Keep Cask & Curry On

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Cask and Curry at Hen & Chickens – Expect empty plates

They say life is short. Banged up in Winson Green at the pleasure of Her Majesty, life can be tediously long. Reincarnation as a fruit fly and life is 24 hours short; imagine being born, recreating and meeting your maker all in one day. Thankfully, few of us occupy either of these extreme measures. With God’s will, we can expect four score years, 2.4 children and around thirty five tax returns. 

There are a fixed number of dinners you will enjoy in your life before the gas runs out. It’s important to enjoy them all. One of these will be your last supper and it’s important to go out on a high. 

So if life really is short, its important the food you introduce to your digestive system is prepared with passion, garnished with love and served with a smile. If you consider this holy trinity to be sacred, head over to Cask & Curry occupying the pub known locally as Hen & Chickens. You will thank me for it. 

The pub has just been sympathetically refurbished. The planning process took a long time but the end result illustrates just how important it is to preserve heritage. This is a traditional English pub with a new lease of life. If customers from the old days popped in, they would approve.  

There’s a great selection of ales, beers and lagers on draft. Take a seat in any of the three rooms that make up this place on the very edge of Colmore Business District. Order from a wide selection of Indian food. Place your order at the bar. Wait for your food. Eat. Enjoy. Smile. 

You can park on the street for free outside during the day for an hour, and it’s free after six. If you’re drinking, there’s a metro stop over the road, bus stops outside and an Uber cab service on your mobile. 

The owners have been running the place for five years, If you haven’t been, pop in and try it. I’m definitely going back just as soon as I give birth to this food baby I’m currently nursing under my shirt. 

Cask & Curry at Hen & Chickens 

27 Constitution Hill

Birmingham

B19 3LE

0121 236 3121

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer based in Birmingham.

@jassansi 07930 837 505

Hotel du Vin Wine Dinner with Sir Ian Botham

Hotel du Vin invited Sir Ian Botham to host a full bodied wine dinner at their Birmingham hotel ahead of the UK’s first Day-Night Test at Edgbaston.

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Sir Ian Botham transcends cricket in the way Pele transcended football and James Hunt transcended Formula 1. You don’t have to be a cricket fan to know who Ian Botham is. For my generation, he was a hero. It was a pleasure to meet him tonight as he hosted a wine dinner at Hotel du Vin in Birmingham. 

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Hotel du Vin host monthly wine dinners at their Colmore BID hotel and if you have never attended one, put it on your ice bucket list. They are one of Birmingham’s best nights out.   If you love good food (and lets be honest, who doesn’t?) and love great wine, get booked on.

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They are usually hosted by wine producers who along with Hotel du Vin’s General Manager, Tony Elvin welcome guests for an intimate and enlightening evening. 

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Tonight’s host, as well as being a wine producer also happens to be a sporting legend. Sir Ian Botham is one third of the wine brand ‘Botham Merrill Willis Wines.’ Sir Ian welcomed guests telling them a lot of pretentious nonsense is written about wines but ultimately they are there to be enjoyed.

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Sir Ian shared some background on his wines telling a packed room he first thought of the idea in the late 70s. It wasn’t until 2004 the idea was bottled, corked and labelled. 

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Sir Ian is an ambassador for Hotel du Vin and in Birmingham to commentate on the Test Match cricket being held at Edgbaston. England have only suffered one loss in Test Match cricket at Edgbaston so expectation is high.

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It’s also the first ever Day / Night Test match in the UK. Great to see history being made in Brum, a city that continues to smash visitor experience out of the stadium. 

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Enjoy the full set of images at:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/jassansi/albums/72157685193549850

Jas Sansi @jassansi is a freelance photographer based in Birmingham.

 

We’re Not Going on a Summer Holiday

Can you name one benefit of exiting the EU? Jas Sansi finally discovers something positive. Read on. 

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A Staycation in Birmingham

Summer and especially the summer holidays when schools banish their pupils for six weeks is known in media circles as the silly season. News is light on the ground; Parliament is in recess, MPs go off on their holidays, the rich and the famous jet off to wherever the rich and the famous jet off to, business leaders and the professionals are out of town. 

Those who are relied upon to provide comment, make news worthy decisions and feed the news channels are otherwise engaged. 24 hour channels are consequently fed a series of light entertainment stories and public relations releases scraped from the bottom of a shallow barrel. Hence the expression, the silly season. 

It’s a poor reflection that ‘news’ and ‘comment’ is sourced from the upper end of society. As if, those who are left in the UK over summer are not worthy of tapping into, extracting opinion or relied upon to generate content. 

