Local heroes: Feast Foods

Local heroes: Feast Foods

Something that has always really bothered me in Wolverhampton is the lack of choice when it comes to food and I am mainly referring to the city center, as there are a few small independent businesses that have fashioned a place for themselves within the boundaries of WV, but the city centre has always been a bit of a joke. If your satisfied with KFC, McDonald’s and Subway then you’re going to love it here but the majority of us (millennial’s especially) want and need a lot more. We are all increasingly enthusiastic to experience new things and try food and drink we maybe haven’t had access to before.

This is why I am trying to do a series of write ups centered around the few local newcomers that are trying to make a difference and offer us an element of choice, innovation and food with some heart. If you are local and you care about food enough to take a leap of faith on that idea that you have had bubbling away under the surface for as long as you can remember, then we want to speak to you. Whether your making waves in Wolverhampton or within your own town or city, you deserve as much spotlight as we can give you.

First off the bat is the wonderful Feast Foods. Feast Foods are a vegan and vegetarian food delivery service based in Wolverhampton that offer clean, natural lunches available Monday to Friday and right to your place of work. After trawling through the city streets desperate not to settle for a Sainsbury’s meal deal many times it is music to my ears knowing that someone is putting their energy into giving people a healthy alternative to the usual suspects. I caught up with the mind behind Feast foods, Nadiah to find out more.

Hi Nadiah, so How did Feast foods come about?

I have always enjoyed making a lovely lunch to look forward to – it’s all I think about and I count down the hours until I get to sit and eat something delicious. Everyone would comment on my lunch that I had rustled up and would always ask for a little taste. There was defiantly a lot of food envy going on! It wasn’t until a friend of mine approached me to make what I was going to have for lunch for him as well, that I started making extra lunches for friends and family. Before I knew it, friends of friends and colleagues were asking if they could also order a lunch from me, and so FEAST was born. It’s as simple as that.

Who are the Feast foods team?

Me, myself and I. The FEAST team simply consists of just me (Nadiah). I am the brains behind FEAST and I cook every order myself. I do everything.

Are you looking to challenge the common attitudes towards vegan and vegetarian diets? Some people might think it can be quite limiting.

 I am not necessarily trying to convert people to become a vegan or vegetarian. However, I do think it is very important for people to understand where their food has come from and what they are eating. People are not aware of the health and environmental issues eating meat and dairy have, and there’s a misconception that a meal has to contain meat or dairy to be tasty.

For me FEAST is not only about creating healthy vegetarian and vegan dishes but also a way to educate people on what they can eat with it being not only tasty but healthy too. For instance, did you know…

‘Vegetarians and vegans live, on average, six to 10 years longer than meat-eaters.’

 ‘A typical pig factory generates the same amount of raw waste as a city of 12,000 people. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, raising animals for food is the number-one source of water pollution.’

My father, who is Jordanian used to make me the most amazing home cooked Middle Eastern dishes when I was younger. I never appreciated it until I went to university in Brighton and didn’t want to eat these unhealthy, tasteless ready meals. So, I put my apron on and started to experiment in the kitchen. Everything was cooked fresh and I developed an understanding and appreciation towards food, and some very happy, well-fed flat mates! My mind and body benefited from eating well.

Given we are currently experiencing a national obesity crisis, I think it’s more important than ever to reassess what we are eating. We should be eating all these beautiful natural fruits and vegetables instead of constantly grazing on foods that have effects on our bodies and the environment.

With your concept being so unique in the area, do you think Wolverhampton has more potential when it comes to food? 

 Definitely – Wolverhampton has huge potential when it comes to food. Compared to other cities, it’s very difficult to find somewhere to eat in Wolverhampton, especially for vegetarians or vegans or those looking for a healthier option. I really struggle to eat locally and find this frustrating.

I believe we need to give people more options than always eating at fast food chains. If we only provide these unhealthy choices it is impossible to make a healthy choice. People are now interested in keeping fit and changing their food diets so we should be offering the people of Wolverhampton a chance to use their palates instead of eating processed food.

I believe FEAST is the first step towards this, and offers people in the city an affordable way to eat at least one meal a day that is meat free, fresh, healthy and delicious. I hope others start to see the potential in Wolverhampton and continue to invest in the city’s food industry.

