Issue 450
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86 the diet because the by-now legendary Birmingham Restaurant Festival is coming over the hill and the menus are in. This year almost 40 top Brum venues are taking part offering a wild variety of set menus and moneysaving deals, from July 28 to August 27. You won't need a reminder of the hospitality bloodbath that's taking place across our city courtesy of crippling energy bills and a cost of living crisis that has gone truly gah-gah. Getting involved in the festival is just one way to help out and the savings to be had are tip-top. You'll need to book in advance and reservations are now open. Here's just a handful of the places taking part and some of the bobby dazzler dishes that'll be flying out come late-July. You can see all the rest right here. This could prove to be a handy Father's day gift, n'est-ce pas?
If you've not become acquainted with the 24th floor of 103 Colmore Row yet, well, there's never been a more cost effective time. At just £69 per person you'll not only get easily the best dining view in the entire city but a tasting menu that includes the remarkably pretty goats curd and wye valley asparagus tart, above. Also heading your way is Isle of White tomatoes, black olive, burrata, black sesame, sourdough and gazpacho, followed by Cornish cod, courgette, smoked cod roe, jersey royals and wakame and (not or!) roasted Sladesdown duck breast, spelt, cauliflower, radicchio and truffle sauce. Strawberry mousse, basil, meringue and yoghurt sorbet, plus macaroons seal the deal for afters, the former of which is Instagram heaven if you can take eye off the aerial views for just one second. Book
Moseley's independent paen to French food is coming in hot with a hand-dived scallop number (above), in a seafood velouté all sealed with puff pastry. Have mercy! Given this is a taster menu you'll also get black truffle and aged comté gougère, ballotine of chicken, crispy chicken skin, pomme puree, wild mushrooms and tartare hollandaise, lime sorbet and chocolate delice tart with salted caramel ice cream and caramelised banana. Chef owner, Ben Taylor, spent this week competing for the title at the British Culinary Federation Chef Of The Year 2023 if you need any indication of the calibre of cuisine coming out of that kitchen. Their taster is just £45 with a halibut supplement course on offer, to boot. Book
Quietly getting on wth it, over in Edgbaston, and having done so for years now, The Blue Piano is set inside a beautiful Edwardian building — this really is like dining in someone's home. Though not strictly vegetarian some of the absolute standouts on the Far East Asian menu come sans meat. Their Singapore carrot cake starter would easily feature in a best of the best Brum restaurant menu (someone should do that) the savoury street food dish made with rice and cooked with chilli, garlic, and sweet soy sauce is bizarre and quite brilliant in equal measure — it does contain egg, mind. On mains their vegetarian nasi goreng is that classic Indonesian fried rice dish (above) but swerving chicken, which can be added but is utterly not needed.  All the flavour you could possibly want is right there. If you want to time your visit to take in some of their excellent live music, check the schedule out here. Two courses are a snip at £17.95. Book
The quality of the food coming out of the Isaac's kitchen is back where it was when they first launched their Grand Hotel-based tribute to NYC, and long may that continue. The interior here is one of the most immaculate in Brum — a real destination restaurant with endless photo opps to be had. But it's far from style over substance and at just £25 for two courses (or three for £30) you won't need to consult your accountant (or spouse) before booking. Spring arancini and mozzarella with mint mayo is on entrees alongside buffalo wings and a spectacular looking prawn cocktail. A deep dive flavour hit — sea food linguini with confit tomato sauce, chilli and lime (above) — is wrestling it out with Hereford rump and peppercorn on mains. Isaac's don't play games when it comes to pud either, your options being New York-style chocolate baked cheesecake with blood orange compote and citrus crumb, or a strawberries and cream Sunday with lime and white choc. Book
With Pulperia and Anderson's recent casualties of the crushing costs crisis, Brum's steak game has a big whole in it and, honestly, Gaucho can't fill it. Thank all the gods then for Fiesta Del Asado, still doing its thing on the Hagley Road, eleven years since launch. Spiral pork sausage flavoured with smoked paprika and garlic, served with fresh heritage tomato and onion is a standout starter alongside a gourmet croquette selection that includes black squid ink and truffle with Iberian jamon. A 340g ribeye (the best cut, let's be honest) grilled on the parrilla might be the hero main (above) but the seabass is no menu makeweight. A smooth, baked cheesecake served with dulce de leche and coffee ice cream looks good on pud, as do churros with warm, melted choc. Two courses for £32.95 when you can easily drop that amount on the steak alone makes this a wallet-friendly way to hit up the meats, the cost of which have, quite rightly, gone a bit insane in the old membrane of late. Book
Another venue that for budgetry reasons may require 'special occasion only' attendance, Tattu, has committed to some eye-opening value that deserves consideration. For £55 per person you'll get three courses plus a drink (wine, beer or softs) in their Japanese-blossom bedecked basement spot. Pick between shredded beef spring rolls or coconut and chicken salad to start, then satay beef ribeye or Thai-style Monkfish on mains. But a decent rule of thumb at Tattu is to always (and I mean always) leave room for dessert. This year they're bringing their A-game with a white chocolate dragon egg with coconut, passionfruit and mango (pictured). Bloody Norah! Book
Birmingham Restaurant Festival runs July 28 to August 27. Head here for a full list of venues taking part complete with menus and booking links.


