Vanguard Bar

I love a bar that feels a bit secret. You feel as though you’ve stumbled onto something that’s just for you, and that feeling is even better when the bar is a bit unusual. New bar, The Vanguard is a perfect example of this.

The Vanguard

Vanguard Bar

Cocktail Bar

The venue

The bar is above 1000 Trades in the Jewellery Quarter, and it really does feel hidden. Go into 1000 Trades, and go into the door immediately on your left. Go up two flights of stairs (ignore the spare chairs for downstairs and follow a large honey bee that points the way). At the top, you’ll find yourself in an attic space with one of the best looking back bars I’ve ever seen. Expect wood floors, exposed brick, rustic tables…and that bar.

Owner Sam Boulton has been rattling around the bar scene for a while, tweaking the cocktail menus of many a bar behind the scenes, working with everyone from commercial chains, Michelin starred venues and indie bars. All that experience has been poured into the Vanguard, and it’s clear this place is truly Sam’s baby. The benches were made by Sam and his dad, and the back bar is stocked from his personal collection.


The philosophy

Cocktails are big money, there’s no denying it. As more and more latch on to offering cocktails, and you can order a Bramble or an Espresso Martini just about anywhere in the city, many places have responded by pushing their cocktail game into weird and wonderful places. Whether it’s scientific kit at the Alchemist, cocktails infused with Chlorophyll at the Botanist, or dry ice billowing drinks at Aluna, the cocktail world is awash with gimmicks.

Not so at the Vanguard. Sam has instead focused on creating a modern menu that focuses on delivering cocktails that taste great, in a timely manner. And that’s it. No bar flair, no wild creations, just good quality drinks without standing at the bar for forty minutes. Instead, Sam’s team aim to have your drink in front of you within two minutes. In Sam’s own words, it’s a no bullshit approach, which is music to my ears. There’s not a bar napkin or a plastic straw in sight, meaning your cocktail produces no single use waste.

The vibe is very relaxed, and I’m sure you could sit at the bar for a while and talk to Sam while he worked, or hog a table for hours with friends and try out the menu. I suggest the former, and ask Sam to teach you about mead.

Mead bar
Vanguard Mead
The drinks

As well as cocktails, The Vanguard specialises in mead. Mead is made with fermented honey, and comes in a staggering amount of varieties, with as many finishes as you can imagine. Currently, Mead is pretty unregulated, so there are some truly naff ones out there, but at the Vanguard, you can enjoy a wide selection of high quality versions. Some you drink like wine, others come bottled like beer.

I found all the varieties we tried delicious. The deep honey flavour is obvious, making this a sweet, comforting drink.

Mead Ferment

The cocktail menu lists flavours instead of ingredients, encouraging to make a selection based on tastes you like, rather than automatically being drawn to a familiar favourite spirit.

I had a Mead Ferment, which has all the mead sweetness, and made me feel like I ought to be drinking this while cosy in front of a fire. The serve is pleasingly simple, but still pretty, with attractive glassware.

The Vanguard is a unique venue and one I will definitely be heading back to. Go, try the mead, enjoy a cocktail and relax.

The Vanguard is currently open Wednesday to Sunday. They don’t serve beers or wine, but you are welcome to bring up a beer from 1000 Trades downstairs, and equally you can take your cocktail down to 1000 Trades.

I was a guest of the Vanguard and samples and the cocktail were complementary. I was not obliged to write a blog post. All words, images and opinions are my own. 

Indian Brewery

The best thing about being friends with food bloggers is having regular dates to eat too much, discuss food and generally make pigs of ourselves. A few weeks back, myself, Bite Your BrumMiss Pond and Hey It’s Fay met up for a feast at Indian Brewery.

Indian Brewery

The Venue

Indian Brewery is tucked away into old railway arches, under Snow Hill station. Inside, it’s all exposed bricks and neon lighting, with old Bollywood posters and brightly coloured tables. There’s lots of seating, but it does get busy, so I suggest arriving a little early if you want a seat to eat.