Exactly the same thing happens over Christmas. The holiday season in December sees the same old stories churned out; the celebrity lighting of Christmas trees, the mayhem of last minute shopping, the tensions of being cooped up with family, the over eating, the weather, the strains on the transport network as people hit the roads, trains and planes, the New Year’s Eve celebrations and finally the countdown to receiving our credit card statements on blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year. 

This is the first time in years I’ve been in the UK for summer. I’ve always known its a slow time of the year for news but experiencing it has been painful. One story I’ve noticed is the economic projection that the Pound will reach and lock into parity with the Euro. A quid being worth a Euro effectively means we have joined the Euro. Yes, I know we haven’t but if our notes look like Euros, sound like Euros and have the same value as Euros, then chances are they are Euros. 

And if the value of the Pound remains the same as the Euro, staying in the UK over summer is something a lot more of us are going to have to get used to. I have finally discovered a benefit to leaving the EU; we’ll have better news content over the summer break as more of us find it financially impossible to holiday on the continent…! 

 

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer based in Birmingham. Husband of one, father of two and owner of three (Cameras)

@jassansi

The Canal House; Back To Where it Once Belonged.

The Canal House, previously the James Brindley Pub is back. No longer on the wrong side of the water, the return of this venue is a reflection of the growing investment in Birmingham. Jas Sansi went along to the launch to welcome it back.

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Silhouettes cut out by The Roving Artist http://www.roving-artist.com

Confidence begets confidence, success breeds success. The rise of Birmingham continues with the city region enjoying a period of unparalleled momentum. It’s trajectory appears to be firing faster, more intense and increasingly focused than any time in recent history. If Captain Kirk docked the SS Enterprise at Birmingham Airport he may even suggest we are going places no Brummie has gone before. 

I attended the stunning launch of The Canal House last night. It sits at the nucleus of Birmingham’s thirty five mile canal network under the gaze of Hyatt Regency. Like Harry’s Bar in Venice, which shrugs off having fewer canals than us, this venue is steeped in history, but one that has been sadly overlooked for too long. This ends with the transformation into an elegant bar and restaurant. It’s rebirth is a very welcome return to the city. 

When I was a kid, my parents were in the clothing trade. I remember often sitting, in a van off Broad Street, waiting for my dad to return from one of the many clothing warehouses occupying the stretch which is now the entertainment heart of Brum. This was before the ICC was built, long before Brindleyplace was imagined, before Hyatt, The Mailbox and all of the venues along the golden mile we have grown to love. 

I may have been too young to enter, but the James Brindley Pub (as it was known then) was there. And so with a lot of personal pride, I was there last night to witness it’s doors re-open and a neglected part of the past return to life. 

The development of Westside BID isolated the original venue on the wrong side of the water. It’s taken a long time for the city’s expansion to absorb this space. The development of Paradise and the Atkins building, the Metro extension and upgrade of Centenary Square, and redesign of The Mailbox changes everything. The Canal House finds itself back to where it once belonged.

The timing of it’s return is therefore no accident. HSBC have completed the build of its UK headquarters just over the road. HS2 has begun it’s engineering journey with the planting of 400,000 trees ahead of moving us closer to central London. In nine years, the longest part of travelling to the capital for many of us will be the journey from home to the HS2 Station. 

Neighbouring brightly painted barges undulate below The Canal House as cranes soar above. Birmingham is a city in transition, but it has been ever thus. The canals were constructed to move product, that no longer exists, to markets that have moved on. And yet, the canals remain. They afford pleasure and purpose to those who remained loyal to the engineered transportation veins of our wonderful city. 

The injection of confidence around the canal network is very good news for Brum. Thank you for the invitation to attend the launch. Welcome back, the sipping forecast looks good. 

The Canal House

12 Bridge Street Birmingham B1 2JR

0121 643 8829

thecanalhouse.uk.com

On Twitter @TheCanalHouseUK

We need to talk about Brexit.

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I’ve been reflecting on the Emirates decision to cancel one of their three daily flights to Dubai. It’s disappointing to read negative press about Birmingham Airport. I’ve enjoyed sharing monthly reports about record passenger numbers over the past 17 months. 

I’ve been to Dubai five times in the last ten years, flying from Birmingham. Dubai is an extraordinary destination. Its the bench mark of excellence for customer service and visitor expectation. It delivers ‘wow’ like nowhere else. 

It’s expensive, you pay a lot but you get a lot. The price of Dubai has never been an issue but Brexit changed everything. Strong sterling allowed many Brits to live it large overseas. In 2013, I received over 100 Rupees to the pound in India. In 2014, I purchased 1.4 Euros to the pound. In 2015, I got 4.5 Turkish Lira to the pound. 