As artificial intelligence threatens global annihilation it's comforting to know that some people continue to hold technology in the palm of their hand, rather than vice versa. Case in point, The Park Playground, that launches it's latest Virtual Reality destination in Brindleyplace, June 15.

If you think we have decent VR in the city now, in the shape of Otherworld, well this promises to be an entire level above. The Park Playground specialises in providing a location-based immersive experience like no other, where you're free to move around (see above) rather than limited to an increasingly stuffy pod.

Launched in Belgium in 2018, they already have 12 locations across Europe and Australia and will take up a beaut canal-side spot when they open here.

VR is growing in popularity, obviously, and as we enter the age of the metaverse, our real and virtual realities are blending more than ever. Ditching the heavy backpacks and cables — thank God — this hyper-realistic free-roam adventure is fully mobile and has state of the art HTC VIVE Focus 3 VR goggles. I don't know what that means either, but word on the street is they are genuine game changers in the virtual realm
With a mad host of worlds to choose from, the games are designed to offer an emotive group experience that borders both the digital world and the physical one — giving the unique opportunity to discover virtual reality as it’s never been experienced. Each stimulating game gives players the opportunity to make their own choices, building a unique journey each time — every decision impacting the outcome. Blunders being blunders, moments of genius paying off. 

Here's how it works: You place your VR goggles on, controller or weapon in hand, no cables attached, and off you pop to explore 49 square metres of free-roam virtual reality in your new role as space-marine or zombie hunter, or whatever other madness you've agreed to hurl your virtual life in the way of. We're talking experiences so immersive that your fight or flight instinct kicks in, but given you're playing together in a group, might be best to stand your ground. You'll be able to see your fellow players moving next to you (you can chat with them too), and they'll be able to see you legging it, like big girl's blouse.

To celebrate the launch The Park Playground are offering ICB readers a juicy 25% off. To claim your discount simply use the code ICHOOSEVR before you checkout. More


Bring your friends, family, and an open heart gahdammit, to embrace the power of music, art, culture, and community at this year’s Refugee Week Festival brought to you by Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham (CSB).

It's all set to be a bangin' experience, filled with BIG music, captivating performances, and inspiring stories that transcend borders and embrace the spirit of unity.

The festival kicks off on June 17 and runs until June 25, with a diverse programme of 20+ events happening in all corners of the city. And much of it is free!

CSB have partnered with MAC to create a ‘Family Takeover’ where you and your mini crew can dance, sing, twist and shout to music from Sudan, Sierra Leone, Poland and Gambia — all in the sunshine thanks to MAC’s open air, gladiatorial amphitheatre. No combat, okay? 

The event is also taking over Symphony Hall for a line up of live music originating from Anatolia, Guinea-Bissau and Ethiopia (like Krar Collective, pictured) as well as a fusion of yoga and live music, so you can nurture your body, mind, and spirit while getting to know more about the lives of refugees. With the addition of short films, spoken word, workshops, free jazz and community meet ups, it's going to be very hard to be bored at this one. 

This event is a testament to the strength of unity, compassion, and the belief in a more inclusive world. By attending you are joining a movement that supports and amplifies the voices of refugees, fostering understanding and empathy.

Hats off to Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham, by the way, which is hellbent on creating a vibrant, inclusive space where people from all walks of life can come together and celebrate the universal language of music. Seems like a fairly decent MO to us. Full programme and tickets


The University of Birmingham's quite brilliant A Place To Call Home series of events, taking place at their historic The Exchange on Centenary Square, continues with a volley of late night events focussing on the aforementioned World Refugee Day, June 20.

Across the course of just one evening, and completely free to attend, you can check out a panel discussion chaired by Professor Nando Sigona, exploring the challenges that asylum seekers and refugees face today and the contributions they make to their communities. Panellists include Arten Llazari (Refugee Migrant Centre), Comfort Etim and Hana Leshaj (both Refugee Women Connect).

