Issue 314
View this email in your browser


Just when you thought Digbeth couldn't get any more Digbeth, an arcade bar filled with retro games, classic consoles and a reassuringly late license, has taken up a spot in the Custard Factory's courtyard. NQ64 opens tomorrow. But you don't read Brum's best weekly e-mag to wait 'till a new spot has actually opened to see inside it — you're better than that.
The third gaming bar for owners and uni pals, Matt and Andy, the pair have been busy honing their trade around Manchester's bar scene for the last decade. Rather than mashing up lots of different activities, do one thing really well is definitely the thought process behind the NQ64 duo. That and blagging "vital research trips" to NYC. The whole concept of bars dealing exclusively in retro arcade games, started its modern-day revival in 2004 Brooklyn — of course it did — so it was only right that the guys spend some time seeing how it all began.
But rather than taking on the US concept wholesale, which felt a little bit sanitised for the UK-market, NQ64 has more of a late-night feel. Neon, astrological, graffitied-up walls glow throughout the 200 capacity venue, even in total daylight, with the help of tinted windows allowing gamers to see out but no one to see in. Brum is the team's first arcade bar above ground level — both their Manchester and Liverpool spots exist in basements and the guys are keen to recreate the feel they've nailed in their other venues.
Inside, keep it classic with games like Matt's all-time fave, PAC-MAN, progress to 80s biggies, like Double Dragon and Golden Axe, or perhaps even just pinball if you're in that sort of mood. Much to the surprise of Matt and Andy, Guitar Hero turned out to be the queue-maker when they opened in Liverpool, while Time Crisis II (has to be II) is probably the single most popular game across all sites. But don't totally set your heart on a specific title, NQ64 has three full-time technicians to keep the old girls going and the team will not take short cuts — all the machines are genuinely retro, so they do have a habit of needing maintenance now and again.
And as you'd expect from the 'arcade bar' label, drinks are also a big deal at NQ64. There are constantly at least 30 beers to choose between and a games-based cocktail list, which the Brum team will be contributing to when it hits its third incarnation in a few months. Try the Mad Max (pictured left), a rum, falernum and absinthe combo, with all the fire (literally) of the Zombie cocktail on which it's based. Pac's a Punch (see what they did there) is a fruity gin number which has recently become the bar's best-seller. All cocktails are £8, and in terms of snackage, there's enough Monster Munch to keep you joy-sticking right through to 2am closing. 
There's no entrance fee and, other than the occasional private hire, the guys don't tend to take reservations. Use of the six rotating consoles (pictured) towards the entrance is completely free and the 30ish arcade games are paid for using tokens you can buy at the bar, which happens to be made of the bespoke little coins in case you need any help finding it.

The games are sourced from everywhere from US specialists to super-local Facebook ads — Andy is pretty much constantly attached to his phone, getting hold of the newest crop of golden oldies he can seek out. And based on the near-hour we spent on the The Dance Revolution, it's a highly addictive crop.
Opening tomorrow from 4pm, and at midday on Saturday and Sunday, the first 50 people through the door over opening weekend get a free beer. More


Louise O'Neill's devastating novel about sexual consent, Asking For It, gripped and thrilled its readership in equal measure. Now, the stage version makes its UK prem at The Rep, following a sold-out season at The Abbey, Dublin's equivalent of The National. Suffice to say, it wasn't light reading and it won't be light viewing, but important and timely? Abso-bloody-lutely. Asking For It delves deep into the experience of a young woman whose life is changed forever after being raped by members of a football team in small town, County Cork. It was a landslide winner of the Audience Choice Award at The Irish Times Theatre Awards and is showing in Brum until February 15. Tickets are bookable from £15. More

FOR £3.50

Staff Dinners. We're all obsessed! What do chefs cook for the rest of the crew during a break in service? Well, they tend to be homely, filling and rabble-rousing. The main man at Sabai Sabai's city centre venue — Pi Chi — specialises in brothy, soupy, bowls of spare ribs, carrots, garlic, coriander and dried shiitake mushrooms — these things are Steve Jobs-level genius. Somehow we've convinced them to sell bowls of the stuff to takeaway or to eat in for just £3.50. Way cheaper than your average Pret. For an extra £1.50 (if you're worried it won't fill you) you'll get a portion of rice onto which you ladle your flavour-packed brew. Pre-order on their new app or just rock on in there. Served 12pm to 2pm weekdays at Sabai Sabai City Centre.


