Issue 209
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No, we don't Choose Leeds. You can keep your I Choose Nottingham. We choose Birmingham. The clue's in the name. Not Glasgow, not Liverpool, not Brighton. Birmingham. We love this city so much that we get a nosebleed the moment we're a marathon's distance from Mr Egg. But sometimes — just sometimes — we come across something that is so splendid we have to expand our sphere of influence. Step forward the Fortnums-worthy new Food Hall at Webbs, Wychbold, just 20 miles south of Brum. And take a bow food buyer, Sophie Poultney, who has been working with hundreds of local and national suppliers to get the right products on your table this Noël since (gulp!) January. Here's her toppest of Christmassy tips...
"We've got so many different types of crackling snacks it's ridiculous," says Sophie as we immediately place the triple-cooked duck in our basket for the trip home. "We're also the most northerly supplier of Wolff Evans scotch eggs, which retain their runny yolk despite being served cold — you still get the amazing texture of the egg without having to actually go to the trouble of cooking it yourself."
"Cocktails and everything related to cocktails have been extremely popular already this year. Longflint's collaborated with mixologists to create individual, handcrafted cocktails like their Rhubarb & Vodka Seltzer." Webbs has four to choose from, and we've re-arranged our fridge accordingly. "Also, we've got Bursting Bubbles, which you just add to your obligatory Christmas Prosecco for proper festiveness." 
"All the meat from our butchers, Buxtons, is from small farms with excellent provenance, and orders for Christmas are open." And on the all-important turkey debate? "I'll be ordering a rib of beef this year — they've got one of Europe's largest Himalayan salt-ageing rooms and you can specify how many days you want your order aged for. After much discussion with the butchers, I'm going for 32-days." 
"To bookend the feasting: Macneil's smoked salmon is local, award-winning and absolutely fantastic. For their cured version, they even use Hereford cider. I've had a lot of salmon and this is the most delicious. Then there's our cheese counter— we've got over 100 cheeses including a truffled brie. And my absolute favourite, Vacheron Mont d'or, which unusually we stock as a full wheel — great for sharing." 
And on the serious subject of honey: "We've got a full range — including foodie gifting nirvana — a gorgeous local borage honey. We also stock two that we make — we've got actual beekeepers looking after hives here that have been going for four years now, producing honey from the flowers in our Riverside Gardens. It's made from the nectar of blackberry, clover, lime, willow herb and balsam." Fancy!
"We've been working with a local producer to develop our own Christmas puddings since April. It took four rounds of taste tests to settle on the eventual range. All the puddings are made with proper suet and use a different local beer or cider to plump up the fruit." And the pick? "I love the chocolate and cherry pudding which contains a porter made by Lake House Brewery just down the road in Malvern. We've collaborated on everything from flavours to packaging — I'm so pleased customers really like them."
Food at Webbs is located at Webbs, Wychbold just off the M5. Come off at Junction 5 for all of your Food Hall needs. And mention "I Choose Birmingham" when paying to get 10% off those Christmas puds.


If you follow The Wilderness on Twitter, you'll already know something both brilliant and nutty is coming. Not content with opening one restaurant in 2018, the team have secured a second set of premises (in the JQ, where Two Cats used to live). And they're launching the most irreverent of pop-ups to get you through December without reference to a certain city centre market, which may or may not be opening today. Bar Humbug will be serving festive inspired cocktails, with drinksy king, James Bowker, captaining the ship. Guests can choose from an a la carte menu or go Full Santa – a progression of four cocktails — including anty drinks like Just A Snowball, with snacks from The Wilderness (£50pp). Rumours about decaying Christmas trees, bad Santas and frankly bizarre twists on all things festive are rife. Opening November 30, Thursday to Saturday evenings, bookings launched today. It's almost like we plan these features.


