Category Archives: Local Gem

500 days of Summer

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Well, perhaps not quite 500.

This weekend promises something quite rare for myself – I will not only be able to spend the whole weekend waking up in my own bed, but I don’t have anything planned for the first time in ages. Yes, I’ve deliberately turned down some things to make it so, but it was from looking at my diary that I came to the realisation that since Mid-June, I’ve only had 3 weekends where I didn’t have something planned or more specifically, meant I had to go away. Yes, I know this is very much a First World Problem, but I was thinking that being so busy should also mean that there *must* be something I could post about, right?

In the space of 3 months, a lot has happened – I had a bit of a scare regarding a lump discovered in one breast which turned out to have been lumps (plural) and affecting both breasts (!!). After a tense few weeks of being prodded and poked for investigation and seeing sights which no woman should ever see, I am relieved to say that I’m OK and have been discharged from the hospital. Being discharged meant that I could commit to a change in job roles and start on a 2 year project which will hopefully result in even bigger and better things for me. Obviously during those weeks, I couldn’t really consider if I had a future, let alone what I should/want to be doing in it, but once I knew it was OK to do so, I started planning my future with a new invigorated sense of trying to achieve more.

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There have been trips to Copenhagen – Two in fact, but the second one was very much a last-minute thing and I’ll write about that in another post. The first trip included a meal at the always-brilliant Relæ, loving Mirabelle so much that we went back the following day for (what turned out to be) the same dishes – Which we didn’t mind one bit, a great experience at Ante (RIP) and most of all, a trip to The Amazing Pig Out at Amass (oh, and going there for Amass Fried Chicken in the garden of Amass the day before). Again, more about this another time…

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A fair amount of beer was consumed – Not only from a trip to the magnificent Birmingham Beer Bash which has established itself as a firm annual favourite in my calendar, but with the opening and discovery of some new tap rooms and bars, especially the (IMO) very brilliant Clink Beer in the Custard Factory. What impresses me the most about Clink Beer is that it was borne out of the desire to have somewhere reasonably central (especially in the Digbeth area) where you can get some really decent and interesting craft beers without having to pay inflated prices as you may for something in the City Centre or travel across the other side of the City (If like me, you don’t live that side of Brum). I’m very biased in that the location of Clink Beer is on my bus route home, therefore making it VERY easy for me to go for a few drinks and still be able to stagger to the bus home, but I genuinely love this place and hope they do really well (I know I will do my bit).

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Founders released their KBS 2016 and expectations were almost impossibly high given how KBS 2015 was one of my favourite beers EVER. Yet Founders managed to pull it out of the bag again – KBS 2016 was somehow even better than 2015 with deeper coffee and vanilla notes. The bar was already set sky-high, but it could well be stratospheric for KBS 2017. Other highlights included being able to finally try Founders’ Mango Magnifico (at the Birmingham Beer Bash), and it was delicious – Even with the poke at the end! Another beer highlight was the latest BQE offering from the always reliably brilliant Brooklyn Brewery which could well be my favourite EVER. Named The Discreet Charm of the Framboise, it’s based on their very delicious Bel-Air Sour beer (which I got to gorge on during the London Beer Mansion earlier in the year), aged in Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrels with a whole load of raspberries chucked in – All elements which individually I love so it was bound to be a winner in my books when you combined them all (and it’s every bit as delicious as I thought/hoped it would be).

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Food-wise, there were some highly enjoyable visits to Aulis at at Claridges and The Sportsman and I also got the chance to sample the talents and deliciousness from Alex Nietosvuori during his stint at Carousel before he moved on to Santiago, Chile on his next food adventures. Whatever Alex does next, I’m sure he’ll be a great success and I greatly look forward to tasting his food again. There was also a whirlwind visit to Silo in Brighton, but that visit is very much worthy of its own post.

