Brummagems: Birmingham's MPs

Brummagems: Birmingham History Buff Keith Bracey' s fantastic historical facts about Brum

William Attwood MP laid the groundwork for the First Reform Act of 1832 and was responsible for the setting up of the first Trade Unions at the time of The Tolpuddle Martyrs who were transported for Trade Union activity with his '#Birmingham Political Union. Attwood held a political meeting of the Birmingham Union on Newhall Hill overlooking Birmingham in 1832 which was attended by over 30000 people. The Government of the day feared that 'Revolution was in the air' and decided to allow limited reform and the abolition of 'Rotton Boroughs' thanks to the words and political action of Birmingham MP William Attwood whose statue once reclined next to the Chamberlain Memorial in Chamberlain Square.

John Bright MP who was instrumental in both the Abolition of Slavery and the 1867 Reform Act which gave the working man the vote......his statue is at the top of the stairs on the first floor of #Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. Bright's bust was once on display in The White House of President Bill Clinton as Hillary Clinton found a dusty old statue in a store cupboard. Bright had written to his friend and fellow Abolitionist President Abraham Lincoln when Lincoln was wavering about continuing the American Civil War against slavery. This letter was found in the pocket of Lincoln when he was assassinated in 1865 it had meant that much to him to have the support of his friend. The Clinton's researched the bust and found its great importance to a previous President. Imagine a Birmingham MP in The White House.

Joseph Chamberlain: The 'Modern Municipal Father of Birmingham' The first of the Chamberlain family to become an MP. Former Colonial Secretary and the man behind the University of Birmingham when Mason College was transformed to create the first of the 'Redbrick' Universities. The Clock Tower, the tallest free-standing campanile in the world at 350 metres is named after Chamberlain and called 'Old Joe'. At his funeral in 1913 over 30000 Brummies lined the streets to pay tribute to 'The Father of Birmingham'.

Sir Austen Chamberlain MP Birmingham's first Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for his work on the 1920's Locarno Pact and Joseph Chamberlain's son and Neville's brother. He held the post of Foreign Secretary. His brother Neville Chamberlain MP held the post of Chancellor of The Exchequer and helped set up the Birmingham Municipal Bank, whose headquarters stands at 301 Broad Street. He is probably better remembered for returning from Berlin with his ' little piece of paper' after meeting Herr Hitler and proclaiming 'Peace in our time'. The result was the Second World War.

Denis Howell MP, the 'Minister for Drought' in 1976 & the first proper Sports Minister as a former FA Cup Final referee. Howell was MP for Small Heath and a Minister in Harold Wilson's 1974 government. In the summer of 1976 there was a long drought after one of the best summers of the twentieth century. Denis Howell was brought into the Cabinet as 'Minister for Drought' and advocated the sharing of baths to save water.....soon after he was appointed the summer broke and it started to rain.......and Denis was credited with the change in the weather by the Wilson government. Who says 'spin' is new...? Denis Howell's real impact was as the first proper Sports Minister as befits a former FA Cup Final referee. He also led Birmingham's Olympic bid for the 1988 Olympics which were eventually held in Barcelona.

Part of Brummagems…..Birmingham History Buff Keith Bracey’s fantastic historical facts about Brum……

Find out more on his blog or tweet on @1truclaretnblu

Knife & Fork: Pub Grub

In my recent piece on Frieze Art Fair in London I wrote about eating at a decent gastro pub in Camden – The Colonel Fawcett - and I thought it might be worth mentioning some of the decent examples of pub grub that we have in Birmingham. Dining out is not always about the big culinary experience, after all, and often enough I am happy to eat simple, honest food in congenial pub surroundings.

I used to eat occasionally at The Old Contemptibles on the corner of Edmund Street and Livery Street. This is one of Mitchell and Butlers’ Nicholson’s branded houses and always has a decent selection of cask ales. I have been going there for a few years now but I didn’t frequent it before the makeover some years ago so cannot be sure how much the interior and ambience might have changed from the original. It is certainly a congenial place to have a beer. The eating area is to one side, with plenty of space for comfortable dining. The menu is reasonable and the service usually cheery and friendly.

Last week, on the way to the cinema, I popped into the Shakespeare on the corner of Summer Row,  another of the Nicholson branded pubs. Others in the group are Bacchus Bar in the basement of the Burlington Hotel in New Street and, confusingly, another Shakespeare in Lower Temple Street. Pubs can change a lot in relatively short periods as managers and staff move on and are replaced and it had been about six years since my last visit to this Shakespeare. I was not, however, disappointed. The pub décor seems not to have changed in aeons (which is good in my book) and there was a decent selection of beer which was well-kept and tasty.

The food menu had a reasonable variety of good plain dishes and I opted for the “famous” fish and chips, my companion for the evening taking the steak and pale ale pie. Both were tasty, well cooked, well presented and just hearty enough to prepare us for a screening of Guillermo del Toro’s utterly bonkers Crimson Peak which is as great a load of old tosh as I’ve seen in a long time (by which I mean that I enjoyed it immensely). I had no complaints about the cod which was cooked well without too much heavy batter and almost perfect chips. The flesh was meaty and well textured as you would expect yet quite delicate in flavour. My companion left some of the short crust pastry of the pie which was a bit on the doughy side, but not a disaster. The meat inside was delicious, apparently. We drank some of the Nicholson’s Pale Ale, Redemption Brewery’s Rising sun, and Cross the Line: perfect accompaniments.

So this is not a place with pretensions to be a gastro pub but it does offer good food and drink at reasonable prices which set you up for the evening. Having recently downloaded the Nicholson’s Hop Circle app, I was looking forward to using it for the first time in order to claim my 25 pence per pint discount. Imagine my surprise when I realised that my lovely friend had quietly paid the bill. Another time, then….

On the way home we had a beer in The Queens Arms on Newhall St, one of those old bars which seem to have become more friendly in recent years without losing too much in the way of original features. There’s no food that I am aware of but it offers a decent pint and a friendly atmosphere.

Another bar offering food which is worth trying is The Old Joint Stock, which I find a bit too packed and noisy to consider the food as anything other than fuel for the engine, but which nevertheless has some great Fullers ales to taste.

In the Jewellery Quarter The Rose Villa Tavern (aka the School of Jewellery Common Room) in its most recent makeover offers surprisingly decent food, and there are others such as The Lord Clifden and The Church, both on Great Hampton St, where I have drunk good beer but not yet tried the food, which I am told is pretty good in both. One informant tells me that The Hen and Chickens, further down Great Hampton St towards the city centre, which from outside looks less than inviting, frankly, does excellent curries and just has to be sampled. So there are three for my list.

If you venture out to Aston (oh go on, be brave, it’s not that frightening) The Bartons Arms just has to be visited if only for its architecture and interior design. It is simply magnificent and I understand that on certain evenings there are official tours of the building followed by food and drink. The wonderful, and almost surreal, surprise here is the restaurant which offers pretty damned good Thai food. I went there a few months ago, had an excellent and ridiculously inexpensive meal, wrote a review, asked the manager for a little more information about the recent history and a few jpegs – and received nothing, even after a couple of prompts. So, no full review, folks! But go anyway: you will almost certainly love it.

#KnifeandFork by Big Enn who can be contacted on @NcherryNorman


At the Flix with @Timmy666

Hello one and all. Welcome to this week’s #AtTheFlix with @Timmy666, the weekly trawl through things coming out at the cinema in Birmingham.

Let's have a ganders.

