(Issue 167)
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It's 8am, which means the largest integrated wholesale market in the UK has been open for four hours. All 330,000 sq ft of it. In compulsory football comparison chat, that'll get you to almost five pitches worth of fruit, veg, flowers, poultry and fish. It's also the livelihoods of roughly 235 small businesses, their employees and families. And after over forty years, the melting pot is moving to Witton. We joined photographer Jack Spicer Adams for a fond farewell tour.
Well, farewell-ish. The hulking mix of colours, smells and life which is the maze of a site was rumoured to be heading for a March demolition, but we're betting the keys to our office that's not going to happen. Within the market, which would absolutely make Trip Advisor's Top 3 if it were in another country, we heard closure dates of any time from April, to August, to next year. Whatever happens, everyone we spoke to is planning to make the four-mile move, albeit with varying levels of enthusiasm.
The owner of Amin Sons & Co, Mohammed Naim Alvi (pictured) is a second generation Pakistani, whose father moved between Scotland, Reading and High Wycombe before settling in Brum. Continuing the family business, we interrupt Mohammed's son Ikhlas busy bartering. Methodically counting out bills, he progresses a trade while simultaneously talking to us and greeting almost everyone that passes — the price starts at £12 per tray.
"The market was much busier when I was younger, and the older generation had a lot to say — everyone keeps themselves to themselves these days." Asked about the likelihood of a fourth generation coming into the operation Ikhlas questions the future direction of the whole food sector, "there are so many ready meals going round, I'm not sure people will have time to cook in a few years". Ikhlas lets the trays go for a tenner each.
Traversing forklifts, crates and a lifetime's vitamins of apples, we meet Michael from Caribbean Produce (pictured). Based in Handsworth, the new location will make Michael's commute quicker but he's not really looking forward to it. "It's going to upset the outside stalls and there'll be less restaurants that use us. We can't survive without the walk-in trade too — the individuals like you." The Ghanaian flag (a gift from a customer) and Vanley Burke flyer will be making the journey either way, "he's my brother," he says of Vanley. "Did you see that exhibition where they put his whole flat in a museum?" We sure did.
Chris Wynne's been working at the market for 33 years and has seen it change hugely over that time. "Cars used to come right up to the stalls — once the traffic stopped, no one could move. That was a good twenty years ago, the pub closed more recently." Yep, as good as on-site, The Mercat Cross used to open at a ballsy 4am, for first and last drinks alike — Chris regularly found himself directing revellers through the market maze for that final tipple after a night in town. But that's not an excuse you need to witness this big-hearted bite of Brum. The market is open Monday through Saturday — you'll be very welcome. More pics


It isn’t unheard of for long-awaited sequels to deliver on the hype — look no further than Mad Max: Fury Road or The Force Awakens. But then stop looking, because that’s about it. And the awkwardly titled T2 Trainspotting, the reunion of everyone’s favourite loveable Edinburgh junkies, doesn’t quite nail it. Returning from Amsterdam two decades after ripping off his mates at the end of the first film, Renton (Piers Morgan-basher Ewan McGregor) is looking to reconnect with his pals after the break up of his marriage. What follows is a nostalgia-soaked two hours that honours the first film but, despite having its moments, doesn’t match up to its classic, era-defining predecessor. But, if we're describing it like that, how could it? Times & trailer


Knowledge, general or otherwise, has its place. That place is not Rafiki's Cuisine. A weekly production, which can loosely be described as a quiz, a trippy trio of talent will serenade you, convince you to do things the rest of the globe haven't yet imagined, and make you smile plenty. If your experience is anything like ours, you should also expect bananas, art (sort of), literature (sort of) and Donald Trump (sort of). In a nod to the title, there'll be a food round too, though we can't guarantee it'll be completely pleasurable. Taking over The Dark Horse each Tuesday from 8pm, break up your working week with some silly, and pay what you feel. We can neither confirm nor deny that a live celebrity sculpting round is imminent.
Venue: 筷乐, Woodstock Cafe, 584 Bristol Road, B29 6BE; 0121 249 0968
Choice: Pork wontons (£4) Chooser: Grace Ma, owner and head chef

Chinese new year starts on Saturday, which strikes us as a slam dunking excuse to tell you about our most welcome discovery. Taking over the site of Woodstock Cafe in Selly Oak, 筷乐 broadly translates as happiness, and everything about the experience made us almost smugly grinny. With a multi-luminous menu that changes throughout the day (a number of patrons eat both lunch and dinner at 筷乐), on top of the wontons (obligatory) allow owners Grace and Dennis to do the ordering. Served in a chicken broth with seaweed and shrimp, the steamed pork mince wontons are refreshingly light and addictively tasty. Based on a recipe created by Grace's family, the mince, which sits inside the little parcels of superlatives, is stewed for at least four hours, with a combination of vegetables and herbs being added at strategic moments that chef is not for revealing. Expel any thoughts of the westernised Chinese we've come to think of as normal, this is proper good home-style cooking, evidenced by the queue which forms every lunchtime. You'll find it easier to get a table come the evening and at weekends. Open daily from 12pm until 9pm.


The primary object of our gap year was to drink White Russians in as many different countries as possible. With our priorities clear, there wasn't a great deal of lolly for, well, everything else. The Belvedere Palaces (pictured) are one of the few higher-end endeavours that made the cut, and like the rest of Vienna, are bamboozlingly beautiful. The tall, handsome, assured city is best explored by bike, and there are plenty of organised pedal tours that will keep you going in the right direction (and crucially, on the right side of the tram network). In operation since 1865, it's an absolute asset for moving round the capital, as long as you take some time to understand it. Wien's reputation for the grandest of coffee houses and unapologetically hard electronic music are two further contrasting reasons we've got love for Birmingham's latest aerial win. Starting March 26, Eurowings is offering six times weekly direct flights to Vienna. We've found one-way fares from £29.99, which pretty much equates to three good White Russians.


As a rather spectacular addendum to the aforementioned Chinese new year, Selfridges-based ramen restaurant Tonkotsu is giving away 140 aromatic crispy duck salads to I Choose Birmingham readers, a dish they've bought to the menu to toast the Year of the Rooster. Hiyashi ramen is a cold noodle dish referred to as ‘hiyashi chuka’ in Japan. Classic homemade noodles are cooked then chilled in cold water (to retain bite and bounce), before the duck with hoisin sauce is added to give the creation a Chinese twist. Starting this Saturday (January 28) and running until Friday February 3, inclusive, the first 20 people to show staff this very email will receive the dish for free. That's (*gets out calculator*) 140 aromatic duck hiyashi ramen salads. It's going to be a good week. (T&C: Cannot be used in relation to any other item on the menu. No purchase necessary.)
  • Remember that time we created an intensely irritating emoji quiz and you made some frankly worrying threats over question nineteen? All thirty answers are right here. And breathe
  • Tilt's monthly pinball league recommences on January 30. It's £3 a month and starts at 7.30pm. You could class it as exercise
  • You've got until January 31 to get tickets for England's Edgbaston test match against the West Indies before prices rise. It's in August, which means the weather is bound to be a delight. Gospel
  • Digbeth Dining Club and Taste & Liquor are going head-to-head this Friday in the crowned capital of street feasting. Yep, all hail Digbeth. DDC are doing the double and also open Saturday
  • In advance of Verve, book on to a surgery style sesh to talk poetry this weekend. They're one-to-one and the best price (which is still free)
"The best coffee in Europe is Vienna coffee, compared to which all other coffee is fluid poverty." - Mark Twain
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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Tom Cullen, Leo Brammer
IMAGES: Jack Spicer Adams

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