The decision to leave the EU saw the pound crash. For those who don’t venture overseas, it made little immediate impact. For those who travel overseas for business or holiday, the effect was painful and immediate. 

I perceive Dubai as the one destination falling out of reach. The exchange rate was over seven UAE Dhirams to the pound on our first visit there as a family in 2007. Our most recent visit after the decision to leave the EU, offered close to four Dhirams to the pound. 

I spent ten days in Dubai with my family in August 2016. The reality of the exchange rate  was ordering two milk shakes and a bowl of fries poolside for my children, I calculated the bill on my iphone after signing for the bill, £24. Ouch. 

Post Brexit, Dubai is incredibly expensive for British visitors. Throw in the introduction of 5% VAT in 2019 and I worry about the two remaining flights from Birmingham. 

We are determined to deliver the will of the people. It’s important to understand the will of the people comes with consequences. Fingers crossed, the decision by Emirates to cancel one of their flights between Birmingham and Dubai is not a precursor of things to come. 

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer based in Birmingham, a trustee of LoveBrum, a columnist for The Asian Today newspaper and blogger for Downtown in Birmingham.

@jassansi      07930 837 505      sansi1@btinternet.com

 

 

Street Food

Jas Sansi visits Gateway to India in Birmingham’s Westside BID and writes about the explosion of Street Food in Brum. 

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Pretty safe to safe, Street Food has become the buzz word for eating out in 2017. I’ve enjoyed three Indian Restaurants in Birmingham in recent weeks, opened to deliver this very concept. It’s curious, eating Indian food in restaurants has reverted to the very origin of those in search of a meal, eating out at pop up stalls. 

I remember visiting my dad’s family home in Punjab back in the 1970s. It was a long time ago in many ways and not just in the passage of time. We flew from Heathrow, a name barely a decade old since the change from London Airport and a year after the Piccadilly Line of the Underground unveiled a station at what was to become the world’s busiest airport. 

One of my first memories of landing in Delhi was the sheer number of people, noise, sounds, bustle and chaos. Exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure for a six year old struggling with his first taste of jet lag. 

A seven hour train journey out of the capital awaited us. We rattled across the dusty plains of a country that had fought and achieved independence only thirty years earlier. I spent much of the journey fighting sleep and staring out of the windowless frames onto the parallel Great Trunk Road. 

The travel writer, Paul Theroux had made the opposite journey from Amritsar to Delhi four years earlier and wrote about it in The Great Railway Bazaar; ‘Indian railway stations are wonderful places for killing time in, and they are like scale models of Indian society, with its division of caste, class and sex: SECOND-CLASS LADIES’ WAITING ROOM, BEARERS’ ENTRANCE, THIRD-CLASS EXIT, FIRST-CLASS TOILET, VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT, NON-VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT, RETIRING ROOMS, CLOAKROOM, and the whole range of occupations on office signboards, from the tiny one saying SWEEPER, to the neatest of all, STATION-MASTER.’

Disembarking at Jallandhar Railway Station after dark, we transferred to one of the few motor vehicles seen since leaving the capital. The shopping area near to the family home was cloaked in darkness. Illumination offered only from oil lamps swinging on the carts of peanut sellers and snack stalls; my first introduction to Street Food in all its raw setting.  It would prove to be a life long love affair.

Gateway to India underneath Jimmy Spices on Broad Street is the latest Indian restaurant offering street food. You can experience the food that built a nation within the comfort of a fine dining environment. It is a window on the past from the comfort of the present. 

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The interior is cream floor tiles and dark wood. It feels colonial and will age well. The fine dining interior differentiates it from other Indian Street food offerings in Birmingham and that of chains such as Dishoom in London. It is located just behind Broad Street on Regency Wharf, next to Hyatt Regency. 

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Street food in India and across Asia is a reality of every day living rather than a dining concept. It exists to feed workers inexpensively and quickly feeding the growth of the economy one sheesh kebab and aloo tikka at a time. 

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Street food offered a gateway into business for sole traders in India with little capital to establish a permanent premises. The partition of India after World War Two created displacement of millions of men, women and children who found themselves on the wrong side of the line when a border was established across Punjab. Chaos created opportunity. 

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Gateway to India has a slick kitchen visible from the dining room. It is here dishes familiar on the streets of Jallandhar, Delhi and Mumbai transform diners to the oil lamp illuminated bazaars of the India I experienced five decades ago. 

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The dish above is my personal favourite and has been ever since I was young. Chole Bhatura is a dish of chick peas in a spicy sauce served with fried bread. There’s a serving of chutney if you want to add dynamite to the fireworks party in your mouth. It’s a signature dish in India which remains a predominantly vegetarian country. Vegans can also enjoy this iconic offering. It is probably the best £6.50 you can spend in Brum.  

