Issue 256
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If the Eighties collectively got together and made a music video, it would be filmed in Nocturnal Animals, the new and perfectly potty venue, by Alex Claridge of The Wilderness. The stated feel of the bold, neon piece of escapism is immediate gratification, with a party place that just so happens to do some seriously high-end food and drink. Birmingham: set shoulder pads to 'stun'. 
"People have claimed I'm overly theatrical," says Alex surveying his new digs. "Now I've got velvet curtains, a red carpet and a neon walkway." Spread across two floors, the fit-out for the vision he had (whilst listening to Phil Collins on repeat, apparently) has cost north of £1 million. It shows. The 60ish-cover upstairs bar is as bold as it comes, with the world's first bartenders' table just behind it (like a chef's table but for drinks), a grated walkway that takes you directly above the bar, and a dedicated drinks kitchen. Yep, the drinks are so complex they have their own kitchen. Though you can get measures of seriously hard to find top-shelf stuff, you can also get a pint of the team's Lager Than Life (a Birmingham Brewing Co collab) for a fiver — "it's important to me that there are accessible items as well as the special stuff — I know everybody says that, but I actually mean it."
Downstairs is the 42-cover fine dining restaurant, complete with massive open plan kitchen sat beneath a neon "it's is only f*cking food" sign, the restaurant's mantra. But it was the Eighties-dedicated sub-woofers, and loos that have drug dealers and knife fights on the wallpaper that had Alex the most animated. They're serving East Asian cuisine, with a jolly good nod to the best bits of junk food — think dishes like the Unhappy Meal, a wagyu, frickle and truffle combo. "This is pop culture fine-dining for the masses — we'll never compromise on produce but as a city centre venue we're offering shorter, regularly-changing options for lunch and frequent visitors."
There's a four-dish lunch menu (from £28) and a six-courser (£45) including geometric visions like the chocolate mousse, soy caramel, peanut praline and yuzu gel pud, pictured. The menu builds all the way up to an eight-course option for dinner (£65) but there'll also be bar plates starting from £6, which you can have upstairs. Afternoon tea, which Alex swore he would never do, is inspired by everyone's favourite plastic doll — "Barbi" — as the team is misspelling it, presumably to avoid legal attention. With a menu by the team from The Wilderness, it looks like Alex came up with the concept towards the tail end of some sort of psychedelic experience.
James Bowker is on drinks. The Edgbaston alumni and two-time World Class competition finalist has come up with a cocktail list which, he says, was born from the venue's ethos. "We're having a giggle at the Eighties pastiche that is Nocturnal Animals, with a menu brilliantly designed by FokaWolf and made up of six colours, playing on the bright, glam rock, in your face nature of the era." Expect a boozy, intense, short drink; a long, refresher; and a sharp citrusy drink for each colour.  The coffee "short" is pictured — a vodka-based combo that includes chocolate absinthe. There's also talk of a cocktail which, in creation, gets tossed from the walkway jutting out above the bar. Working title: Major Lawsuit.
The terms "ambitious" and "game-changer" are banded around on the regs. BUT LOOK AT THIS PLACE! "I have no interest in running the second best bar or restaurant in the city — I've surrounded myself by brilliant people and refused to compromise". And despite everything he's already achieved, there's zero chance Alex is done: expect to hear a lot more about Basic Barbi and that bartenders' table (did somebody say VR?). "We just do cool stuff that we think people will enjoy — and ultimately this has to work, because everything tastes better when you're listening to Phil Collins. Or Prince. Or Toto." 
Open Tuesday to Sunday on 20 Bennetts Hill, 12pm til 11pm. Book


Online extremism, anonymity and hate speech: The Believers Are But Brothers is more than your average piece of theatre. An immersive, challenging experience, where the audience becomes part of the performance via a WhatsApp group, this show effs off the fourth wall, and watches it all unwind via a webcam. Based on the book by Javid Alipoor and performed by the man himself, this production examines masculinity, politics and how technology can be used to tap into, and vent, modern feelings of resentment, rage and rejection. Fresh from winning The Scotsman’s First Fringe Award, it takes over the Hippodrome’s Patrick Studio on November 22 and 23. Tickets are £15.