Brooklyn (12A)

Colm Tóibín’s novel, Brooklyn, is given the big screen treatment in an adaption by Nick Hornby. This is this tale of a female Irish expat experience in 1950s Brooklyn starring the always excellent Saoirse Ronan as an immigrant finding her feet, and indeed love on the streets of New York.

Very Irish, epic in scope and a film rich in romance and Gallic sentiment, the film has been praised for its unique portrayal of a young Irish woman emigrating, its witty script and its strong performances. It has also been praised for its cinematic vista, an exemplar for what filmmaking can do in covering the life of an otherwise ordinary lives as well as being a love letter for America (in the 50s at least) as the land of opportunity.

Burnt (12A)

Judging by quite sizeable chunk of the mixed reaction to this new film from director John Wells, this is maybe not only a case of a ‘burnt’ lead character but a ‘burnt out’ film too. Bradley Cooper plays Chef Adam Jones, a Marco Pierre-White meets Gordon Ramsay type Michelin-starred rockstar with something of the reputation from the Parisian restaurant scene who matches his quality cooking with numerous bad habits.

This is the sort of shtick that could, if executed well, be mildly entertaining and clearly Bradley Cooper fans will flock to see this in droves. The trailer suggests there’s plenty of commitment from its leads, including Sienna Miller as his wife and lots of good looking food! The disappointment is that you’d also expect a script from the usually excellent Steven Knight would fizzle more than just the cooking itself and provide something of a substance. Sadly I don’t think all critics think so.

Kill Your Friends (18)

Director Owen Harris’s full-blown portrayal of the Britpop laden music industry during the 90s has garnered mixed critical reaction - a full blown cocktail of excess, drugs focussing on the character Stellox, an A&R man who aspires for the dream but takes his desire for acclaim to desperate and indeed extreme levels!

It’s clearly designed as a larger than life portrayal and in Stellox a character for Nicholas Hoult to get his teeth and everything else stuck into! The film’s coarseness is both its potential appeal and repellence depending on where your particular line is drawn, and many lines are drawn and snorted in this film!

He Named Me Malala (PG)

Documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, him of An Inconvenient Truth fame, steps behind the scenes of the life of Malala Yosafzai, giving us the opportunity to get to the heart of what drives her inspiring humanitarian work and also get to see her as a teenager and a daughter behind the scenes.

Guggenheim attempted to make what was ostensibly a glorious PowerPoint presentation into a film of documentary cinema! Love it or loathe it, he knows how to wrap a bit of mainstream into documentary filmmaking, and by focusing on Malala, there is the opportunity to see her every day and her school work and then combine it with see her standing with, and standing up to, Barrack Obama. If the film has any shortcomings, I’m grateful Malala is extraordinary enough to make it worth watching.

Fidelio: Alice's Journey (15)

Lucie Borleteau’s acclaimed 2014 debut feature gets an airing at the mac (Tues 10 - Wed 11), the story of Alice , a 30 year-old sailor, caught in a menage-a-trois between Félix who waits for her ashore, and her first lover, Gaël, the captain of the Fidelio that she unexpectedly founds herself on. In her cabin Alice she comes across the diary of a former deceased mechanic, whose life and experiences echo her own journey.

That's it from me this week. As always any queries, please drop me a line on Twitter @timmy666. Until then, have a great week at the cinema.

A visit to Resort World

What will Big Enn, an art curator who has a keen interest in architecture and of course he's our resident food writer, make of Resort World?

After all the publicity in the lead up to the recent opening of Resort World at the NEC site I thought I would like to go and have a look. From what I could understand, there should be a major architecturally significant building housing a casino, restaurants, IMAX cinemas, conference centre, and an outlet shopping mall to rival Bicester Village.

From the centre of Birmingham the sensible option seemed to be to take the train and, after a twelve-minute ride, I alighted at International. It was pretty straightforward to follow the signs and walk along that great soul less corridor which I have trudged so many times in the past to attend the annual Spring Fair and other events. It has been tidied up considerably since I last traversed it but it is still just a long metal tube, I suppose. Once down into the NEC complex, signage was a bit less obvious and it took a few minutes to be certain quite where to go. Slightly to my surprise I found myself being routed outside again and faced with a walk of not much less than a quarter of a mile to the actual Resort World building. On a fine day this was perfectly pleasant but would be a bit daunting I think in the middle of winter.

Having seen pictures of the building I was not entirely expecting an architectural masterpiece but the reality is, frankly, even worse than my already rather low expectations. It is certainly new, large, shiny, and asymmetrical but those qualities do not necessarily constitute architectural value. I was somewhat, shall we say, underwhelmed.

The day I went, preparations were underway for the local premiere of the new Bond film Spectre and so the main entrance was partially blocked by the workmen labouring to lay the Red Carpet.

Once in, I found to my left what looked like a decent enough bar with food, and a high street restaurant branch straight ahead at the beginning of the mall. What was particularly noticeable was the small numbers of visitors at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. My experience of indoor shopping malls is that they are often complex and confusing to negotiate my way around but not this one: it is very straightforward, being laid out in a simple oval plan. It is also pretty small, with most of the standard high street names you would expect, a number of units bearing Open Soon messages and others which still seem to be available to rent. Some of the shops are pretty decent, others somewhat scantily stocked, and one well-known High Street name looking not unlike a charity shop with all its surplus sale items laid out on what appears to be a Pile Em High Sell Em Cheap basis.

I did enjoy the ProCook store, however, and found some small items to take home from there and elsewhere. Staff in a number of the shops were at pains to tell me that they were expecting more stock in soon. I guess it would be unfair to judge the place too harshly on the basis of the first week of operation but normally that would be when traders would especially want to meet the expectations of customers as fully as possible in order to encourage repeat visits.

So, what of the rest? I glanced in to the casino which looked glitzy and respectable, not dowdy and slightly seedy like some others encountered. Not being a gambler, I had no reason to stray too far beyond the threshold. The spa on the top floor looked like it might be quite inviting, were I in the mood for pampering. It was the wrong time of day for watching a film, so I cannot say anything about the IMAX experience but RW staff to whom I spoke were very upbeat about it and absolutely certain that they have a winning combination out there. I mentioned my disappointment with the shopping experience and suggested that Bicester had nothing to fear from the RW offering. It appears that what RW wants to do is offer the whole experience, concentrating on the casino, cinema, and food and drink “offers” (don’t you hate that word?), with shopping being an additional benefit rather than the main reason for going.

Well, fair enough. I take that at face value but overall it was a disappointing experience for me. Perhaps I will return when it has become more established but I think I can find much better places to eat and drink, to shop, and to relax in the city centre without troubling myself to go out to the edge. As for cinema, I still find it hard to better the Electric Experience (admittedly a slightly odd acquired taste).

However, don’t let me put you off. Go out and try it for yourself. It is, after all, an addition to the many visitor attractions Greater Birmingham has to offer and which, one way or another, makes it such a great place to be right now. There is always the new Andy Waters restaurant to look forward to, though, when I called RW to find out when it is due to open, no one could tell me! [We're all waiting for that one! - the Ed]

By Big Enn who can be contacted on @NcherryNorman


Cocktails with Nick

Bonjour Brummies I am hanging up the apron for the month, and switching the cookers off. It is time for me to dig out my best shirt, pants and bow tie.  In the back bedroom there is a case of cocktail kit and some very dusty bottles. I've scrubbed them all down to present Nick's guide to running a bar for a party.

First of all, you need a bar. But really all you need is a clothed table, and possibly a shelf behind, depending on what you have got. You need a bucket of ice, glassware, and a few tools of the trade.  Oh, and booze.  Lots and lots of boozy booze and mixers too.

