English Breakfast in Nörjske

Tucked away in leafy Edgbaston are three little restaurants that look like they should hardly get any footfall, and yet they stay open. They’re too near to drive, but I wouldn’t want to walk the 20 minutes home in the dark of midnight. The first is Simpson’s, one of Birmingham’s Michelin starred restaurants where Daniel and I celebrated our engagement and the Michelin star makes the trip worth it in a taxi. Next is the Highfield, Roz at TheFoodieCouple has reviewed it and it’s also lovely for a slightly special occasion, a true gastropub where we sometimes take the car to have a drink and a chat on weekday evenings. Finally is Nörjske, one of the strangest little bars there is in the city.

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Yummy breakfast

On Saturday, with the stress and emotion of the wedding six weeks behind us, life began again relatively stress-free, a normality that I haven’t had since last Summer. It was a sunny morning so we walked down to Nörjske for brunch. The whole place feels like it would be beautiful in the winter! Downstairs is a bright little rustic-style deli that’s perfect for the lunchtime take-away crowd, a big selection of British and Scandinavian themed sandwiches and paninis, with Scandinavian products for sale in woven baskets and wooden pallet shelves. An outdoor seating area is ready prepared with patio heating and blankets. Upstairs is very clean, floor to ceiling windows allow so much light in – the white wooden booths look so welcoming. Everywhere is white and bright, with faux-fur blankets and wintery woodland animal cushions.

The brunch menu is not altogether Scandinavian, we had an omelette and eggs benedict. My dish was two little halves of bread roll that were the perfect amount to mop up the two poached eggs, together with crumbled ham hock with a beautiful hollandaise sauce. The omelette was perfectly runny in the middle and looked enormous but tasted so light. It was an indulgence but with our wedding six weeks behind us we basked in the delight of knowing that we didn’t have to be anywhere or talk about anything specific, enjoying an hour and a half of delicious food, laid-back music and a lovely view over St George’s Church.

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Birmingham for Under a Tenner

Birmingham is full of little festivals and club nights or street entertainment that you’d never know are there unless you read the right blogs, knew the right people, or remembered that little sticker you saw on the back of the traffic lights as you crossed the Suffolk Street Queensway.  Here are some of the best that we’ve been to this year, all for under a tenner.

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South African fare at the Digbeth Dining Club

  1. Digbeth Dining Club – Every Friday night down at The Spotlight on Heath Mill Road there are street food stalls with a selection of world cuisines from South African springbok and vegan falafel to a New York hot dog and French crêpes covered in sugar. If you’re lucky enough to get down there on the First Friday of the month you’ll find more food and drinks stalls out the back and live music later on. We ate there quite often over the summer, it attracts all ages too, from families with young children, to a safe teenager’s night out and folks in their 50s looking for something different than a restaurant or the theatre. Cost: food costs around six pounds a pop so with a beer on top you’re still looking at under a tenner.
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    City of Colours Festival

    City of Colours / Summer in Southside / Outdoor TV – There are so many outdoor festivals during the Summer. The likes of Moseley Folk Festival and the Jazz festival cost upwards of £30.00 just for a day ticket, so we went on the lookout for some smaller, more unique festivals this year. The Outdoor TV in Brindley Place puts on children’s films for a matinée, and normally runs a theme for the evenings, it also shows the tennis from Wimbledon which had an amazing atmosphere last year when Andy Murray won! The Summer in Southside is an arts festival full of street performances and activities around the Hippodrome and Gay Village area, all completely free. City of Colours was without doubt the best, a one day festival around Digbeth centring on the Custard Factory, full of organised street art competitions and live spraypainting art in the streets. Complete with live music, BMX bike display, street dance competition, this was a complete surprise, we only intended to stay an hour or so but spent six hours exploring and watching the art grow as the day went on. The good news is that it should be back next year with a two-day programme. Cost : a tenner covers a couple of beers and an icecream.