Yep, it's a cocktail conceived to look like the oranging leader of the free world — obligatory flourish of golden hair, or spun sugar, included. And the Aperol-based number is indeed designed to leave a bitter taste in the mouth. It's part of the challenging menu for Protest Feast: The F Word, a one-off experience about female strength and solidarity fuelled by food, song and performance. Though referencing Greenham Common, the dinner is a wider metaphor for the women’s movement and pays homage to some of the key figures and protests which have shaped where we are in rights, equality and visibility in 2017. And it's the project of Kaye Winwood, which makes it mind-bendingly awesome by definition. From 3pm on Sunday at mac, tickets are £30. Get there.


The endless grimness of Batman V Superman has been toned down, so it's a lighter show for the kids, but that's about your lot on positives. Unless you enjoy identifying reshot scenes by how Ben Affleck is noticeably heavier, or how obvious Henry Cavill’s digitally-removed moustache is (he had to grow one for his next role and was unable to shave it). Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is easily the best thing here, although at least the addition of Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is a decent attempt at getting a fun Thor-style lunk in there. In short, fans of coherent, original storytelling won’t be satisfied — the only people really made happy are connoisseurs of stories of chaotic productions, who’ll enjoy parsing out how a film years in the making, with limitless resources, could turn out this garbled. Times


It's time to treat yourself to that new pencil case — school's back! But this time it's got a distinctly junipery flavour, and no maths. The Distillery is launching a new gin school, with sessions lasting from an hour to 150 ginny minutes. In the news everybody wanted to hear, all classes include a G&T on arrival — so no awkward waiting for that first pour. Opt for the bronze package 'general intro to distilling', with gin cocktail lesson, a history of gin, and a closing G&T (for just because reasons) for £20 per pupil. Or go right up to the glitter ball of a Gold+ option at £70 a spot. Here, in addition to the basics, you make, bottle and badge your own gin for keeps, using copper stills and all of your nous. And a three-course meal follows, again for just because reasons. Enquire and book for a minimum of five, max of 40, by emailing: Snogs behind the bike sheds at your leisure. 
Venue: Waters Restaurant, Resorts World Birmingham, B40 1PU; Website
Choice: Tasting of Cornish lamb (two-courses is £30) Chooser: Bev Waters

A short walk from Birmingham International lives Andy Waters, and a kitchen full of B'ham food grads about whom Waters couldn't be more enthusiastic. Talking enthusiasm, Waters is one of the few chefs we really can't push to recommend a specific dish from the menu — if it's on the list he backs it fully and equally. We did convince front of house and wife (Bev) to get specific, however, and the tasting of Cornish lamb is where she was at. Cooked three-ways — because two just isn't enough — the dish includes braised shoulder, pink loin and a complete hero of a sweetbread fritter. Like should have its own Marvel trilogy kind of hero. And the buttered minted leeks, sweetcorn and pomme fondant accompaniments would still be getting cameos by the final instalment. To call Waters Restaurant a crowd-pleaser is to make it sound more basic than its tasty amuse-bouches, pre-desserts and presentation demands. But it is a crowd pleaser in a good way, and its proud to be — high-end but accessible and without pretence.
Sign up to our younger, wiser sister title Bell & Smokey for your chance to win a necklace worth precisely £155, from JQ jeweller, Rhiannon Lewis.
Digbeth Arts Market is launching an art and design exhibition this Saturday in Cranked Cafe and Digbeth Arts Gallery Shop. Until December 8.
Movie in the brewery? Okay then! have teamed up with Two Towers Brewery for a screening of Beer Hunter at The Gunmakers' Arms Jan 27. Tickets are £13.
Ice Skate Birmingham opens today, and for the first time, it's down Millenium Point way. Great news if you like ice skating. Kind of irrelevant if you don't.
Pug Cafe is coming to Birmingham — dognuts, pupcakes and pugcino included. At Kanteen on January 7, booking opens December 7. More

"Gin and drugs, dear lady, gin and drugs." 

T.S. Eliot, when asked about inspiration

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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Andrew Lowry
IMAGES: Jack Spicer Adams (Webbs Food Hall)

I Choose Birmingham, 18 Great Western Arcade, Birmingham B2 5HU
Copyright © 2017 Birmingham Publishing Group Ltd, All rights reserved.

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