Let's start with cocktail shakers. They normally come in two types.  First, the three-part shaker, which is mostly old school and there is the two-part shaker, that requires at least one separate strainer. To use a three-part shaker, stick the cap on the top half, add ice to the base, and add the top half.  Now to shake a cocktail, place one hand firmly on the top, and one hand on the base, and shake firmly into the shoulder.  Not over it.  And never hold the shaker by the sides, it will fly open and cause a godawful mess.  I have seen this happen at competition level.  After the one shake, the shaker will now be nice and cold, covered in condensation, and ready to go.

So what kind of kit does a bar need?  In the photo you will see some examples.  Tongs for ice and lemon, bar spoons for stirring and adding ingredients such as sugar. Notice how the stems spiral?  That isn't just funky design - they are used to liquors to trickle down when you are making layered cocktails such as the B-52.  The flat-headed wooden thing is a muddler, used for making Mojitos or muddled drinks where you squish down soft fruit, limes or mint.

The little grater is a zester, this is used to extract the lemon zest from the skin.  It is also used for spices such as nutmeg that get added to some milky cocktails.  The fruit knife is always small, preferably very sharp.  Blunt ones just cause more accidents as they can slip easily.

Next to it is a bar zester, another handy bit of kit.  When someone asks for a Martini with a twist, they mean a strip of lemon zest that you cut with the side of the zester, very carefully.  Then they place it in the Martini glass and send it over to Mr Bond's table.

On the far right is a small strainer, to prevent bits of pulp falling from the shaker into your drink.  The one pictured is not, in fact, a very good example.  You really need a strainer like a small sieve.

At the bottom is one of the most important pieces of kit.  To a barman or waiter, this is the most important piece of kit.  The waiter's friend.  The little knife at the front is for cutting through foil on bottles, the lever at the other end is for latching on to bottle edges and the corkscrew drills into the soft cork.  Pull back against the anchored lever and the cork will come out nice and smoothly.  And you look much cooler.  The last thing you need are bar towels or small lint-free towels.

You don't need all this kit, all the time, but it helps, trust me.


Big fruity cocktails should come in nice big sturdy glasses that hold out well and smaller, tall drinks come in half pint glasses. Built drinks, such as Mojitos or a White Russian come in shallow, wide, and thick based glasses usually used for whisky.  They are wide so you get to appreciate the vapours of the whisky.

The triangular glass near the back is, of course, the Martini glass, immortalised by one Mr J Bond.  Of course it was around a long time before he appeared on screen.

Next to it is a slightly more rounded wide cup.  This is a coupe, used mainly for Margaritas.  It is no coincidence that they always seem to be plastic.

On the far right is a latte glass.  Now an important safety tip is that warm drinks such as Irish coffee or mulled wine should only be served in these glasses.  They have a handle and are made from very thick glass that does not shatter when exposed to sudden heat.

For every cold drink, you need ice.  Either nice big pieces or well and truly crushed.  For that, you will need an ice crusher.  If you do not possess one, use a blender or wrap your ice in a clean towel and beat it with a rolling-pin.  It never fails.

As well as spirits and liquors, you'll stock juices, mixers and other herbs, such as cloves and mint.  For mixers, go for things like coke, ginger ale or lemonade.  For juices, orange is always the best bet. Pineapple is very sweet, but when shaken, it gives a lovely frothy head to a drink.  Grapefruit is very bitter but it gives a hell of a kick. Tomato is best served with just spirits on its own.

For fruit, you don't need the full fruit salad, Del-boy style, just cut a lemon or lime wedge or a full slice of orange.  Less is more. The photo also shows an egg and these are used raw, although I don't recommend it. Egg yolks atop vodka and tomato makes a hell of a hangover cure (apparently).

The last thing you need is a few bar decorations. A good bar ought to have a personal touch, be it a few ornaments, flags or small games. Put a full orange in a pint glass of water. Ask people to balance a coin on top of the orange, to see if they can.  You will soon pay off your mortgage.

So this is a good start in what a bar needs. Not all of them, not all the time, it depends on what kind of party you are planning. Next week we get into the serious business of mixing the cocktails. Have your spare liver standing by.

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here. #ChefsTable


At The Flix with @Timmy666

So, with Bond likely to be supplanted at number one for the next weeks, here are the few alternative offerings, a few of which have a Halloween flavour.

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (15)

Comedy horror from Paranormal Activity director Christopher London. As the title might suggest, the film has a knowing teen-edged audience at its heart, following the exploits of three Boy Scouts hoarding of the walking dead with an attuned survival instinct.

The images and screenshots hint at something that is knowingly cheesy and as a result it could fall one of two ways. It could be clever or it could be trite and stupid. Sometimes, there's a third way and that's a combination of both those things.

To date, there's been little press reviews.

Shock and Gore presents A Nightmare on Elm Street (18)

With the great horror director Wes Craven having passed away very recently, it seems very appropriate that Shock and Gore's contribution to Halloween this year is a showing of A Nightmare on Elm Street at the Electric. No matter how many years pass by, this still remains one of the archetypal horror films of all time. Unlike most films under the slasher monicker, this is one that is intelligent and as seeing it (under age) for the first time left a real mark on my cinema viewing habits and attitudes towards horror.

Phantom of the Opera (PG)

Winning the cool awards for Halloween this year could be the mac, who not only are putting on a rare screening of the 1925 silent horror  'Phantom of the Opera' but are doing it to a live music score composed by Mark Willetts and performed by the Black Country Guitar Quartet.

Halloween Film & Supper Club - Urban Coffee Company.

Urban Coffee Company are screening the Hammer horror classic ‘Dracula – Prince of Darkness’ starring the late Christopher Lee. The showing is on Thursday 29th October at their JQ emporium, supper will be served from 7pm and the film starts around 8pm. Tickets are £17 and include supper, a drink (wine, beer, or coffee) and popcorn! Bookings - ; 0121 2331599.

That's it from me this week. As always any queries, please drop me a line on twitter @timmy666. Until then, have a great week at the cinema.


Frieze Art Fair/Ikon Gallery

Frieze Art Fair at Regent’s Park, London is the annual extravaganza which provides an opportunity for international fine art galleries to show off the work of selected artists from their stables, make a bit of a splash and often enough court controversy with some outrageous offerings. If the many regulars I met last week are anything to go by, this year was a much more considered and serious event than some in previous years.

There was nothing that I saw which in any way outraged me, and much that delighted and engaged me. Chief amongst the latter were works by Frank Auerbach, Carmen Herrera (whose wonderful show at Ikon a few years ago remains an abiding memory), Roy Lichtenstein, Kwon Young Woo, and John Hoyland. But especially enjoyable was the sole offering from The Sunday Painter, an artist-led gallery based in Peckham, which showed a water feature by Samara Scott, recessed into the floor and sitting so still and unmoving that, like most other viewers, I initially took it to be a layer of inlaid resin. This colourful, thoughtful, subtle installation seemed to have caught the imagination of many visitors and was one of the most talked about items amongst my fellow visitors on the first day of the show.

That was especially satisfying as this relatively young gallery was taking part in its first Frieze, sited in the curated section in which galleries had been selected by the organisation for inclusion. Samara Scott exhibited recently at Birmingham’s Eastside Projects so there must be some satisfaction in that quarter to have talent spotted at an early stage.

There were 164 galleries from 27 countries in total, spread over the main space at the south end of Regents Park and several more in Frieze Masters at the North East corner, as well as those individual artists whose work was featured in the Sculpture Trail which extended throughout the whole demaisne. In a full day of trekking, looking, discussing, and looking again, I only managed to take in the main event. To “do” Frieze properly I imagine one would need to devote at least two days. However, with so much happening in London’s galleries at the moment, a day was all that could be spared.

