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!

 

 

 

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The hog-mornay

For the first real recipe post of 2016 I thought I might as well do something I am known for and share a seasonally appropriate burger recipe with you all, starting as I mean to go on with something a little different while also keeping it totally achievable for cooks of any level.

As the title suggests I cooked this recipe on new years eve as a final seasonal blow out before the dark cloud of January rolled in from afar to rain on our festive parade. I am not a fan of January. I just find it comes across as the killjoy of all 12 months, hitting you faster than a speeding train it takes you from the festivities of Christmas and the week that follows and shoves you straight back into the harsh light of reality. A month long Monday. The seemingly eternal dark until the post Christmas payday! It’s not all bad but I love Christmas and all the build up that comes with it so when January takes that away from us I get a bit of a grump on the first week or so.

All this considered though, I do enjoy getting together with family and celebrating new year with good food while watching the Jools Holland Hootenanny until Big Ben chimes. As I have stated previously we have just bought a new house so we were determined to have people round as much as possible as we love entertaining and cooking for people, so I developed this recipe specifically for new years eve and it was a great success.

What is it? 

Pork – three ways. A burger with a giant pig in a blanket, topped with a rich Mornay sauce on a wholemeal bun with a touch of rocket.

What do I need?

  • 500g pork mince
  • 200g diced sweet potato
  • 1 heaped tbsp. Cajun seasoning
  • 1 grated apple
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 red onions, finely diced
  • Rocket
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 4 Wholemeal rolls

For the giant pigs in blankets

  • 4 97% pork sausages. I used Heck.
  • 4 large rashers of Smoked back bacon

For the Mornay sauce

  • 2 1/2 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. white flour
  • 2 cups of warmed milk
  • 2 big handfuls grated Gruyere cheese
  • Salt and pepper

What do I do?

  1. To start with you need to bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil and cook the sweet potato for 10-15 minutes, or until soft enough to slide off a skewer or fork. Then drain them and put them aside to cool, then mash them thoroughly.
  2. In a hot pan with a little oil, lightly fry the onions until soft then put aside to cool fully (Do this alongside cooking the sweet potatoes).
  3. In a bowl add the pork, apple, garlic, Cajun seasoning, onion, mash potato and season generously with the salt and pepper. Bring together well and split into 4 evenly loaded patty shapes. (If you have any left over they make great little meatballs for a pizza!) Cover in cling film and place in the fridge to chill.
  4. In a small saucepan on a low heat add the butter and wait for it to start to melt, then pop in the flour and stir until it comes together into a lumpy texture. Slowly add a little milk at a time while continuously mixing to bring together and thicken. Repeat until all the milk is used up then add the cheese and keep stirring until you get a thick cheese sauce, then season well. Add more cheese if you want it to thicken up a bit more.
  5. Heat up a grill, griddle pan or in my case I used a George Forman health grill. Butterfly the sausage and wrap it in the bacon. Place it on the hot griddle and weigh it down, either with another pan or close the lid of the health grill to avoid any major curling when the sausage starts to cook. Cook for 4-5 minutes on a medium heat and then turn over and repeat until crispy.
  6. In another hot pan, fry the burgers for 4-5 minutes a side until browned off and cooked all the way through. Serve immediately on the wholemeal rolls, on a small bed of the rocket, followed by the burger, then the pig in blanket, topped with a good helping of the sauce. Cap it with the top half of the roll and get them served before you go at them yourself!

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The Bayeux burger

As you may have seen in my recent post ‘Moyaux than meets the eye’ I went to France in July of this year and to be frank, I adored every second of my journey around the region of Normandy and found inspiration at every turn. The local produce was such good quality I actually left Normandy disappointed that I couldn’t stay longer and learn more about how everything was made and just sit one more time in the summer sunshine with a few different bits of cheese and some fresh bread, slicing tiny slithers of soft cheese away and pairing it with locally sourced cold meats and a cold beer. It really was bliss.

