Issue 330
View this email in your browser


On Sam Boulton's face there's a smile, on his cap there's a pineapple and on his shoulders — presumably, though you wouldn't know it — is the heavy weight of the launch of Birmingham's next independent bar and restaurant. A launch that given, you know, everything, some might call a gamble. "Is it a gamble?" we ask, knowing the answer. He laughs. "Hell yes, but we've done our homework. Every bar launch is a gamble, and the virus adds to that roll of the dice. But roll the dice we will. We know what we're doing."

Don't doubt him. Sam's the guy behind The Vanguard, a tiny 30-cover bar hidden away above beloved JQ pub 1000 Trades. He built the bar himself, filling it with booze from his own personal stock and furniture he begged for and borrowed. The entire furnishing job cost £150. Originally planned as a six month pop-up, The Vanguard grew roots and stayed. Two and half years later and Sam and his team have outgrown their first home and their next stop is the biggest unit in the Great Western Arcade. Announcing, The Pineapple Club.    
Taking over the old Victorian Cafe, it promises to be quite a transformation. From a homely, if slightly tired liver and onions sort of a place, Sam's going "all in" with a bold, loud, art deco inspired upstairs, an artist's impression of which is above.

Serving up to 80, the focus will be on carefully crafted cocktails — just like at The Vanguard — along with a brunch and small plate menu delivered by Santi Plazas, ex sous chef of sorely missed Edgbaston restaurant El Borracho De Oro. Colombian dishes (Santi's home country) will be joined by Spanish tapas — which of course was El Borracho's forte, plus Italian food — Santi has roots there too. Oh and British dishes. So why the crazy mix? "The flexibility to try new dishes was a big factor. By offering a mix, we're able to present the best dishes out there, regardless of where they're from. No-one ever said you could only serve one thing, it has just become an industry norm. Santi has a vast history in Italian and Spanish food but also experience from his upbringing in Columbia. We want all this to shine and have every confidence in his execution."

The bar will also serve 200 Degree’s Coffee and pastries for the morning trade, opening at 10am. There's even a dance floor area planned, with closing time expected around midnight. 
The ground floor will be a bottle shop with craft beers, real ale, spirits, liqueurs and, of course, mead ageing in a a big ol' barrel. The Vanguard was a mead specialist shifting 25,000 servings of the honey beer from the first shutters up to the last shutters down, and it's a tradition that's making the short hop across town. "We're continuing with mead, for sure," says Sam "But craft beer is going to be a big deal for us, which is wasn't at The Vanguard. There's nobody specialising in takeout craft beer in the city centre and we'll be filling that void. It's a huge passion of mine." They'll also be selling gift boxes — think DIY negronis and Old Fashioneds — and second hand cocktail books. 

As you can tell by the pics, The Pineapple Club will appeal to the Instagram generation, with wall-painted neon bee wings (top) providing the ever-popular out-and-about photo. "Everyone involved in the bar is a millennial," says Sam, 28. "We make no apology for that, we'll play to our strengths. There are other venues that do this well, you know? Eminently photographable. But very few of them are independently owned, independently run and with that independent spirit. Very few have that desire to make every drink excellent. Our goal is to make sure you leave this place with a smile on your face."
And it's hard not to smile at the cocktails. Sam promises to do a lot of the serious drinks that put The Vanguard on the map and won it awards — trust us, try anything he makes with yuzu — but he seems to have let his hair down with the funner side of the menu. Pornstar martinis (top left) are joined by Wonka-esque exotic creations like the El Poco Baya, featuring New Zealand vodka, cassis, white pear brandy, grape soda and a rainbow chew sweet (top right). Other 'Grammable and, fingers crossed, quaffable numbers include the Candy Club Punch (Spanish Vermouth, cranberry, candy cordial and pineapple rock — bottom left) and the Kawaii Milk (vodka, white chocolate, matcha milk with a Mini Milk — bottom right).