After that you'll have the opportunity to listen to stories of hope and home from individuals with lived experience who have sought sanctuary in Brum while special live art performances will be taking place throughout The Exchange in parts that are usually hidden. It really is a spectacular building and well worth having a butcher's at. 

A series of powerful films featuring testimony from survivors in Ukraine and Poland will also be screened that evening. Collectively titled Not A Single Safe Place, these important films raise public awareness of gendered violence in conflict and displacement.

And finally there will be an opportunity to join members of Shelanu: Women’s Craft Collective to make origami boats while exploring the Refugee Week theme of compassion. Good people doing good things. Register
Venue: Thai Classic, Unit 4, Latitude, Bromsgrove St, B5 6AB; website
Choice: Grilled Beef, Thai-style Spicy Sticky Sauce (£5.50) Chooser: Avery

It’s a blessing and curse having friends with discerning cultural palates. So it is with my Thai pal, who I dragged along — so perceptive are her taste buds — to be my litmus test for Thai Classic. By gum, did I not realise how much regions get particular about the way it’s done. Perched just on the periphery of the main Chinatown drag on Bromsgrove Street, it’s a little more of a schlep, but worth it for affordable, decent Thai food (not done Pan’s way, I must stress).

First thing: cash is king. Your contactless does diddly squat. Welcomed instructively, we ricocheted through saloon doors into a comfortable culture clash, gently ticking off the prerequisite statues alongside handmade lighting from Bangkok and slick, simple seating. We joined an ambient early Friday crowd, couples and family feasts, sitting next to full-width windows streaming light in —and views of the carpark.

Eager to test authenticity, we chose classics alongside dishes proffered by Avery, who gave some A-1 suggestions in return for Thai phrases to impress the (bona fide) Thai chefs. The menu lists ‘rice’ and ‘dish’ options — ‘rice’ is, you guessed it, smaller, with rice; the more expensive ‘dish’ comes platter-style, bigger, minus the white stuff.

From the recommendations we rolled for Tom Yam Goong (£10.90, easily a group sharer). Not ‘home hot’, this is definitely for meek and milds and needed an extra bang of lemongrass, but it’s a plum pick if you like the sweeter end of things – the prawns were perfect too. Avery’s suggestion was the Fisherman Soup: a more sour option, hotter, and even hotter if you ask nicely (or maniacally). 

The standout was, surprisingly, something we’d brushed off for its ‘inauthenticity’. Avery’s beef bao recommendation left our resident Thai even a little steamy in the ears. The descriptive spicy sticky sauce was true to name and perfect: a slightly hotter laab-style smothering rare beef, cool salad and packaged in a bun that doesn’t leave you feeling done over on size.

We were impressed with the creamy heat of the generous Gaeng Panang (£12.90), with smooth, tender chicken in a thick sauce, not needing mop-up rice. The Pad Kra Pao (£12.90) was missing the strong Thai holy basil hit but there’s a cost of living crisis out there and that stuff’s spenny. It seemed more Chinese-inspired with veg, onion and green beans – no bad thing as it was filling. You can’t under-order here; it’s all good-sized, packed with vegetables. The tamarind duck (£14.90)— usually prawns — was really rather good: crispy duck with a tangy sweetness that wasn’t at all cloying. Quite honestly, we didn’t need the rice.

We sprang for dessert after the heat, mainly outside. Two light, sweet but refreshing options in the mango sticky rice (£5.90) and Khanom Tako — pudding with coconut cream topping (£4.90). Two thumbs up for ‘true Thai-ness’, it was the cooling, light finish needed and the fresh, fleshy mango was another level of sweetness. Sliced sunshine.

Thai Classic is probably the best decently-priced Thai meal you’ll find in the city centre. It’s not going to blow your socks off, heat or otherwise, but not everywhere needs to, does it? It’s clearly popular, thanks to the bang for your buck trio of portion size, price and lovely atmosphere. And it may be entry-level Thai, but it passed the test.


Seasonal Markets, pioneers of Brum's indy festival scene, have joined forces with the Stirchley's Attic Brew Co. to bring you Suds Fest, Birmingham's own home-grown craft beer festival, July 1.

Taking place in the (now more than ever) stunner of a venue, The Bond (Digbeth), Suds will bring some of the best breweries in the UK to Brum to pour alongside a host of Attic's own beers.

Attic have quickly become one of Birmingham's best loved breweries and their pale ale, Intuition, is becoming Birmingham's go to beer. While it's hard to remember this city without Seasonal Markets, who have carved out a niche for themselves in producing and executing superb events, attracting enormous food and drink names both locally and further afield.

