Issue 185
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Cycling is having a moment. And whether you're a lapsed Chris Hoy or it's been a gazillion years since you last hopped on a bike, we've been speaking to James Connolly at Brum's cycling (and caffeine) HQ, Gorilla Coffee Café. Perfectly pairing two of our favourite things, the former triathlete's got inspiration in the form of four routes, from ten miles to the Cotswolds and back. And good coffee. Weird, right? 
"Primary school was my last ride" (Brindleyplace to Bournville; 5 miles)
This ride picks up the traffic free canal network from Brindleyplace down to Cadbury World and is ideal for learners and young families. It's a route of only five miles with a hill count of zilcho. If it goes well, you can head back the same way. If one direction is peak you right now, you can procure some baked goods from Loaf, or a pint at The British Oak and hop on to the train from Bournville station right back in to New Street. Not having a bike isn't even a barrier for this one — the Brompton bike hire scheme has docks at Brindleyplace and New Street, while Cycle Chain is located next to the Sealife centre, and the beginning of this ride. Route
"Went out last night but was home pre-midnight" (Three parks; 10 miles)
Start at the most convenient spot on this circular route, which is virtually car free. Fill up those lungs with the good stuff on your way through Kings Heath Park, Highbury Park, and Cannon Hill Park, as you follow the well-signed Rea Valley Route for much of it. Another straight forward option, but including a few hills and a little more length, it's great for those that might need to build their confidence. Take a chum and use Cannon Hill Park's ice-cream van as your motivation. Route
"I can fix punctures" (Kings Heath — Solihull — Meriden — Claverdon — Henley-in-Arden — Ullenhall — Kings Norton — Kings Heath; 50 miles)
Again you can pick the most convenient spot to begin this circular road route, remembering, if you don't live near it, there are train stations at Solihull, Kings Norton and lovely Henley-in-Arden, which also presents beer garden potential in the form of The Butcher's Social. It's a 50 miler with climbs, which follows the same roads you'd drive between the key locations. If you don't have a sense of direction or GPS sort of thing, this is exactly the kind of jaunt you can expect to join if you try Gorilla Coffee Cafe's Sunday Cycle Club, where you can pick between a 35 and 50 mile ride each week at 8.30am. Route
"Pain is my pleasure" (Wythall — Chipping Camden — Wythall; 70 miles)
Starting from Wythall, south Birmingham, this ride is aimed at advanced cyclists and the 15,000 of you crazies undertaking the 100 mile Velo Birmingham this September, of which we happen to be one. For a life-affirming ride, head south from Wythall towards Stratford-upon-Avon and the beatific Cotswolds. Mile 35, just outside Chipping Camden sees a terrific 650 ft hill, with a gradient of up to 12%. Your reward for this exertion comes in the form of the village's Eight Bells pub, where the calamari is worthy of a double order and the session Hooky a pint-worthy 3.5%. We won't bring up the 35 miles you're still going go need to complete to make it home. Route


"Football's not a matter of life and death," said Bill Shankly. "It's much more serious than that." Thinking that there might be something in this, The Rep's staging a completely new production, focusing on relationships between real Birmingham City, Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion fans. Stadium presents the extraordinary experiences of supporters, through music, rousing choreography, songs and big screen footage, looking at the prospect of relegation, promotion — and perhaps more importantly — relationships made and friendships lost. Showing from June 9 to 17, tickets to this particular local derby are from an unusually competitive £10. Father's Day option, maybe?


After Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman, a DC comics movie that manages to walk and chew gum at the same time would be a nice surprise. An even nicer surprise, though, is that Wonder Woman is actually good. Swapping the portentous darkness of the previous two films for a refreshing goofiness – which feels odd to say, given the plot revolves around chemical weapons in WW1. Gal Gadot gives a star-is-born turn as the titular Amazonian who is changed forever when spy Chris Pine crash lands on her island, showing herself equally adept at action and inspired fish-out-of-water moments, including in 1910s London, when she’s paired with, of all people, Dawn from The Office. Times


There's something deftly decadent about spending a night away in the city where you live. Staying Cool Apartments is consistently rated top of the top when it comes to Trip Advisor in Brum, and they've got a penthouse with you + 3 names all over it. Think king size beds, Poggenpohl kitchens, BOSE speakers and a sweeping panoramic balcony. Which is probably precisely where you'll want to sup down the bottle of Champagne which also forms part of this Rotunda-based prize. To be in the running, all you need do is subscribe to our ever so attractive, freemium little sister of a title, Bell & Smokey by midday on June 12. Usually from £299, your night's stay in the two bedroomer must be claimed during 2017. T&C apply, winner picked entirely at random. More
Venue: Chez Mal at Malmaison, The Mailbox, B1 2JR; website
Choice: Vegetable risotto (£19.95, as part of fixed menu) Chooser: Waitress

We've been left pretty cold by the food at Chez Mal in the past, so will immediately disclose it's been years rather than months since we made it past their bar. But we're pleased a return visit we did make. What felt very much like a hotel restaurant — full of lone diners and their expenses accounts — has made strides into a different market, of engaged youngish professional types, demanding more than a sirloin, well done. The kitchen's fixed menu is all about doing the simple things right, with great ingredients at the centre of the taste equation — think creamy burrata, fish that tastes like it was caught that morning, and herbs used right. The risotto was a clear your plate example of this. Retaining plenty of bite, it was velvety, full of fresh (the pea shoots working particularly well) and retained a structure that made our meat-ordering plus one take part in some pretty serious food-swiping. The seasoning was the only element that wasn't precisely to sir's liking but it's been said before that we may have a palate on the saltier side of the sea. Menu
  • The Church has announced the start of summer. It's tomorrow. And there's a party from 9pm. Aperol Spritz's are on the 2-4-1
  • Every available space is getting the hip hopped out of it on June 2 and 3, with Breakin Convention, which will be filling up The Rep with dance, music, film and poetry. Tickets are from £10
  • Aurora Orchestra are performing Brahms’ Symphony No.1 at Symphony Hall on June 4. From memory. It'll be a lot like this. Tickets
  • Fresh flavour evangelists Mowgli Street Food are coming to Brum. Not actually to the street but to a Grand Central locale. Their Liverpool haunts look dead nice
  • Festival de Can has nout to do with Cannes but lots to do with incredible films matched with incredible brewmasters and their beer. From June 15 at The Electric, it's been too long since you saw Goodfellas
  • Increase your chances of winning a pair of return flights to Malaga from BHX with BA by getting your dearest nearest to subscribe to this here e-mag. The draw takes place midday June 5
"Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike" — JFK
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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Andrew LowryTom Cullen
IMAGES: Verity Milligan (canal, rotunda), Ross Jukes (Cannon Hill Park), Kris Askey (Stadium)

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