Around midday Bear and I walked towards Birmingham City centre, hopeful that grey skies wouldn’t cry down on us. The air above us was warm but still grey and could spit at us any minute. Wonderfully we arrived in the beautiful Brindley Place, with a water feature in the centre, welcoming us into the fun. Music, dancing and the smell of good food filled the space and the tango dancers hit yet another goal in my heart to get Bear to a few lessons and maybe a jazz bar.
Quickly we found the amazing smells flowing from a stall near the corner. Homemade Burgers from Daniel Batchelor were our first choice and a sort of brunch warm-up into the hot and spicy flavours around us. Made with Dexter beef and recommending campaigns to help good farmers (check out Farming Delivers for more info), it was really great to see farmer and chef side-by-side producing such quality. Buying two, one with chilli sauce and another with mozzarella, we decided to split them. YUM! They were juicy, hot and full of flavour; the mozzarella stretched perfectly with each bite whereas the chilli sauce gave a nice, but not overwhelming warmth to the burger. Happily sitting in the peeking rays of sun, this was a very good start of the day.
I caught sight of samosas at the Spice Fever stall and order what looked like a delicious lamb samosas. They were warm and soft in crispy shells. A tint of orange colour in the lamb mince just confirmed the awesome level of spices which heated my tongue as we walked on.
On our wander through stalls Bear saw piles of feta cheese & stuffed olives in bowls. He couldn’t help but try some and fell in love with the stall quickly. I have to admit it is the only feta I’ve ever really liked, and it reminded me of a trip to Corfu years before. It was not too salty or oily, and had a creamy, mild texture that worked well. Bear was very keen on them and bought some olives, chilli, large garlic and feta.
Buddha Belly (@saibuddhabelly) was the last taster of the chilli festival we dared try – we had more time and places to go, we couldn’t eat too much. But their vegetable spring roll & thai fish cake were definitely worth it! They were, to put it mildly, flipping amazing! The spring roll was not spicy but was stuffed full of fresh, light ingredients with a healthy (but good) aftertaste. Swapping my half for half of Bear’s fish cake, I received a juicy, spicy morsel and beauty. This fish cake was as if the fish had been born with chilli among it’s scales. This wasn’t padded out with bread and flour, it was pure, delicious fish and I would recommend them highly. To cook such a fish dish is very impressive for a stall held outside in mid-July.
We walked on through Birmingham city, paying attention to sights, museums, galleries, et al that we might like to visit again in the coming weeks and months. Stopping for a small scoop of ice cream in Entices Pancake & Ice Cream Bar was welcomed as it cooled our chilli-warmed tongues. Strawberry Cheesecake and Pineapple Crush (lightly exotic but not overpoweringly citrus) were worthy flavours and refreshed us for our move back into the glorious sun that had arrived in Victoria Square.
Being careful to select food in small morsels rather than gorging on one dish, Bear picked a small bowl of Chicken Latska Curry with Satay bread from Thistle (B4 6HY). There was nice chicken in a mild sauce but we were both expecting far more flavour from the Satay bread. Never the matter, there was more to explore.
I chose a few Ribs in Bourbon and Black sauce from Colmore Bar and Grill (B2 5PC). Delicious and beautiful with enough sauce to emphasis the natural pork sweetness without smothering it. Perfectly grilled to fall off the bone. Needless to say my face was a mess after that, and Bear enjoyed photographing the sticky splodges around my lips.
An experiment in adventure and taste was required but I was excited to try Champagne Battered Oysters from the Chameleon stall (@chameleonbar). They were surprisingly delicious (at least in my opinion… Bear wasn’t so sure), a little like scampi in flavour but gooey and warm. It was a large mouthful but a good one and my appreciation grew as I moved on from the stall, sinking into my stomach and letting the flavours settle.
Our final buy was at Hindleys Bakery table, which we decided we would keep for later in the evening instead of dinner. We left with a paper bag including Raspberry Meringue, a Pineapple Cream, and a Brownie. Now, able to speak in hindsight, they were very good. My favourite was the Pineapple Cream, even if it was a cheeky half a tart, as it provided a good pineapple jam within tasty sugar cream and crisp pastry. The Meringue was tasty but a little too sugary for me, and the Brownie needed a little more chew.
All in all it was an amazing, tasty and adventure-filled day. I can’t wait for next year… so I probably won’t. If I can find the sources as cafes, restaurants or in shops, believe me you’ll hear more in the future.
Anyone else have tasty things in summer festivals thus far? Let me know! Show me photos! I’ll spread your recommendations!