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From my own part, there was a rediscovery of my own love of cooking when I got to cook for a load of friends (and family) in M & B’s new kitchen (photos) which also meant I not only got to play with, but covet various bits of kitchen equipment and design in their lovely home. There was (as you would expect in cooking meal for 14 people) a fair bit of work to be done, but M&B were such fantastic hosts and so generous in letting me wreck and mess up their sumptuous kitchen (I mean, they actually made us breakfast pastries and personalised fortune cookies). But there was a moment at the beginning of the meal when the entire table were drinking their soup (pork fillet, mustard greens and salted duck eggs) and other than the odd guttural murmur, the only sound you could hear was of everyone happily slurping their soup. I was busy preparing the duck at the time to take a picture or video at the time, but I paused to take in that moment and a massive smile appeared on my face. So whilst I got a lot of thank you’s for cooking the small feast, I have to say a massive THANK YOU to M & B for not only letting me play in their kitchen, but also to everyone else that came along that day for helping me to rediscover the joy I get from not only cooking, but seeing people enjoying the food I’ve cooked.

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There has been a lot of reflection over the summer – My health scare at the beginning of the summer made me a lot more contemplative than usual, but the Olympics also made me think of the last Olympics in London – And how I can finally look back at that time more objectively. I mean, I remember posting about the Olympics on here and how I kept bursting into tears – During the National Anthem, whenever some athlete was crying.. I can look back on it all now and realise that at that time 4 years ago, I was deep in the throes of grief, but it hasn’t diminished my appetite for watching the Olympics. I mean, after being able to gorge myself in sport around the clock, I felt a bit bereft when the Olympics ended. (Although, as a side note, YAY for the Paralympics coverage!).

However, the main event was for me, the wedding of M & G. It may have been towards the end of the summer and in the middle of a *really* hectic few weeks, but more than anything, it reinforced how close my family all are – And how fortunate I am to have such a loving and utterly brilliant family. Whilst there were no tears from watching the Olympics, there was much laughter, some tears and some moments of tension between and from each of us at some point over the weekend. Naturally, all of us at some point turned our thoughts to our late parents and how they would have both *loved* to have been there. However, I know that I’m not alone in thinking that seeing the beaming smiles and howls of laughter across everyone’s faces – Along with the very evident joy and happiness on M and G’s faces as they got married – made us all feel fortunate to be able to share and join in these new happy memories for all. And whilst it’s a very old cliché, we all know that our parents were with us in spirit.

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So what now? I’ve already mentioned how I should (need) post about a few places, but after such a hectic summer, I think it’s time to step back a little and take things slightly easier – Not only will my body thank me for it, my bank balance will too! After all, I need to save up for bigger adventures 😉

The 40 Project part 5 – Fin

Well, this is it. It’s taken a few posts (and even longer for me to write up about it!), but what started off as something to keep me amused and occupied in the year I turned 40, I ended up doing much more than the requisite 40 and I’ve only written about those I have fairly decent pictures of. I’ve managed to travel a fair bit in my 40th year – 3 trips to Copenhagen, 1 trip to Whitstable and Seasalter, a trip to Lyon, numerous trips to London, an Alaskan Cruise, a trip to Washington State, a trip to San Francisco and also San Jose, a few trips to Manchester.. The list went on. However, there was a notable omission – I hadn’t done anything in my home town of Birmingham.

I’d spent quite some time wandering what I could do for my 40 list for Birmingham; There was one occasion I went to have a few drinks (and food) at the Two Towers Brewery which much to my amusement, really was a piss up in a brewery. However, I completely forgot to take any pictures so given I don’t have any pictorial evidence of said piss up in a brewery, I couldn’t really post about it. Then I wondered what other food specialties I could try from Birmingham – I had already come close with proper Black Country Butcher’s home made faggots, but the likes of HP Sauce, Bird’s Custard and even Typhoo Tea even though they all originated from Birmingham and you can still see remnants of the old Bird’s Custard Factory and HP Factory today, they are no longer produced in Birmingham which deemed them ineligible. I liked the idea of a pint of Mild with some pork scratchings and I know I have done both, but it didn’t feel right for my 40 list – Even though it’s probably the one closest to my heart.