While I was there I was inspired to write quite a few recipes as there was plenty of ideas flying in and out of my head when we were exploring the local area but as ever, I am known for my burger recipes so it is only right I try and combine the flavours that Normandy is famous for and fit it between two halves of a bun for you all to experience at home. There are three things that stand out as essential ingredients to this burger and they are Pont l’eveque cheese, Calvados and Brioche. As long as these three things are present then you are onto a winner!

So here’s the recipe that screams out Normandy loud and clear to me while celebrating everything I miss about this beautifully wonderful place.

To make four burgers….

Ingredients:

  • 350G ground beef
  • 2 95% pork Sausages, removed from skins
  • 1 teaspoon dried Tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon herb de provence
  • A jar of large sliced pickles
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 150g wedge of Pont l’eveque cheese (or Brie) sliced into thick horizontal pieces
  • 2 finely sliced red onions
  • 1 single measure of Calvados (or good brandy if you cant get it)
  • 4 brioche burger buns
  • 4 teaspoons of Aioli
  • Olive oil

Method:

  1. Add the beef and sausage meat to a bowl with the Tarragon, Herb de provence and season well with the salt and pepper. Mix well to form a patty mix with an even consistency.
  2. Split into four even balls of meat mix. Roll, pat and press them into four burgers. (Quick tip: Size them to the buns!) Cover with some cling film and leave them in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove them from the fridge and preheat a griddle pan on a medium heat, lightly oil both sides of the burgers and place onto the pan. Cook for 3 minutes.
  4. In a preheated frying pan on a medium heat, add a tablespoon of oil and the onions. Season well and stir regularly until translucent and soft. Should take roughly the same time as the one side of the burger.
  5. Turn the burgers in the griddle and cook for a further 3 minutes.
  6. Turn the heat up on the onions and add the Calvados. This will simmer down really quickly, lower the heat again and leave them ticking over on a low heat stirring regularly.
  7. Turn the burger once again and add at least two large slices of cheese across the top of the burger, cover if you can and add a touch of water to create some steam. Don’t cook for longer than another minute or so as the cheese wont take much melting. Rest the burgers in a warm place for a few minutes.
  8. On the bottom part of each bun, spread the aioli and place onto the bun, cross two of the pickle halves across the cheese and top with a spoonful of the onions.
  9. Cap with the other half of the bun and serve with herby roast potatoes or sweet potato fries for a treat.

There we have it… the Bayeux burger. An oral tapestry of contrasting flavours and my own little dedication to a great part of the world.

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VIVA LA FRANCE!…Apart from in relation to the Rugby World Cup of course…. not even a little bit.

COME ON ENGLAND!!

Jack Friday!

This week was a special week for Rub smokehouse and bar in Birmingham as there was a special event held on Friday night. To commemorate Jack Daniels birthday and the launch of ‘Jack Fridays’ Rub held an evening of specially created food and drink, including cocktails and an incredible feat of culinary ingenuity that I will cover a little later called the ‘Mac n Jack’ Burger.

I had promised my Fiance a night out a while ago as it seems to have been a while since we went out just the two of us and given the advert that popped up on my Facebook for Rub’s Jack Friday and the special relationship I have built up with them the past few weeks it seemed like the perfect option. So I booked a table for 8:45pm and rocked up ready to have a real feed, JD t-shirt being worn in the true spirit of the evening!

Broad street was buzzing by the time we arrived seemingly raring to go for a heavy weekend of bank holiday festivities and the high energy atmosphere as ever was carried with us and up into the lift into the restaurant which was heaving with patrons enjoying their hard earned Friday treats. We sat down and ordered a few drinks to whet our appetites before we got started and took a look at the menu, Becky ordering a corn dog out of pure intrigue while I pondered the many wonderful options available. Before long the drinks arrived and again in the spirit of the evening I went for a ginger beer with a single shot of JD’s finest, which seemingly did the trick to relax me after a long week.

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The corn dog was a really nice experience and again came quickly regardless of how busy they were which was great, not something seen regularly on these shores the Corn dog is a hot dog sausage coated in a cornmeal batter and deep fried. The result is a rich, crispy and indulgent little morsel that to be fair would go great as a side served with your food let alone a stater as it is billed, a great little appetizer all the same! For our main meals I naturally ended up going for the epic Mac n Jack as Becky chose the pulled pork platter.

