Island Bar is 10 years old. 


  
Many years ago when I was much younger (say over 10 years ago) there wasn’t very much choice of bars or quality places to drink a varied and creative choice of drinks. 

The amount of independent bars were few and far between and generally if you wanted to have a night out you would have to go to a predictable chain that had a limited menu and certainly no cocktails. 

  
Island Bar opened in 9th September 2006. Situated on Smallbrook Queensway it offers an alternative option to the Birmingham pub and bar scene with handcrafted cocktails, classic creations and in-house Tiki concoctions as well as an extensive rum collection and a range of bottled beers. The venue’s ethos was and still is, to serve quality products by knowledgeable staff in an unpretentious venue. The bar has had many a makeover in the past ten years as well as seeing the cocktail offering expand and the music profile moving from indie / rock n’ roll to more soul and disco.

  
  

To mark this big birthday, Island Bar’s General Manager Simon Gilligan has created a line-up of events to celebrate including – a quiz night dedicated to the past ten years on Wednesday September 7th with rum based prizes to be won.

Thursday 8th plays host to a special version of “Tiki Thursday” with popular DJs Jam Jah Sounds playing dub and reggae alongside a bespoke menu by Jamaican rum Wray and Nephew. 

   
 Friday 9th and Saturday 10th customers are invited to join in the party atmosphere with DJs past and present taking to the decks to re-live some of the best moments from the Island Bar dancefloor. A one-off menu has been created by Simon for the weekend offering Tiki fans 2 for £10 all weekend on the favourite tipples of the past ten years.

Island Bar’s birthday isn’t just a milestone for the bar, but also a celebration for the independently run family Island Bar is part of. 

Bitters ‘n Twisted is one of Birmingham’s hospitality success stories, run by Matt Scriven who’s idea was to offer the flagging bar scene in the Midlands a much needed injection of creativity and fun 10 years ago. Following Island Bar’s opening in 2006 neighbouring boozer, The Victoria and then gin emporium Jekyl & Hyde were set up. Fast forward ten years and Bitters ‘n Twisted Venues owns and runs 10 venues within Birmingham and the Midlands with the most recent being a Bodega Cantina opening in Leicester, July 2016.  

​“Looking back to 10 years ago the hospitality scene in Birmingham has changed beyond recognition. We’ve been honoured and determined to play a large role in this renaissance of Birmingham and we remain passionate about contributing positively to this great city for another 10 years. I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone and what we have achieved and I hope our customers continue to love what we do for many years to come.”

The team at Island Bar are asking customers to join in with them via social media to share their best memories over the years, using the #Island10 to collate a decade of anecdotes and pictures, the best ones will be rewarded with drink based prizes for the weekend.

  
   

Happy Birthday guys, and thanks for all the good nights so far across your venues from Veggie Foodie. 

Thanks for reading, 

Andy 😊

Island Bar, 14-16 Suffolk Street, Queensway, Birmingham, B1 1LT.

https://m.facebook.com/IslandBarBirmingham/

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All photos courtesy of Bitters ‘n Twisted and Island Bar with thanks.

Review: Marmalade: Bistro at The Birmingham Rep Theatre


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I’m not prone to visit a new restaurant within its early days of opening, due to
the potential to either be vastly disappointed or underwhelmed by the package presented.

So it was with some trepidation that Ruth and I visited Bitters N’ Twisted’s Marmalade’s in its first week ( its first proper night after a soft launch) seduced by the much trumpeted vegetarian dishes and a bargain 50% off opening week deal. Based at the Birmingham Rep Theatre near the ICC building/Symphony Hall and on Broad Street.

On entering we were quietly relieved to see that the old style of theatre dining had disappeared. A Nondescript, dull, quietness had been replaced by a modern, funky, wooden, quite cosy feeling space, that had all the hallmarks of other Bitters N Twisted venues. (Bodega, Jekyll and Hyde, Rose Villa Tavern to name just three).

I liked the room, long tables, small tables, good lighting, large windows, a bit like Bodega, but unique too the brand too. It had potential to be buzzy when busy.

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The Bistro was quite busy when we got there, though the pre theatre guests would be engrossed in their play and the night was quite cold.

We were seated in a cosy corner and perished the menu. Service initially was quite slow, but generally improved as the night went on. Though it felt decidedly chilly and without a personable touch, more functional with little enthusiasm compared with say Bodega. Not fitting for a restaurant in its opening days, where you may expect that touch.

One must not grumble though, it’s early days, and this is something to work on.

We ordered a couple of drinks. Ruth a white wine me a Mojito. My cocktail was good, a good touch of rum, refreshing, sweet, what you would expect.

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So onto the food.

We decided to order one of Marmalade’s small plate options to share along with some bread.