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It was all coming down to one, inevitable choice really – The Balti. There’s a lot of snobbery when it comes to Baltis and let’s face it, it’s not exactly the most glamorous thing on the list, is it? I mean, this is my hometown – And the best I could come up with is a Balti? Never mind the fact that it’s not exactly a new thing for me to try. That said (and in the face of no real alternative), I slowly came round to the idea and eventually decided that I would go for a Balti in one of the original Balti restaurants in the Balti Triangle [40] (That’s a lot of “Balti”‘s there) on New Year’s Eve – What better way to see out the year in which I turned 40 than doing the final item on the list?

The choice of restaurant was quite important too – Looking at the Balti Birmingham site, it gives you a shortlist of “Authentic Balti” restaurants and a bit of research here and there led me to choose Al-Frash as my restaurant of choice. I’m not sure exactly how and why I chose that restaurant, but I was happy to be going there anyway.

Looking at the menu, I noticed they offered what they termed “world’s first sweet potato pakora” Well, I *had* to go for one of those. Similarly, I avoided ordering my usual curry and went for one of the House Specials when this caught my eye:

“Butterfly Special – Our signature dish, fusing all the delicious flavours of King Prawn, Chicken Tikka, Mushroom & Special Kashmiri Spices, cooked to perfection. Served with rice or nan”

Yep, SOLD! I’ll have that with rice and sadly, they didn’t offer a Family nan – One where it’s pretty much the size of the table – so I got a large nan to share with my fellow diners P and M whom joined me in this celebration.

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To be perfectly honest, the food itself was fine – It wasn’t anything standout, but I had a great time with 2 great friends to mark the end of the year I turned 40 and with that, the end of my 40 Project. I was really happy to end it on such a high note, eating nice food and with great company.

And that’s been the recurring theme throughout the whole year; Not only did I have great fun thinking of and doing this project, I got to do it accompanied with/surrounded by people I know and love. As previously mentioned in another post, I’ve been really fortunate in that I got to travel even more than usual but the whole spirit of which the project was taken – To mark the year when I turned 40 – Was done so in a celebratory fashion and I loved every single part of it. In contrast, this year (where I turned 41) seems dull in comparison and who knows – Perhaps I’ll think of something similar for my next significant Birthday. But for now, I know that I hit my 40s eating and drinking some fantastic food, surrounded by my brilliant family and fabulous friends – For which I am very grateful for.

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The 40 Project part 3 – US of A!

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When compiling this list, it was always helped by the fact that I knew that I would be doing a fair bit of travelling – Much more so than usual. Generally, I take a lot of long weekend breaks, but this year, I knew that in addition to my trips to CPH and further away, I would be spending the bulk of my holiday allowance in the USA – Firstly for an Alaskan Cruise, but then using the opportunity to visit both my sisters H and YML just outside Seattle and San Jose respectively – Which meant another chance to add a few items onto my 40 list. Given the trip was essentially in 3 parts, it’s probably best I write about it in 3 parts:

Washington State

I actually had a fair bit on my original list when it came to Washington State, but in the end I only ended up adding a couple of items onto my 40 list, but it meant that I got to do lots of fun things which weren’t necessarily food or drink related. Also, I *did* drink a fair few beers from local breweries – But there wasn’t necessarily any photographic evidence of it, so less helpful in terms of writing up on it for this blog. HOWEVER, the 2 items I managed to add to the 40 list from my time in WA. were pretty good;

Firstly, I got to eat a burger from the marvellous Burger Express in Federal Way [22]. It’s been serving burgers to the good folks of Federal Way since 1983 (there is a sign inside stating that Burger Express is Federal Way’s only independent hamburger restaurant) and all the burgers are 1/4 lb beef patties with all the trimmings and come with a massive portion of skin-on fries. The inside is done up very much with a 50’s diner in mind with a jukebox at every booth. I remembered this place vaguely from my visit 10 years previously, but I was very happy to come here again and add it to my 40 list. (Photos)

Similarly, given I was so close to Seattle, I had to get a coffee. As it turns out, whilst en route to the Cruise Terminal in Seattle later that day, we drove past the Starbuck headquarters. And well, it was by chance that we not only got to go to a Drive-thru Starbucks (I first encountered a drive-thru coffee place 10 years previously and they were unheard of in the UK at that point), but I got to have a spiced Pumpkin Latte because it was near Halloween. So, drinking a spiced Pumpkin latte from a drive thru Starbucks [23] is proudly on my list.