Only when I saw a few of the Mac n Jack’s pass me by did I begin to worry about my capability to actually finish the damn thing! It was huge! A mountain of meat enriched with Tennessee’s famous exported whiskey and three wooden skewers holding it all back from gravity’s cruel and unforgiving attempts to bring it crashing down all over the serving tray. I was not waiting long before it was time to see for myself if I could manage this monolithic masterpiece and was presented with a tray containing the towering burger alongside a nifty little JD branded box containing my lightly spiced fries. The Mac n Jack burger is a coming together of two 6oz cheeseburgers, cooked with a JD ice cube on top of it to imbue with the whiskey’s deep flavours, their signature 16 hour slow Brisket with JD gravy, breaded macaroni cheese (Yes. breaded. macaroni. cheese. If I break it down into singular words its easier to process!) all pinned into a burger roll and garnished with a JD rubbed chicken wing.

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Now if you think its a mouthful when reading this then try eating it! It was a surprisingly fantastic balance of deep beefy flavours, rich and silky gravy with the crispy saltiness that comes from the crunchy breading and smooth insides of the macaroni and cheese cutting through the richness without being stodgy or overbearing. A real treat and something that I hope sticks around on their menu. I couldn’t possibly try and pick it up so I had to dismantle it using my trusty steak knife and break it down into parts, starting with the top part of the burn and using it as a vehicle for the wonderfully wilting beef brisket and slowly working my way through the first layer to get to the mac n cheese below.

Meanwhile Becky was enjoying her pulled pork platter, a rather decent helping of slow cooked pork shoulder served with two sides, her selections were the smoked cheddar mash and the corn on the cob. The pork was smokey and luxurious, with the hickory really coming through as a primary flavour and creating a perfect pairing with the smoked cheddar that was running through the mash. She seemed to really enjoy it but unfortunately she wasn’t able to finish it as she hasn’t quite got the glutinous resilience that I have stored beneath my relatively modest belt line, It was however willingly put into a takeaway box for us by a very helpful member of staff and enjoyed as part of lunch the next day.

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By this point the restaurant was starting to calm down and people were slowly disappearing to do whatever they usually do on a Friday night on Broad street, which for many I assume involved quite a lot more Jack Daniels than was on my table. Myself and my good lady however were sat waiting for me to complete Rub’s latest offering, by this point I was well into the 60z cheesburgers and the spiced Rub fries, which were a really strong aspect of the meal in their own right. Crispy on the outside and temptingly fluffy on the inside which were superbly complemented with a slathering of ketchup and French’s American mustard as most fries are.

Needless to say I didn’t finish the Mac n Jack, but as the trend that Rub seem to be developing since they opened in Birmingham goes, It was an incredibly satisfying experience that did not leave you wanting for more. An all encompassing combination of flavours and textures that leaves no stone of detail unturned, no craving unquenched and no belly empty. A great addition to an already stellar line up on the menu, only enhanced by the Jack Daniels party vibe. We finished the evening with a drink at the bar (Brewdog Punk IPA on tap. Don’t mind if I do!) and a quick watch of the band that was setting up for the evenings festivities. Unfortunately our parking time restraints did not allow us to see the whole gig however they sure looked the part and sounded great while they were starting up. I hope the gig went well for them as a bass player myself I can appreciate the hard working musicians of this world as well as the food.

So as ever Rub gave us a great night out with some great food and kept me busy while also reminding me that as greedy as I am, even I have my limits however much I would of loved to have polished off the Mac n Jack and gone again on another one. The staff were excellent in such a high pressure, busy environment and they kept everybody well looked after and happy as per usual. Great work as ever guys and I’m sure it wont be long before we see you again.

….Oh and Happy Birthday Mr. Daniels I am a big fan or your work!