Rhubarb Cider

The Drinks

Indian Brewery, is, you’ll be shocked to learn, is also a brewery. They have a large range of craft beers on offer, both from their own brewery, and guest brewers. There’s also a wide range of ciders, spirits, teas and soft drinks. I had a Rhubarb Cider (£4), which was just summer in a glass. Fruity, sweet but with a nice sharp tang. Delicious. I also tried a half a Damson Cider which was tasty, but a bit sweet for me.

Indian Brewery menu

The food

Naturally, we ordered a pile of food. Fay wasn’t feeling top notch, so she settled down with a Masala Chai tea, and some Pakora Pops, while the other three of us deliberated over the menu. I need to go back and try more, as it all sounded delicious.

Mixed Grill

The Mixed Grill (£18) is a pile of meat, of all kinds. Chicken, lamb chops, cod pieces and more. There are some real gems in the grill, with standouts including the gentle spice hit of the Green Tikka chicken. A lot of the platter, we felt, lacked heat and we’d all have liked a little more spice.

Pakora Pops

Pakora Chaat

The Pakora Pops (£4.50) are a bowl of tasty fried deliciousness. They’re light, and not greasy. Even better though is the Pakora Chaat (£5.50), which is the same Pops, but covered with greek yogurt, chutney, pomegranate and Bombay sprinkle. This is a messy, moreish dish, and I think, my favourite of the meal.

Vada Pav

The Vada Pav (£5.50) is a sort of burger, with spiced mashed potato, smushed between layers of red and green chutney in a buttermilk bun. The filling was tasty, and packed a spicy bunch, but was too much carb in one go for me, making it a touch stodgy, even shared.

Masala Fries

With Emma at the table, you have to order fries of some kind, so the Loaded Masala Fries (£3.50) were a no-brainer. Imagine a spicy cheesey chips dish, and you’re there. These would make an excellent snack alongside one of the many. many craft beers.

I can’t think why I waited so long to check out Indian Brewery, and I’ll definitely be back to chomp through the rest of the menu.

We paid in full, and didn’t disclose that we’re bloggers. All words, images and opinions are my own. 

Digbeth Dining Club – 17th February

Despite living in Birmingham for just over a year, Dave has never made it to Digbeth Dining Club, which is basically a crime, so a few weeks back, we gatecrashed Bite Your Brum‘s date night with her husband, and went to pop Dave’s DDC cherry.

I cannot choose what I want to eat at DDC without doing at least two circuits of the whole place and staring at all the food trucks. We actually did several laps, searching for Flying Cows, who it turned out, weren’t actually there.

Pulled Pork

Baby Back Ribs

Dick’s Smokehouse

Luckily, we were able to console ourselves with a visit to Dick’s Smokehouse. We both love low ‘n’ slow style BBQ. I went for the Cherry Smoked Pulled Pork, which is crammed into a brioche bun, with an apple and fennel relish. The bun really is packed full, making a gloriously messy burger. Be prepared to be covered in sauce, but the pulled pork is succulent and full of delicious smoky flavour.

Dave chose the Honey & Bourbon Baby Back Ribs. The gently spiced sauce was generous slathered over incredibly tender ribs. The meat all but fell off the bone when picked up. The accompanying picked red cabbage added freshness. To sum up how good these were, when I asked Dave for his thoughts on them for this write-up, he became very sad he didn’t have any right then.

Truffle Shuffle

Patatas Bravas

Fancy Fries

Next stop was Francy Fries. I can’t resist truffle, so I had to try the Truffle Shuffle. Hand cut fries loaded with truffle and parmesan. The fries were crisp and tasty, but I would have liked a touch more truffle.

Dave tried the Patatas Bravas. The potato was loaded in a really rich tomato salsa and crisp chorizo. The potatoes themselves were crisp outside and fluffy inside. It went down a treat, although could have used a touch more sauce.

Digbeth Dining Club is held every Thursday – Saturday at Spotlight in Digbeth. We paid in ourselves in full and nobody was aware I’m a blogger. All images, words and opinions are my own (or Dave’s).