Other exhibitions viewed recently included: Barbara Hepworth and Frank Auerbach at Tate Britain (soon to be graced as Director by the inimitable Alex Farquharson of Nottingham Contemporary), each of which was magnificent in its own way, Auerbach particularly thoughtful and thought provoking; Agnes Martin and The World Goes Pop at Tate Modern, the first of which was a WOW (Martin is very much an artists’ artist) but now ended, while the latter might not be too high up on anyone’s list of priorities, insightful as it may have been; Goya Portraits at the National Gallery, which must be seen if only because there will never be such an opportunity to view them all gathered together like this again; the small but utterly gorgeous Barkcloth Textiles at the British Museum, which anyone with an interest in textile art ought to make an effort to see.

No, I didn’t see them all in one visit: it so happens that there have been other business reasons to be “In Town” regularly recently so these have been the bonuses added on to some of them. Additionally, you might want to pop in to the Wellcome Trust on your next visit to London since it is just across the road from Euston Station. There is always something really intriguing here, even if there is no featured exhibition and you simply go to view the permanent collection gathered over a lifetime by Dr Wellcome.

No matter how long you are in London, you will need some sort of food intake. As in all tourist cities, there is much that is awful, plenty that is mediocre and, lots of ripoffs, but if you know where to look or just have a nose (as well as a taste) for it, there are some really good and surprisingly not overly expensive eating places. As I was overnighting at a delightful find from Airbnb in Chalk Farm, I found myself at the Colonel Fawcett in Camden Town. This is a well known and well liked bar with a bit of history and (more importantly perhaps) food and which, I suppose, thinks of itself as a Gastropub. The food is pretty good, the wine seems reasonable, and the beers on tap more than acceptable. I had their Roast Smoked Pork Belly with Confit Potato, Black Pudding Croquette, Kale, and Mustard and Cider Cream which was as good as any Pork Belly I have ever tasted and my colleague the Sirloin Steak with Burnt Shallot Puree, Roast “Heritage” (really?) Tomatoes, Bone Marrow Butter and “Hand Cut” Chips which looked, smelled, and tasted very good indeed. Does that sound just a tiny bit pretentious? Well, maybe, but it was well cooked, and tasted excellent. The pub prides itself on its range of gins and does have an acceptable wine list but it also serves some damned good beers so we both had the Redemption Pale Ale which went down very well with both dishes: rich, hoppy, fresh, a lively tickle on the palate.

Since I think of my main task of food criticism as being principally related to Birmingham restaurants, I am not writing about this one in any more detail but I can definitely recommend the Colonel Fawcett should you be in London and want decent food at a reasonable price. (1 Randolph St, Camden Town, London NW1 0SS)  Two main courses and two beers each, £52 plus tip.

Spending a few days in London and being so excited by the gallery scene there makes one forget just what great venues we have back in Birmingham. The main Museum and its various branches house a collection as good as anything and better than most outside of the capital. In the Ikon was have one of the country’s (indeed one of Europe’s) most interesting galleries, and the various enterprises now thriving in Eastside offer regular events of work by new, upcoming, exciting and often thought provoking, mainly young, artists and groups. We are lucky to have them but we should cherish them and help them to develop by supporting them. The next Digbeth First Friday would be a good way to start.

In the meantime, the new Fiona Banner exhibition at Ikon is at the top of my list. A visit there in the next few days is definitely on my schedule and, of course, Café Opus is always worth a punt. Since my first review some months ago, I have returned several times and each time come away as satisfied as on the first occasion. Consistency is as important as genius.

By Big Enn who can be contacted on @NcherryNorman

Fiona Banner, Scroll Down And Keep Scrolling, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 10 October 2015 – 17 January 2016, (With thanks to the Ikon Gallery for these photos)

Recipe: Potato and Cauliflower Curry (Indian month)

Good morning, fine folk of Birmingham.  Did you enjoy your Sunday lunch? Got any leftover roast potatoes and cauliflower? Great, I have just the quick recipe for you.

The last curry we did was a bit of an  epic, but this one will be much quicker to put together. Half the work is done already.

You need:

  • Several roast potatoes per person.  How many depends on how hungry you are.
  • Several florets of precooked cauliflower.  The same applies.
  • One large onion.
  • Three cloves of garlic
  • One tin of chopped tomatoes
  • One chopped green chilli
  • Ground cumin
  • Tumeric
  • Curry powder

Take a green chopping board and place it on a counter over a damp cloth.  Then start by finely dicing the onion, garlic and de-seeded chilli. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling chillies.

Take a wok or frying pan. Add a little oil and heat.  Then add a teaspoon of curry powder and stir it into the oil.  Once the curry powder and hot oil have mixed, add the onion, garlic and chilli.  Cook these off until they are soft and golden in colour.

Next add a teaspoon of Cumin and one of Tumeric.  Once these have blended in, add the tomatoes and stir them in until they start to bubble a little, add the potatoes and cauliflower.  Stir in well, and cover the vegetables well with the sauce.  Now cover with a lid and allow the curry to simmer slowly for 30 minutes. Occasionally stir it and check that it is not sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.

Take a taste, is it spicy and full of flavour?  If not leave it a little bit longer.  If it is too spicy, add a little lime juice. Too bitter? Add a little sugar.

After 30 minutes it should have thickened up somewhat and be ready to eat.

Serve with rice, if you like, and/or naan bread.  You will definitely need natural yoghurt to take the sting out of the chilli.

And that is it.  Enjoy!

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


At The Flix with @Timmy666

The name’s 666, @Timmy666 …. welcome to this week's #AtTheFlix, a weekly cinematic haberdashery of all things hitting screens in Birmingham this weekend.

In a week, where we celebrated the Future, aka 21st October 2015 and the new Star Wars trailer broke YouTube, there’s the biggest franchise of them all returning to the big screen from Monday.

Spectre (12A)

Pretty much blitzing anything else mainstream hitting the screens this week, Bond 24 hits the screens on Monday, Daniel Craig’s fourth outing with Sam Mendes returning to the helm following the astronomical success of Skyfall. Expectations are high to follow-up on one of the very best Bond films. I have no doubts that Mendes wouldn’t have returned if the story, the characters and the scripts weren’t up to the kinds of standards set by Skyfall! With that expect an even more blatant blend of Bond from the classic to the contemporary. Judging by clips and the vibe emanating from Bond HQ, this feels like a greatest hits of Bond brought to life. Roll on the 26th.

Meanwhile, until Monday you can get your cinematic fix with the following offerings ….

Last Witch Hunter, The (12A)

Vin Diesel is your man … yes he is, especially when he’s a witch hunter and (judging by the 25% tomato meter rating) at the time of writing, it’s going down a storm with the critics. There are forces in our world intent on unleashing the Black Death on the world. Vin Diesel plays Kaulder, a warrior who have for centuries gone after ‘rogue witches’, including the Queen Witch (who Kaulder had slain) but who comes back to life to seek revenge leading to a big  battle that will determine the survival of the human race. Clearly channelling a sort of Game of Thrones vibe, albeit with a slightly more family friendly nature, the only reason I’d possible watch this is for Vin Diesel, who amidst the absurdity and bad CGI, is often a likeable presence although you do have to question his judgement between good and bad films. I suspect you’ll need to have a certain tolerance for the things that are ‘cheesy’ in this film to get something meaningful out of it.

Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension 3D (15)

I’m not sure how many Paranormal Activity films there have been so far! I’ve lost count … rumour has it, it’s the fifth. It feels like the 20th. Anyhow, the producers of this film clearly think there’s mileage left in the live/found footage jump-athon style. Cast your mind back to the original Paranormal Activity - this was at a time when found footage type films were still a little bit novel, basking in the glory of The Blair Witch Project. Indeed, I vaguely remember Paranormal Activity being rather effective too and with a few really good jumpy bits. Now, I begin to believe you get more jumps from guys doing “found footage” inspired clips on YouTube and therein lies, for me, a slight issue with the genre. It’s nothing that anyone really goes wow about in an age where we are daily exposed to the live capture of video clips of all sorts of craziness, scary or otherwise, everyday by the usual social media changes.

Sadly, I fear that this entry might only be derivative as a result and the trailer hasn’t given me any other impression.

Mississippi Grind (15)

Outside of Spectre, this week’s other most interesting looking film could be this intriguing slice of Southernness (US style that is) - part road movie, part film about addiction. Beneath the obvious trappings that both genres can fall into, this appears to have captured the imaginations of critics Stateside, garnering glowing reviews and praise for the lead performances of Reynolds and Mendelssohn! In the past few years, there have been quite a few gambling movies which have hit the mainstream but have failed to really tell me anything gripping or provide characters to care about. I’d hope in this case that the film has a level of watchable addiction, at least on a par to the addictions that the film covers. Even if the film is no more than a trip in nostalgia to great gambling flicks like The Gambler, the critics have indicated it’s far better than many of the recent attempts to capture that spirit.

Paper Planes (U)

This lovely sounding Australian film is a children's film about a young Australian boy's passion for flight and his challenge to compete in the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan. Clearly arriving in time for half term, I’m intrigued to see a kids film that has a ‘real world’ situation, once that for once isn’t an animation or a fantasy or a film rife in commercial tie-ins. Wishing the film every success over half term and for a few weeks beyond!

Mia Madre (15)

Showing from Friday 23rd to Monday 26th October at the mac, this is a chance to see Nanni Moretti’s well-received exercise in ‘meta’ film making, exploring all sorts of issues such as familial loss, ageing, gender roles and the process of filmmaking itself. Fundamentally, it’s a very filmic exploration of what it is to be human.

Pasolini (18)

Also showing at the mac next week, don’t miss out on Willem Dafoe’s performance as 70s filmmaker Pasolini. Directed by the great Abel Ferrara, expect a film awash with style and a clear intrigue in the complexities of Pasolini as a person.

That’s it from me this week. I’m off to make a coffee, neither shaken nor stirred. As always, any queries or quibbles can be directed to me on twitter @timmy666.

Have a great week at the cinema!

#AtTheFlix @BrumFaves

Chamberlain clocks: Welcome home 'Little Joe'!

Birmingham has a number of Chamberlain Clocks and possibly the most famous and prominent of these is in the Jewellery Quarter at its junction of Vyse Street and Warstone Lane signposting the way into Birmingham's famous Jewellery Quarter where approximately 40% of the UK's jewellery is still made.

There is another of these Chamberlain Clocks at Five Ways at the junction of Calthorpe Road and Harborne Road in Edgbaston.

Chamberlain was a prominent local Birmingham business man who made his money from the great Birmingham screw and bolt maker Guest Keen and Nettlefold in Heath Street in Smethwick which still exists today as the giant engineering business GKN whose headquarters is still in the West Midlands in Redditch. Chamberlain’s business success led him to pursue a political career and he reached high political office without quite making it to Prime Minister, which his son Neville did achieve.

These clocks were built to commemorate the contribution to the city of Birmingham of one of its greatest sons and a man dubbed 'The Father of Birmingham' Joseph Chamberlain MP who created the modern Municipal Birmingham with the Elan Valley Scheme to pipe fresh water from Mid-Wales to Birmingham and the creation of the first of the 'Redbrick' Universities the University of Birmingham He also built Highbury Hall in Moseley as the result of his success.

One of these Chamberlain Clocks stood in Bearwood for many years until being moved to High Street in Birmingham, about 30 years ago and standing outside Marks & Spencer's for a number of years.

On Saturday 24th October, this particular Chamberlain Clock is returning to its original home in Bearwood and will stand at the junction of Bearwood Road and Adkins Lane, near to the soon to be refurbished Lightwoods House, built by local Smethwick Soap magnate William Adkins after whom Adkins Lane where Lightwoods House (1793) stands is named.

There will be an opening ceremony at 10am at the Adkins Lane site to welcome one of the remaining Chamberlain Clocks home to Bearwood after being renovated by Smiths in Derby.

Welcome home 'Little Joe'!

NB The original 'Old Joe' is the Clock Tower at the University of it is nice for 'Little Joe' to be returning home, not too far from the University!

Part of Brummagems.....Birmingham History Buff Keith Bracey' s fantastic historical facts about Brum......

Find out more on his blog or tweet on @1truclaretnblu

Birmingham Trail: The Spooky Trail

Birmingham is a brilliant city. It caters for the most diverse of tastes and softens the stoniest of cynics. There really is something for everyone. Our resident trail finder, Gemma Corden, is here to prove it. Challenge her if you dare.

The Spooky Trail

Ideal for: Goths

Avoid if: Your friends tell you your 'sensitive'

Bring // Youll need: A Proton Pack and Ecto-Goggles

Terrain: Involves graveyard loitering and an overnight stay (...not in the graveyard)

The start: Ghost Walk/s

It's Friday night, what better to do than head to the nearest dead people? Midlands Discovery Tours run a Graveyard Ghost Walk, taking in four different graveyards in one night (if that's what you're into) and includes a trip to the infamous catacombs in the Jewellery Quarter. Yikes. There's also the Birmingham Sinister City Walk, which takes you on an alternative tour through the heart of the Victorian city. Plague! Execution! Yay! The best bit is when you visit a haunted pub at the end. More info: Midlands Discovery Tours

City centre

Graveyard Ghost Walk - 7.00pm first Friday of the month Feb to Dec

Sinister City Ghost Walk - 7.00pm third Friday of the month Jan to Oct

The middle bit: Depending on the time of year you've got three truly terrifying options here, all of which happen annually:

In July you can get that gore-soaked horror itch well and truly scratched when The Electric Cinema's Shock and Gore Festival comes alive. There are horror and fantasy films old and new alongside live scores, Q&As and a legendary all-nighter. Expect controversy and spine tingles. More info: Shock and Gore

You find yourself out and about in the city centre one August weekend. Something isn't quite right. Ah yes, that's it - ZOMBIES! Everywhere!! But don't panic - all this carnage raises money for Birmingham's Children's Hospital (and clearly, what those kiddies are going through is the scariest thing on this list). Fake blood at the ready!

If you're one of those people for whom fancy dress is not a painful experience, and becoming a zombie has merely whet your appetite, then get yourself on the Big Brum Buz in October for their Halloween Ghost Bus Tour. Take in the darker side of Birmingham from the open top roof (make sure to wrap up warm!) of this old bus, driven by a very shady character indeed. Expect an amalgamation of the two walks introduced above, only with less walking... More info: Birmingham Tours

The end: The Tunnel Club

Why not round the adventure off with some frighteningly cheap spirits at this atmospheric rock metal club, housed under a railway arch. Warning: there will be a lot of Metallica t shirts.

Livery Street, City Centre B3 1HL The Tunnel Club Every Saturday night, 10pm-4am

Tips: If you can't get enough of the haunted stuff then you might want to spend a night at The Station Hotel, Dudley. Your classic murdered-servant-girl-shoved-in-a-barrel stories abound. Head to room 214... More info: The Station Hotel

Done this Trail? Please rate it! Email or Tweet us.

