The best way to celebrate a birthday is with food, friends and approximately a million dogs. Luckily for me, Independent Birmingham conveniently hosted their spring festival on the same weekend as my birthday, and that festival is the best celebration of all those things. Don’t believe me? Check out what I ate and drank all day!
I love sushi, and Gaijin Sushi is one of my very favourites. I’m lucky enough to live close enough to them to get in delivered, and it’s a regular night in alone treat for me when my fiance is away for work. So naturally, I made a beeline for them as soon as I arrived at Independent Birmingham Festival. And I kept going back throughout the day. I ended up trying about half of the options on offer. The Crispy Prawns (despite burning my mouth on them) were excellent, with giant, tender prawns lightly battered. Salmon Tempura was light and delicious too, but the real standout was the Salmon Sashimi. My God. I adore Sashimi, but normally, I’m all about tuna. But this was truly something else. The salmon itself was clearly ludicrously high quality, and so rich in flavour. Even Dave, who can take or leave sushi, was blown away.
I also ended up spending some time just hanging around the stall watching Chef Michal Kubiak work. His knife skills are amazing to witness.
One of the biggest queues of the day was at Bonehead, and for very good reason.
We tried the Dragon Strips, which are Bonehead’s classic strips, drenched in Sriracha honey butter sauce, sesame, spring onions and kewpie mayo. Flavour. Explosion. I’d drink that sriracha honey butter if you let me. The waffle fries too were an excellent partner for the succulent chicken.
El Borracho wins for the best smelling stall all weekend. They had a huge pan of Paella simmering away for most of the day, making the whole place smell of gorgeous Spanish spices. The Paella was so popular, they ended up having to take pre-orders for each batch. It was so worth the wait. Good paella has so many layers of flavour, thanks to those spices. El B’s version is smokey with paprika, and is a bright, golden colour thanks to the saffron.
I found a corner for some Ham Croquettas too, as I always order them in the restaurant and I love them. Creamy delicious inside, with that irresistible crunch from the fried outside.
I spent most of the weeks leading up to the festival shouting at poor Rob Wood on Twitter about bringing back the Crumble cocktail for the weekend. Apparently it worked, because I got my paws on one within minutes of arriving. Please enjoy this cocktail-photo-ception of me and IB’s own Joe, both snapping up a Crumble.
The Crumble is basically an apple crumble as a cocktail, complete with a spritz of custard, which Rob has somehow distilled into a perfume. That man is a wizard. I also had the F**k Pumpkin Spice, another very popular 1881 special, which is inspired by the Instagram-popular autumn coffee, of course.
Beer Digbeth are back with a bang, after a distinctly challenging legal battle over their name (you remember them, they used to be Clink). Their offering for IB was inspired, with something to please ‘proper’ beer drinkers and people like me who occasionally enjoy a beer but have no idea what they actually like.
The Raspberry Ripple Cider Slush should be served at all outdoor events for the rest of the summer. It was very sweet, but all too drinkable, and would make an excellent festival beverage, I think. I also tried an Ice Cream Pale Ale, which the mad bastards from Beer Digbeth also offered topped with a soft serve made with the Ice Cream Pale, and then ‘pimped’ with some kind of sauce, sprinkles and a flake. Of course. If that’s not the ultimate birthday drink, I don’t know what is.