cupboards are bare…

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After my fancy spa day, just four days later we’re back at the Cube.  This time though it’s to celebrate Mr Fletche and all things photography.  One of his submitted entries has made the final 12, and we wait with bated breath (clutching a bucks fizz, thank you very much) for the winner to be announced.  We have picked out our winner (other than Mr Fletche’s own of course).  It doesn’t win.  And neither does Mr Fletche’s.  We are gracious in defeat, repeating the mantra of what an honour it is to be chosen as a finalist and how it’s not the winning that counts (it is) and how art is subjective and people see beauty where others don’t blah blah blah…. We seek solace in Bun and Bowl.  I particularly seek solace in the 2-4-1 cocktails (tequila…it makes me happy…)

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It’s Bank Holiday Sunday part 2 and the sun is shining.  And there’s nowhere quite like the Jewellery Quarter to celebrate a long weekend.  We hop on the train, and emerge blinking into the late afternoon sunlight.  We head for the Drop Forge first of all to check out their roof terrace, but it’s a bit shady and unexpectedly very very quiet.  We go in search of more life, and find it as always at the Rose Villa Tavern.  This is one of my favourite pubs in the Jewellery Quarter, with its quirky interior, good cocktail selection, Belgian beers for Mr Fletche and a tasty menu too.  But I’ve already pinpointed The Red Lion as our dining choice for the day, and we cosy up in the last two available seats in the bar.  The Sunday Lunch at this UAB pub and its sister The Lord Clifden has been recommended lots by various locals, and I can now heartily add to those recommendations.  Mr Fletche actually declared his pork belly to be the best he’d ever tasted.  And Mr Fletche has tried a lot of pork belly in his time….

Bellys full, we take a slow walk down towards St Paul’s Square.  It’s interesting to see that there are some new places opening imminently in the Jewellery Quarter – The Pig & Tail and The Button Factory – cementing the JQ as a definite up-and-coming hub for eating and drinking.  But from new and exciting to an old favourite – The Queens Arms.  Unlike last Bank Holiday we’ve arrived at a decent time and they’re happy to serve us.  I’m onto the gin by now.  I therefore want to find 40 St Pauls next, however we don’t stumble across it as easily as I thought (turns out we were probably just steps away).  I feel a bit underdressed for Saint Paul’s House, so we trudge back across into the city centre.

The sun is still shining, and Mr Fletche suggests we try The Bureau as I had mentioned their rooftop garden before.  The drinks are pretty pricey – as befits a new and trendy hotspot – and Mr Fletche is a little disappointed with the draft beer selection.  The sweeping staircase up to the roof terrace is impressive though, and we wonder how people manage to drink more than one here if you have to trudge up and down these stairs each time you want another round (turns out that there’s table service at the top.  And a lift).  It’s a nice little spot up top, although the view is mainly of rooftops, scaffolding and cranes.  We’re close to Snow Hill Station so take the opportunity to plot our train ride home…only to discover that trains don’t appear to run on our train line at this ungodly hour (9pm).  Unfortunately Birmingham is never going to be a 24/7 destination until it gets its public transport situation sorted out.  Taxi it is then.  As it happens, our journey to the taxi rank somehow takes up past The Wellington… one more for the road (even though the last one was definitely the one for the road…)?

Next month:  We will mostly be in Croatia!  But there’s also Bill Bailey, John Grant and Digbeth Dining Club to look forward to…

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