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Alaska

One of the main purposes of the trip was to go on an Alaskan cruise; It’s something that’s been on my bucket list given how much I enjoy the whole cruise ship experience from my Cayamo days and combined with the fact that I could see H and a few of my sisters also went along, it was going to be something special.  I must say that Alaska is truly beautiful – Some of the scenery was stunning and amongst the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in my life. The fact that you’re so close to wildlife in their natural habitat was truly breathtaking at times, perhaps I was getting soaked up by the whole experience of being in the USA, but the fact that I saw not just one, but several Bald Headed Eagles in their natural habitat was something very special.  I did miss things like the chance to see a wild bear because I was busy being too cool (i.e. an idiot), but seeing things like glaciers up close made up for it.

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In regards to the 40 list, most of the things I managed to add to the list (with photographic evidence) were all done in Juneau, AK. There, I managed to eat Alaskan King Crab [24], washed down with a pint of Alaskan Amber Ale [25] (brewed by the Alaskan Brewing Company who are based in Juneau, no less). And whilst I enjoyed the Amber Ale, it was a perfect accompaniment to the King Crab. Sure, it took the best part of 35mins for me to extract every last fibre of juicy meat from the shell, but I was struck not only by how thick the fibres were, but the sweetness and juiciness of the meat astounded me. I mean, I’ve had some sweet crab meat before, but nothing like this. It was quite pricey, but an absolute treat. Also whilst in Juneau, we took an excursion to a Salmon Hatchery and whilst it was great fun seeing all the salmon leaping out of the water to simulate being in the wild, I have to admit it was fascinating seeing a wiley seal swim into the waters to presumably try to gorge on as much salmon as it could manage. After that, we headed to an old-fashioned Salmon Bake (taken there on a kitted out old School Bus, no less) and whilst YKL was busy endearing herself to the local wildlife and we were warned of the threat of bears coming up and trying to eat your food (let them, don’t try to fight them!), it was here that I got to sample some wild (not farmed) Alaskan salmon [26] (Photos)

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I should also mention how I went to other places in Alaska on this trip and as mentioned before, some of the scenery was breathtaking – I *loved* seeing the glaciers and well, experiencing the vastness as well as some of the beauty of the USA. I joke at how it was surprisingly colder than I thought it would be near a glacier or up a Mountain summit, but the serene beauty and tranquility of it all is something I will treasure being able to experience.

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California

Ah, the Golden State, the most populous of all the States in the USA.  I’ve already mentioned how this trip was a chance for me to see some of my sisters, so it was a chance to see YML and her family in San Jose.  Before that though, the opportunity arose to spend a few cheeky days in San Francisco.  Bearing in mind that we’d just got off an Alaskan cruise where we pretty much needed to wear all the clothes in our suitcases to keep warm, the weather in California was the absolute opposite – Temperatures nearing 30c with high humidity percentages, we certainly had no need for any thermals or fleeces!  Our time in San Francisco was short, so not only did we have to make difficult decisions on where to eat and see (some of which was led by availability, tbh).  I wanted to do things like make a pilgrimage to AT&T Park, home of my beloved San Francisco Giants or even try to catch a ballgame (sadly, I didn’t have time for either, so my wait to eat garlic fries there again goes on).  However, I did manage to tick off a few things from the 40 list:

Our first stop in San Francisco was a trip to the institution that is Swan Oyster Depot. This place is just beyond brilliant and is pretty much universally loved by everyone that goes there. I mean, it’s been there since 1912 so it must be doing some right. Sure, there are higher-end places with their white linen table cloths and silver cutlery. There are bigger establishments where you can fit more people in (and with that, the £££ or $$$ rather), but none of them have the charm, establishment, feel, history or welcome of Swan Oyster Depot. If you were to look up the definition of an ideal raw bar – Swan Oyster Depot was pretty much be it. I loved EVERYTHING I had to eat there – the oysters, the chowder (and I don’t like chowder, normally) but most of all – The crab back fat. OH. MY. GOD!! That stuff was divine (and nicely washed down with a pint of Anchor Steam Beer). So yeah, I got to eat at Swan Oyster Depot [27] – And it was every bit as glorious as I hoped it would be. (Photos)

