Issue 275
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THE MAKING OF A STREET FOOD TRADER

Why dip your toe in when you can cannonball? It's a lion-hearted life motto, but one that's lived and breathed by Dani Page, founder of Birmingham's newest street food squeeze, Beef On The Block. Shunning the usual slowly-slowly-catchy-monkey approach, Dani turned a kernel of an idea into an all-singing-all-dancing steak brand in just a few months. Caution: Readers in the first few rows will get splashed. 
ON LEAVING A CAREER
"Last summer, I got a few shifts with The English Indian at Digbeth Dining Club. The customers loved what we were offering — and it felt so good being part of that, like a night out I was getting paid to be on. I've always been a decent host but don't have any formal training in food. After my experience at DDC, I seriously started thinking about whether street food was something I could do as a business. I was the store manager at Boots and at times absolutely loved my job and career, something I started after completing a degree in Fine Arts. But with more and more cuts, the role was getting less creative and despite having strong prospects, I realised I wanted to get back into the world of making things and being part of something.

"I picked up some more street food shifts, this time with Only Jerkin' and Canoodle, and even worked the doors at DDC for a bit. I spent so much time there including whole nights just watching how people interact with stands and their branding, down to how menu-size effects people's decisions to approach a vendor (make them big and bold guys). Then I did my research, figured out my numbers, cashed in my rainy day fund from paintings I had sold, and quit my job. It felt amazing. Daunting but, yeah, amazing."
ON BEEF
"To make this work, I had to find an offering I loved and that no one else was putting out. Proper British food is my absolute favourite — roast dinners and steaks are where it's at — and after trying as much beef as possible from London's Up in My Grill and Kerb, I knew I had to give the Midlands incredible steak and chips. But would the costs work out?

"I got loads of advice about suppliers from Andy Low 'N' Slow, and ended up heading to Aubrey Allen's HQ for a day of butchery, going through all the different cuts of meat and how to make the absolute best of them. When I experimented with the samples back at home I knew it had to be bavette that I served, which worked in terms of costs as well as taste. It's a juicy, tender cut with so much flavour, if you slice it properly. If you don't, it's like chewing on a long piece of string. I've practiced so much and pre-cut and vac-pac all my meat so it's absolutely perfect when it gets to the grill." 
ON BRANDING
"The concept was originally called Steak Club. I know what you're thinking; awful name, right? My mate told me how boring it was and that I couldn't open unless I came up with something better. She was right and as soon as we thought of Beef on the Block, I knew I had a business. Next up the branding. Ten years ago, cooking solid food got people to your gazebo, now, however great your offering tastes, if your brand is shocking, no one’s even going to look at you.

"With my background in fine arts, I seriously needed to be reigned in. I had an idea that my van was going to be covered in my nutty paintings but my graphic designer rightly had a different idea. I love the end result. The lines and the colours are my little bit of loopy but it's clear and accessible and the reaction on social media's been amazing. The van was driven over from France, where it had previously been used to transport horses. Here's a before shot. Having seen how many hours it can take vendors to pack down at the end of a day of trading, I knew I wanted to be self-sufficient and have something I could just drive away in at the end of the night."
ON OPENING NIGHT
"I was so fortunate to land my first gig at DDC. I'd spent all week prepping and woke at 6am even though trading didn't start until midday. I was crazily excited. When I went to start the beloved van, the engine just wouldn't do anything and a little red light of doom came up on the dash. The battery had gone and jump leads wouldn't re-start it. I was freaking out and couldn't stop pacing up and down waiting for the AA. People were already queuing up outside DDC and asking where we were — customer service is my number one and I was desperate not to disappoint.

"We finally rolled up the shutters three hours late! And as the queue grew, I felt pretty nervous but within an hour, we'd found our pace and were flying. Putting that little bit of parsley on at the end and handing out the dish was so satisfying, then people started coming back to say how amazing it tasted and the buzz was incredible.

"Right now, I just want people to love the food — for the steak to be as good at the end of the day as it was at the beginning. If somebody ever came up to me and said your food tasted shit, that would actually break my heart: I'd burst out crying. And I’ll work so hard to make sure that doesn’t happen."
Find Beef on the Block at DDC on April 7 and various other spots this month.