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Rub – The return

As some of you may have seen I recently reviewed Birmingham’s new American inspired restaurant on Broad street, Rub smokehouse and bar. In summary, I gave them a good review and said it was a good place to eat with an enjoyable atmosphere with plenty to offer its customers, although my burger was ever so slightly over done as I prefer my beef a little rarer. This was by no means a criticism just an observation made within an overall good experience at Rub.

As it turns turns out they read my review and got in touch. Throughout the review I had plenty of positive things to say about the experience but they paid special attention to the fact that my burger was a touch past my preference and it really mattered to them that it wasn’t a 100%, so I was invited back again to have a look around their kitchen to see how they prep their service, meet the management and have something else to eat. Naturally I accepted their generous offer and went to see them after work on Thursday of last week.

Starter

Starter

I was greeted by a few of the front of house staff and asked for Sean, who came out to meet me and take me to a table he has set aside for us to talk at. We sat for a few minutes and talked about the history of the company, how Rub came about, their philosophy and where they are going next, which was quite an interesting chat. The company is run by three people who all have strengths in different areas but all really care about what Rub smokehouse presents to it’s customers, this trio consists of Sean Singer, Luke Billingham and Jason Rowe who have a combined experience of 45 years in the food industry. All three have come together to successfully create a brand that is stylish, loud, fun and friendly, starting with their branch in Nottingham and as of just under four weeks ago, Birmingham.

Marvin and his pork shouldersInside the kitchen

Sean walked me through their smoking process and showed me the kitchen during service which was an enlightening experience as the kitchen wasn’t nearly as big I thought it would be but they use the space so incredibly well. One side of the kitchen is used for meat preparation and is home to Hank and Marvin. These two guys are very good at what they do and do a minimum shift of 16 hours straight, seven days a week… mainly because Hank and Marvin are the names of the smokers! Hank holds the beef brisket and Marvin is your guy for the pork shoulder. Smoking the meat for 16 hours using Hickory creates a mild and universally appealing flavour and ensures the meat gives up any hope of being anything other than melt in the mouth. They are the stars of the show and are an invaluable asset to the kitchen and it shows in just how much they are used, as Sean informed me they actually get through around 3,500kg of meat a week. Yes guys that is not a typing error… 3,500kg of meat a week, which begs the question:

‘How good is the meat and do they cut any corners to keep up with demand?’

The short answer is; very good and no. All of their meats are sourced from a farm in North Yorkshire called Sykes house farm and they receive 7 daily deliveries per week. Not a single piece of meat is frozen at Rub as it is used at its freshest straight from the farm. There is a large walk in fridge that holds it all until it is used as day one is spent planning for day two, for instance, Monday’s are spent prepping Tuesdays meat in the smoker etc. All other fresh produce such as vegetables, salad and none meat based produce is kept in a separate walk in fridge closer to the main runs of the kitchen, Interestingly enough there are also two microwaves in the building and they are used for two things and two things only, heating babies bottles and warming up porridge. Not a single drop of food that is served on the main menu enters them. Which is fantastic as everything from the burgers, steaks, fries, corn dogs, smoked cheddar mash and all the other fantastic sides are made fresh that day. Not too shabby for a place that can cater for 400 covers at once.

After looking at the kitchen and food storage I took a peak into the ‘cellar’ to look at their keg and cask set up which was also an interesting part of the visit for me as its very much an aspect of my day job working in sales for Marston’s brewery. They have multiple beers on tap at the bar including Blue moon, Brew dog’s Punk IPA, Brooklyn Lager, Samuel Adams and Budweiser to name a few, making their selection predominantly on message with the all American theme with the exception of a few great European beers (I’m looking at you Brew dog). All in all they cater for most beer drinkers and can offer you a decent amount of choice when looking for a drink to go with your ribs.

The cellar

Once this was all said and done we sat down again and talked for a little longer about their POS system and how the staff will take orders as the restaurant develops. The system is used by each member of staff using an Ipad strapped to their wrists making notepads a thing of the past and offering the customer a more interactive experience, for example if I wasn’t sure if I wanted the Rub-dog millionaire or the Rub burger I can ask the member of staff to simply press the option on their screen to reveal a picture of the dish in question. Better yet when it comes to adding my optional extras I can be handed the Ipad to select my own additions such as extra meat, cheeses, onions, pickles and that sort of thing to make each meal a truly unique, customisable experience. A really great idea made even more unqiue by the fact they are the only company to use the system in the UK at the present moment in time, paving the way for the rest of the industry to look and take note. Rub smokehouse and bar are making waves and showing people how its done in more ways than one it seems.