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For those of you who consider vegetarian food to be a side show, you will be delighted with the options to satisfy the carnivore in you. Chicken tikka and prawns fresh from the tandoori oven are stunning in presentation, texture and taste. 

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The sheer array of choice means a single visit only allows a fraction of the menu to be experienced. Going as a large group will certainly bring greater choice to the table, just don’t assume everyone is happy to share their preferred item. 

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Subsequent visits to India have unveiled change. The age where oil lamp illuminated street food vendors enjoyed a monopoly in feeding the masses is slowly being extinguished. The emerging middle class want their own fine dining options.

Having breakfast recently in the Shangri La, New Delhi, a server walked around the dining floor distributing tea in replica clay cups. I remember drinking from the real thing during that train journey so many years ago. The cups back then were smashed after drinking the tea. A five star hotel with a environmental commitment offers no such unsustainable choice.

The great chef, Anton Mossiman once said the first bite is always with the eye. As a photographer, I salute his words. Contact details and further images from Gateway to India’s menu below. Hail a rickshaw and enjoy. 

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Gateway to India – http://www.thegatewaytoindia.co.uk

6a Regency Wharf, Broad Street, Birmingham, B1 2DS

0121 643 8000 

 

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer in Birmingham, a trustee of LoveBrum, columnist for The Asian Today and blogger for Downtown in Birmingham.

@jassansi      07930 837 505      sansi1@btinternet.com

 

Siamais Thai Restaurant, Brindleyplace

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As a child, I recall watching ‘The King & I’ on television. The story follows the relationship between a Thai King and an English Teacher. It’s a mesmerising film and one of the first to convey the power of colour television. The film remains banned in Thailand. Thai Monarchy are revered across the Asian Kingdom.

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If you’ve never seen ‘The King & I‘ or visited Thailand, other opportunities to experience a little bit of South East Asia exist in Brum, namely the food. My favourites include Zen at Metro Bar and The Barton Arms. This offering has been increased with the recent introduction of Siamais (pronounced Siamese as in Twins), Thai restaurant in Brindleyplace.

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One of Brum’s top chefs recently tweeted the absence of a decent Thai Restaurant in Brum. It made me wince. His comments about Thai food in Birmingham were unfair. We are spoilt for choice.

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Siamais in Oozells Square is one worth visiting. It’s in the space previously occupied by Thai Edge, one of the leaders in the renaissance of Birmingham food. For 17 years, Thai Edge helped put the city on the culinary map and I would like to thank Harish and Nancy Nathwani for all they have done for Brum.

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Siamais takes the Thai concept to another level. A drinks area is separated from a dining space where the attention to detail is second to none. Suspended bird cages housing skulls in the bar give way to traditional fishing baskets above the dining tables. It’s a bewildering detail and one that made me smile.

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Enjoy the illuminated tables with Thai words spelling ‘food for the eyes, food for the mouth and food for the soul.’  It’s the perfect review for the food we ordered. A seafood platter fit for the Captain of a Royal Liner. If you order it, eat the Salmon first, it’s cooked to perfection and should be enjoyed as soon as it arrives at your table.

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I ordered the Chicken Massaman Curry as a main, it comes with Jasmine steamed rice and again beautifully cooked, flavoured and presented. For drinks I started with a Singha, Thailand’s signature beer. I then considered the option of ordering a glass of Shiraz or a bottle and compromised by ordering a large glass.

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Quick note on the cutlery, plates and glassware; all superb and enhanced the experience of dining in a contemporary Thai Restaurant. The sun sets later this time of year. The lighting in Siamais adjusted as the light outside changed. It was good to see both the bar and restaurant area busy on a Monday evening, especially during Easter when families take advantage of the bank holidays and fly off to distant shores.

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Siamais is a fabulous addition to Brindleyplace. As we headed back to the car across Oozells Square, I remembered what this part of the city was like before it was transformed. A landscaped square illuminated by Cielo, Piccolino, Yorks Cafe IKON and Siamais would have been unimaginable. This place would inspire a Thai King and English teacher to dance, just like that film, a long time ago.

Siamais Thai Restaurant 

www.siamais.co.uk

Six Brindleyplace, 7 Oozells St, Birmingham B1 2HS

0121 643 3993

birmingham@siamais.co.uk

Images from the Press Night: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jassansi/albums/72157679742680542

The Launch for Siamais was run by  BIRMINGHAM PR AGENCY DELICIOUS PR  and then link the underlined wording to WWW.DELICIOUSPR.CO.UK