If you could suggest one of your dishes to convert somebody who wasn’t sure about veganism, what would you pick?

I would suggest the Black Bean Chilli with Nachos. It is so tasty! It is packed with aromatic spices, rich in flavour and completely addictive. Made with crisp peppers, black beans, mixed beans and served with mini garlic nachos, it is so simple but always a satisfying lunch.

 Whats everyones personal favourite dish from your menu’s so far?

 With an exception to the Black Bean Chilli dish I get asked frequently for the Falafel Salad Box to be put on the menu. I make authentic Middle Eastern falafel, which is served with homemade houmous, soy tzatziki, flat bread and a mixed salad. I also sell this dish in my new food trailer

Where would you love to see Feast Foods in 2 years time?

 I would love to have café or coffee shop serving delicious healthy veggie and vegan food and craft coffee. I used to work for a coffee roastery in Brighton and miss having a beautiful coffee now that I have moved back home. If I could bring this to Wolverhampton too, I would be really happy for completely selfish reasons. I would also like FEAST to be doing frequent events and food festivals with our new trailer.

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Finally, anything you would like to say to the readers?

 I really believe that Wolverhampton needs and deserves new, fresh and healthy food options. At FEAST, my mission to fill this gap by designing exciting dishes with fresh and nutritious ingredients at an affordable price.

90% of my customers are meat eaters and all of them keep coming back to order FEAST lunches because they feel happy and healthy for eating natural, meat free, delicious food. FEAST gives the people of Wolverhampton the chance to have a choice to eat delicious, nutritious and healthy lunches!

I am very passionate about contributing to where I live and hope this can make a real difference. Equally, I look forward to one day being able to provide jobs to people in Wolverhampton who share the same work ethic and passion for food that I have.

 

Thanks to Nadiah for giving up her time to tell us more about Feast foods and helping to diversify options available to the local community. It’s a brave move starting any business but starting up something that goes against the grain is even more bold. I wish her the best of luck in the future and hope you all support her if you can. You can find FF on Instagram for some beautiful examples of their dishes and visit The Feast Foods website  to get involved!

 

 

 

Wayland’s Yard needs you!

Wayland’s Yard needs you!

Plenty of us get up in a morning and wish we could follow our hearts and take that leap of faith that will finally make our dreams a reality. We all have things that we would do anything to be able to accomplish in life but sometimes can’t quite push ourselves to do it. These pipe dreams could be travelling the world, writing a book, moving abroad or to someone like Sam Smith, running your own business.

Some readers may know Sam from his time as a rugby union player for Harlequins and Worcester Warriors, what you may not know however is that he has an incredible passion for coffee. A passion that clearly wasn’t satisfied by keeping it to himself, so naturally this developed into an idea. This idea then slowly evolved into Worcester’s newest answer to the UK’s growing love of modern, progressive food and drink, Wayland’s Yard.

 Sam now calls Worcester his home and to give back to the city he wants to provide everyone with the incredible coffee and great food they deserve, enjoying the fruits of local produce in a grade II listed building with a private walled garden and every effort being taken to help you relax and enjoy. Who can argue with that? It sounds special right? That’s because it will be…although to get this going he really needs your help.

How can you help?.. Wayland’s Yard is now crowd funding.

 

Being a part of the birth of Wayland’s Yard doesn’t just come with a huge amount of gratitude but also with some awesome benefits. You can start with as little as £10 and go as far as £250 but every little helps, see below for a list of what bang you get for your buck.

  • £10 – Draw yourself into our epic wall mural, becoming part of the shop.
  • £20- 5 free coffees and draw yourself into our epic wall mural.
  • £35 – 5 yoga classes in our community room with the amazing Yaur Yoga (www.yauryoga.com)
  • £45 – 2.5 hour home brew class at the shop with Sam and a free bag of coffee. Learn to make coffee the Wayland’s way for whenever you can’t make it to the shop!
  • £50 – 15 free coffees, Wayland’s Yard t-shirt, a free slice of cake on your birthday for life and draw yourself into our epic wall mural.
  • £100 – 10% off hot drinks, 30 free coffees, Wayland’s Yard t-shirt, a free slice of cake on your birthday for life and draw yourself into our epic wall mural.
  • £250 – 10% off food and hot drinks, 60 free coffees, invite to a home brew class at the shop for you and 1 friend, Wayland’s Yard t-shirt, a free slice of cake on your birthday for life, draw yourself into our epic wall mural.

