Whisky Women: Birmingham Whisky Club

Birmingham Whisky Club

Everybody knows I’m a ride or die gin drinker, but I’m also never one to turn down some alcohol knowledge. Birmingham Whisky Club run regular tastings in the city centre throughout the year, but for International Women’s Day they decided to do something a bit different. Whisky definitely has a reputation as being a drink ‘for men’, but it turns out that whisky actually owes a lot to some rather awesome women. Birmingham Whisky Club is actually run by two women, Vicky and Amy, so when I was invited along to their Whisky Woman night, it seemed the perfect way to discover a spirit I’ve always liked the idea of, if not the taste.

We were given six different whiskies to try, already neatly laid out when we arrived, on a numbered mat. An accompanying sheet told us which whisky was which, and the name of the woman we’d be learning about. Amy talked us through each whisky, explaining the differences in production, and a bit of the history. Amy is clearly very passionate and very knowledgeable about whisky. She was interesting to listen to, and left us all feeling like we really needed a holiday on Islay, an iconic location for Scottish whisky.

I felt the balance of information was perfect. A lot of the group were new to whisky, but we had some old hands too, but Amy walked an ideal line between helping us newbies understand what we were drinking and how best to taste it, while also providing plenty of new and interesting information for those who were more knowledgeable.

Whisky Tasting Birmingham

Vicky talked us through some of the amazing back stories to the whiskies we were drinking, from the brazen ladies of bourbon bootleggers who smuggled bourbon in their skirts, to the incredible story of Rita and Taketsuru. I can’t do it justice, but I recommend doing some googling to discover a beautiful love story between a Japanese whisky producer and the Scottish girl who supported his business, before being accused of spying during the second world war.

I definitely don’t know enough about whisky to intelligently review what we tried. However, I can say that I was really surprised. Having assumed I didn’t like whisky, I actually did enjoy most of what I tried, once I’d got over the initial burn of the bourbon. My favourites were Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt and Mackmyra Svensk Rok. The Taketsuru was light and almost friuty. According to the bottle, you should expect notes of espresso beans, which perhaps explains why it was my favourite. The Svensk Rok tasted very clean, and smelt slightly like good cake. Very, very drinkable.

If you’re like me, and like the idea of whisky but don’t know where to start, I highly recommend booking a tasting with Birmingham Whisky Club. They have some great events coming up, including food pairings and a taste along with the original Godzilla movie. I’ll certainly be exploring more whisky from now on.

Ju Ju’s Cafe, Birmingham

When not one, but two food bloggers have told you how much they like a place, you should probably visit it. Ju Ju’s Cafe, hidden away in canal square, has appeared twice on Brummie Gourmand in recent weeks, and I’ve heard Out in Brum sing the cafe’s praises too. Dave and I took my Mum for breakfast a couple of weekends ago, and decided it was high-time we investigated Ju Ju’s.

The cafe itself has great canal views and after a recent makeover, has a punky British vibe, with all sorts of quirky things on the walls to catch your eye (my favourite was a unicorn head). We were seated quickly by a window with canal views, despite the fact the place was clearly busy. Unfortunately, the coffee machine was broken so they couldn’t do any drinks involving steamed milk, but as we were warned about this as we were sitting down, it wasn’t a problem. Machines break down, it happens, but it’s a pet hate of mine when places wait until you try to order something to tell you that you can’t have it. Instead, I opted for a black coffee, and Dave an Earl Grey. My mum is very particular about her coffee; she likes an americano with the tiniest speck of milk, so she was pleased when, on ordering a white coffee, she was asked how much milk she would like, and then offered a little jug on the side when it was clear she had a very specific requirement. The drinks arrived speedily, and the coffee was tasty, even if it wasn’t my usual latte.

Avocado Smash

The breakfast menu at Ju Ju’s is vast, and it all sounded delicious. After much deliberation, I chose the Smashed Avocado, which is spicy tomato salsa and avocado on a toasted muffin with poached eggs. As well as looking delicious, this tasted delicious too. The salsa was very fresh, with some nice crunch to the tomatoes, and there was a good amount of avocado. The eggs could have been a tiny bit more oozy, but they did ooze well when I cut into them. All in all, a very tasty breakfast!

Breakfast Hash

Dave helpfully ordered the other breakfast I really wanted to try, Ju Ju’s Hash. The hash is crushed hash browns mixed with sausage, bacon and onions, topped with tomato and fried eggs. Dave also went for the optional side of toast and hollandaise. Served in the pan, this looked and smelt gorgeous. The egg yolks were runny when cut into, mixing nicely into the rest of the medley. Dave was very pleased, and I will definitely be ordering this myself next time we visit.

