Salt & Earth at 1000 Trades

One of my food based regrets in life is that I never got to try Two Cats Kitchen before they closed. When Niki Astley went solo with Salt & Earth, it went straight onto my must try list. Sadly, Birmingham is going to lose Astley soon, as he’s leaving not only Brum, but the country, for new and exciting projects. Before he goes, you must go along to his residence at 1000 Trades.

The menu is divided into sections, with a suggested two to three dishes a person. Dave and I opted to try and order as much as we could between us, so we could sample most of the dishes.

Salt & Earth

From Earth, we chose Yucca Fries (£4.50) and Celeriac (£6). The Yucca fries were perfect; crispy coating and fluffy middle. The Celeriac was our absolute favourite dish, which neither of us expected. Served in pasta style ribbons, this had a real black pepper kick, balanced by the creamy sauce. Delicious and super moreish.

Pork Belly

Fried Chicken

From Land, we went for Sous Vide Pork Belly (£9) and Japanese Style Fried Chicken (£7). The pork belly was butter soft, and almost sweet with Tamarind BBQ sauce. The chicken was juicy, with a pleasingly crunchy coating, and a dirty thousand island dressing that packed some unexpected, but welcome, heat. I was expecting wings, for some reason, which I’m not that big of a fan of, so the boneless fried chicken style was a good surprise.

Salt & Earth at 1000 Trades

Ceviche

Lastly, from Sea, we ordered both options; Soft Shell Crab BLT Bao (£12) and Tilapia Ceviche (£8). The bao looked amazing, and the crab was cooked perfectly, with no toughness. My only issue was the bao itself, which was a bit huge compared to the amount of filling. While tasty, we find the bao stodgy. Utter perfection though, was the Ceviche. I’ve eaten this before, at Sear and Smoke, and it was as good as I remembered. Colourful in the bowl, sharp flavours and very fresh fish. Bliss.

I remain heartbroken that I had no room for the Heaven section (or dessert, to you and me) and that we’re losing Niki Astley from the city. His food is beautiful and delicious, and if you ask me, his departure is a real loss to Birmingham.

Salt & Earth are in residence until Saturday 3 March, so hurry! Find full details here.

Virago, Old Rep Theatre

I am always curious about dance productions, especially when they are a little unusual. I went to see Virago, a solo production from Sonia Sabri, which certainly fits the bill.

Virago by Sonia Sabri Company

Virago is a unique experience, combining dance with spoken word, music, video projection and a diverse mix of cultural references. In Latin, Virago means ‘female warrior’, and this production explores the contradictions of female existence.

The show encompasses the highs and lows of womanhood, ranging from Sabri dancing joyfully to a lyric declaring ‘I am woman, I am strong’, to Sabri cowering in despair as spoken word clips declare her a disappointment, brand her unnatural as a single woman or reprimand her for failing to maintain society’s beauty standards.

The use of light and video gives the piece a surreal, almost dreamlike quality, and Sabri leads you from one emotion to the next at a breakneck speed. There is no room in this show to sit back and just admire the beautiful dancing (although it is beautiful), as you’re too busy being pulled into the situations represented. Voice clips include pieces of interviews conducted with many women, bringing in voices from Europe, Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. The jarring experience of being female is universal, this production makes clear.

It is hard to ‘enjoy’ a piece themed on such emotive subject matter, but this work is moving, and interesting, and I guarantee you’ll leave the theatre discussing what it all meant.

I was given a press pass to attend this performance, in exchange for honest review. All words and opinions are my own. 

Brunch at Boston Tea Party, Edgbaston

We all know I love me some brunch, so when Boston Tea Party invited a few of us along to their latest Birmingham branch in Edgbaston to test out their new breakfast options, I was there faster than you can say ‘smashed avocado’. Armed with a glass of fizz, I was ready for some excellent brunch time.

Boston Tea Party

the venue

Each branch of Boston Tea Party is slightly different, depending on location and clientele. The Edgbaston branch is clearly aimed at the office crowd who work in the area, which is ideal for me. The cafe is split into several small rooms, with plenty of smaller tables, so you can settle in with your laptop in some peace and quiet to get some work done. The decor is fresh and bright, and feels very homey.

Flat White

Boston Tea Party Coffee

The Coffee

The coffee offering at Boston Tea Party has recently had an overhaul. There’s a new house blend, accompanied by a rotating guest coffee. The house has been created by Extract Coffee, and has notes of coco, honeycomb and black cherries. I tried the house as a Flat White and was very pleased. It’s not super sweet, but doesn’t tip into bitterness, so I found no need for sugar. It has a good robust flavour, and makes a nice, creamy flat white.

The current guest is Mexican Terruño Nayarita Espresso, which claims to have notes of port, mulling spices and, when combined with milk, strawberry yogurt. In order to compare, I ordered this as a flat white too, and was very pleased. This coffee has lots of natural sweetness, and made a spot on flat white. I could even taste the yogurt!

Boston Tea Party Brunch

Brown Rice Porridge
Boston Tea Party Cake
Sweetcorn Hash
the food

Boston Tea Party now serve brunch and breakfast all day, and have a few new menu options to celebrate.

I went for one of the new dishes; the Cheddar and Jalapeño Cornbread (£8.75), with added Chorizo (£2). The cornbread is topped with a fried egg, smashed avocado, spicy salsa, yogurt and maple syrup. I actually felt the Chorizo didn’t really add anything, especially for an added £2, but perhaps this would be better if I’d cut up the half link and distributed it more evenly through the dish. The Cornbread, however, did not disappoint. There’s a little spiciness, bags of sweetness from the syrup, and the whole thing combines together to make a really tasty, more unusual brunch dish.

We were also given the Brown Rice Porridge (£4.95) to split between us. It looks gorgeous, topped with plenty of mango and blueberries, and smells lovely with lots of cinnamon, but the flavour was not for me. It was a little too like rice pudding for my taste, but if you actually like rice pudding (which I do not), you’ll get on a lot better with this.

Most of us around the table chose the new cornbread, but the lovely Miss Pond went for a menu classic; the Sweetcorn Hash (£8.75) with extra bacon (£2.50). It looked really appealing, and there were a lot of appreciative noises.

I’d say, ignore the porridge and push the boat out. Boston Tea Party is damn good at brunch.

We were also treated to a ludicrous selection of cake. Despite my lack of sweet tooth, I made a valiant effort to try as much as of it as I could fit in around the cornbread. All their cakes are made fresh on site, and it shows. There are LOADS to choose from, and all delicious.

Boston Tea Party, Edgbaston

the service

Easy to say when they’re plying you with cake, but BTP‘s Edgbaston team are a lovely bunch. Manager Jack took excellent care of us, and he clearly knows the menu inside out and back to front, and was willing and able to make great suggestions and to recommend his personal favourites. One of his team was also on hand for a quick coffee lesson, and again, showed off some excellent menu knowledge and helpful suggestions for the new coffee choices. Top marks!

the verdict

Edgbaston is a top contender for my favourite branch of Boston Tea Party now. I find the city centre branch a little more hit and miss, and while I really like my local of the Harborne branch, it’s a little ‘yummy mummy’. This one is so bright and light, and the food is well executed by a team obviously very proud of what they do. I’ll be moving in shortly.

Go, order the Cornbread and all the cake, and wave to Jack while you’re there.

I was a guest of Boston Tea Party, and my food and drinks were complementary in exchange for honest review. All opinions, words and images are my own. 

Want to read about other BTP visits? Read about Harborne here