 

I will be working with Sam and Wayland’s Yard in the coming months when they are open for business to show the world what they are missing in Worcester. In the meantime lets make it happen. Lets support Sam in his journey and repay his faith in setting up shop in Worcester. For more information on the project and to see where your money will go hit the ‘Make it happen’ link below. Read. Pledge. Get ready for Wayland’s Yard.

 Make it happen!!

www.waylandsyard.com

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Rainy day ribs-Smoke without fire

Rainy day ribs-Smoke without fire

Bank holidays in the UK tend to fall foul of a particularly unfortunate pattern. The weeks leading up to it will be scorching hot with an unrelenting heat and cloudless sky, then like a flash as soon as the bank holiday is within touching distance the rain starts like a switch has been flicked. Dampening picnic and BBQ plans alike and trapping us in our houses with ITV2 and it’s one thousandth play of Jurassic park 2 or Uncle Buck.

That being said it’s not all bad. Theres nothing wrong with rolling with the tide as it were, making lemonade from the lemons we should quite frankly expect by now! Get to the butcher and get something you have fancied cooking for a while, grab a Blu-ray you fancy watching and settle in for some extreme pre-winter comfort food. It’s a win-win situation.

For me it was a rib recipe I have wanted to try for such a long time it seems crazy that I haven’t got around to making it yet. I make no secret of being a passionate advocate of year round BBQ and rain or shine I don’t think you can beat biting through the bark of a rich, crispy piece of beef or chicken that is fresh off the coals. Sometimes however it is just not possible for everybody to get out there and fire up the grill, so this is my way of bringing that kind of experience indoors without setting your moms curtains on fire.

BBQ Ribs – serves one as a meal or 2 to share.Double amounts if needed.

What you will need: 

  • 6 individual meaty pork ribs. (You can use a rack you just need to cut them into sections of four)
  • 2 stock cubes
  • salt
  • A bottle of your favourite BBQ sauce. I usually make my own but for this I had a bottle of Jim Beam Cherry bourbon BBQ sauce that I wanted to try out.
  • Saucepan
  • A slow cooker

Method:

  1. Get a large saucepan full of salted water to a rolling boil and add the stock cubes. Stir until fully dissolved. Pre-heat the slow cooker on ‘low’.
  2. Add the ribs to the boiling water and leave for 3 minutes.
  3. The water should have a white to grey froth on top of it, this process stops that fatty residue tainting your sauce.
  4. Quickly pat dry with some kitchen roll and press the meaty side of the ribs into the ‘rub’.
  5. Lay them into the slow cooker and pour in the sauce. Making sure they are well covered.
  6. Leave for 4 hours and then half remove the lid for the final 5th hour.
  7. By now the sauce will have reduced a little, exposing the end pieces of the ribs and creating a bit of a bark while leaving the meat smokey,loose and almost desperate to slide straight off the bone.
  8. Serve with corn on the cob rolled in cayenne, sweet potato fries and plenty of french’s mustard.

 

 

 

Roast gammon

Roast gammon

Nothing says quintisential English fare better than a cup of tea and a slice of Victoria sponge, cream tea’s and a good roast dinner. My meat of choice will always be either a shoulder of pork or a gammon joint for one reason and one reason only… the crackling. Nothing makes a roast dinner or a pork sandwich better than a glistening, salty, piece of pork fat capping it off. So below is the supremely easy, most effective way to get the best our of your pork.