Challenge Gemma to a Brum for…? Trail: Got a theme or unsuspecting audience in mind? Make your challenge!

Words by Gemma Corden – writer, unashamedly banging on about Birmingham. Contact via @gemma_corden or find out more about her here or even more here.


Welcome to Birmingham - Resort World

It was a chef that first changed my mind. Possibly like you, I supposed here's another Americanism popping into our culture right here on our city's doorstep. But as I've heard more about Resort World, I've grown markedly more excited. Of course it's bringing jobs and many £££s into the region but more than that, when people think they've been in Birmingham because they've departed from the airport or been to the national exhibition centre which as we well know is in lovely Solihull, they now actually will get to experience some of that famous, warm Brummie hospitality. And spend loadsa money in the region.

What solidified my interest is hearing that one of my favourite local chefs, Andy Waters (Waters on the Square, ex- Edmunds) is opening a new place. That's worth a visit on its own.

Also, there's a purpose-built 11-screen Cineworld. Perhaps, as they're in an international setting, they may show the art house and world cinema films that our local indie cinema's lack.

Resort World have gone to some length to attract 51 outlet shops including H&M, Next and Gap and many more lesser-non brands offering up to 60% off regular prices as well as a luxury spa.

Alongside the Andy Waters restaurant, you have the choice of 18 bars and restaurants including the Sky Bar, Highline New York Bar and The World Bar.

For further entertainment, we have a Genting International Casino (the whole resort is bought to us by Malaysian-based Genting Group, their first in Europe) and you have the opportunity stay in the Genting Hotel, another 4 star hotel, when visiting the already re-branded Genting Arena.

And if cinema, casino, shops, restaurants, spa and bars just doesn't fill your day, there are events including the Style Insider Weekend (5/6 Dec) and before that the festive season launch (18 Nov).

The Resort by Day  part will open on Wednesday 21st October, followed by Cineworld (23rd) and the Casino (26th) to coincide with the James Bond film release.

And it's all just 10 minutes by train from the shiny new New Street Station.

You can find out more here.

By Rickie J, founded and editor of Brum Faves  who, when not following around favourite chefs can be found on @RickieWrites.




At The Flix with @Timmy666

Greetings one and all and welcome to this week’s At The Flix, our weekly glance at the cinematic releases hitting screens across Brum. Here’s what’s happening….

Pan (3D) (PG)

To pan or be panned? The arrival of the latest adaptation of Peter Pan has seemingly been ages in coming from the early teaser trailers. Talented British director Joe Wright takes on the big budget mantle to portray a ‘coming of age’ meets origins story adventure as Peter, a mischievous boy gets propelled from an orphanage to the magical of Neverland, teaming up with Tiger Lily and James Hook to defeat Hugh Jackman’s ham-heavy Blackbeard to save Neverland and become Peter Pan.

So far, so obvious you might say?

Well, a few critics have really enjoyed the film from its pace to its childlike sensibility. Much has been mentioned of Jackman’s theatrical performance as Blackbeard, glorious and otherwise! Sadly though, critics have not been particularly nice to Pan. Peter Panned indeed.

Crimson Peak (15)

I await with some anticipation to see the latest film from del Toro. After the robots of Pacific Rim, here he is very much back on Terra Firma! The film follows a young woman whose heart is taken by a seductive stranger. When taken to a house on top a mountain of blood-red clay, here in follows a haunted house fable, unlocking multiple secrets and horrors.

I found the trailer to be a little underwhelming and conventional, belying the unique talents that Guillermo del Toro has - when on top form, his ability to combine beauty, wonder and sheer horror has stood him alone in the horror genre for the last two decades, Pan’s Labyrinth being one of the greatest films, not just horror films, ever made.

So here’s to hoping that the trailer is merely an oversight and that we get a treat for the senses that’s both visually alluring and extremely frightening to boot!

Hotel Transylvania 2 (3D) (U)

As far as I remember, the original Hotel Transylvania was hardly a classic, but evidently it made enough dollars to warrant its producers to green light a second adventure! Much like the original, this is another chance for Adam Sandler et al to go to town with its simple blend of corny gags and light-hearted fun.

Everything about this film says that it actually knows what it’s doing and whether critics go with it or not is something of an irrelevance. This isn’t Inside Out, nor does it try to be! It’s facile, it's silly - and it’s clear that they see these traits as a strength.

Program, The (12A)

My second most anticipated film this week is Stephen Frears’ take on the Lance Armstrong story! As modern ‘rise and fall’ stories go, this one has to rate as one of the most cinematic!

The focus of the story, and the thing that I’m most looking forward to watching, is the stand-off between Armstrong (Ben Foster) and the Sunday Times journalist David Walsh (Chris O’Dowd) and how Walsh fought to unravel the truth behind Armstrong!

The only question mark I have on the film is that given the story is so well-known and still relatively recent, how will the film give freshness to the story and what artistic licenses will be granted on the characters that the film is portraying.

Palio (PG)

Showing at the mac (Friday 16-Sunday 18 October), Palio is director Cosima Spender’s capture of Siena’s legendary horse race, capturing not only a behind the scenes document of the event, but also focussing on the story of a young Sardinian eager to win the race and become “King of the Square”.

That’s it from me. As always, any queries or quibbles, you can drop me a tweet at @timmy666

Until next week, have a great time at the cinema.

Recipe: Lamb Curry with Bombay Potatoes (Indian month)

Feeling ready for a challenge?  This is a recipe that has been a bit of a work in progress over the last week.  It combines a lot of flavours  and takes over an hour and a half to prep and cook. [But I’m sure it’s worth it – Ed.]

You need the following:

  • Two lamb steaks per person
  • Flour for coating and frying
  • Red or white onions
  • Baby button mushrooms
  • Freshly chopped mint
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • pureed ginger
  • pureed garlic
  • pureed chilli
  • pureed tomato
  • Natural yoghurt
  • Canned coconut cream
  • Green pepper (optional)

For the Bombay potatoes:

  • New potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Spring onions
  • One green chilli, de seeded and finely chopped.

For the rice you need:

  • Rice

So, let's do this thing..

You need one small frying pan on heat with a little oil. Fill a dish with flour.  Take a red chopping board, placed over a damp cloth, on a counter.  Dice the lamb into small cubes, and coat it thoroughly in the flour.  Wash your hands and open a window for ventilation, this is where it tends to get a bit smoky.

Fry your cubes of lamb in the oil, until they are all brown on all sides.  Transfer the lamb to a clean plate and set aside.  You can also cover it to prevent contamination by insects and other yucky things. Leave your small pan in the sink to soak with loads of washing up liquid and water.  It will come off easy later.

Take a green chopping board, set us as before. Peel the onions and chop them into wedges.  Take the mint, wash it and remove the leaves, then chop them very finely. Wash the button mushrooms carefully under the tap. Cut the green pepper into strips.

Next, prep work for the Bombay Potatoes...

Rinse the new potatoes in the sink and set them aside.  Boil the spinach leaves in a small pan of water until they wilt.  This kills all the germs and nastiness.  Drain the leaves and transfer to a saucer.

Take half a white onion and dice it very finely on the green board.  Next, de-seed and finely chop the green chilli.  Set all of this aside on a plate. So, that is all your prep work done.  Wash your hands after working with chillies!

Next, take a great big wok or deep cooking pot.  Add a little oil and place on heat.  First add the onion wedges, turn them over and allow them to soften.  Add the mushrooms and stir them in.  Again, let them soften of their own accord.  Add the Lamb and mint next.