Mum chose scrambled eggs and bacon on toast, which I apparently didn’t photograph, but got good reviews. The toast was an absolute doorstep of a slice, and the scrambled eggs were clearly cooked to order as they were light and fluffy. For busy breakfast service,a  lot of places batch cook scrambled eggs (quite understandably) but being left to sit in a hot pan does impact the quality. Mum and I have both worked busy breakfast services ourselves, and can always tell when corners haven’t been cut. Very impressive!

The cafe was very busy but the service times were perfectly reasonably and the staff were friendly and attentive. Ju Ju’s is a bit of a hidden gem, and we will definitely be visiting again!

 

We paid in full for our breakfasts. They didn’t know I was a blogger. All opinions are entirely honest and my own (or dragged out of Dave). 

Zen Metro, Birmingham

Nothing if not practical, I’ll confess to hating restaurants on Valentines Day. Instead, Dave and I booked a deal for Zen Metro the day after. Sister restaurant to the already popular Asha’s, Zen Metro used to be Metro Bar and Grill, but after being bought out and getting a £250,000 makeover last year, Zen Metro now serves Thai food, one of my favourite cuisines.

Zen Metro

Restaurant Decor

Zen Metro is seriously stylish inside, and deceptively large. Right in the heart of the Colmore Business District, the frontage looks narrow, but you go inside to be greeted by a sweeping bar with cosy booths either side. Our server greeted us and took us up a dramatic mirrored walkway to the tables, which are cosily lit, grouped around a beautiful tree, lit with colour shifting spots.

Prosecco

I’d found a deal for three courses and a glass of Prosecco, which it appears they offer quite often. I couldn’t resist a flick through the drinks menu anyway, and was pleasantly surprised by how well priced the cocktails are. I didn’t try one this time, but I will be going back for drinks some time, for sure. Offer menus can often be a little sparse, but there was a good range of options to choose from here.

Thai Mussels

To start, Dave opted for Mussels in shell, which come steamed with thai herbs, and a coconut and chilli broth. The portion was enormous, and Dave was convinced the mussels were rope caught, which are usually more expensive but better quality. I can take or leave mussels as I often find them gritty, but these were tender and tasty. Dave was extremely happy working his way through the giant pile.

Tom Yum Soup

I chose the Tom Yum Goong soup. It was filled with fat, juicy prawns and the broth was perfectly flavoured, with that distinctive sour, spicy combination of thai dishes. It was quite hot, but I like spice, so this was spot on.

Teriyaka Salmon

For main, Dave chose roasted fillet of salmon with stir fry noodles in teriyaki sauce. The piece of salmon was enormous and cooked perfectly. I tried a tiny piece and the flavour was delicate, letting the fish taste come through the teriyaki flavouring. Dave made short work of this, so safe to say it was good.

Thai green curry

I chose a classic, the Thai Green Curry, which has chicken, coconut milk, bamboo shoots, green beans and fresh basil leaves. I was able to choose how spicy I wanted it, and selected medium. Again, the portion was massive, and I only managed about half of it. The heat level was exactly what I wanted. The first taste is creamy and the heat gently rolls across your tongue as you keep eating, making for a very pleasant experience, that is hot without being overwhelming.

Creme Brulee

For dessert, Dave tried the Lemongrass infused crème brulee. Not my sort of thing at all, but Dave’s review was very positive and it promptly disappeared despite the fact he’d been telling me how full he was just before.

Thai desserts

The dessert options were all a bit creamy for my taste, but I decided to try the Thai-style crème caramel. It wasn’t quite my thing, and I only ate about half of it, but it looked gorgeous on the plate, and the caramel was very tasty. If you do like cream heavy options, this would be great. The chocolate dipped strawberries were fantastic though.

I was very impressed in how much food we were given, considering we paid just under £20 a head for the offer menu. Offers can be a bad way to try a place, but the food was absolutely delicious and we will definitely be going back. Our waitress was incredibly friendly too, checking in on how we were handling the spice and making suggestions. We also chatted with another waiter, who found us some of the Valentines chocolate boxes they’d been giving out the night before, which was very sweet of him.

We had a truly excellent evening, and I can’t recommend Zen Metro enough.

I booked and paid for Zen Metro myself. They didn’t know I was a blogger.