 

What you will need:

  • 1 joint of smoked gammon (fat on) usually around 1.5kg on average
  • Sea salt 
  • large roasting tin
  1. Heat the oven to 170°C/fan 150°C. Put the gammon in the tin, sprinkle the skin with salt, then pop into the preheated oven to roast for 2½-3 hours until the internal temperature reads 65°C when measured with a digital thermometer (see tips). Be sure to take a reading from the centre of the joint.
  2. Increase the oven temperature to 230°C/fan 210°C. Wrap foil around the baking tray. Return the ham to the oven to cook for a further 20-25 minutes, until the the skin has crackled. You may have to turn the ham to crisp up the parts of the skin not open to the hot air.
  3. When the fat starts to look like real crackling, remove the ham, take off the foil and rest uncovered on a trivet for 30 minutes. Carve the ham in decent slices and serve with whatever you like!
The revolution reaches Codsall

The revolution reaches Codsall

In recent times the West midlands has started to go through something of a renaissance when it comes to food and you have to look no further than Birmingham to get a feel for what is really going on. The restaurants are starting to change and there are new and interesting places popping up on the high street like Rub smokehouse, Buffalo and Rye (review incoming) and grand centrals food court, but it’s on the side streets of the city that the real noise is being made. Just a 15 minute walk from New street station is the district of Digbeth, the birth place of the ever popular and ever growing Digbeth Dining Club which is a perfect representation of how peoples attitude towards food is evolving in the area.

No longer are people satisfied by the monthly chippy tea or rashly palming Justeat to get the nearest greasy pile of whatever thrown at you through your door, people want more. We as a country are starting to realise the power of street food and what it can do to elevate your meal times to a whole new level. We are no longer happy with what we would expect to see and that drives us to want to try new things like craft beers, foreign twists on traditional favourites and every possible level of edible ingenuity we can get our hands on. Digbeth Dining Club delivers all of these things and still leaves room to push on even further. Good job then that this food revolution has reached my doorstep in sleepy Staffordshire.

Codsall is very close to my heart as I had a family connection in the village during my childhood, going there is always an incredibly nostalgic event for me but today was not just a trip down memory lane. It was my first time at the dining club here as it has popped up several times this year already but upon walking over to the stalls, the atmosphere was as good as I imagine the first day was. There was a real buzz of anticipation around the place and I think it stands to reason it has done so well and been able to return so many times because people really do love this kind of thing now. We quickly scanned the stalls which included some mouth watering, internationally diverse food styles such as Philippine, Greek, American and Mexican.

As you can imagine making a decision and committing to something is always an issue at these kind of events but being recently initiated into the world of smoking meat I was drawn to the bright red stall of big daddies diner. Hot dogs that offer something for everybody whether that is a straight forward dog in the Slim Jim or something a little more ambitious such as the Edna. Naturally I ordered the Edna, two Slim Jim dogs on a soft white roll topped with Brewdog Hardcore IPA chili and topped with cheese and crispy onions. First off I will say the sausages themselves were really quite good, with a prominent smoked flavour and a sturdy skin that has just enough bite to make it last a little bit longer, as it’s very tempting to not savour any of it and just savage the whole thing. The chili that is smothered across the top of the sausages in all its velvety glory, is a smooth and subtly spiced beef chili that is mild enough to appeal to all but can be perked up with a touch of hot sauce. The chili would almost be a star if it was available on its own but paired with the smoke of the Slim Jim sausages it just creates such a cavalcade of complex flavours it would be sad to split them up. I don’t really feel the addition of the IPA stands out in any apparent way but it is a quirky selling point and I like it, it is a good chili and would stand up against the best of them. Big thumbs up from me and good value at £6.00.

 

Next up was The Flying Cows and their decadent selection of burgers. Anybody who even half knows me instantly makes the connection between me and a good burger, which is fine by me as the battle of the burgers was genuinely a huge achievement at the time and even helped me get the a job! It did spark a passion within me for burgers as a medium of culinary creativity, the opportunities are endless between the halves of a bun, but a good burger relies on the quality of its content and not the volume. Too many places think that a gourmet burger just means piling too many excessive,expensive or odd ingredients between a half arsed burger bun is acceptable, when really all you need is to think about the sum of its parts a little more carefully and keep it simple. It feels like The Flying Cows gets me when I ate their ‘Barry knows best’ option from their menu. I will walk you through levels here… A brioche bun, a scattering of red onions and crispy greens, a steak burger topped with melted blue cheese, a few thin slices of chorizo lashed with mayo and finished with the other half of the brioche. What an absolute champion of a burger this was. Everything just worked and you could tell these guys cared about the food that was being passed to the customers through the sheer quality of the burger itself. It was a firm and juicy patty that bordered on creamy in its texture and bonded so well with the toppings. The richness of the blue cheese paired up with the warm paprika hug of the chorizo make this a definitive burger experience. Possibly even the best one I have had this year to be fair and at £6 I can say it is great value for money. This would probably be north of £15 with sides and fries in a restaurant. Just awesome.