Then one tablespoon of garlic puree, one teaspoon of ginger puree, one of chilli and one of tomato.  Stir it all in and allow it to melt.  Add the tin of tomatoes and allow to simmer for five minutes.  Meanwhile, open the can of coconut milk and spoon one spoonful over the kernel (that is the thick white gloopy stuff.  Throw the transparent liquid under it away - you don't want to drink that.  (It is a laxative!)

Stir in the coconut cream and add the mint.  Now add a tablespoon of natural yoghurt.  Reduce heat and allow the curry to simmer gently.

While the curry is doing it's thing, boil a pan of water and boil the new potatoes until they are soft.  Poke them with a knife to check they are soft right through to the middle.  Drain the water and transfer the potatoes to a deep dish.  and crush them up, using a potato masher or a fork.  I prefer a fork, as you don't really want to mash them up too much.  Put a small frying pan on heat with a little oil.  Add the onions, spinach and chillies.  Mind your eyes for chilli vapours, they sting like hell.

Once they have softened and browned a little, add the potato and stir in.  Adding a teaspoon of yoghurt is optional.  And that is your Bombay potatoes sorted.

Boil another pan of water (hey, just rinse out the pan you have already used, save on the washing up).  Add two-thirds of a cup of rice per person.  Bring it to the boil and allow it to simmer until the rice is soft.

Taste the curry, it should have just a nice tang to it.  And the lamb should be just soft enough.  It generally takes about an hour to cook.  Add the green pepper finally, just to give it a little crunch.

Drain the rice and add all three elements to a bowl, and serve for each person. I really hope you enjoy this new challenge (to me, anyway), and let's keep pushing those culinary boundaries at home.

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Knife & Fork: Butchers Social

This restaurant began life as ashort-term pop up in the former Walter Smith butcher’s shop on Harborne High St a few months ago, the intention being to try out the site for just a few days or weeks. Such was the reception that it is still there and trading successfully if the evening I was there is anything to go by. The long-term plan of the two chef/entrepreneurs, Jamie Desogus and Mike Bullard, is to develop the site, extend it at the back, and establish a new fine dining restaurant here.

With this in mind, there are occasional fine dining evenings taking place and these seem to be rather sought after. Given the success of Butchers Social, the partners are now considering finding another site in the area in order to continue this part of the business while the current side is developed. It certainly seems to be a winning formula. The menu is short and simple, comprising variations on Chicken Wings, which seem to change regularly and other simple but genuinely interesting dishes. There is a small selection of wines and a list of nine featured beers and ciders of which normally only four or five are available at any time, due to the small number of pumps. There are, of course, a few bottled beers to be had as well

The evening I went there, it was quiet to begin with, filling up pretty quickly by about 8pm, to the point that people were having to wait a little in order to find a table. The décor is trendily basic, the tables being made from three industrial pallets joined together and much of the wall and other paneling fashioned from industrial quality chipboard. Quite funky really, certainly not luxurious. But then, neither are the prices. Everything seems quite reasonable and therefore the clientele is fairly democratic.

Chicken wings would not normally be a natural choice for me, conjuring up visions of cheap mass market cooking, but these were quite delightful, flavoursome, fairly lightly cooked, a bit greasy, yes (how couldn’t they be?) but not overly so. My friend had the squid and couscous sala and we shared French fries cooked in truffle oil, a real delight. The squid was perfectly cooked, tender and, well, perfect, really, the fries light, airy, and very tasty. This was certainly a very different experience to what you might expect from the normal kind of fried chicken joint.

To drink, we opted for some of the “craft” beers on tap. Living near Two Towers Brewery, following the business on Twitter, but never having actually drunk one of their beers, I thought I really ought to try the Hockley Bitter while my friend had Hockley Amber, a light and fruity ale. Sadly, I was a bit disappointed by my choice although the Amber was rather splendid.

As it happens I went to an event at Two Towers a week or so later, tried the Hockley Bitter there, and found it to be a much superior pint. It’s all in the cellaring, guys!.............. I will certainly be back to Mount St to drink more.

So, all in all, a decent experience sampling simple, well cooked food with a slight disappointment over one of the drinks. The disappointment was not enough to put me off and I will be back. Once I’ve saved a few more pennies, I shall definitely sign up for one of the fine dining evenings, too. Jamie and Mike have impressive CVs which include service in several top-end restaurants, including Per Se and Le Bernardin in New York, and Petrus in London. I want to see what these fellows can really do.

Butchers Social. 175 High St, Harborne B17 9QE

#KnifeandFork by Big Enn who can be contacted on @NcherryNorman



At the Flix with @Timmy666

Welcome to this week’s At The Flix, Brum Faves weekly slot taking a peek at what’s hitting the big screen over the week ahead across Brum.

The Walk (3D) (PG)

If ever a film warranted the term ‘event cinema’ - the story of Philippe Petit’s legendary walk between The Two Towers is an event of its own, and about as cinematic as it gets.

Forget Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s questionable French accent, or indeed much of the preamble as the film is all about the walk itself. Clearly with a veteran with as many visual skills as Zemeckis, the audience is likely to be in for an absolute jaw dropping treat. You know what it’s about! The question is how far to the edge you get … and in stellar IMAX and 3D, you should hopefully get to do this and then some!

Worth combining this film with the amazing 2008 documentary of Philippe Petit, Man on Wire, one of the greatest documentaries ever made!

Sicario (15)

So, Sicario means hitman and in this thriller, an FBI agent (Emily Blunt) is enlisted by an elite government task force official (Josh Brolin) to aid in the escalating war against drugs. Working alongside an enigmatic consultant with a questionable past (Benicio Del Toro), the team sets out on a clandestine journey forcing Kate to question everything that she believes in order to survive. The film looks tight, gripping and filled with lots of meaningful situations, action sequences and stellar performances.

There have been many films tackling the word of drug enforcement. This looks contemporary, relevant and gripping and a big mainstream breakthrough for talented Canadian director, Denis Villeneuve.

Suffragette (12A)

Opening from Monday, Abi Morgan’s scripted portrayal of the Suffragette movement looks like a veritable tour-de-force, an urgent and poignant portrayal with a cracking cast led by Carey Mulligan with the likes of Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep in the support.

The film is opening amidst a lot of talk about women in the film industry and that there is a still a lot to be done to give females a more equitable slide of both the roles and the pay! In a microcosmic sense, this film represents that in many respects the movement’s values resonate and are indeed ongoing.

Regression (15)

Set in early 90s Minnesota, Ethan Hawke is a detective investigating the case of young Angela (Emma Watson), who accuses her father of an unspeakable crime. When John unexpectedly and without recollection admits guilt, renowned psychologist Dr. Raines (David Thewlis) is brought in to help him relive his memories and what they discover unmasks a horrifying nationwide mystery.

So on paper, an interesting psychological thriller setup with a desire to cause some disquiet and fright to the average cinema going audience, and with a particularly strong cast as well. Alejandro Amenabar is a director with some considerable experience in this genre (The Others comes to mind), so hopes should be reasonable for this.

99 Homes (15)

Showing at the mac (Fri 9 - Wed 14), this is a chance to watch Ramin Bahrani’s portrayal of a businessman making a fortune by repossessing homes whilst gaming the real estate market, Wall Street banks and the US government.

When he evicts Dennis Nash (Golden Globe nominee Andrew Garfield), a single father trying to care for his mother (Academy Award nominee Laura Dern) and young son (newcomer Noah Lomax), Nash becomes so desperate to provide for his family that he goes to work for Carver – the very man who evicted him in the first place.

The film follows how Nash is seduced into the lifestyle - and Nash signs a deal with the devil evicting families from their homes and having life completely turned around.