If we get one more press release telling us that some two-bit celebrity is turning on a set of lights, we're putting our out of office on until 2019. That the Jewellery Quarter has local mini-maker Willard Wigan MBE (creator of the world’s smallest handmade sculptures ev-er) on duty is refreshing. The other things we big time heart about this year's JQ light-fest is that there'll be fireworks coming off the top of a tall building, Pan-Asian street food vendors, Canoodle, are on mains, Bournville Waffle Company are on sweet treats, it's free, and it's not the German Market: On November 16 from 4.30pm until 7pm, we have it on good authority that the big switcheroo is actually happening at 6pm. More
Venue: The Covered Wagon, 298 Yardley Wood Rd, B13 9JW; website
Choice: Large sizzler (£12.99) Chooser: The owner

Time is the cruelest of mistresses. She carves wrinkles across your weary face, adds pounds to your podgy profile and ultimately claws your last breath from your gasping lungs. Chin up, though mate, because somethings improve with age. Take the Covered Wagon, for example. A year ago it went from being the sort of 'Sizzling Pubs' venue you'd only ever attend when all other football watching opportunities had been exhausted, and became an exquisite independent Desi pub. We've eaten an awful lot of Indian food in this city and it's with no lightness of consideration that we say the Covered Wagon is one of the best pub-restaurants we have. The lamb chops on the sizzling platter packed a punchy heat, the meat distancing itself from the bone like Channel 4 distancing itself from the Birmingham bid. Good as it was though, the prawn curry was next level. At just £7.80 it came with fresh, giant prawns, cooked bang-on; a snap to the exterior, but the sweet meat remained juicy and fluffy throughout. We're told one sous chef left London's luxey Chutney Mary — where the cheapest main course costs £12 more than this dish — to join the Wagon team. London's loss is massively Moseley's gain. Never allow him to leave this city. (Side note: the naan bread scored 10 out of 10 on our Naanometer™). 


This received an oddly muted response when it dropped in the States. People complain that all Hollywood puts out is sequels and remakes – but then when this non-franchise return to Nineties’ style crime thrillers comes, they just shrug. What do Americans want, a back rub thrown into the bargain? You can correct their mistake by savouring this twisty, atmospheric treat that you may have missed first time round. How’s about this for a cast: Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, and Ron from Parks and Rec. They’re visibly having a ball as strangers, all with a secret, who get stuck at a Nevada hotel one stormy night in 1969. It feels weird to say that they don’t make them like this any more, but – here we are. Nov 5 only


Tackling how fake news, Brexit and #MeToo affects us on the daily, University of Birmingham's (deep breath) Economic and Social Research Council Festival of Social Science involves talks, workshops and film screenings across Brum. A panel discussion on the generational divide gets our vote, as it turns out it’s all a bit more serious than the yout' blocking you on Instagram. Some would say the disconnect between Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers and Millennials threatens our future as a society, so this convo attempts to close the gap and improve integration. Also on our hit list: Crisis, what crisis? — an interactive event that aims to get to the bottom of where the conversation about mental health is going. From Nov 3 to 10. More
The holy trinity: gin, cheese and chocolate. 40 St Paul's. November 14. 'nuf said.
On Mondays, it's all about Mexican at Migas, and not only because of the alliteration. El Borracho's Sutton Coldfield little sis. Jorge Renden from Mexico City is cooking from 5pm.
Acapella, a music bar, has opened in the JQ, where Fredericks used to be. Live music this Friday and Saturday until late.
The Big Winter Wine Tasting by Connolly's is from 5.30pm today. Tickets are £16 which gets you access to over 100 different wines and spirits (but mostly wines). 

If we weren't scared of sparklers, we'd be going to Edgbaston Stadium's display for this year's hit of fireworks. On Saturday, doors are 5.30pm, with bangs and whizzes at 7.45pm.

"Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it."

George Orwell

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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Tom CullenRobb Sheppard, Andrew Lowry
PICTURES: Tom Bird (Nocturnal Animals); Tommy "the corner" Corners (Covered Wagon)

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