  3. Quiz night at The Queen’s Arms – On a Thursday on Newhall Street, it gets ruthless. We went originally for the 2-for-1 pizza deal but then at 20h00 we discovered they had a quiz, after cajoling our friends, we joined in. A traditional pub with stained-glass windows and high bar stools, this quiz offers a picture round, a double or nothing, a conections round, it’s the perfect quiz package. Cost: a quid for the quiz, the pizza deal and a beers might just keep you under the £10.00 limit.
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    Quiz at The Queen’s Arms

    B-Town / International Dance Festival – In May the International Dance Festival descends onto Birmingham, with paying performances in the Symphony Hall, the Rep Theatre and so on. But there are also plenty of free shows in the street if you know where to look. One very cold night we went out to see B-Town, a  dance-based performance about a post-apocalyptic Birmingham as the sole-surviving city after flooding drowns the rest of the country. Queen Roxy must make the decision to let refugees into the city before the floodwaters rise further. This was simply… brilliant. A collaboration between several local dance schools this was a story that sucked you in despite the cold and the threat of rain. Cost : a fiver for a hot chocolate afterwards.

  5. Exhibitions at Birmingham Museums – All the museums in Birmingham are free, and there is so much going on! The Ikon gives a taste of modern art, the Museum and Art Gallery in Victoria Square houses the Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire Hoard a rolling programme across the Gas Hall and Water Hall spaces. Out of town there’s Sarehole Mill where you can explore JRR Tolkein’s childhood, Soho House which was home to Lunar Society back in the day, and the beautiful Aston Hall. Cost: £5 maximum per museum.

Our information comes from a variety of sources, the Meetups are great because you get to see a lot of the mainstream festivals in the City like the International Dance Festival and the Colmore Business District Food Festival, and we have a few friends that are close to the artsy scenes in the City, but most of the time you just have to search the blogs (let me know if I’ve missed any!) : I CHOOSE Birmingham · Digbeth is Good · BMAG · Digbeth First Friday · Out in Brum · The Foodie Couple Blog · Brum Review · Brummed Out · Birmingham Student Foodie

#100happydays Days 35 – 41

Day 35 – After nine days in New York I needed some healthy food, so a full fruit bowl made me very optimistic about the Summer coming up!

Day 36 – One of my Guides does Gardening Club at school and gave me a leek as a thank you. Cooked it up with a chicken and bacon and potato mess the following day.

Day 37 –  An invitation to my friend’s hen night. She’s been living in Australia for three years now so I can’t wait!

Day 38 – Our Spanglish got a bit out of hand when we invented some new words, on top of tidyupear, the versatility of this language made me happy on Thursday!

Day 39 – A big catch-up with my friend and a healthy walk in the park on a sunny Friday evening.

Day 40 – There’s this new loyalty card and our first use at The Warehouse Café was both our first use and their first customer to present it!

Day 41 – A surprise phone call from my friend to finalise our travel plans for a different friends hen party.

A Quiet Corner of Greece in the City

Among the busy streets of Birmingham, while men and women in power suits run from Colmore Row to New Street Station, and the rain comes down and umbrellas go up, rushing by without even noticing the All Greek Delicatessen that has sprung up from nowhere on Stephenson Street.

All Greek Delicatessen, hidden away on Stephenson Street

All Greek Delicatessen, hidden away on Stephenson Street

At the weekend we went for dinner at a friend’s house, and always wanting to be a bit unusual with our gifts, Daniel suggested we take a bottle of wine from this Greek place he’d seen. Blink and you’d miss it, this lovely little shop is at the bottom of the Piccadilly Arcade towards the road to the old back entrance to New Street Station. It has a very simple rustic feel to it, like a proper start-up business finding its feet before jumping in decorating and expanding its range.

It’s certainly well-stocked with olives, tzatziki and feta cheese, but also offers a range of things you might not have even thought were traditionally Greek. There are is honey, chocolate cookies, olive oil and noodles. I think the best thing is the stir-in sauces. And the shop doesn’t sell wine but that didn’t matter, we took some cookies, olives stuffed with chillies and a small box of carrot-flavour breadsticks. We didn’t realise until we were on the train though that the carrot sticks said “for diet” all over them! But the pricing is very reasonable for authentic imported products, we paid around £10.00 for that little package.

Their facebook feed offers competitions and information about the lines they stock, packed with photos of lovely Greek things! Since discovering it I’ve taken a small packet of square-shaped noodles, and a jar of the sauces, tomato, red pepper and grape, to try with a bit of pork. I’ll let you know how it goes!

