Issue 294
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BATTLE OF THE BULGE

In the late 80s there were two kinds of people in Birmingham: Pizza Land people and Pizza Hut people. And like the Jets and the Sharks, the two gangs fought running battles up and down New Street over who was the creator of the least shit pizza. In the last five years we've had a glut of indy pizzerias finally bringing exceptional cheese-laden discs of joy to our tums. And with four major new openers in as many months, we thought we'd try and whittle down the best, to the best of the best...
ALICIA'S, Stirchley
Best for: toppings
We should immediately disclose a geography bias that could have gone either way for this spot — it's the closest pizza place to all our team and Alicia's features in our lives on the regs. Having, therefore, tried almost every iteration of the entire menu, you need to try the Capricciosa (£12.50) with black forest speck. The team goes big on toppings, which is great because they taste so good, but does make their super-charred sourdough base a firm knife and fork job.
Score: 🍕 🍕 🍕 🍕
BAKED IN BRICK, Digbeth
Best for: *that* Calzone
Aubrey Allen beef shin ragyu and wild mushroom in a parcel of wood-fired doughy goodness — the Calzone (£12) that bagged Baked In Brick the best street food dish at the British and European street food awards is rich, Brummie, bucket list stuff. The Custard Factory team also does pizza by the slice at its permanent digs for lunchy pickings and added happiness.
Score: 🍕 🍕 🍕🍕
POLI, Kings Heath
Best for: sides
Expectations can be a bastard, and it's difficult to remember a time when ours were higher. On our single visit to Poli, our go-to N'duja (£12) didn't land on flavour. The team's tomato-less black pepper cream creation (£9.50) was a worthy sub, as was the lovely atmosphere, but Poli didn't make us freaky deaky like we thought it would. We'll be back for a second date, only too happy to eat our words.
Score: 🍕 🍕 🍕
PEACER, Moseley
Best for: dining solo
The Woodbridge Road new kid is a veggie-only entrant and deals exclusively in pizza by the slice. Benefits include speed, snack-potential and low-risk new tries — we hit up the blue cheese-laden "Tangy" (£3.50) on the owner's tip, and it was a hit. Here's the problem, the pizza is part-cooked when you order and the compromise is topping freshness. They know that, we know that, but it's still a fab Moseley addition. And Tiny Rebel beer is ace.
Score: 🍕 🍕 
FRANCO MANCA, Town
Best for: price
After a right nice press night and great history with London Franco Mancas we were seriously taken with this VC-powered newbie. But two visits later, we had gripes — measly amounts of mediocre anchovies and a soggy middle on the team's no 5, and an acrid aubergine dish. We would say we'll be back to give the spot another whirl but Rudy's is on the same street (on which, more below).
Score: 🍕 🍕
LAGHI'S, Five Ways
Best for: table pizza
Our office is locked in bitter dispute over this entry. Half our team would be giving Laghi's all of the pizza plaudits, while the other half has never been sold on its dough. Either way, we invented the table pizza here, the shareable side dish you order in addition to your pasta mains, and that's a very very good thing. Go for the classic buffalo mozzarella (£9.95) and settle this battle.
Score: 🍕 🍕 🍕
RUDY'S, Town
Best for: value for money
Location, value for money, easy service — and the crucial bit — ace pizza. The only thing we could take or leave was the sharing platter at Rudy's, the newest of the new openers, where those happy, humungous 360 degrees of delight start at £4.90, rising to £8.90. Based on one visit, Rudy's was a top spot contender but years of stone-baked goodness means that crown has to be ceded to a certain spot you might just have heard of...
Score: 🍕 🍕 🍕 🍕
OTTO, Jewellery Quarter
Best for: being the best at pizza
After hearing reports of a possible dip at this JQ stalwart, we dragged four pals to put Otto to the ultimate test: Saturday night, 8pm. More rammed than we've ever seen it, service was impacted in understandable ways, but affected the glorious, giving pizzas nought. Such is the quality of the toppings and consistency found from the huge wood-fired oven, every pizza (N'duja, Capricciosa and Mushroom Bianca) was better than any pizza at any other restaurant. Romeo done.
Score: 🍕 🍕 🍕 🍕🍕

HAS BANKSY BEEN IN BRUM?


We've never been short on street art in Birmingham. Digbeth, for our money, is the most dazzling bastion of walled creativity out of the UK's many urban canvas hotspots. But Banksy has never graced our city. Or has he? Discovered today, before you were even eating your Shreddies, this piece went up on Digbeth's Gibb Street, picturing — as if you can't tell with your own eyes — a pig eerily caged beneath an upturned supermarket trolley. Has the world's most famous street artist finally furnished us with an original? Is it a comment on animal welfare? Well, yes, presumably that's exactly what the purpose of the piece is, whomever painted it. You'll find the artwork close to Ghetto Golf, next to the Peaky Blinders mural, if you're quick enough. These things often vanish as fast as they arrive.