 

These were my two major highlights but it goes without saying that you can only eat and drink so much in a single visit and it is clear that every single vendor that had turned up was bringing their ‘A’ game and that they really cared about their produce. Honourable mentions have the go to ‘Shake that ting’ for a decent banana milkshake and ‘Street Souvlaki’ for making the place smell incredible with their Greek BBQ, although the Greek platter looked great with it’s mixture of pork, chicken and halloumi, I would say it maybe didnt look the best value of the day at £8 but there were a lot of moving parts to the dish and I was told it was super tasty and my friend did enjoy it. Broughs brewery from Wolverhampton had two cask ales available on their bar but we only tried the golden ale. It was quite a generic ale in terms of its flavour profile but it would have been easy to drink in the warm weather had I been in it for the long haul. I just hope next time I can get round a little bit more and try some of the other delights that are delivered to the village in such exciting fashion.

To close out I have to give a huge nod to the organisers of this and Digbeth Dining Club for bringing something different to our local area, making amazing street food something we can get almost at will rather than it only being something we experience at borough market. Up until recently street food in the West Midlands started and finished at a jacket potato covered in tinned beans or a boiled hot dog in a 30p white roll. Thanks to these wonderful people I can honestly say the axis of gastronomic monotony has officially been broken. Settle for Greggs no more my friends. Go to Codsall Dining Club and join the revolution!

 

 

 

Adventures In BBQ Volume 1

I have made no secret of my love for smokehouse food in the past, my work with Rub smokehouse and visit’s to other local restaurants in recent times have done nothing if not made me even more passionate about BBQ. I have been reading article after article about smoking and the best type of equipment to use and even how to make you’re own smoker, but I eventually came to the decision that I was going to buy a cheaper unit and modify it as a bit of a project to gradually get the best out of it and tweak it as I learn. This series of blogs will document my progress and any mistakes or improvements that I made with each cook, hopefully culminating in some pretty good BBQ.

I managed to time it wonderfully as I ended up buying it on my birthday, happy birthday to me indeed. I went for an offset unit that cost £89.99 from The Range in Willenhall (www.therange.co.uk for more details) and brought it back home to set it up. For those who were as new to this as I was when I started, an offset smoker is a large barrel like chamber with a chimney and a firebox for the coals. Usually these are at opposite ends but the more you read into them the more the internet tells you this is a bad set up, however with a few modifications the air flow and fire management can be greatly improved, but I will cover that in a later post.

The price of this unit may worry some people due to it not being an ultra sleek Weber unit or something of that ilk but when there are some people making them at home with ceramic plant pots I felt that as long as it had the essential parts I could eventually iron out any potential issues as time went on. Smoking and cooking authentic BBQ is something you will have to perfect over time and I would always recommend playing it safe to begin with too, as it can be thoroughly frustrating when you initially start and not everybody will keep it up. That £500 smokey mountain grill won’t fetch that kind of money when it has been sitting in garden for a year collecting rust, although you can’t smoke with the unit alone. So here is a list of beginners essentials to get you going:

  • Smoker unit
  • Coal starter chimney
  • Heat proof gloves
  • BBQ tools such as tongs and a basting brush
  • Lots of foil
  • Foil trays
  • Wood chips (apple wood, hickory, cherry wood etc)
  • Charcoal briquettes
  • Fire lighters

Beginners guide:

  1. Find a solid, flame proof surface and split a few firelighters. Fill the chimney with coals and light the firelighters.
  2. Place the chimney onto the lighters and leave it well alone until the coals are burning hot and white.
  3. Add unlit coals to the firebox and place hot coals on top (This is called the minion method).
  4. When thermometer reads to temperature (Consult your recipe’s requirements) add the food to the grill and throw on the first hand full of wood chips.

