Issue 341
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How are you getting on? Flattening that curve like a boss?  If you've still got any disposable income to speak of the art sector could really do with some help and so, with Christmas inbound, we tag-teamed with gallery and museum doyen, and tip-top Brum blogger, Ruth Millington, to compile an art-based gift guide.

Festive cards designed by local artists at the RBSA. Vivienne Cawson’s watercolour illustrations feature Santa in a face mask and festive penguins, harking back to the best John Lewis ad of all time. Sets of nine come with red festive envelopes. Over the coming weeks, the RBSA gallery will be adding more stock including jewellery, art books and ceramics. Buy  
(PROVIDE, £24.99) 

Studio roommates Provide and Space Play have combined to create a custom typeface inspired by Brutalist architecture, handmade and in concrete. This BHX version is a belter as is the 0121 iteration and the postcode options. They're presented in a gift box and held in place with laser-cut foam, branded with both the Provide and Space Play logos. Buy 
The chance to own affordable original paintings are few and far between. Sutton Coldfied-based Rachel Tighe has launched a new collection of Birmingham (and beyond) acrylics that she paints in situ. Her style is colourful (can you tell?) with the city's energy and activity at the fore. Each mini comes on a box canvas measuring 12"x10" with postage included in the £250 price. If you're interested and want to see a close up photo of the one you like, just message Rachel on Insta or Twitter.  
Birmingham’s online-only art gallery, SUPA, sells original art and limited edition prints by ace local artists. Day Barry’s vibrant paintings bring together a range of Brummie influences, from music to fabrics found in Ladypool Road and the markets. The gallery also has enchanting tree paintings by Monica Perez Vega, planet prints by Suzie Hunt and Black Country shots (like the one pictured) by Tom Hicks
Barber Institute masterpieces printed on mugs, makeup bags, tea towels, coasters and more. This beaut of a bag features Aubrey Beardsley’s drawing, ‘The Battle of the Beaux and the Belles’, illustrating a scene from Alexander Pope’s 'The Rape of the Lock', in which the heroine Belinda attacks the Baron with her fan after discovering he has cut and stolen a lock of her hair. Scandalous. Buy
Give the charitable gift of theatre to a youngster this year. This unique present will offer a disadvantaged seven to 25-year-old the opportunity to take part in The REP’s acclaimed youth theatre, the Young REP, which gives participants the chance to develop acting skills and grow in confidence and creativity. A donation of £75 would pay for a term and £200 would fund an entire year. Buy
Ikon’s online shop is filled with art books, craft sets, limited edition prints and posters from past exhibitions. It also has a selection of wearable goodies. This limited-edition t-shirt was designed by Jeremy Deller and based on a photograph he had as a child, which shows him wearing a signed Slade tee. Choose from classic black or Christmassy red. Buy
(BMAG, FROM £25)

Hang a masterpiece in your home, with Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery's art print service. There are over 300 artworks to choose from, featuring Pre-Raphaelite paintings, Birmingham-themed cityscapes, portraits and 19th century landscapes. Plus more real options like the one pictured. Select your size, material and frame. Buy   
Who wouldn’t want to eat like a king (or queen) for £1? Ask yourself that while you scribble a Christmas message to a pal on one of these nostalgic greetings cards featuring the mighty Mr Egg, Snobs and Old Joe university clock tower, among others. Part of the Draw My City artworks collection, all sales support the vital work of SIFA Fireside in Digbeth. Buy
Only the most hardened German Market cynic will be thrilled to see absolutely no trace of the annual city-splitter, this year. Cast your eye to Stirchley's Loaf, however, and food nerd, cook and consultant Lap-Fai Lee is giving you the chance to get your festive bratwurst fill, with pop-up event 'Wurst-Käse Scenario'. From 4pm, Saturday November 28, just turn up for a menu of käsekrainer (smoked pork and beef sausage stuffed with cheese — £7 — pictured), bratwurst or krakauer all in pretzel buns, with optional roasties, garlicky mushrooms and donuts. Takeaway only, obviously, more details here. And if you don't fancy waiting for November 28 for Lap's scran, he's leaping into action at The Early Bird Bakery, Kings Heath, tomorrow (November 20) and Saturday with 'Fire & Rice'. Choose from beef or jackfruit rendang, Assam prawns and Malaysian fried chicken. From 5pm, takeaway only, no need to book.

