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It's the skeleton of a zebu - that's a member of the humped cattle family if you're wondering. And it's one of over a million items held at the city's Museum Collections Centre, a little known 1.5 hectare site containing everything you don't see at the eight public venues which make up the Birmingham Museums Trust. Accompanied by Collections Care Manager, Deborah Cane, we got the rare opportunity to see the whole site. And here's a smidgen of the Indiana Jones-esque world we unearthed. Fedoras at the ready? 
Bronze busts next to 1920's prams, the last payphone used in Birmingham, entire steam engines, precious Egyptian artefacts and more taxidermy than any person should see, to say that the MCC offers variety is to wildly understate the matter. If you can think of it, the team have got it, but from three eras. And it's the full-time job of just five steely-nerved individuals to catalogue, share and manage the collection, in which snakes, spiders and low lighting are de rigeur.
Who doesn't get silly excited over fire engines? Just us? Okay well, check out this model from the 1910s and try and convince us that you still feel that way. The fire engine pictured was built by the Dennis Brothers, who, despite a beleaguered corporate history still boast a legacy company which is the market leader in the design and manufacture of fire engine bodies today. And if fire engines really aren't your thing, the MCC has an entire collection of Austin, Rover and MG motor cars, together with a Sinclair C5. High fives all round.  
The entomology section - that's the bit about insects, not the origin of words - sits in the temperature controlled, light starved second floor. It alone includes millions of pieces in cages (not alive, this isn't Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and glass boxes as well as in the drawers pictured. Deborah pointed out that it's a particularly delicate and hard to maintain portion of the collection. Because of course, her job is rather more than moonlighting as a tenacious archaeologist / action hero - which may or may not be what we spent large proportions of our visit doing. Balancing the desire of researchers, interest groups and the people of Brum to enjoy this remarkable collection with the need for its preservation is a constant challenge for the team.
Though we're not convinced that keeping the MCC's 850,000+ accession list fully audited and up-to-date sounds overly straightforward either. In any event, we really, really want this 1950s HMV television and radio set in our lives but after the frankly unbearable number of references we made to the characteristics we share with Harrison Ford, we're pretty confident we'll have to wait until the MCC's next public opening for another look. On the subject of which, it's the last Friday of every month when the collection is opened up (from 1.30pm until 3.30pm). Visitor numbers are strictly limited to 30 and booking is essential. Additionally, the MCC's annual open day takes place in September. Once confirmed, the date will be announced here. We'll be the ones in head-to-toe khaki.

Lots more images of the MCC's collection, taken by freelance photographic artist, Tom Bird, right here


This weekend sees Sean Penn making the rash decision to try to out-Neeson Liam Neeson in the overly familiar The Gunman, but your best option down the pictures is this exquisite delight from the same stable as Spirited Away. Based on a Japanese legend where a woodcutter discovers a baby growing from a bamboo shoot in his garden, and then tries to raise the rapidly maturing girl as a noblewoman, there are visual splendours from the hand-crafted, watercolour-esque animation the equal of anything Pixar has to offer, and moments of serious cuteness that could melt the hardest of hearts. If watching a two-hours plus Japanese animation sounds too much like eating your vegetables, rest assured that – for once – the English dub is delicately handled, rather than the sadly prevalent screeching that can occur in even the most prestigious of releases.


Reindeer moss, ants in cocktails and filthy duck wings. You’d be forgiven for struggling to work out where you might wrap your taste buds around this eclectic array. So let us relieve you of the burden and present sparklingly new pop-up, Nomad. Beginning life with a residency at Kings Heath’s Kitchen Garden Cafe, the experimental creation of Alex Claridge (formerly of Bistro 1847 and Warehouse Cafe) will initially be offering two fixed menus, with nine courses for £45 and five courses for £32. But don’t expect the format, flavours or indeed the venue to stay the same for long - Nomad promises fluidity, with food designed to titivate and intrigue. And from what we hear, discussions to confirm the venue for Nomad's summer residency are already underway. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, for three months, from April 3. Book here.

If a basket full of cocktails is your cup of... umm... cocktails?... Then may we point you, rather excitedly, in the direction of Bar Opus? Manager Sam Cross's latest booze-based Willy Wonkary involves six mini-sours in one serving, yours for £30. Pictured are vanilla and rhubarb (top left), orange and passion fruit (top middle), whisky sour (top right), Amaretto sour (bottom left), violet sour (bottom middle) and melon sour (bottom right). Sam and his team aren't limited to these six, by any means, and will match their tipple-tinkering with your tastes. That said, pick of the bunch in our opinion is the violet sour - it tastes identical to Love Hearts - and is an absolute must. You're advised to share this with at least one person. Heed our advice. HEED IT!
Venue: Purnell's, 55 Cornwall Street, Birmingham, B3 2DH; purnellsrestaurant.com
Choice: Burnt English custard egg surprise "10/10/10" (one of seven courses for £65 from the Reminisce tasting menu) Chooser: Glynn Purnell

The great and the good of the UK's restaurant critics (plus, somehow, us) were invited to sample the delights of arguably the city's best restaurant as part of the genius chef's 40th birthday celebrations. Purnell picked the menu himself and pick of the menu was the 10/10/10 dessert, so named in homage to the chef's winning entry on the Great British Menu which scored a clean sweep of top scores. While name critics ooh-ed and aah-ed over the sensational pud we couldn't help but ponder how it was made. Presumably eggs are hard-boiled so they can be "topped" then some poor demi-chef is tasked with meticulously cleaning out every shell before whatever wizardry is performed to fill them. Suffice to say this dish is cooler than the other side of the pillow and so tasty we've had to retire from eating any crème brûlée from now on, because they will forever be a lousy imitation. If there's a better dessert in Birmingham we'll eat our burnt English custard filled hat. Menus here.
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"Choose wisely, for while the true Grail will bring you life, the false Grail will take it from you." – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
IMAGES:  Tom Bird (MCC)
WORDS: Katy Drohan, Tom CullenAndrew Lowry,
ADDRESS: I CHOOSE Birmingham, Office 211, 43 Temple Row, Birmingham, B2 5LS

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