I also got to go on a Brewery Tour of one of my favourite breweries – Anchor Brewing. We could only get tickets for the late morning session but for about $15, you get to not only tour the brewery and learn about its history, see it in action and learn about the beer making process, but you also get to taste a wide range of their beers. Folks, I didn’t really have time for breakfast beforehand (I thought we could grab something on the way – I was wrong). So when you consider how all the pours were generous (I’d say about a half pint for each beer) and we tried at least 7 different beers that day. You could say I was a bit sozzled by the end of the tour and in desperate need for some sustenance. However, I got to not only drink Anchor Steam Beer, but a whole range of Anchor Brewing Beers not only in San Francisco, but at the Anchor Brewery itself [28]. (Photos)

Sustenance came in the form of heading over to the Mission District and another pilgrimage – this time to Taqueria la Cumbre – Birthplace of the Mission Burrito. Say what you like about how authentic it is, the fact is Mission Burritos are known all over the world. And when you get to eat it as establishments like Taqueria la Cumbre, they are very tasty too. You could say that I was so drunk that any food was welcome, especially starchy carbs, but I really enjoyed my carne asada – freshly grilled strips of grass-fed beef topping some rice, beans, pico de gallo, sour cream, cheese and guacamole (there may have been more), and I’m looking at the MOUND of food on the single tortilla and thinking to myself “there’s no WAY you are going to wrap that neatly!”. But in a series of deft moves seemingly defying the laws of physics, not only was the whole thing neatly wrapped, but smoothly done so in foil. Yeah, this guy had obviously rolled a few burritos in his time, but the finished item – served with some freshly fried tortilla chips – packed some weight when you lifted it up! By now, the smells wafting from the place and after watching them assemble (construct) this monster burrito, I couldn’t *wait* to sink my chops into it!. And it was worth the (marginal) wait and pilgrimage – Juicy carne asada, nice balance of rice, peas with a bit of kick from the pico de gallo. Yeah, I was a bit drunk, but this more than filled the hole and well, eating a burrito at Taqueria La Cumbre [29] meant another tick off the list. (Photos)

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For my 2nd lunch that afternoon (!!), we ended up meeting YKL in Tartine Bakery. For those in the know, Chad is probably the best baker in all of the USA – Easily within the West Coast. YKL and I were very fortunate to meet the man himself and his head baker, Richard earlier in the year as part of Relæ’s 5th Birthday Party (more of that in another post) and he very graciously mentioned that he would be happy to show us around the bakery (if he was around whilst we were there). Sadly, I didn’t get to make it as the day’s drinking took its toll on me (!!). However, I did manage to eat a Croque Monsieur and a Banana and Cream tart from Tartine Bakery [30]. And lemme tell you, that banana and cream tart was one of the best I’ve *ever* eaten.. I’m salivating just remembering how good it was. (Photos)

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For our last morning in San Francisco, we were taken on an impromptu tour of Clement St – the other Chinatown within San Francisco. It’s actually much more diverse but the amount of places with fresh dim sum (3 dumplings for $1), it honestly felt like being in Hong Kong and I loved it. (Photos) However, we were also very lucky to have been taken to B Patisserie that morning. I had heard of this place for their Kouign Amann and literally, the air is thick with the smell of butter when you are nearby. The patisserie on sale there certainly looked the part and the Kouign Amann tasted every bit as good as they looked – Light, flaky, buttery, crisp… Being able to eat a Kouign Amann (of different varieties) at B Patisserie [31] was an unexpected, but very welcome addition to the list. (Photos)

Our only foray into the Fine Dining arena was a trip to Manresa. Much had been heralded about Manresa, especially since a fire in July 2014 which devastated most of the restaurant. However, the word was that since it re-opened, the cooking from David Kinch was better than ever and indeed, the announcement that the restaurant was awarded 3*’s came a few weeks after our visit. I have to say, some of the food we ate there was stunning – Especially the signature “Into the Garden” [32]. That said, there were some misses for me (personally), but the highs were impressively good. (Photos)

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Of course, the whole USA trip wasn’t just about the #40 list, but a chance to see family too which is much more important and dear to my heart. I had great fun ticking off items on the 40 list in the USA, but the memories, happiness and joy from the whole trip are what I take away and cherish the most.