Tangerines (15)

Showing at the mac (Tues 13 - Thurs 15), this moving film makes a statement about peace. Set in 1992, during the growing conflict between Georgia and Abkhazian separatists in the wake of the Soviet Union’s dissolution. This tale focuses on two Estonian immigrant farmers who decide to remain in Georgia long enough to harvest their tangerine crop. One of them, Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak) takes in two wounded soldiers from opposite sides as war start .The fighters vow to kill each other when they recover, but their recovery transcends their vow and their divides.

The film shows us the hard struggle of war and how precious life is!

That’s enough from me this week! If you have any quibbles regarding any of the above, please drop me a tweet @timmy666. I wish you a fantastic week at the cinema!

Recipe for Indian Month: Chicken Tikka

Good morning my little Brummies.  I hope you are enjoying the lovely warm autumn weekends. Drank enough Pumpkin spiced latte yet?

This month we are cooking Indian food.  That's me, teaching you. This is hilarious and terrifying for several reasons.  I am from a very small, very white town in Yorkshire.  I never had a curry till I was 21. I have never worked in an Indian restaurant, never been to India, and know very few Indians. Hell, I have never even been to Sparkhill. And you people have been brought up on Indian food.  So, let's take this slow.

We are starting with Chicken Tikka, because it is nice and simple. You need the following:

(prep time 4 hours minimum, just so you know)

  • Two chicken thighs per person
  • Natural Yoghurt
  • Tikka Spices (available from all good supermarkets)
  • Rice
  • Coriander

Take a large, deep bowl and fill it with a pint and a half of fresh, natural yoghurt.  Not too thick.  Take a whisk and blend in half a packet of Tikka spices.  Add the chicken thighs and coat them well in the mix.  Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least four hours.  Or even overnight, which really tenderizes the chicken and makes it taste awesome.

Preheat an oven at 180 degrees centigrade.  Take an oven dish, preferably with a lid.  Add your chicken, and a little of the mix.  Now sprinkle over this with some freshly chopped coriander, which goes so well with chicken.  Cover with the lid or metal foil, and bake in the oven at 140 degrees for 40 minutes.  Meanwhile boil a cup of rice on the stove until the rice is soft, then drain.  This usually takes under ten minutes.

When the chicken is cooked, place it in a dish and serve with rice on the side.  Top it off with a little of the yoghurt coating and chicken fat.  The latter with seep into the rice and enhance the flavour a little.

That's it.  Enjoy your supper!

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Steel and Jelly: Contemporary and Traditional Menswear in Grand Central


With their new store just opened in Grand Central, we're keen to find out about the people behind Steel and Jelly.

Who's behind Steel and Jelly?

Established in 2004, the brand name embraces the contrasting industrious (Steel) and benevolent (Jelly) approaches that father and son took when first starting the business. Their 40 years’ experience in the ever evolving fashion industry has led to the formation of the Steel & Jelly brand.

What made you want to open in Grand Central?

“In line with our recent program of expansion, we are very excited to be opening our new flagship store in Birmingham’s Grand Central Station. This major new transport & retail hub in the heart of the region is the perfect location to meet the growing demand for, and increasing interest in the brand. As well as welcoming those local to the region, we’ll be able to reach new customers from all over the country who will be travelling through the new station.”

What would you want a new customer to experience when they enter the store?

With a team of dedicated and skilled retail staff, the store will differentiate itself by offering a personal shopping style experience on the high street.

What makes your menswear business unique?

Our philosophy centres on scrupulous attention to detail. We are passionate about embracing innovative British design by creating a hybrid of the contemporary and the traditional.  Every item is made with the modern-day gentleman in mind by threading the past through to the present with masculine shapes and styles.

What inspires the designs?

We are very much inspired by British design & scrupulous attention to detail. Our collection features all the essentials in a modern-day gentleman’s wardrobe from formal tailoring to soft casuals and premium accessories to finish the look. Each piece carries an element of surprise from a patterned trim inside a collar, to a contrasting button thread reflecting our ethos “Because detail matters.”

What are you working on for your next collection?

Top secret! We are however continuously expanding our product range…

By Rickie J, founder of Birmingham Favourites and a woman who doesn't think eight (very full) wardrobes is excessive.

@BrumFaves @RickieWrites


At The Flix with @Timmy666


Greetings one and all and welcome to this week’s At The Flix, our weekly glance at the cinematic releases hitting screens across Brum. Here’s what’s coming ….

The Martian (12A)

Matt Damon is clearly pigeonholing himself as the stranded astronaut - following Interstellar, it’s clear that he has a taste of being an astronaut and married with Ridley Scott in the directing chair here’s an exciting science-based drama, taken from Andy Weir's bestselling novel. Astronaut. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. Watney survives and finds himself stranded and alone, and only with meager supplies. Therein this setup builds the basis of three stories - one of Watney’s survival and mission to contact Earth, another of NASA and their team of scientists to bring him home, and thirdly the world’s unity in rooting for his return.

I am very excited for this film as it is a marriage of two smart and knowing masters of cinema! Damon has the ideal charm for such a role and Ridley Scott has some substantive source material to exercise his considerable sci-fi chops. Both also know how to get the balance between intelligent and crowd pleasing. The very positive reviews have borne (not Bourne!) this out!

Macbeth (15)

Is this a big screen Shakespeare adaptation which I see before me? Well, if any of the Shakespeares were made for the big screen, Macbeth is up there! With heavyweight acting talents Fassbender and Cotillard in the two main roles, not to mention a star-studded support cast, this looks like a real treat, especially with Justin Kurzel’s highly stylised and dark direction! Tones of scarlet and black clearly dominate the rough and bleak landscape!  I’ve always seen Macbeth as an intentionally cruel and savage play and this looks to set that tenor with some determination. I am very excited to see how the mood and tone is set and how the leads play out their tragic roles!

The Intern (12A)

There’s an balance to be struck in this film’s contemporary premise - that an older guy can become an intern, that this intern is Robert de Niro and is in fashion magazine run by a career-driven woman. The obvious father-figure comedy setup is there for all to see and Nancy Myers knows how to make watchable and likeable light-ish comedies and there’s plenty of opportunity for observations, monologues and whatever other Hollywood-type constructions you can get from this setup. This will play mostly on the likeability of de Niro and Hathaway in the lead roles and Myers never fails to get a big cast in her films.  The okay to good reviews suggest this to be a pleasant and nice, if not overly thrilling time in the cinema!

Second Mother (15)

Showing at the mac (Fri 2 - Sun 4), Brazilian director Anna Muylaert’s latest film won the Audience Award at the Berlinale, and has garnered terrific reviews. The film follows a live-in maid and her estranged daughter in Sao Paulo. The maid is a nanny to Fabinho but struggles with the guilt of failing to raise her daughter Jessica herself; and when Jessica calls, wanting to come to São Paulo for her exams, Val is overjoyed. The reunion doesn't go smoothly - tension mounts and Val finds herself in the middle between her outspoken daughter and her live-in family. Both are forced to find a new way of facing life.

Dance of Reality (18)

Also showing at the mac (Mon 5 - Thurs 8) is cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s imaginary autobiography, a strange, fantastical journey that no one else could make. Focusing on his own early life, being raised by a strict, Stalin-adoring father who has plans to assassinate the right-wing Chilean president. This has been on very limited release since 2013, Jodorowsky’s life becomes an examination of the line between reality and imagination and the film provides just a little understanding of what has made him tick as a filmmaker.

That’s it from me. As always, any queries or quibbles, you can drop me a tweet at @timmy666. Until next week, have a great time at the cinema.