Initial set up was easy and took around an hour all together but would possibly have been even quicker had somebody else been there to help out a bit. As soon as I had it set up I slung the grills in and retrieved the few bits of dry rubbed meat that I had prepared in advance as per a recipe I found online. I loaded the starter chimney up with briquets and waited 20 minutes for the coals to turn white, now here is where my first mistake materialised unfortunately. When burning coals in a BBQ there are two crucial things that are needed which are; good air flow to feed the fire and enough space for the ash to escape away from it. Sound’s almost ridiculous when you think about all the summer BBQ’s you have had in your lifetime with charcoal piled high under the grill, but the ash that the coals sit in will strangle the fire and destroy any hope you had of controlling the temperature long term. With this in mind it pays to remember the basic principle of smoking food is to manage a the fire so it lasts as long as possible to cook the food slowly and indirectly.


I piled the hot coals on top of raw unlit coals without any space underneath them which created a strong initial fire that died off within an hour and was really inconsistent all day. Second mistake was soaking the wood chips, with an already inconsistent fire this just didn’t help at all. A lot of manufacturers will advise you soak them in water for 30 minutes prior to adding them to the firebox but it turns out this is a ludicrously inefficient practice as they only ever absorb the equivalent of 5% of their overall mass. This and the boiling point of water is 100 degrees, meaning the heat around the chips can only ever be around this temperature. So if your fire is already crap like mine was this just won’t help at all. If you want to make them last longer wrap them in foil and put them on top of the hot coals.

Last mistake I made was opening the lid too often. The guys among us will remember being told when you were younger ‘Don’t play with it or you will go blind’ now in this instance you won’t go blind but your pork shoulder will be tepid. Not a punishment on par with loss of sight but it still a bit of a buzz kill when you spend 10 hours trying to make something special to savage in front of Eastenders. Leave the lid shut until you need to baist or rotate, which should be no less than every 60 to 90 minutes unless you’re cooking something smaller or more delicate. So after around 7 hours I still had a certain amount of raw meat which I ended up having to finish off in the oven for half an hour, which I wont lie did still give me a brilliant smoke ring on the meat but not the same kind of gratifying feeling I was shooting for.

Recap on mistakes and revisions:

  • Keep the coals out of the ash best possible to maintain the heat and make sure the airflow is sufficient.
  • Don’t soak your wood chips. Its pointless and can ruin your fire. Wrap in foil if you want a slower smoke release.
  • Leave the lid shut unless you really need to open it!


Volume two coming very soon!

 

Rub: New menu,new level

Rub: New menu,new level

It really has been too long since I wrote anything let alone worked with my friends at Rub smokehouse in Birmingham, so what better time to make a return than when they release a new and improved menu?

I had been fortunate enough to be asked back to have a look at the new additions last week, so I jumped at the chance to pay them a visit as it had been a while since I had been in and was keen to see what had changed. First impressions of the new line up were that it was clear that it retains the stalwart dishes from the last menu while adding some of the social media breaking specials that they have become so famous for like the ‘Pizza taco’ and the aptly named ‘Birthday burger’ which I will explain in detail later in the article. Glancing at the drinks menu the cocktail options always seem to be a wonderful addition to an already interesting and varied experience when eating at Rub, however this visit was my first time actually ordering one, something I will hold my hands up to as I am usually a sucker for a good beer… however they have me covered yet again, as they now even have their own line of beer’s brewed by West brewery in Scotland on the bar. Of course working for a brewery myself this is of particular interest to me.