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The 2015 Project (AKA What I plan to do in my 40th year)

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I hit a significant number for my Birthday in 2015 – And that number is 40. I don’t really make too much of a fuss about my Birthday – It’s just another day and another number but I’ve always maintained that I’m looking forward to being middle-aged (though whether you can say that I behave appropriately for someone my age is debatable) and as a result, I’m actually rather looking forward to my 40th Birthday this year. Inspired by YKL and her Year of Vague Endeavours where she tried 40 different things for the first time, I kind of wanted to do something similar, but could combine my love of well, food, and also how I now have a lot more freedom to travel around than I used to. So I came up with an idea of how in my 40th Birthday year, I will try to visit 40 different places and eat something they’re locally renowned for – Pork Pies from Melton Mowbray, potted shrimps from Morecambe, Pudding in Bakewell, Oysters in Whitstable.. And write about it on here (which means I get back to blogging which I’ve kind of missed). Also, it’s a chance to go to some restaurants and try their signature dishes in keeping with something they’re renowned for.  The list wouldn’t just be restricted to the UK; I am hoping to go back to Copenhagen and well, I also hope to see more of my family abroad so a trip over the pond is on the cards. There’s a lot to see and do given the list should be 40 and there are only 52 weeks in a year, but I’m hoping to be able to double – or triple – up on places over a few days in some cases. And well, I’m hoping to finally learn to drive and get a car this year which will help in terms of getting out there too. It’s not restricted to food, btw – I’ve got some distilleries and breweries on my wish list. Either way, it’s going to be pretty awesome and well, let’s get my Forties off to a great start!

I have a list, but I still don’t quite have 40 on the list – So perhaps some of you can help me here. Where would you recommend I try to visit and sample?

Public Service Announcement – Get your ribs on!

Not done these for a while, so forgive me for being out of practice..

Are you or can you get to Birmingham this Weds night (26th November)? Are you kind of stuck for something to do or where to go eat? While there are a few options you could go to, you won’t get much better than the upcoming Smoke and the City night at the Peel & Stone Bakery, where you can sample some award-winning ribs amongst some other goodies from our very own local gem, Lap Fai lee of Alt-Q and the Backyard Brummies for a bargainous £20. So what you waiting for? Tickets can be purchased here

NOVEMBER MENU

Smoked nuts, scratchings, andouille

Jerk babyback ribs and wings, dirty rice and peas, slaw, bacon cornbread

Smoked cardamom flan

Doors open at 6.45pm, food served at 7.15pm.

See you there!

Local Gem: Bedders, Birmingham

This is Bedders

In my attempt to keep posting a bit more about Birmingham, I thought I would start a new category: Local Gems. These will be places which may not exactly set the culinary world on fire, but are local places where solid, tasty food is served. The first local gem I want to write about is Bedders in Small Heath, Birmingham.

Bedders for me, embodies everything I want to write about local gems – Most people in East Birmingham and Solihull know of Bedders but not so much outside of these geographic areas although they very much should. Fish and Chips is one of this nation’s beloved dishes – Who doesn’t like Fish and Chips? – and Bedder’s has been at the same location selling the same dishes today as they did over 50 years ago when they first opened (with a few additions to reflect the change in times). You don’t need me to tell you that any business which has survived for so long is obviously doing something right but here they are, still serving Fish and Chips as they probably did all those years ago when they first opened. What’s more astonishing is the fact that Bedders only opens Monday – Saturday for lunch and the only time they open in the evening is on Friday evenings 4:30pm – 7pm.

