It’s four weeks til Mother’s Day here in the UK – have you bought her a pressie yet? Or if you’re like my family, and prefer experiences over things – have you booked anywhere yet? It’ll be chaos trying to book somewhere short-notice for the actual day, so I’m a big fan of the “IOU”. IOU a meal, IOU a spa day, IOU a bottle of gin. That sort of thing.
I’ve already sorted Ma Lee’s Mother’s Day present out (top secret at this time!) but if you are looking for a Birmingham-based mother and daughter day out you could take inspiration from our recent afternoon of fun and frolics. And gin.
All gin does not taste the same. Packing a glass with ice means it will melt slower, not faster. Gin is a shortened version of genever – easier to say after a few glasses of genevers. And it is a health drink. All this information was taught during a two hour World of Gin tour with The Gintleman at Loki Wine, located in Birmingham’s Great Western Arcade.
Gin aficionado and raconteur Carl Hawkins plays to a sold-out room upstairs at this well-stocked wine merchants and tasting house. There are five tables laden with gin, tonics, garnishes, ice, glasses and canapes, and Ma Lee and I eagerly take our seats in what Carl will jokingly call the “VIP section” throughout the afternoon. We also have a scorecard, and a review system straight from a dating site – varying from “Not Interested” to “Love at First Sight”. The crowd are a little nervous but Carl throws a couple of poor gin puns into the mix to get us all interested.
Carl – as founder of Brum’s first gin bar The Jekyll & Hyde – knows his stuff. After a whistlestop tour of the many health benefits of gin, he invites us to crack open our first bottle. Each guest has a sensible measure of each gin. We are to rate each gin twice, firstly neat, and then once tonic and garnishes have been added. Carl shows us how to inhale the vapours, and then how to take a small sip which can then be rolled around the tongue to get all of the different flavours. We heed this advice on gin #1. By gin #6 we’re all more in a pour and chug kind of mood.
Each gin is paired with a different tonic, handpicked to bring out the best in each gin. We’re not talking Gordon’s and Schweppes here, with a lemon from a jar – the retro “social club” version of the G&T. These are six super-premium gins, and the tonics range from the familiar Fever Tree to a wonderful 1724 tonic which could easily be imbibed alone. Only if you’ve run out of gin though. And gin’s distant relations – windscreen wash and perfume. Carl has also carefully selected nibbles to pair with each drink, from sushi to goats cheese popcorn, and from manchego and olive tortilla chips to a Belgian chocolate eclair.
The nervousness of the crowd dissipates somewhere around gin #4 and we’re soon all lifelong friends, bound together by a shared passion for gin. The afternoon is a roaring success. Tickets for the gin-tasting events can be purchased from the Loki Wine website here.
Loki Wine Merchant & Tasting House, 36 Great Western Arcade, Birmingham B2 5HU.
The World of Gin Tasting experience costs £40 per person. Click here to make a booking for events at Loki Wine
I’ve wanted to try out The Ivy Birmingham since it opened in 2018 on Temple Row, overlooking St Phillip’s Cathedral. An afternoon tea to soak up the gin sounded like the perfect way to finish our mother-daughter day in Birmingham. We wobbled round from Great Western Arcade to the Ivy, arriving 10 minutes early but we’re in luck and our table is ready. Call me basic but I’m always a fan of a restaurant that offers to take your coat. Simple things eh?
As you’d expect from The Ivy brand, the decor is chic with murals of birds, ribbons and leaves nestling next to Birmingham sketches. The service is impeccable and we are being fussed over from the moment we sit down. The tables are squeezed very closely together, and I worry about elbowing our neighbours. Our server enquires about our day so far, and Ma Lee regales her with tales of gin. Before the server launches into her spiel about the daily specials we politely interrupt and ask for the afternoon tea. We sensibly decline the champagne offer. It’s best to stick to hot beverages and have a break from alcohol for a while.
At £18.95 per person (sans alcohol), I think the afternoon tea is good value for a big name venue in such a favourable location. The Ivy Birmingham are not trying to break any mould with their afternoon tea offering, keeping the options simple, traditional but well presented. Bardolino could learn a thing or two. There is a classic sandwich selection: truffled chicken brioche rolls, marinated cucumber and dill finger sandwiches and smoked salmon on dark rye. I trade Ma Lee a cucumber sandwich for a smoked salmon and we’re both happy. The warm fruit scones are always my favourite part of an afternoon tea and these don’t disappoint. Ma Lee and I are both cream then jam people. It’s how we roll. Finally there is raspberry cheesecake, chocolate and salted caramel mousse served in a tiny plant pot, and a creme brulee doughnut. The doughnuts unfortunately go untouched.
There’s an extensive lunch menu if you don’t fancy the afternoon tea, and there is definitely plenty on the menu to tempt me back for a return visit.
The Ivy, 67-71 Temple Row, Birmingham, B2 5LS.
Traditional Afternoon Tea is £18.95 per person. Click here to view menus and to make a reservation at The Ivy Birmingham
Have I tempted you? Gin and afternoon tea is the perfect Mother’s Day combination – or any day combination! And of course, it’s not just for Mums or Moms or Mamas… it’s a perfect girlie day out!