Despite this blog being called Brummie Tummy, I always feel as if I don’t mention Birmingham enough or at least share some of the great places we have in this city I call my hometown. Partly because I know I spend a lot of time in Londinium so naturally end up writing about a lot of London restaurants, but I often feel as if there are plenty of other blogs and websites promoting Birmingham out there (like smoke&umami or even Dine Birmingham). Plus, given I’m always behind in updating my blog posts, I feel as if people already know about whatever place I’m going to write about so there’s even less reason to write about it (before I get a grip of myself and realise that another blurb by myself isn’t really going to make that much of a difference). So I thought I would write about a couple of experiences I’d had at Loaf HQ; CANeat and Stirchley Brewhouse; I’ll be honest and admit that I’m fortunate enough to know the guys behind CANeat and am fully aware of what their levels of culinary expertise are, but I like to think that I won’t let anything like that influence what I write on here.
CANeat is a new (roughly) fortnightly popup, based at Loaf HQ offering “a regular, intimate dining experience with the menu published in advance” (on the CANeat website). And it certainly is intimate – The dining room at Loaf HQ barely held 13 diners and as a result, everyone could overhear conversations from the surrounding tables (although strangely we couldn’t really hear the music playing on the mac in the corner), but that wasn’t really a problem and it is a testament to the clientele and the conviviality of the night that everyone could join in all the conversations across the room. It may have been the first night of CANeat, but if that night was a measure of things to come in terms of atmosphere, then laid-back and all-round friendliness is what to expect.
Food-wise, it is very much the high quality I would expect from these guys; That is to say it’s exceedingly high and especially so when you consider that these guys all have (normal) day jobs and when you look on their website, they state: “CANeat is a group of food enthusiasts offering a different way to dine in Birmingham. CANeat believes in providing great food with provenance that is good value and welcoming. Food that is prepared with passion and dedication using time-honoured methods. We preserve, cure, smoke, brew, ferment and bake. CANeat will offer food without boundaries from across the world..” And when the first night’s menu came to a whopping £20 for snacks, 3-course meal, milk and cookies then tea/coffee with petit fours (or treats, as they call them on the menu), that’s bargainous in anyone’s book – Especially when you can pay in excess of (or get very little change from) £20 just for a main course in some other restaurants in the City. Highlights of the night for me included the nasi lemak – in particular the beef (well, ox cheek) rendang and the sambal tumis ikan bilis it was served with – Although it packed a bit too much of a punch for some diners!. I also liked how they deconstructed a Pineapple Upside Down Cake so that you got a wedge of salt baked pineapple, served with a smidge of cardamom (icing) sugar (which was jokingly suggested the diners were meant to snort) and a quenelle of buttermilk ice cream on top of what was meant to be the cake component, but was actually more of a crumble. I guess I should have expected something deconstructed given it was written on the menu as Pineappleupsidedowncake. Still, it was delicious and everyone cleared their plates. That’s not to say that *everything* was brilliant and en pointe; Whilst I applaud them for offering nasi lemak, which is still sadly hard to find in Birmingham restaurants and I loved the beef rendang and sambal tumis parts of the dish, unfortunately the actual nasi lemak part of the dish (the coconut rice) was the weakest component of the dish without the coconut flavour (or pandan leaf/lemongrass if they used it) coming through when you ate it, plus the rice was a bit claggy. That said, everyone still loved it and again, cleared their plates and whilst my only minor criticism could be construed as being hyper-critical, I’m pretty sure that the ever-perfectionist that is Lap would agree with me that the rice could have been better.
A couple of days later, I was back at Loaf HQ, this time for Stirchley Brewhouse which basically sees the cookery school at Loaf HQ once again, transformed into a café, but in this instance it’s a collaboration where they offer breakfast/brunch items and the hot beverages are offered by Pop Cult Coffee 8:30 – 11:30 on a Saturday morning. I missed the first one (which included a “mock muffin” which was essentially the mock of a breakfast muffin you can get from the Golden Arches, but made with locally sourced ingredients and fresh sourdough muffins made on the premises), but the 2nd one (which was held not too long after the success of the first Stirchley Brewhouse) had me sold at the words: “huevos rancheros” – I don’t think I actually paid attention to the rest of the menu once I saw that on it..
One thing I can say about anything from Loaf is that you can be assured that it’ll be pretty damn good and at worst, tasty. So whilst I rocked up bang on 11:30 (my friends got there at 11:15), they had pretty much sold out of everything – No huevos rancheros, no cowboy beans (chorizo and black beans).. I daresay they were a bit taken back by how popular it was and the only thing they could offer us was some scrambled egg on Stirchley Mighty White toast topped with a chilli and tomato sauce. OK, it wasn’t the kind of eggs I was hoping to eat, but like I said earlier, it’s not like I was going to get anything *bad* to eat when there. I also have it on good authority that the blueberry slices and banana loaf were very good too (judging on how it was pretty much inhaled by people).
You can keep up to date of the latest menu on the CANeat website, but it’s always worth checking the Loaf website as they will always have details for both CANeat and Stirchley Brewhouse whenever it runs. Plus, you can always follow both Loaf and CANeat on twitter if you really want to stay on top of any announcements (including news of any impromptu pop-ups like a kebab night they had recently), but prepare to be constantly drooling as there are often pictures posted of whatever delicious baked goods have just come out of the oven. In which case, you’ll just have to head over to Stirchley Stores and resist the temptation to buy everything. It really brightens up my heart to see Loaf doing so well – Not just in the bakery and cookery school, but also in helping to Brummies get a chance at something decent to eat, especially with the new additions of CANeat and Stirchley Brewhouse without having to break the bank or travel elsewhere. I guess all I need to say is Viva Stirchley!