Sean then offered to order me some food using the system so I could see the whole process and get to grips with it, I accepted his offer and ordered the Reuben sandwich, which is a wonderful combination of the slow cooked beef brisket, slaw, Monterrey jack cheese and pickles on a sour dough roll smothered in their Jack Daniels enriched gravy. I was then handed the Ipad to select my additional extras and customise the dish, a very simple and effective way of creating something truly awesome, however I restrained myself and only had a few bits like bacon, extra pickles, extra cheese and switched the standard fries for sweet potato ones. I didn’t want to take anything away from the brisket itself as I wanted to experience it fully and not overload the sandwich so I could judge it on its own merit. Hank had done a stellar job of looking after this one as it just fell to pieces as I attempted to cut it, I gave up any hope of picking anything up with hands the minute it came to table, it was a glorious gravy laden mountain of meat and sour dough bread and I loved it. The fries were delicate and sweet on the inside and had a wonderfully satisfying crunch upon biting into them, they were not in the slightest bit greasy either which was fantastic! A good helping of salt and French’s mustard took them to another level and completed the dish. The rest of the sandwich was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and it all came together to put something really special on my platter! The bacon provided a strong salty hit, the gravy was a rich and silky quilt over the entire sandwich, the extra pickle spiked every bite with a tangy punch that sliced through from the background and left enough room on the palate for the cheese to enter the fray. Fantastic.

The reuben

Funnily enough I really loved my Thursday and Sean kept me entertained for well over an hour, which I cannot convey enough gratitude for as he is a busy man. The Birmingham branch is a perfect representation of everything that makes Rub and their philosophy so great in my eyes as it is a fun and welcoming atmosphere, offering amazing food and an incredible amount of passion. Passion for their customers and the food they serve, passion for the way their staff feel and a passion for making sure everybody leaves with a smile on their face wanting more, while literally being incapable of putting anymore in that is!

Directions anyone?

Directions anyone?

Rub smokehouse and bar is the perfect place to eat and have fun with family or friends. If you want a restaurant that offers more potential in one menu run (which changes around every three months) than some places do in a whole year’s worth of menu development, an atmosphere that is comfortable with itself and happy knowing it doesn’t apologise for being true to their philosophy, produces extraordinarily great food and cares so much about their customers they will spend precious time with somebody to talk about the hard work that do on an everyday basis then this is the place for you. A special mention has to go to Sean for taking the time to see me and looking after me so well, I also feel like this is the start of a great relationship between this blog and Rub and I thoroughly hope they continue to go from strength to strength, making all of their future plans possible so more and more people can share this brilliantly unique dining experience.

Rub is unapologetic in its quest for unique awesomeness …and I love them for it.

10/10

Rub me up the right way… visiting Rub smokehouse and bar: Birmingham

Living in Wolverhampton and loving food provides you with a bit of a problem. With the odd exception of a few gastro-pubs there aren’t really any stand out places to eat out and have the option to order something out of the ordinary, just the usual chains and a few knock offs of those chains. This doesn’t apply universally as there are a few cafes and things that are pretty good but Wolverhampton does have a habit of leaving you stuck for places to go. That is however unless you hop on the train to Birmingham.

Birmingham city center is luckily only a 20 minute trip down the line and offers a lot more choice when it comes to food and drink, so this week my friends invited us out for a wander and a bite to eat at the new ‘Rub’ restaurant on broad street. To give you a bit of background, Rub is a small chain of American style diners that seem to be very much focused on bringing an authentic experience to the high street with their huge portions, sweet/savory combinations, slow cooked meats, burgers and fried chicken that US cuisine is famous for. It looks like a recipe for success doesn’t it? the question is does it deliver?