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The menu is delightfully simple; Fish is a choice of cod, haddock or plaice (the latter 2 costing a bit more), they have pies and you can request tinned roe when you get there, although there are times they have fresh roe available too. No Southern Fried Chicken, no battered mushrooms or onion rings, definitely no kebabs here. If you order fish and chips, you can have it either as a single (piece of) fish and chips, or even a double (piece of) fish and chips. What’s more, in a really nostalgic twist, this is one of the few places I know of that offer you crispy bits of batter too (think some people know them as scraps?)

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The fish is incredibly fresh at Bedders, too. Urban legend has it that fishermen call Bedders first to offer their wares before going to the Wholesale Market, but what I do know is that the fish is prepared fresh every day and the beauty of Bedders being so busy constantly is that all the fish is so freshly cooked that it’s rarely out of the fryer longer than 10 minutes before sold (and the fired fish has to be stacked sideways to allow more room once out of the fryer). It’s no small feat for somewhere in landlocked Birmingham to have been able to consistently get such fresh fish every day for as long as they have at Bedders. In my case, I always get my fish freshly fried as the plaice and haddock are cooked to order.

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However, it’s not just the high quality fresh fish which should have you going to Bedders; You should be going for their superlative mushy peas and pickled onions. I admit, I never really liked mushy peas until I went to Bedders. I mean, why would you eat anything bright green that didn’t have a whole lot of flavour and subsequently needed a load of white pepper and malt vinegar to make them vaguely palatable? Much less did I see how/why they were considered to be a good accompaniment to fish and chips.. Admittedly, having to clean out a mushy peas machine when I used to work in a kitchen never helped my cause but then I tried the mushy peas at Bedders and it all became clear; Here at Bedders, the peas were freshly boiled down with ham hocks so that you got the ham flavour infused into the peas so it had a load of flavour – It didn’t need any extra white pepper or to be drowned in malt vinegar. I finally saw how they were a savoury accompaniment to fish and chips and could even enhance the fish and chips. Seriously, I’m a bit of a mushy peas snob now and even in more upmarket places that offer mushy peas with mint don’t have the same deliciousness as the mushy peas at Bedders. As for their pickled onions, rather than offer the jarred variety of whole button onions which have been in a jar for godknows how long, Bedders offer you freshly chopped onions steeped in a bowl of pickling vinegar (AKA proper pickled onions). Again, these are made fresh every day and you may not think they look particularly strong (in a pickled sense), trust me, you will be scooping as many onions as possible onto your food.

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I used to only do a takeaway from Bedders with the fish and chips still wrapped in newspaper but if you want the full Bedders experience, then you need to eat in. It’s only then can you really soak in the nostalgia not only with the Formica and various newspaper clippings framed on the wall along with photos of stars whom have eaten there (My personal favourite is of David Suchet). Even the crockery is pure 60s and 70s with their glass plates and tea served in glass teacups and saucers. Order a fish dinner to eat in and you get your fish and chips (with or without peas), a glass of tea or coffee along with some bread (white, smeared all over with margarine, not butter). I absolutely love eating in at Bedders when I get a chance – I love seeing whole families enjoying themselves, sitting alongside an elderly couple enjoying their fish dinners just as they did 30 years ago.

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I can’t believe I never thought of this before, but YKL created what can only be described as the Ultimate Fish Dinner Butty when she gets a fish dinner there; She gets a half-slice of bread, puts a bit of fish on half the side of the bread half slice, adds a couple of chips and some onions, then dollops a generous helping of mushy peas before folding over the bread. I’d never thought of doing that but it is every bit as good as it sounds and looks.

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I admit, I’m fully biased about Bedders because they’re local to me and I’ve been going so long now that upon walking in, the manager asks me how much plaice he needs to cook – No hello or anything, just “How many today?”. But as I mentioned earlier, Bedders must be doing something right given they’ve lasted so long and essentially only trade during lunchtimes. I mean, they’re constantly busy and whenever I go past, there’s always a queue going out the door. Whenever I have visitors from abroad, I like taking them to Bedders because they offer fish and chips like we used to get when we were younger – Not like chippys these days which are more a kebab-house rather than a chippy. It’s not just for nostalgic reasons that I love Bedders, it’s because they serve Fish and Chips very well and I only hope that they can go on for at least another 50 years. So if you ever nearby and Bedders are open, you absolutely should go.

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