Please don't hold this terrible headline against Brummie design partners Ally Standing and Jane Anderson — they had nothing to do with it. What they had everything to do with is Lucky Pablo, their new joyful brand. What you're looking at is a tray, and I've fallen in love with it. But they do more than just trays — they do jumpers, coasters, prints, t-shirts, throws, face masks and more. The company came about at the beginning of the first lockdown when, in Ally's words "the news was getting weird. We spent hours drawing to take our minds off it. Music on loud, Sharpies in hand — plus a beer or four — we doodled compulsively until our table was covered. Symbols, shapes, grids; there was something almost primordial about the forms we were summoning. There was no plan — just a strange and slightly trancelike focus and a cathartic release of drawing". Use code SHOPLOCAL on this site  (until Nov 20) for 20% off. Follow


A brace of (sort of) new cake-based ventures are live and lovely and looking for support. Shall we talk about them? Let's. Ticking the vegan ✓, no gluten ✓, no nuts ✓ and to-your-door ✓ boxes is Big Fat Slab a subsidiary of Amy Clarkson's Brutally Honest Bakery. Now, I'll be brutally honest, Brutally Honest Bakery isn't new, but since its wholesale business hit the mother of all virus-shaped hiccups they've launched Big Fat Slab, their home delivery option, and it's a gem. To get the full body experience I went for 'Something For All The Family' (£19.99) which includes a frankly offensive amount of treats. There's three sponges (Gingerbread Latte, Tangy Lemon, Carrot Cake) as well as Salted Caramel Crisp, Fruity Flapjack, Choco Orange Brownie, Choco Orange Rocky Road and the masterpiece that is the Dark Chocolate Tiffin. They also include ace coffee or tea. You can order here — the branding and boxing alone is almost worth the money so do consider it as a gift. However, if getting the hell out of your godforsaken home for just one bleeding minute is more your current MO, head for Verbena in Stirchley. Verbena was the planed launch of Caneat alum and food wizard, Chloe Qureshi, but it too has taken a Rona-shaped kick to the shins for the time being. While we await the modern British delights it promises, Chloe is doing take-out breakfasts and hot lunches alongside stupendous cakes from Glaze and coffee from delightful barista, Rory McGhie. Now, I think I've got this right, the team of Verbena, Glaze and Rory are known collectively as Pause and you can find them here. The baked goodies pleased a four-year-old and a forty-year-old in equal measure and I'll be back for that hot lunch next week. It's open 10am to 4pm, Monday to Wednesday at 1474 Pershore Road, B30 2NT.      
Venue: Burnt Comal, roaming; Instagram
Choice: Oaxacan Mole Negro (£25 for two) Chooser: It was the only dish

It's been three years since Birmingham's bravest restaurant, Two Cats Kitchen, closed. Run by chef Niki Astley, the 'New Baltic' menu was gung-ho, inventive and batshit in equal measure, gaining national broadsheet plaudits from its charming JQ home. Since the doors closed (and were re-opened as Alex Claridge's The Wilderness) Niki's been running a consultancy and private party service but, with private parties now Prohibition-era levels of illegal, Niki has launched a food collection service, the first was at Eat Vietnam (Stirchley). The beauty of this particular offering remains in its charming out-there-ness. The first iteration was Mexican focused, Astley's son and extended family being Mexican, with Niki making many a trip that way. But basic DIY burritos, this ain't. Incredibly easy to put together the Wonka-esque hard work has been done for you in the thick seven-chilli and chocolate mole sauce that you'll drizzle over your chicken. Reader, you should try this. Doubtless it'll split opinion but combined with spicy salsa borracho and frijoles (beans), the slightly sweet, smoky, earthy and bitter sauce sings like a mariachi leadman. Unlike Niki, I've never been to Mexico, so I don't know what authentic is, but I'd bet my bottom dollar this is it. Bone sucking, finger-around-bowlingly beautiful, Niki's commitment to the different makes our city's dining scene a significantly more interesting place to explore. And in a world where you can spend £25 for two at Nandos, this was real value for money and a talking point to lighten a lousy lockdown. Shame I live alone. May bricks and mortar be his once more — follow on
Instagram for his next shake-up. 
The annual loveliness that is local artist Milan Topalović's choice of venue for immortalisation as a Christmas card is revealed to be the Great Western Arcade, this year. Get 10% off packs of five with code ICB10. Code can be applied to any of his loveliness.

Panto is not dead! A socially distanced Robin Hood will show Jan 15 to 31, at The Alexandra, and honorary Brummie Matt Slack stars. Tickets from £13.
Brum's newest bar, Ikigai, have launched their 'At Home' option from their JQ HQ. Japanese inspired cocktails to click and collect only, from £9 a swing.
Steaky streetfooders, Beef On The Block, now have their god-tier chimichurri for sale, with £1 or every £6 jar going to the brilliant St basil's homeless charity. More

Opus have now launched 'Christmas To You' — all you need for Christmas day dins and festive weekend treats direct to your home. It's a three course menu with all the trimmings, plus ham, turkey, smoked salmon, cheese and wine options. Details 

Meanwhile in 'Badly Kept Secrets we can Finely Talk About', Chad Square, opposite Edgbaston's The White Swan, is where Masterchef: The Professionals winner Stu Deeley will launch his first standalone restaurant. 

London's Greek street food outfit The Athenian will tomorrow, November 20, launch a Deliveroo Editions kitchen (i.e. delivery only, no physical restaurant) for Brum, with 25% discount until 4th December.  

Joe Lycett is doing socially distanced stand-up with a few chums at Town Hall, December 16 to 18. Tickets go on sale at 10am tomorrow (Nov 20) BUT he's let YOU use the code HIHUNS to get access to tickets right now

"It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child."

Pablo Picasso 

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WORDS: Tom Cullen
PICTURES: Ross Jukes (The Rep)

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