We got there at around 6:50pm and walked into the foyer where we were greeted by two staff members and shown to the lift that takes you into the restaurant, the decor as you enter the building is modern and interesting, with artificial grass style carpeting and chip board walls that lead you into the elevator. The lift (which also has artificial grass in it) took us up to the top floor and opened its doors to reveal a booming hive of activity that graced my senses and notified me that I had most certainly arrived!

First impressions were that the place was buzzing with activity and it had a real fun factor without feeling too juvenile. the intriguing decor from downstairs was continued with tables and chairs that looked like they were made from pallets and painted intermittently, yellow and blue. The place has a great aesthetic and I really liked it. Sitting down and looking at the menu was a little bit of a task as the menu is so huge, this combined with my large appetite creates a bit of an issue, as being so spoiled for choice can be frustrating at times. The contents of the menu however did offer a good range of everything you would want from an American inspired restaurant including things like corn dogs, ribs, mac and cheese, hush puppies and slaw.

After much deliberation we decided upon a large sharing starter called ‘Born in the USA’ to begin with that we could share between the four of us, which consisted of a bowl of pulled pork nachos in the center of a platter that held four chicken wings, onion rings, pork crackling, garlic bread, mozzarella sticks and a selection of dips, finished off with four potato skins filled with bacon and cheese. Needless to say that if you were to order a few drinks this could easily sustain you all night on its own between two people, between four it was just enough. The potato skins were good, not too filling and not overdone as I cannot stand skin on potatoes that have shriveled up and dried out due to waiting to be thrown lazily out to a customer for hours upon hours in an oven. Everything else was pretty textbook really although the nacho’s stood out as the party piece. At first you don’t actually realise they have any pulled pork anywhere near them as it is buried deep within a cheesy, guacamole smeared corn chip crust. Only upon digging do you strike gold, or in this case, low and slow pulled BBQ pork that melted in the mouth and really set everybody up for the next part of the meal, which seemed to bode well so far.

It took me the entire time we sat eating our starter for me to choose my main and I still changed my mind when the waitress took my order! I ordered the ‘Rub burger’ which is the bog standard house beefburger but added a few extras to turn it into something a little bit more special and interesting. The beef burger came in a brioche bun branded with the Rub smokehouse logo and was filled with the following extras: beef brisket, caramalised red onions, bacon and blue cheese and I switched the fries for sweet potato fries, this turned it into a little bit of a mouthful to say the least. Upon receiving it everything looked great and it delivered in terms of its aesthetic, however the actual burger itself wasn’t by any means the best burger I have ever had. I ordered the beef medium rare but it was fairly dry and the texture wasn’t as good as I would have hoped, but it wasn’t a bad burger, just a few minutes past how I like it. The brisket was the star though as it redeemed the meal some points that the burger had lost, very much like the pulled pork it just wilted away when it was given the slightest tug and almost completely gave up on having any sort of resistance the moment you started to chew it. Finishing the burger off nicely was the blue cheese and bacon which gave it a much needed salty richness that elevated it a few levels and gave it the extra dimension that it needed, paired with the crunchy sweet potato fries it was a very enjoyable experience indeed.

Given all that I am sure you can understand dessert was not really an option this time but the menu looked interesting enough, including an item called the ‘Kitchen sink’ which you guessed it… come out in a small aluminium kitchen sink. extra points for having a sense of humour! speaking of which Rub doe not seem to take itself too seriously which is nice, the atmosphere is relaxed throughout even if it can get a little bit loud sometimes, you never feel overwhelmed or claustrophobic. There are little quirks to found like the sign to find the toilets that reads “for those that tinkle and for those that sprinkle” with the corresponding arrows to men’s and ladies bathrooms, the quirky cocktails and desserts that come out of the kitchen with what can only be described as fireworks hanging out of them (literally). The only downside is that it’s the type of place where the staff seemingly maul people on their birthday with the raucous rendition  of ‘Happy birthday to you’ while serving their dessert, and I kind of hate that. But that is more down to me being a miserable old fart at the ripe old age of 26.

