(Issue 165)
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Admit it, you've missed us. Go on, say it. Say you missed us. Whisper it so nobody hears. Whisper "I missed you I Choose Birmingham". We missed you too. What we didn't miss was the youngest chef to be awarded two Michelin stars ever, opening his first restaurant in Britain outside London. Tom's Kitchen is here, and as is customary, we've been chatting to the eponymous man behind it all, Tom Aikens.
"We're definitely not trying to win a Michelin star", explains the young veteran of culinary-related silverware. And he means it. "The middle ground is our territory and that's what we're hoping to fill — a place where you can come two, three times a week, for a snack at the bar, for dinner or simply a sandwich from the deli." And though Aikens uses the phrase "low-key" to describe the offering on more than one occasion, his terminology needs to be interpreted in the context of his award-filled training and exceptional early career. Accessible Tom's Kitchen is, but with a pedigree and flourish lacking at chains attempting similar.
Aikens is like a proud new Dad when it comes to discussing the Brum fit-out. "I'm very happy with the look and feel of the place." He pauses. "Not that my other restaurants aren't as nice... but this one just has that little bit more attention to detail — it's special, really special, and it adds to the whole feel of the Mailbox." With restaurants from Hong Kong to Istanbul, though Aikens is keen to pay plenty of visits to his newest outpost, he's taken on the former head chef at Turners, Tom Wells to run the kitchen. And it's got nothing to with his first name apparently. "He's a very good chef and he's doing an exceptional job already. He's got the local knowledge and his team is working really well together."
And if you're wondering what the man himself would order if dining from his own a la carte menu, the scallops with pine nut risotto and black pudding (£15) are right up there — "I love fish and this combination is completely moreish, rich and satisfying". In terms of mains, the Cornish loin of venison (£26) is where it's at, including one of Aikens' most beloved vegetables two ways — beetroot, gratinéed and puréed. Like our waitress, we actually turned out to be big time suckers for the spicy crab cake (£10, pictured), which is served up with a picquanty little cucumber number.
Coming from a family of wine merchants, it's probably unsurprising to hear that there's a worthy wine by the glass game at Tom's Kitchen, with Grace Bridge's flavoursome Pinot Noir understanding us — and that venison — like you never could. There's also the sort of bar you're going to lose entire afternoons to at the head of the restaurant and two private dining rooms, one opening onto the pastry chef's large station to take care of your night and the other looking onto the huge selection of wine. If only the restaurant were the brainchild of a talented celebrity chef who could put on special events there. Oh wait.
Tom's Kitchen opens daily, with brunch at weekends, including roasts on Sundays. The separate nearby deli is also open all week to take away or perch at.


When £5 falls out of a card, it's a good feeling. Probably not euphoria inducing but appreciated nonetheless. If you notice a micro-engraving on said bank note, somewhere between Big Ben and Winston Churchill's bonce, it's time to make excited noises that only dogs can hear. The second of four polymer fivers engraved by Brum's micro miracle worker, Graham Short, has been found in the Scottish Borders this gifting season. Estimated to have a value of £20,000, you've now got two opportunities left to snag one of the notes for keepsies, which have Jane Austen's face etched on, surrounded by a microscopic quote. Check your wallet at your earliest convenience.


If the thought of a musical about two good-looking people belting out show tunes on how they want to make it in Hollywood makes you want to torch every performing arts school in the UK, La La Land might just offer a corrective. In truth, it’s been a wee bit overpraised – American critics are suckers for movies about the transcendent power of movies, for some reason – but Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are both great (of course), lending an endearing amateurism to songs that deftly avoid the trap of being too X-Factor-ey. Walk in expecting a superb date movie, not the solution to all the world’s problems. That's in next week's issue. 
Times & trailer


It's been almost eight years since the last episode of E.R. aired, which means your anatomical education is in a state of dramatic decline. Remedy that, or win at supper party Top Trumps by booking a table at Dissection & Dinner (our name). Take in the live dissection of VIVIT — a semi-synthetic human cadaver that houses freshly harvested real organs of swine origin, due to the similarity in size and structure to human anatomy. To commence the procedure, anatomist and teacher, Samuel Piri, will dissect the inside of the head and jaw revealing the brain and spinal cord, before working through the thoracic cavity, explaining what keeps us alive, as well as what happens during death and disease. Samples will be prepped for (thankfully optional) handling by the audience, before small group discussions. You'll also get two courses before the dissection, though that's probably a little besides the point. The first date has sold out but you can get a spot at the February 19 edition.


We won't be making it to Casblanca this month either. Sad face. We will however be hitting up Rick's Cafe, which — taking its name from an Academy Award winner we pretty much watch monthly — is popping up at 1,000 Trades. And the menu looks flippin fandango worthy. From the clever cats behind Otto (particularly their Moroccan chef Nassine) North African is what's happening, in the form of intense marinades, slow-cooked meats and plenty of herb-laden veg combos. The rotisserie lamb shoulder, pomegranate onions and Za’atar crisp fattoush salad (£9) is our order. Menu


A middle-aged man and his elderly mum, a young family that is expecting, and a recently arrived Sudanese woman. Direct from an extolled run at The National, Alexander Zeldin's new play Love is an important, intimate story about strangers, forced together in the confines and realities of the temporary accommodation we hear so much about. Though often amusing, expect seriously big thinking theatre that, "will eat into your bones" (Telegraph). At The Rep from January 26, tickets start at £10 for previews and £15 for the rest of the run.
Venue: The Loft, 143 Bromsgrove Street, B5 6RD; website
Choice: Loft chicken burger (£8.50) Chooser: Front of house team

Chances are beer and being outside don't occupy the top two slots on your January agenda, which makes what we're about to say characteristically terrible timing. Following a major refurb The Loft's beer garden has gone from good, to one of the very best in the city. Fortunately that slick fit-out has continued indoors making The Loft our new fave Gay Quarter bar, news which is jollified further by staff that are as warm as the glowing new decor. Food-wise we bit our thumb in the direction of a healthy start to 2017, by ordering no fewer than seven dishes, placing us in a position of authority to declare their buttermilk fried chicken burger with bacon jam and ranch mayo the crown prince of the spruced menu. Cocktails are a big deal and the Suck & Swallow (*Julian Clary look to camera*) is where ginthusiasts should be setting up shop, while a rum punch that they say is made to Rihanna's own recipe is a walloping great crowd-pleaser. Food menu / drinks menu
  • To the uninitiated, Deritrend could be known as the Greater Digbeth Area. It's also the site of IGers' first Instameet of the year, this Saturday
  • If you're yet to make it to Cheval Blanc, wine for £1 is your delicious justification. Choose from four reds and two whites
  • Or get to Resorts World, where Nuffield Health is on MOTs that have nothing to do with motors. In the Atrium on Saturday, it's you being given the (completely free) once over
  • A few spots remain for Change Kitchen's healthy pop-up feasting this Saturday at Stirchley Baths
  • Wrap Lab has opened in the GWA, and it's fully worthy of your lunchy attention. Pick from pre-ordained house combos, like the poached salmon or Tex Mex, or go fully rogue. Fresh, filling fare
  • Tickets for T2 Trainspotting are now available from The Electric. We're assuming that's all we need to say about that
"Run mad as often as you choose, but do not faint" - Jane Austen
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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Andrew Lowry, Tom Cullen

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