Pouring alongside Attic are Nothing Bound Brewing Co, Bathams, Crossover Blendery, The Queer Brewing Project, Left Handed Giant Brewing Co., North Brewing, Lowtide Brewing Co, Burning Soul, NORTHERN MONK, New Bristol Brewery, GlassHouse Beer Co, DEYA Brewing Company, Verdant and Track Brewing Co. Localites Loki are on wine.

On din-dins duty, and you might need it, are two Brum street food icons Original Patty Men and Yardbirds. The holy trinity is completed by Earlsdon's Surf & Slice whose pizza menu looks sensational.

There will be two sessions available: 12pm to 3.30pm and 3.45pm to 8.30pm. Tickets are priced at only £12 each and includes a SUDS Fest glass. Over 18s. 


There’s just over one week to go until Derby Day at Edgbaston — and over 11,000 tickets have already been sold, with a near capacity crowd expected. The big local derby returns on Friday, June 23 as the Bears face Worcestershire Rapids — boo-hiss-boo — for a 6.30pm start. It’s the biggest T20 of the summer and tickets are once again going quicker than phone reception at Five Ways station. There are now only limited tickets left in some stands, with 80% of tickets already gone in the Eric Hollies. In 2022, a record crowd of 17,000 watched the Bears secure a win against their local rivals and the Club is expecting the same numbers for this year. Fans can save £4 per ticket by purchasing theirs in advance, with adult tickets from only £21. And you can make further savings by buying tickets as a group of six or more. Let's pack the place out for the Bears. Book


While Hippodrome and The Rep have been making waves with global names, Crescent Theatre, over in Brindleyplace has been doing all it can to nurture local talent. A hugely influential piece of LGBTQ+ theatre penned by Handsworth boy Kevin Elyot and with a Brummie central character, My Night With Reg, is heading there, July 8 to 15. The Olivier award-winning bittersweet comedy is about a group of gay men coming to terms with AIDS. The production has a special twist, as it is directed by Rod Natkiel who was a friend of Kevin Elyot, a fellow drama student and who acted with him. Kevin died in 2014, was born in Handsworth, went to King Edward's School and then to Bristol Uni, where he studied Drama. Rod Natkiel also studied Drama at Bristol and his previous productions include The Lovely Bones and, recently, a spectacular 5-star reviewed The Girl on The Train. From £10


Kings Heath's celebration of all things queer — Queens Heath — returns Sunday (June 18, 12pm to 6pm) with York Road once again leading the charge. 2021 saw the inaugural pride shindig after KH was named an official 'Gaybourhood' and despite pretty grim weather, last year, it remained a success.

This year, under guaranteed* blue skies expect live music, drag acts, street food, face painting and wall-to-wall good times. Many of the venues taking part change their names for the day, craft beer bar The Juke becoming 'The Duchess', Grace + James transforming into Will + Grace + James and The Kingsway rebranding to The Queensway. The Duchess is again collaborating with Queer Brewing while Poli have teamed up with with ice cream sandwich goddesses, Happy Endings. Poli's near-neighbours and sister site Grace + James will have Pride-themed options such as Patrick Sullivan’s Rainbow Juice — an Aussie natural rosé. Outfitter of all things Birmingham, Brumbox, have had these fab tees made too.

*this is not a guarantee
Tickets for Secret Cinema's ultra immersive Grease event at the NEC are flyin' out the door. Tell me more, tell me more... 

The Crafty Bear of Bearwood exhibits its third event tomorrow (June 16) at Tamu cafe and Craft Inn. Both venues will hosts an array of artists, artisan food and drink. More

Worth the short journey to Cov to check out the towering, 6-metre tall Godiva puppet at Godiva Festival (June 30 to July 2). Live music comes in the normal-heighted shape of The Enemy, Rudimental and Melanie C. From £8 

I once went to Birmingham Coffee Festival at the Custard Factory, had six back-to-back flat whites, before an outer body experience-cum-panic attack forced me home. If you're more responsible than that it's probably a blooming good event. July 8 & 9.  

Dream team combo Hare & Hounds and Digbeth Dining Club will be tag-teaming once more at Highbury Hall, July 30. Choose between two sessions or, if you're sesh gremlin like Jack Grealish, do both. Info

Ikon launches Bob & Roberta Smith’s new children’s book Art Makes People Powerful, on Sunday of this weekend (June 18). Free but you will need to book. More

Tickets are on sale for 12 Angry Men at the Alexandra from Oct 30 to Nov 4. A cheaper way to see 12 angry men is to just dive into our Facebook comments. 
WORDS: Tom Cullen, Claire Hawkins
PICTURES: Jack Spicer Adams (Restaurant Festival)

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