I arrived at 7:15pm which was a touch early but nonetheless immediately seated and looked after by the restaurant manager Anya, who was a wonderful host that made sure we wanted for nothing during our visit. She pointed out a few of the new additions to the menu and gave her recommendations, including the previously mentioned Birthday burger and the new mountainous chicken wing dish (2kg’s in total!). Now we didn’t end up ordering this incredibly brave new burger option but I have seen it and it really is something to behold, upon first viewing it can look a little bit crazy or frivolous but in truth it represents innovation, fun and the pushing of boundaries of what you expect to be able to order in a restaurant on the average high street. I have touched on the fact previously that Rub are unapologetically , fun lovingly brash with heart and soul that backs up the sheer volume of good quality food dispatched through the pass of that kitchen and this is fully embraced with the Birthday burger. It contains 4 homemade beef patties, American cheese, smoked bacon, pulled pork, burnt ends, fried egg, mac’n’cheese topped with toasted marshmallows all layered between Victoria sponge as the substitute for bread. Mental. Inspired but utterly mental! Thoroughly born in the spirit of Rub and this was demonstrated in the dishes we ordered too.

The Pizza Taco

We took on the challenge of the Pizza burrito, Rub dog millionaire and the Pizza taco. Now the Rub dog is an original menu entry but we had never got round to it before so my partner ordered that and I opted for the two newbies. They arrived promptly and only lacked some form of dramatic sound track as they skimmed past my head when being placed on the table, instantly making an impression was the red metal frame of VW camper that the taco arrived in. Parked before me was a freshly baked pizza base, lined with pulled pork and filled with brisket, pulled chicken, iceberg lettuce, breaded prawns, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and smoked cheese. A powerhouse of culinary ambition and invention. I love smokehouse food and this is the end game as far as I am concerned. The prawns were light and juicy without being greasy, the slices of brisket came with a beautifully thin bark which imparts it’s smokey goodness onto the sour cream and guacamole, the pulled chicken is also stunning but the main problem with this dish is that there is so many amazing things within it it’s quite difficult to explain it… so it’s a good job I took notes! This can genuinely be eaten by two people but only can be tackled by one if you are a real hero but be warned it’s a seriously big ask, you wont go hungry either way. It is fitting that ti arrives in a car because this dish is quite the journey.

Lasagne Burrito

The Lasagne burrito is a much simpler dish but by no means something that should be underestimated. I have been cooking and eating Italian food since I was a child and a good lasagne really is the benchmark of success, you live and die by your lasagne. It’s all about the balance between each layer and no aspect within the lasagne should overpower another, creating an evenly layered, luxurious dish that almost melts in the mouth. Taking this into account I can openly say… guess what? nailed it. A velvety aromatic ragu hides within to create this beast of a fusion between the tradition and simplicity of Italy and the comfort food behemoth that is Mexico.The only difference between this and you’re Nan’s best Lasagne is this delicate pasta dish is then put to bed in a crunchy nacho wrap and served with fries and a side salad. It screams decadence and provides some very satisfying eating! Swap in the sweet potato fries for a real treat.

The Rub Dog Millionaire

Last but not least on the food front is the Rub dog millionaire. This is a real classic as far as the original menu goes and was one of the original social media hot potatoes that made such an impact when Rub first arrived on the scene in Birmingham. This horizontal mountain of a hot dog is made up of a half metre of smoked pork dog with caramelised onions, pulled pork, jalapeños, pickles and cheese served with BBQ beans and skin on fries. The sausage is the star of the show and has a delicate skin that gives a satisfying mouth feel and a subtle smoke flavour that permeates throughout this extensive railing of pork. However if you partner that with the silky pulled pork on it’s brioche base and the refreshing kick of the jalapenos followed by the sharp spike from the pickles you get a dish that doesn’t get bogged down by it’s own rich components. A great dish that still really holds up after all this time on the menu, which is clearly why it is still there.

Cocktails

Going back to the range of cocktails that I mentioned earlier, I ordered the Cooney island cooler – a fairground ride of a cocktail complete with Broker’s Gin, Fresh Strawberries, Cotton Candy Syrup, Lemon Juice & Vanilla Soda. Served with it’s rainbow cotton candy hat, when I saw the cocktail arrive it dawned on me that it is possibly the campest thing I have ever ordered… but incredibly fun when you see it for the first time! Becky ordered a Peanut butter jelly thyme – a marriage of Buffalo Trace, Thyme, Peanut Butter, Raspberry jam, White Chocolate Syrup, Lemon Juice & Whole Egg. Served with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. I’m no expert on cocktails but they were really enjoyable, not being too strong or too sweet that it overpowers everything or has you on your back within the first few sips. The cooler was really fresh and I recommend this to cut through any big challenges the menu may send your way, whereas the peanut butter jelly thyme is a much richer addition and would compliment a sweet dish really well.

