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AUSTERITY BITES: GO GLOBAL


We've noticed that it's January too. And while there's little we can do about the weather, the trains or the number of days until you get paid (yes there really are 31 days in January), we can make what remains of this typically fallow month a whole heap more civilised. So focus on getting your appetite back while we fly you through Brum's very best and lesser known budget bites, one country at a time.  
INDIAN: JYOTIS 
A vegetarian Indian restaurant might sound like a hard sell but as it’s good enough for Jamie Oliver (he’s paid multiple visits), we thought we’d better get an opinion. A veritable feast, go for the set menu (£12pp) which includes delicate pani puri with a zingy tamarind sauce and assured, enlivening curries - think spiced paneer, chick peas and aubergines. It's BYO. 1045 Stratford Road, B28 8AS. Website
CHINESE: SHANGRI LA
This Szechwan specialist is under new ownership and banging out some serious food. Just be sure to order from the Chinese menu rather than the less impressive English version. We can’t get enough of the juicy, charred lamb skewers (£1.20 each) and the sizzling gargantuan that is the Szechwan king prawns (£12, enough for two). Chilli, lotus root and fiery stock will abound. 51 Station Road, B5 4DY. Telephone
ETHIOPIAN: BLUE NILE
An acquired taste, we wouldn’t pay a visit every week, but the food is like nothing we’ve tried before. Opt for the Yefisik Beyaynetu which includes five meaty mains on Ethiopian flat bread (injera) and at £15 for two isn’t exactly high risk. Savour the Yebeg Alicha, fresh lamb delicately seasoned and simmered with spiced garlic and indigenous herbs. 28 Great Hampton Street, B18 6AA. Website
PERSIAN / IRANIAN: ASHIANA
For lip-smackingly good char-grilled chicken wings, Ashiana is pre-eminent. Though not technically on the menu, we've been demolishing these little morsels for years at £4 a go (for about ten). We’re also smitten with the paneer sabzi. Served with naan, lashings of mint, coriander, spring onions and walnuts atop a fresh, crumbly curd, the results are glorious. 531 Moseley Road, B12 9BU. Website
BRITISH: GEORGE SMITH
Oysters. Not the most obvious choice for an item on affordable eating. But in the hands of George and his team a reachable delicacy on all budgets, and from British seas. From 80p to £1 depending on whether you are eating in (there’s a small seating area and fish bar), why not make 2015 the year you learn how to shuck? Or not. George will do that too. Stall 127, Bull Ring Indoor Market, B5 4RQ. Website.
SPANISH/JAMAICAN: RICO LIBRE
Top notch Spanish tapas is given an intense Jamaican talking to. Enjoy the vibrant hit from the bravas sauce and savour the spirited salsas which keep happy company with quail, scallops, rabbit and chicken livers. The traditional is pulled off with obvious skill, the caribbean twists are sensational. £12 for three plates. BYO. Do book. 1 Barn Street, Digbeth, B5 5QD. Website

MICROSCOPIC GREATNESS  
 

Willard Wigan not only has a name that we'd sacrifice a small toe for, but he also has more talent in his small toe than we have in our entire body. The Brum artist creates sculptures so minute they can only be seen through a microscope. Each unique piece is hand-crafted with some being as small as 0.005 mm - almost invisible to the naked eye. Willard enters a meditative state as he works, allowing him to reduce hand tremors and sculpt between pulse beats. He also works at night to limit vibrations from traffic. Owners of his work include The Queen, Prince Charles and Sir Elton John. You can see his sculptures between now and January 25 at the Library Of Birmingham's Discovery Gallery. Adults: £5, children aged 5 to 16: £3. 

GIVE THE MAN A HAND
 

Spare a thought for Edward Scissorhands. He's without doubt the most predictable Rock, Paper, Scissors player on Earth and was probably forever being told not to run as a youngster (*sideways look to camera*). Heartstrings being tugged? They'll be positively wrenched at when the wonderful stage and musical version of the Tim Burton classic comes to Brum's Hippodrome, February 10 to 14. Did someone say Valentine's day? The production is devised, directed and choreographed by Matthew Bourne, who's basically the UK’s most successful choreographer. He is the creator of the world’s longest running ballet production - Swan Lake - and a five-time Olivier Award winner. Tickets start at £17.  
MOVIE CHOICE OF THE WEEK - WHIPLASH

Who’d have thought that a strong candidate for the year’s most gripping film would be set in an elite music school – and be about drumming? Putting the lie to the old gag where the drummer is just the guy who hangs out with musicians, JK Simmons (yes, the dad from Juno) is incendiary as Terence Fletcher, a music teacher determined to get the best out of his young drummer charge (Miles Teller) – and if it takes a little psychological torture, physical violence and verbal abuse, so be it. Essentially a chamber piece examining what it takes to be the best, and if it’s even worth it (it’s about drumming the same way Raging Bull is ‘about’ boxing), the mind games are compelling, the performances rich in both aggression and nuance, and the climactic show carries such a cathartic charge that this is as much a physical experience as a movie.
Venue: Faculty, Piccadilly Arcade, Birmingham B2 4HD; facultycoffee.com
Choice: Split Shot (£2.40) Chooser: Barista

Behold, coffee so good we accidentally let a loud expletive slip and had to apologise to an elderly lady sat nearby. The Split Shot is a newcomer to the Birmingham coffee scene - big in Scandinavia - and sees two drinks placed before you, an espresso and a single shot piccolo. The thinking is that the milk in the latter provides a different sensation of exactly same coffee bean served in the former. The contrast is sensational. Procedure: 1. Cleanse palette with water. 2. Take the full power punch of the silky, rich espresso 3. Indulge in the milky, dessert-like piccolo. Do this at your leisure, of course - this is more like a flight of ales than a tequila slammer. We recommend you request beans from their "Sweet Shop" batch. This is the sort of next level coffee that Starbucks will be forever chasing.
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"My blood type is coffee." - Unknown
WORDS: Katy Drohan, Andrew LowryTom Cullen
ADDRESS: I CHOOSE Birmingham, Office 211, 43 Temple Row, Birmingham, B2 5LS

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