Issue 304
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WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME

"Just think Cheers, but add cocktails" beams Jacob Clarke, one-third of the drinksy brains behind the drinksiest of openings. Couch is pulling up its shutters on Stirchley High Street tomorrow night at 5pm. And if the neighbourhood cocktail bar's collective CV is anything to go by, the 22-seater will in fact be better than sliced bread.
Arch 13, Little Blackwood, Birmingham Whisky Club, The Anchor and Chakana are just a few of the spots the team behind Couch have either launched or written the cocktail menu for. "But it's completely different when it's your own," says Katie Rouse "I've never been so stressed, and so excited for a launch". It's two days before opening and the handsome, grown-up interior is full of boxes, drills and bottles — bottles full of spirits and mixers and wines and liqueurs that the trio have spent their whole careers getting to know and much of the last year combining to come up with their opening menu.
Ahh that menu. Designed with incredible Warwickshire illustrator, Alana Patchett, you're going to have to actually go to Couch if you want to see the whole, eye-smacking, brain-tingling cocktail dossier, but here's just one of the 15-strong pages, and there's an easter egg hidden in each design, giving a bit more of a clue on how your drink will be served than the simple description offers.

Each completely original drink is based on a different song and musician, from Kurt Cobain to Kenny Rogers. Foxey Lady (pictured below, £9) is a Hendrix-inspired riff on a classic white lady, using Sipsmith VJOP, yuzu, matcha, lemon and whites. It's also an ode to the jukebox scene in Wayne's World you have to be au fait with, or we probably can't be friends anymore. Like all of the cocktails, the final recipe was a bar-side collaboration, perfected over a long night at The Edgbaston, where Couch's third musketeer, Tommy Matthews, was the manager until just a few days ago.
"People think you have to move to London after managing somewhere like The Edgbaston" says Tommy, "but when I heard Jacob and Katie were opening a bar, I couldn't think of a project I'd rather be involved in". Because Couch may be about to launch the best-looking drinks list in Birmingham, but what's more important to Brum's tripartite of booze royalty than anything else is that you have a good time. "If people leave happier than when they arrived, my job's done" says Jacob.

With cava at £5, Negroni on tap for £7 (seven!), and no cocktail costing more than £9.50, the pricing is also seriously reasonable. "I want to prove to people that you don't have to charge £12 for an incredible drink with quality ingredients," says Katie "and that if you have a beer, you get every bit as much attention from us as if you've ordered a cocktail." If you want it that is. If not, the seasoned entertainers will leave you the hell alone and only talk about provenance if you actually ask. Industry-leading drinks without the pretence, a massive playlist (Friday night's list is 26 hours long) and genuinely comfy bar stools? Yeah, we're listening.
And the decision to be in Stirchley rather than the city centre? It's a very deliberate one. "The high street here is 90% independent and that's really important to us in creating a genuine neighbourhood bar" says Katie. From the fitters, to the hand soap, to the pot plants, Couch has gone local wherever possible. Jacob tells us that the Connolly's-sourced wine list "is simple and absolutely banging — like the whole concept really". And, unusually, all their hand-blown glassware is UK-made. Don't even bother asking for a supplier name, though, while the guys will tell you every ingredient in every drink, Tommy would "never, ever, ever" tell you where the coupes and the flutes are from.

The menu will change completely every six months and there's a 20-seater garden that's got lazy Sundays sorted right out. On snackage, Couch Potatoes: sous-vide, herbed up, butter-clad carb-bombs will keep you going, while Eat Vietnam, Alicia's Microbakehouse and Cork & Cage are all within a few minutes walk if you're looking for something more substantial. Though that would involve you giving up your ever so comfy seat, behaviour we're pretty sure we can't condone.  
Launches 5pm tomorrow (Nov 1) at 1466 Pershore Road, a five minute-walk from Bournville train station. Open until 11pm Wed to Sat, and from 12 'till 6pm Sundays. Couch is strictly walk-ins only.

THE FLOODGATE IS OPEN. NEARLY.


Fuzzy Duck. Touch the cup. “I have never.” We’ve all got our fave drinking games, but brand spanking new activity-packed bar The Floodgate is about to add to that list. The absolute LADS. If beers and baseball is your thing, you can take it to the Bleachers and slog it out in one of four batting cages. There’s neon, slinky-filled curling for anyone who thinks the Olympic event looks as easy as mopping duty during a kitchen close-down at The Square Peg. And you can be in the privileged position of playing the only Pit Pat UV of its kind in the UK (think crazy golf goes out clubbing with American pool and things go really well). Set to some proper good backdrops by local street artist, Gent 48, games cost from £10 to £50. Opening tomorrow (Nov 1), book.