As scheduling goes, putting ballet's greatest love story on the stage less than a week after Valentine's Day strikes us as a pretty boss move. Whether you want to blow virtual kisses at your beloved or make a friend feel right proper special this V-Day, Birmingham Royal Ballet's take on Swan Lake — which starts around a moonlit lake and the atmosphere pretty much just increases from there — is utterly stunning. Trapped in an evil spell, swan princess, Odette, is to spend her days as a bird, unless, against all odds, she finds true love. Dot DOT dot. And as if all the dance, costumes and set weren't tingle-making enough, the ballet is set to Tchaikovsky’s soaring score (most of which you really will know), performed by a live orchestra. Exquisite ensembles, lyrical pas de deux and good toes/naughty toes will inevitably ensue. At the Hippodrome from February 18 to 29. Tickets (from £21.50)
Venue: Varanasi, 184 Broad Street, B15 1DA; website
Choice: Grilled lamb (£10) Chooser: Reader, we ate the whole menu

Okay, okay, you're right, Varanasi is an Indian on Broad Street. But that's where the expected ends and the filigreed up Buddhas, spa-like entrance portal and dual-floored waterfall (yes, you did read that right) begins. If you've never been to the 350-cover spot — salubriously located next to Vodka Revs, opposite where the ambulances wait to cart off Saturday night's casualties — it's difficult to think of a more surprising space, full of velvety, thick curtains, big welcomes and pretty PDRs. Though the behemoth has the air of a former life as a strip joint, with all its nooks, crannies and dark feel, it's a proud, popular restaurant now, buzzy even on a Tuesday night. The food is a mixture of fine dining and classic content, the latter hitting more highs than the former in terms of flavour. While the organic salmon tikka (£12) arrived shrouded in a dome of smoke and ceremony, it was on the dry side by the time we got around to eating it. Served in a simple bowl, conversely, the tarka daal (£7) was entirely excellent and beaten only by the grilled lamb, which bridged the gap between good looks and good taste, with pretty little swirls of tomato chutney working aesthetically and cutting through the well-handled fattiness of the meat. Swerve the flavourless tandoori gobi (£8) but go big on the Lamb karahi (£20). And absolutely book. Varanasi seems to be a not-so-secret-secret come the weekend.
Our current fave boozer, The Colmore, is having a bottle tasting with their Thornbridge Brewery brethren. On Feb 6 from 7pm until 10pm, register for your free spot here.
It's the opening weekend of the Six Nations. Watch the tournament at Attic Brew Co, Prince Of Wales, Saint Paul's House, The Village and most of Broad Street, presumably.
And should you select Attic Brew Co for England's match against France on Sunday at 3pm, make an entire night of it, literally, and stick around for Superbowl, which the team is also showing live and should finish around 4am, Monday.
Get yourself to the excellent Moseley School of Arts for a PM of live-artiness, curated sounds, conversation and food from the excellent Raja Monkey. Soul Fire Sundays is taking place this weekend (Feb 2) and as an intro price, tickets are just a fiver.
Comedian Mark Steel, a regular on Have I Got News For You as well as notching appearances on QI and Room 101, will be at the Old Rep, April 23, explaining why everything's gone to absolute sh*t. Cheerful stuff. Tickets are £17.74.
Australia is still burning. Send some Brum love across the world via Birmingham Whisky Club's charity night, on Feb 5, with a raffle, prizes and contributions coming from the bar's drinks specials. It's free to attend, just register here.

The Konami Code

Subscribe free
Share Share
Tweet Tweet
Forward Forward
WORDS: Katy Drohan, Tom Cullen
PICTURES: Tom Bird (NQ64), Bella Kotak (Delia Matthews as Odette in Swan Lake)

We will never share your email address. Ads and commercial offers are clearly marked. We sometimes run paid for Partnership Emails with selected affiliates. These will be marked as Partnership Emails at the top of the email.

I Choose Birmingham, 18 Great Western Arcade, Birmingham B2 5HU
Copyright © 2020 Birmingham Publishing Group Ltd, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences