Issue 193
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... As Mike Skinner famously suggested. Chances are he wasn't talking about the massive £30 million renovation of Birmingham's Grand Hotel, which is 12 years in, with just two years to play. Having had a nosy around it last week, they may not want to take their feet off the gas as there's still plenty to be done. But, when finished, mark our words it's going to be sensational. Rooftop pool and everything.
"We've made some stunning discoveries since arriving on site," says principal surveyor James Slater. "This crate is from when the original hotel used to bottle its own water from two freshwater wells, which we've retained but are not currently using. We found about 1,000 bottles with 'Grand Hotel' beautifully embossed on them. Though mainly in storage, you can see some in the bottle display in the basement of [close-neighbour] The Alchemist." 
"This space [above] was originally going to be a brewery, but latterly we thought about creating a distillery. Then we learned about the need for a "blast wall" within any distillery and thought, maybe not. Instead it's going to be a bar. Something beautiful and subterranean. Here you see only half of the space that our plans will eventually include but suffice to say it will be very different." 
"There's been a lot of speculation about the rooftop pool — the balcony you see in the photo is to be extended and as part of the hotel's spa, a plunge pool will sit within it. The Principal operated hotel will also include 180 bedrooms and suites, as well as conference and banquet spaces, a restaurant and bar. Though I don't think you'll be able to call it 5-star due to necessary attributes, like car parking, that the star ratings system requires hotels to have. But it will be high-end luxury, and in some regards it's going to exceed your perceptions of 5-stars."
"Historically, buildings would be really dark. Lightwells — like the sizeable gap pictured here — are big openings in buildings that allow natural light to pass down all the way to the ground floor, containing glazed bricks that would reflect the light. Restoring it's been a huge job. It's all sealed in now and includes one of three lift shafts that we've installed.

"Dealing with an historic building is challenging because you never know what's behind one wall, and the next. None of it's straight, none of it's level — and trying to interface a new structure into that can be a real struggle. With such a confined site, getting new materials in has been another big issue. But we've done it meticulously — we had no choice. It's been much slower than the speed at which you'd usually hit a site like this."
"We haven't done anything with The Grand Staircase at the moment. Built in 1875, it probably wouldn't meet current regulations with regards to gaps in between it and the openness of it, but we'll change the way that the stairwell and the balustrade work and make this into a beautiful open staircase. 

"It's been the trickiest job of my career — and probably ever — I don't think there are many jobs like this that come up. I can't wait to see it complete, now. To see people enjoy using it and the changes the development is bringing to the area, it gives me a real sense of pride." 


Two-minute quiz: How many people roll a seven in Titus Andronicus? The correct answer is a gloriously gory 14 — the most in any Shakespeare play. But severed heads aren't even the biggest problem over at the RSC's Prop Shop. It's the scene where Titus cuts off his own hand, using a scalpel and electric bone saw that's consumed the most thought. It's also the scene that RSC illusionist, Chris Fisher, is most excited by — it's going to be "quite horrifying to watch and it will be interesting to see how people react". Interesting and part of a research project monitoring the emotional engagement of theatre vs cinema audiences. Half the participants will watch the play while the other half see it live streamed at the cinema on August 9, all hooked up to heart monitors. Titus continues until Sept 2. Tickets from £10.  


Gelato, per favore is one of three Italian phrases we've got locked down. You may want to borrow it. Anyhoo, the idea for this work of art, called Gelati, came to Latvian painter Liene Liepiņa at a market fair, where an Italian travelling theatre put on a show involving an old fashioned trolley like the one depicted. To portray the seller, Liepiņa selected her favourite character from across her portfolio — who she simply calls monkey. "I give the freedom of imagination to each observer to follow their feelings and senses and name the ice-cream salesman accordingly." We're going with Eric. The oil painting, yours framed for £3,950, forms part of Castle Galleries' summer exhibition, which includes the work of 11 contemporary artists, selected specially for their innovative use of visual arts.The exhibition launches Saturday, continuing til August 27. Entry is free.


The Mailbox has launched a week-long festival of food and drink events, tastings and demos. From August 7 to 13, the programme includes that lot from The Wilderness driving an ice-cream van into Harvey Nichols as part of a kitchen and cocktail takeover. Get six-courses (£75) of satirical summer holidays in the form of food on August 13, including new creations as well as restaurant stalwarts like Oh B*llocks (pictured, top left). Alternatively, you can try the bar menu, or stop off for the team's alcoholic-takes on childhood belters like a Mr Whippy and Calippo from the joyously naff van pictured. You can also join Lap-fai Lee for an Asian seafood master class at the ever so attractive Kitchen Gallery. For exactly £38.57, at 12pm or at 3pm, you'll make sushi, grill scallops and curry prawns as part of a hands-on group of eight, then get down to chowing the fruits of your labouring in the store's dining room you'll want for your own. More events are still being confirmed including a four-restaurant food tour and plenty of pop up sampling. Watch THIS space.


Star of TV sitcom Silicon Valley, Kumail Nanjiani, takes a major step up with this autobiographical comedy he co-wrote with his wife. At first, we feel like we’re in standard romcom territory — standup Nanjiani undergoing a well-acted but familiar meet-cute with heckler (Zoe Kazan) and their burgeoning relationship coming up against his parents’ desire for him to marry a Pakistani girl. All fine, but what comes next is such a left-turn it has to be a true story: Kazan contracts a mystery disease and is put into a coma, bringing her own parents into the mix. It’s surprisingly tense, but this is no weepie – well-crafted gags keep coming, and Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are terrific as Kazan’s parents. Clashing cultures are well-mined territory, but this feels fresh, and it’s a pleasure watching one of comedy’s hey-it’s-that-guy! nail his first leading role. Times & trailer


The Jewellery Quarter is having a do. And you're invited. Incorporating jazz festival, ale trail, backstage studio access, circus and a Digbeth Dining Club street food take over, the festival hubs are at St Paul's Square and Golden Square, where you'll also find a helter skelter. Of course. From 4pm Friday and throughout the rest of this very weekend, get fed by the likes of Street Souvlaki, Low'n'Slow and Bournville Waffle Company. And sated by your feasting (or perhaps as justification for it) on Saturday and Sunday, join the Open Studios Trail, for a nosy on round the artisans and crafty types that continue to create and fix and sprinkle magic around the JQ's cobbley bits. And if that sounds like something approaching hard work, the fifty strong trail also houses an excellent proportion of breweries, pubs and a full on chocolate shop. Full programme
Venue: San Carlo, Temple Street, B2 5BN; website
Choice: Veal cutlet (ethically farmed, £26.20) Chooser: Front of House

It doesn't take a Mystic Meg/Uri Geller dream team to predict that you, dear reader, have never cooked veal at home, have you? Why? Because you'll make a bloody great hash of it and your dinner guests will slag it off Come Dine With Me-style, the minute they're in the taxi. Heavens, this took a quick, negative turn. Let's turn things around. You don't need to DIY veal because the ethically farmed chop at San Carlo is the best veal dish in the city, hands down. Cotoletta Di Vitello Nodino is a juicy and fully flavoursome cutlet unapologetically smothered in butter and sage. Richer than a member of Donald Trump's cabinet, it'll make your tastebuds want to run off with it for a naughty weekend in the Lakes. Coming with that ever so reassuring "allow 20 minutes for cooking" proviso, pair it with Rapitala Gran Cru (an interesting Sicilian Chardonnay) if you're a white drinker, the immense Valpolicella that is Amarone Classico ‘La Colombia’ (for the red fans who are willing to splash out), or the more affordable Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano Lungarotti, an ever reliable, good value Umbrian. A comprehensive, serious wine list, this.
  • 50% off a super selection of bottles of wine is yours for the taking at Opus Cornwall Street throughout August
  • Tickets for Arcade Fire's April 2018 Birmingham gig go on sale at 9am tomorrow 
  • Next up at 1,000 Trades, private chefs Ox & Origin, bringing small plates from £3 to £10. July 31 til August 12 is your window
  • Birmingham Cathedral Film Festival starts Friday with Back to the Future progressing to The Goonies by August 11
  • Smoking Bagels launches its first physical store in Great Barr this Saturday. There'll be a choccie creation filled with oreo cream
"Vengeance is in my heart, death in my hand, blood and revenge are hammering in my head." - William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus
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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Andrew LowryTom Cullen
IMAGERY: Tom Bird (The Grand Hotel), Helen Maybanks (C) RSC (Titus Andronicus), JQ Gibson Kochanek (JQ Festival), Lap-Fai Lee (scallop, tuna and knife)

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