STREET ART, MINUS THE STREET


Meet COYS1 — a street art persona of no age, gender or race that's appeared in thousands of forms since 2010, when a Brum-based artist first sketched the sometimes curious, sometimes sinister, sometimes bright, unknown being. Fast forward nine years, plenty of collaborations and the resignation by the artist from a blue-chip company, and you can see the many faces of COYS1 at an exhibition opening on Friday night. But will you spot the artist behind it all? Hugely engaging drawings, stickers, photos, fold-ups, paste-ups and mixed media originals of the character are being shown at the Jubilee Centre throughout April. Entry is free. The deets

FILM OF THE WEEK: DUMBO


Tim Burton has had a wretched decade since Alice in Wonderland, so it’s nice to see a return to form – even if he’s done it by shedding the cool cynicism that was once his trademark. He’s instead turned in an unapologetically warm-hearted children’s film that still allows him to indulge his love for weird design, clowns and Danny DeVito in a top hat. It helps, then, that this is set at a circus: the trapeze acts, big top acts and various pieces of old-school pizzazz are when Dumbo really comes alive. Everything else is thin in a way that tots won’t mind but probably won’t enchant parents quite so much – but at least this is the first Burton film in ages that feels like he made it. Times

HEATH IN 'DA HAUS


Sorry, but we're reporting, blocking and chucking a year's worth of cat poo at anyone who doesn't love Brumhaus's latest artwork. Brumhaus (or Alex Edwards, as his bank manager insists on calling him) has been doodling prints of our city's skyline and its major landmarks for years — you can see his work here. And now he's getting sucked into the 'burbs, having already turned his inimitable hand to Moseley, he's now conquered cooler neighbour Kings Heath. The montage of graphical geometric buildings and gorgeous organic greenery stretches from Highbury Park to the Hare and Hounds, via the hidden gem of St Dunstan's Church and more. The li'l tease has been tweeting sneaky peekies of the piece for weekies, but we can now exclusively reveal the finished look. Wonder why he didn't include the local ASDA? Maybe because it's THE WORST PLACE IN EUROPE. Yours for the keep from £50, available as a signed, fine art print from 40x30cm right up to a whopping A0. Buy it
Venue: The Butchers Social, Henley-in-Arden, B95 5AT; website 
Choice: Halibut (£60, six-course taster) Chooser: Chef director, Mike Bullard

Don't tell anyone, but our editor is an imposter. From a little village between Bath and Bristol (no, you haven't heard of it), lovely pubs with lovely beer gardens and even lovelier menus course through her food-obsessed veins. Further up England, the great country pub is a little harder to come by. But come by it we did. For a big slab of Midlands lovely, get yourself to Henley-in-Arden and Mike Bullard's Butchers Social, the first version of which you might remember from Harborne High Street. Opting for the tasting menu, the sweet intensity of the roasted Roscoff onion broth, in which scallops and charred leeks sit, was standout. The roast halibut with a potato roulade, wild mushrooms, romanesco and crispy chicken skin was, however, Clubber Lang levels of knockout — with buttery, flakey, melty fish just perfect. Looking at the standard of steaks flying out of the kitchen (we'll be back for you my friend), the team is also clearly very comfortable with red meat, and the navarin of lamb — a rich, slow-cooked, flavour-filled thwack of neck — was our carnivorous highlight.  If The Butchers Social were in the city centre, it would be heaving every night. Whether you're there for a pint and kilo of chicken wings, or you've booked into the restaurant, you're going to be checking Zoopla on your way home — this is a relaxed, happy place that we'd clamour to call our local. 
Sample menu
 
The Chess Board is a monthly addition to Birmingham Whisky Club's calendar, which starts tonight. Entry, from 5pm, is free but register for the event and your first dram is on the house. Chess boards are first come, first served, yo.
Opus holds a series of interesting convos throughout the year. Hear choreographer Rosie Kay and the Hippodrome's Fiona Allan talk show development and how you make dance into a successful dance business on April 29. Tickets (including a drink) are £7.50.

Moseley Farmers' market is this Saturday from 9am until 2pm. Don't be eating breakfast before you get there — don't be that guy. 
Into The Water is a new production being performed in and around a swimming pool. And not just any swimming pool — Moseley Road Baths is where you'll find the cast on April 13 and 14. Tickets are £5.
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday, which is also Mother's Day. We got you.
 


"I seen a peanut stand. And heard a rubber band. I've seen a needle that winked its eye. But I been done seen about everything. When I see an elephant fly."


Jim "Dandy" Crow, Dumbo (1941)



 
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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Robb SheppardAndrew Lowry, Tom Cullen
PICTURES: Dumbo — Walt Disney Studios

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