FILM PICK: DOCTOR SLEEP


A sequel to The Shining is a ballsy move, especially given it’s an adaptation of a book that deliberately ignored Stanley Kubrick’s deviations from the original novel. Smartly dancing through this minefield, it’s a pint-sized miracle the story makes sense – let alone is a highly watchable horror flick. Doctor Sleep is at its strongest with Ewan McGregor’s grown version of the son from the earlier film, burying his memories of Jack Nicholson’s rampage with booze. It’s too much of a giveaway to say how this incorporates Kubrick’s film — source of some of the most iconic images in horror history — but there’s obviously been a lot of homework done, and the overall package is smart, confident and effective. See it at Cineworld at Resorts World. Times & tickets

EYE, EYE



“Brexit.” No, wait, come back. Resident Brum artist Imbue (keep ‘em peeled for his stickers and paste-ups around town) asks “Is This Real Life?” with his biggest solo exhibition so far focusing on our existence during uncertain times. Featuring Brexit Bunker ration books and leaflets for fleeing the effing planet, visitors will be able to walk away with a freshly printed receipt for the estimated amount (courtesy of the Bank of England) that Brexit has cost so far. Hint: £727 has just been spent. And again. And again. And aga.. Yeah, you get it. See fifteen new pieces from Imbue, including interactive artworks, a range of mediums, plus some actually affordable limited editions for the buying. The 24-hour dealio launches as part of Digbeth First Friday, tomorrow night from 6pm. There’s a DJ as well as a free gift for the first 100 people through the doors of the Melting Pot, where Brexit Bill will be printing through to 10pm. Or catch the exhibition between 11am and 5pm on Saturday. Unless it’s delayed, that is. Pretty sure an exhibition can't be prorogued, but what do we know?
Venue: Opheem, 48 Summer Row, B3 1JJ; website
Choice: Cornish ray (£50 for three courses and snacks) Chooser: Waiter

You don't need us to tell you that Brum's Michelin massif has got itself a new member — take deep and numerous bows, Opheem and chef director Aktar Islam. But given the number of you that will be booking following the 18-month-old's celestial success, how to do Summer Row's ambitious, forward-thinking Indian just right is actually useful intel. First off, head to the bar at
Legna, also on Summer Row and also an Aktar enterprise. The beautiful, confident spot has just launched a new cocktail menu, which — as good as the classics are here — we implore you to hit up. Have whatever bar manager, Luke, tells you. The Bell Pepper (£10) was his perfectly balanced, rum-based pick when we stopped in, and complete with ancho verde green chilli liqueur, the easy winner of his good-looking liquid parade. At star-bedecked Opheem, there was another new menu for the feasting. The compressed cucumber snack, crispy lamb breast-covered bread and squab pigeon starter were all flavour-filled creations to savour but it was the buttery, perfect Brixham ray wing with a herby masala that was the pick of the picks, with warm, subtle spice that complimented the creation when it would have been easy to overpower the fish's mildly pronounced flavour. The raw enthusiasm and clear pride from the whole team is another reason to get that visit booked in — on a dank, dark wintry Wednesday, the restaurant was filled with diners purring with pleasure and a kitchen determined to maintain the euphoric din. Menu
 
Zilch Birmingham is a zero-waste, vegan market. Find it on Digbeth's Floodgate Street this Saturday from 10am until 4pm. It's £2 in.
Treat yo'self. Get 50% off manis, pedis, massages at MetroSpa in Harborne, with our sister title, Letterbox. Head here and scroll down for the deets.
Rowheath Pav's on fireworks and food from them streets this Friday. You'll need to get your tickets in advance.
Silver stacking rings are what you'll be heading home with if you sign up to Grace Page's workshop at the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter on Nov 16. With a max of ten people, it's £60 to get your seat.
And as it's Halloween, we thought we should probably mention the cheery sounding Festival of the Dead that's happening Friday. Think DJs, acrobats and a giant skull procession. Tickets from £22.73.


"Who knows about Brexit? No one has got a f*cking clue what Brexit is. You watch Question Time, it’s comedy.
It’s like this mad riddle."


Danny Dyer



 
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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Robb Sheppard, Andrew Lowry
PICTURES: Tom Bird (Couch)


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