Rub Ruby Lager

BEER! I like beer. Most people like beer. I work in the beer industry and I talk about beer all day every day and I’m very lucky to be able to do it, which i feel leaves me well equipped to talk about it outside of work!  The last time I was able to get to Rub they had a few select beers on keg that fit their theme but this time I noticed on their bar they have added some of their own branded beers that have been brewed for them by the West brewery in Scotland. I went for the Ruby red lager which was decent to be fair. I am not a 100% committed lager drinker as I am a fully initiated Ale-ite so I always take some serious convincing when it comes to lager. I ordered a half as I was also on the Cooney island cooler throughout the meal but seriously, what is a mass of smoked meat without beer? Exactly my point… nothing! Upon receiving my half pint I took in it’s amber colour and it’s malty aroma, which was pleasant and appealing. Tasting reveals a rich, biscuit base flavour and lingering malty, caramel notes that dissipate into a mild earthy kind of bitterness. For a lager it feels very much like an ale in it’s application with it’s low carbonation and more complex set of flavours, especially when compared to the usual suspects in the category. I would recommend this one for those particularly heavy moments when you think you can’t quite finish that Birthday burger. Lock and load guys. It is a good entry into the world of beer for Rub but I would love to see what they have planned for the future as knowing these guys they won’t let anybody get too comfortable before they raise the bar again and add something else to their arsenal. Maybe a nice IPA or a smoked porter to mull over while I’m picking my dessert? Just a thought!

The Cookie Monster

Speaking of desserts… Two words to remember when ordering your after dinner treats. Cookie. Monster. This is the most deceiving thing I have ever ordered! We thought it would be really quite easy to hit between two of us and I was so… so wrong. I have officially dubbed this dessert the Tardis because I swear to god it is bigger on the inside. This gargantuan task of a sweet consists of (from the bottom) a cookie smeared with Nutella, a scattering of chocolate brownie, a large amount of vanilla ice cream, a crazy amount of melted marshmallow and another cookie, finished with another huge helping of Nutella. Doesn’t sound too much of a challenge on it’s own but please feel free to read the above again to see how much food I actually consumed and then reassess any judgement on my failure to finish it. I know I sound like a broken record but as puddings go this felt like it had been quite thoroughly thought about and was the result of a discussion that was along the lines of ‘how much of Rub can we translate into a dessert?’ and this really does translate so perfectly in its application. Another solid addition to an already stellar lineup all round really. Supremely fun and the epitome of true indulgence, as I mentioned earlier a dish like this could be paired with the peanut butter jelly thyme to create a wonderful match up as peanut butter is probably the only thing not in the dish!


In summary then, yet again the Rub team continue to push on into uncharted territory with some dishes while maintaining the quality (and quantity) that have made them such a successful and established restaurant in an area of Birmingham that provides some very worthy competition. The very presence of some of their dishes challenges the very essence of what seems acceptable while making you want to go with them on the journey. For instance, Heston and his incredibly detailed scientifically developed recipes are stunning in their execution and interesting to most but it completely alienates the common man. Rub manages to help everybody enjoy the ride while making food that little bit more intriguing to look at from a new perspective. You have to ‘get’ Rub and if you think it’s too far or not to do what they do it’s very much like a radio show, and like Chris Moyles often say’s, if you don’t like it don’t listen to it. Fortunately for Rub I would be happy to bet my last penny that most people pretty much love them for what they do, much like I do. Food should be this fun and it should be looked at as having no real boundaries, everything is fair gain in this day and age and these guys just totally understand that. If you don’t quite ‘get’ Rub yet then I would thoroughly advise you make an effort to get on board as your meal times will be all the richer for it.

A huge thank you to Sean, Anya and the team for looking after us.

Visit http://www.rubsmokehouse.com/ for details or to make a booking but don’t forget if you are in Birmingham city center you can also use the wonderfully convenient delivery service (provided by Deliveroo).