STAR MEETS SKY


Don't shoot the messenger, but chances are you missed something rather spectacular at Hampton Manor in July. Channel 4 Bake Off: The Professionals finalist and patisserie chef at Sky By The Water, Darryl Collins, hosted an extraordinary, one-off Afternoon Tea. Too bad, buddy. But in better news, Darryl, and his head chef Aaron Darnley have returned the gesture, inviting Rob Palmer, the head chef at the Manor's Michelin-starred Peels restaurant, to make the return journey and cook with them at the Resorts World rooftop restaurant. And lo, three of Solihull's culinary kings will combine to form... CAPTAIN PLANET! No, no, that's not right. They've combined to produce a knockout of a menu for one-night only, September 29, including dishes like a double chocolate bomb with blood orange and Oreo crumble. It's £65 to secure your seat in the private dining room, including six courses and a welcome drink. Email meet@resortsworldbirmingham.co.uk to book.

HIDDEN CINEMA? FOUND IT, MATE.


The former Moseley School of Art has been rescued and repurposed with an emphasis on upping appreciation of the arts and shared heritage. With such reverence in mind, what better way to pay our respects than by belting out Huey Lewis’ The Power of Love, trying not to accidentally smooch our mums and fantasising about owning a suped-up 80’s DeLorean? Great Scott, we’re all in for Hidden Cinema's screening of Back to the Future. Part of Historic England’s one-off weekender, you can also get inside the 120-year old building to experience Tim Burton's live-action reimagining of Dumbo, Wolverine warble-fest The Greatest Showman and Disney’s family-friendly animated Māori adventure, Moana. August 23 and 24. Tickets are a staggering £3.85, which also includes film-related games and DJ-tuneage.

WEIRDNESS, WONDER AND WIT


Knowing where you'll find inspiration can be the tricksiest of devils. But we're betting all the babs in Brum that you won't be able to avoid the stuff at the next meetup of Glug's Midlands chapter. The creative community event, which began with mates talking shop in a pub in East London, now happens in more than 35 cities across the world. Brum's version includes four of the most envelope-pushing designer sorts in the business right now. From Foka Wolf, the crown prince of paste-ups, to international big deal, director and animator Anna Mantzaris, to Brum-based Super Freak, whose New York Times illustration is pictured: yes, it's a strawb doing yoga; yes, it makes us feel great about life too. In Digbo on Aug 29, the team have made 25 tickets (at £8.50) available to the previously sold out event right here.
Venue: Craft Dining Rooms, The ICC (Brindleyplace side), B1 2EA; website
Choice: Caramelised banana cheesecake (£8.95) Chooser: Waitress, Liliana

On the canal side of the ICC, right where Strada used to be, the former head chef at Tom's Kitchen is on pots and pans at a restaurant and bar, which is both huuuge and open daily. With Tom Wells as chef director, Craft Dining Rooms launched in July, with a big focus on British ingredients and a beaut enough
Instagram presence that we went to give it a once over. An English Negroni (£10) of Salcombe gin, vermouth and rosehip cup is exactly the sort of welcome we appreciate and was good enough to allay any concerns about how much the bar has taken on with multiple, lengthy drinks lists. On snacks, the beef tartare (£9.95) immediately confirmed chef's pedigree with yummy little cheddar custard and slow-cooked egg globules punctuating proceedings. The Cornish day boat "fish pie" — a deconstructed, elegant take on the classic was the victor of the second round but at £29.95 feels like it's been priced for expense accounts rather than regular diners. Where chef took us into other-worldly sort of locations was on pud. The caramelised banana cheesecake was a luxurious take on both its namesake and a banoffee pie, coming with a rich caramel sauce. It was sweet but not too sweet, it was creamy but not too creamy and it was substantial but not too substantial: accomplished cooking with enough of a twist to put it on the dessert map. And like two of the other dishes we tried, there was an extra sauce jug — an addition that gets all the feels from us. Menu
 
Semi-posh Snobs has its VIP opening tonight — and as we're invited, probably don't read too much into that particular acronym useage. It's called Theatrix, is on the site of Nosh & Quaff, and we have no idea what to think any more either.
The British Science Festival is taking place across Warwick and Cov from September 10 to 13. Check out what to book in for right here.
200 Degrees part deux opened on Lower Temple Street on Tuesday, just as you come out of New Street. Initial thoughts: shorter wait and tastier coffee than their Brum HQ.
Make balms, creams and salves this Sunday at the e'r so cool Old Print Works on the old Moseley Road. Starting at 2pm, it's an age-neutral £30 a spot. Book
Dine in the Dark at Maribel and support super duper sight loss charity, Sense. Tickets are £50, which gets you a drink, snack, blindfold, three courses and £15 goes to charidee. Sept 27. Call 0121 633 4944 to book.


"If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits eighty-eight miles per hour, you’re gonna see some serious shit."


Doc, Back To The Future (1985)



 
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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Tom Cullen, Robb Sheppard

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