So in summary the staff treated us well and were attentive to our needs, the food was not by any means perfect but it was a thoroughly enjoyable meal on the whole. The time that we spent in there on a busy Saturday night didn’t feel like we were being rushed out of the door while the food was hearty and satisfying, it was pretty good value for money at the same time too as including drinks between four of us it came to around £90, which, in Birmingham city center is pretty much about average. It was a restaurant that needs to be visited really to see if it is your type of thing but it is certainly mine. This place is a must visit in a big city with lots of really good restaurants that provide great food, and that is high praise in itself.

Ratings:

  • Aesthetics and feel – 4/5
  • Service – 4/5
  • Foods ‘wow’ factor – 5/5
  • Food quality – 3.8/5
  • overall satisfaction -4/5

Total = 20.8/25

Birmingham’s new rising star is a must visit and I encourage anybody to give it a go

Simple cod burger with gnocchi sardi salad

So, its now April apparently and it very much seems like March was one of those months that disappeared faster than a horse running at the national. The months seem to fly now that the clocks have changed and even though it is incredible to be having some lighter evenings to relax outside, it just seems like time goes a little bit faster when your enjoying yourself in pub gardens and having barbeques at home.

All the more reason to make the most of all this sunshine were currently having! The bank holiday was an absolute beauty weather wise and there certainly was no shortage of people taking their chance to have a pint by the canal at my local, the Fox and Anchor near Coven.

It is not very often I rave about a chain pub but I do love the Fox as it has a great ambiance in the winter when they light the log fires and even more so when they are buzzing with summer beer garden seekers. I even got a little bit sunburned. Which is not exactly hard as I burn like an ant under a blow torch.

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Now that we have all emerged from our wintery cocoons its time for some lighter food to compliment the bottles of Corona on the lawn (slice of lime optional but advised). White fish comes to mind as its quick, fresh and light on the pallet while being full of protein and really satisfying, paired up with this pasta salad which is the true star of this dish,makes a great meal. Enhanced further by the fact that its full of all the good stuff you can fit in without it becoming unbalanced, you’ll be feeling very pleased with yourself afterwards. No guilt. No hastle.

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Try this recipe on for size next time your feeling lazy on one of these warmer evenings.

Serves 4

For the burger:

  • 2 cod loins. Both halved.
  • 4 wholemeal buns.
  • Tartar sauce.
  • Soy sauce.
  • Pepper.
  • Few salad leaves of your choice.
  • Olive oil.

Pasta salad:

  • 400g gnocchi sardi.
  • 1 small box of cherry or small variety of tomatoes, all halved.
  • 1 courgette, diced.
  • 1 red and 1 orange pepper, diced.
  • 1 small can of sweetcorn.
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped.
  • handful fresh parsley, finely chopped.
  • 5 tablespoons of zero fat Greek yoghurt.
  • 5 tablespoons light mayonnaise.
  • 1 tablespoons dijon mustard.
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

  1. Cook the pasta to pack instructions.
  2. Add the pasta to a large mixing bowl and stir in all of the other ingredients apart from the courgette.
  3. Preheat a frying pan on a medium heat, add a tiny bit of oil and fry the courgette until it starts to brown a little, then remove and mix into the salad.
  4. Give a good few turns on a salt and pepper mill.
  5. Chill for 20 minutes.
  6. Use the preheated pan and add a little more oil.
  7. Add the cod loin halves and fry on a medium heat for around 4 minutes. Turn over and repeat.
  8. Turn the heat up to high and add a tablespoon of soy sauce, give the pan a shake so it reaches all of the fish, do this for around 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  9. Cut the rolls and put around a teaspoon of tartar sauce on both halves. Lay a few leaves on the bottom half, followed by the soy fried fish, along with anything else you want to add. (Go crazy, its a blank canvas).
  10. Finish with one big sprinkle of black pepper, cap it off with the top half of the bread and serve with a big spoon full of the pasta.

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Its another very simple but very effective recipe to fill a void after a hard day at work when the evening is best spent enjoying the sunshine outside!