How to Shop in Birmingham on a Saturday

It’s Saturday, you haven’t had a treat In ages so you decide to hit the shops. You bought a new top to go out in a couple of weeks ago but that was someone’s birthday so it’s special so doesn’t count. And you bought sensible work shoes for the winter, but you needed those so they didn’t count either. So girls, the best person to shop with – much as you might deny it – is  your Mom*. Guys, it’s probably your wife or girlfriend. You want someone that’s always going to tell the truth.

The BullRing on a quiet day from www.visitbirmingham.com

The BullRing on a quiet day from http://www.visitbirmingham.com

1. Plan, plan, plan. Even if it’s just in your head. Write that list of what you want and what you need. Write down which shops you want to try for each item, and make sure you’ve got enough time to try things on. Create a route, because let’s face it you’re going to get annoyed if you have to go back to the shop next door to the one you started in. Even if you’re just mooching, you need to be in the right area for lunch by the canal.

2. Transport. If you take the bus or the train you’re risking having to stand up on the way home with your six hundred shopping bags. I would always choose to drive. There are always places to park for free on the outskirts of the centre whether down a side road or on a housing estate. Plus driving takes the weight off, sling it all the in boot and off you go, door to door.

3. First shop. You’re all glowing from the drive in, excited about bargains and all the clothes you haven’t seen since – last week. Browsing through and trying things on, you probably spend longer than you should in here. For me it’s usually meet my Mom in Marks and Spencer and grab the essentials and head up towards the Bull Ring.

Shopping list

Shop like a pro : List

4. BullRing. Here is where it gets hardcore. There are hundreds of people, with buggies and crutches and iPhones and friends and obviously all clamouring for that same sparkly dress you’re after so here is where your route planning and list comes into play. You need a smart work shirt from Oasis or Zara or Mango, don’t bother with Forever 21 and TopShop. But remember, it is always worth having a quick squizz round H&M (although I do prefer the Pavillions one).

5. New Street. Then if you’ve got any energy left head up New Street towards White Stuff and Urban Outfitters, you’ll also find a quieter Oasis there. There’s always something going on as well, from street performers to farmers markets. There used to be a Shared Earth ethnic fair-trade shop at the top that did lovely little earrings but now unfortunately it’s closed down.

6. Lunch. Decide in advance so that once you get to Victoria Square you know whether you’re heading up to Brindleyplace or down to the MailBox. Or for something different, remember that there are little cafés and pubs in the Colmore Row area, York’s Café does beautiful artisan breads and cakes and Ginger’s next door offers heavenly cocktails. The Old Contemptibles is just cheap and cheerful too, normally quite quiet on a Saturday and bang next to Snow Hill for all you Solihullers and Kidderminsters. And of course the statutory panic when you realise you might have left a bag in the restaurant.

7. Calling it a day. Knowing when to jack it all in is essential. It’s the eleventh or twelfth denim miniskirt you’ve picked up but it’s still not quite right and you’re running out of shops and you had a glass of wine for lunch and can’t really be bothered anymore. So go home. Head back to the car, pop it all in the boot and remember that traffic out of town will be a bit quieter than on the way in.

Personally, once lunch is over I really can’t be bothered anymore. And I don’t go every Saturday, obviously – and I just bought two pairs of boots so I can’t go again now until after I go to Mexico! But Birmingham has this reputation of being ugly and only good for shopping. I won’t go into the ugly part right now, but it is – really good for shopping. You’ve got the BullRing, Pallasades, Pavillions, High Street, Corporation Street, New Street, The MailBox and two enormous markets. It’s full of chain stores, there’s hardly anything independent, but that’s the charm, it’s got everything from a Zara to a Superdry to a Harvey Nicholls. Get your independent fix at lunchtime on the canal, or in Digbeth or in the Jewellery Quarter.

Vegetables and Pitta - Yum!

Vegetables and Pitta at an Independent Café – Yum!

* Here in Birmingham we say Mom rather than Mum. Mum sounds too posh to me. It’s a nightmare at Mother’s Day, I refuse to buy a card with Mum on, because my Mom is Mom.