As Sam's leaving he turns around tells us a statistic he'd just read in Drinks International magazine. "You know only 3.4% of independent bars have closed because of COVID? That's awful for those bars, of course it is, and the number will rise, but it does show resilience. The independents reacted fast, pivoted — they were able to move to online far quicker than the chains — and the people supported them. They put their hands in the pockets. Gives you hope, right?"

Sure does.  

The Pineapple Club opens in Autumn. Follow them on Facebook or (of course) Insta



Birmingham Museums Trust is a lot more than just Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. BMT is a charity that cares for the city's collection of over a million objects and artworks across nine venues including BMAG, ThinkTank, Aston Hall, Blakesley Hall, Sarehole Mill, Soho House and more. If one body represents the history of this city, a city so often condemned for levelling its past, it's BMT. They need help and they need it bad. Reduced capacity means it's not economically viable for them to open all the exhibitions, events and activities that lift the city's culture sector. If you can spare them some cash, they're fundraising hard to redress the balance. Alternatively you can still book on to Sarehole Mill's 5km Run of the Mill jog throughout the rest of July and buying from their gift shop will also send much-needed funds.   


With the conference industry at a standstill, Millennium Point are (not literally) pivoting their big screen back to entertainment. For our money, a cinema that's been sorely missed since it closed in 2014, for three nights only it'll be open for movie-going business. Serving bottomless prosecco for a full 90 minutes before the curtain goes up, the first Sex And The City movie is screened on Saturday, August 1, with £20 covering your movie and your bubbles. Tarantino classic Pulp Fiction is also showing (Friday, July 31) and £15 will get you two drinks including beer, wine or soft drinks and the film. Trolls 2 is available at £7.50 a head, for families. The Point (as the cool kids call it) have gone big on social distancing with their 354 capacity screen room holding just 181 for these these one-offs. You'll get your own table for pre-movie drinks, of course. 


Annual Handsworth Park easy-listener, Simmer Down Festival is, as with so much of summer, lost to the virus. But out of the ashes — in what cruelly would have been their tenth year — comes Simmer Lockdown Festival, this weekend's 'at home' and online celebration of reggae, soul, RnB, Motown and more. The stage might be gone but the talent, pinned together by Brummie acts and headlined by global names, remains. Pre-recorded gigs — all bespoke to Simmer Down — will be curated by a live team of compere's streaming from the Custard Factory, known as Simmer Down Cafe. This Saturday (2pm to 8pm) and this Sunday (2pm to 10pm) head here and, weather permitting, kick back in your garden/park/hammock for the free weekender. Donations are, of course, massively appreciated. Acts from Gambia, Ghana and Great Barr combine, with Ops Director Alex Williams picking out Jamaican, Naomi Cowan, as one of a number of "must listen" Saturday performances and Barry Biggs and Janet Kay top tips for Sunday. Local acts Tenna Star, Friendly Fire Band and Claire Angel are also highly recommended. More   
The latest drive-in cinema to pop up in Brum, does so at Avery Fields, Bearwood. They're showing some classics, obviously, but if you didn't see last year's Knives Out, it's very good. Tickets start from £27.50 plus booking fee per car. July 23 to 26

The team behind the brilliant Supersonic Festival will tomorrow (July 17) launch their fantastically named, two-day, online shindig, Sofasonic. Think gigs, dark cake-making, a music pub quiz, yoga and bingo. Events are 'pay as you feel', with 25% going to The Trussell Trust. 
Dishoom's soft launch, ummm, launches Saturday (July 18) and runs to Wednesday, August 5. During that time there's 50% off food and our sources (i.e. we asked them) say there's plenty of space available for breakfast on all days, weekday lunches also have oodles of space and there's still some availability on most nights. Walk-ins are welcome — discount still applies — but booking is recommended. More 
Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Opheem have, by popular demand, revived their 'at home' offering. Just £60 serves four people.  
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games are asking for kids to create the event's official mascot. Can a balti be a mascot? Details  
Share Share
Tweet Tweet
Forward Forward

Interesting fact: You'll find a pineapple symbol on the lid of every bottle of Tanqueray gin. It represents a nod to Victorian opulence, to distinguish it from other inferior “riff-raff” gin.

Subscribe free
WORDS: Tom Cullen

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