We ordered the stone bread basket, homemade butters (Balsamic and Thyme, Fig and Rosemary, and sun dried tomato) plus the Charred Kale, caramelised swede, coconut, cranberries, walnuts.

The bread we felt wasn’t as fresh as it could have been. It was ok. The butters didn’t taste of any ingredients in the description and were disappointing as we were looking foreword to trying them. Great idea though.

The Kale dish looked impressive, pretty on the plate. It was delicious, the crunch of the kale against the soft swede and blended into a coconut sauce felt quite Thai or Malaysian, subtly spiced and a good plate of food, and with the bread for dipping into the creamy coconut a good mix. For £7.25 good value shared with another sharing plate dish as a taster.

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To follow I ordered the tasty sounding
Roast Aubergine, lentil, feta, Basil
Leaves, chick peas, croutons, curry oil, raisins, shiitake mushrooms salad. (A long title).

Which when it arrived didn’t look anything like the press release photographs, but was covered in rocket/salad which his the beautiful bright colours of the chick peas, lentils and aubergine, as if it was embarrassed by them. Shame. It was that presentation that grabbed me.

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The official photo.

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How it was presented.

On the whole though the taste of the dish was very good. Lovely flavours running through it, it felt healthy, warming, the chick peas, lentils, mushrooms and aubergine gave it a bite and vitality and with the toasted croutons made for a filling warm salad. I enjoyed it.

It would make a good starter (and is available as such) promising and with two other vegetarian main dishes plenty to return to, including a lovely sounding vegetable crumble with tofu.

We also ordered a good side portion of chips which were good.

Ruth ordered cod fish and chips which was she said ok, cooked well but a bit bland and unseasoned, and served with a small portion of chips, hence the extra portion ordered.

For desert we decided to share the brilliant sounding Repertory Mess- almond meringue, coffee sponge, whipped cream, raspberries, and blue berries.

It was ok, good in fact until we came across (about half way down) the cloying and overpowering coffee soaked sponge, and then a good mess became a tiramisu, a bit confused, we liked half of the pudding, but was left with an after taste of coffee not fruit and meringue. A shame.

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So on the whole Marmalade was a good experience. It has massive potential. Credit is deserved and due for the varied and from what I tasted good vegetarian dishes. A lot of work has been put into them and thinking of us veggies as an important diner. They show a progression and trend for a varied tastes, textures, and ingredients. Yet, maybe a curates egg on the day I visited.

The service was only ok, no one checked whether we enjoyed the food, no one checked how the veggie dishes were, no market research, not a great deal of enthusiasm but always polite.

I liked the space though, the decor, lighting and potential and I did return to enjoy a fine flat white the next day in the bar, and service there was much better.

So maybe a return visit in a few months, once things have settled down. Those veggie dishes deserve to be discovered. Theirs lots to like about Marmalade, the cocktails, the varied and imaginative menu, the pre theatre deal, and there’s some things to work on.

That’s normal at this stage, so perhaps I should have waited a little longer? But then I’ve always loved Marmalade…

See you again.

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Marmalade Bistro Bar
Birmingham Rep Theatre
Broad Street
Birmingham
B1 2EP

0121 245 2080

http://www.marmaladebirmingham..co.uk

@marmaladebirmingham

Facebook/ marmaladebham

Has anyone visited Marmalade yet? What did you think? Let me know your thoughts via the comments below and in Twitter @andydhare

Thanks for reading.

Andy 😊

We ate at Marmalade with 50% off the bill. The other 50% we paid for. My opinions are my own, honest as always.

I also drunk a delicious Brew Dog Punk IPA. Part of a good selection of craft beers on offer at Marmalade.

Three official photos courtesy of Marmalade and Bitters N’ Twisted

Thanks.

Marmalade: Bistro, coffee, cocktails, and great for veggies


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Marmalade is the new bar/bistro that is opening on the 6th February at The Birmingham Rep Theatre in Centenary Square near the Symphony Hall and Broad Street.

It’s a joint venture from Birmingham Rep and independent Bitters ‘n’ Twisted who also run the successful Bodega, Rose Villa Tavern, The Victoria, Island Bar and The New Inn in Harborne.

Promising eclectic furnishings, quality wines, ales, craft beer and cocktails galore as well as an innovative food menu that is open all day for coffee, bar snacks, light lunch or pre theatre dining.

There will be a special food offer of two courses for £15.95 or Three courses for £19.95 from a set menu. A Pre theatre menu.

Bitters ‘n’ Twisted are keen for Marmalade to be known for its food menu as well as for the existing theatre, it’s an ideal place for a post theatre drink or just for dinner.

Having spoken to Bitters ‘n’ Twisted a few months ago I knew the menu would be brilliant for vegetarians, as they have considered their menu carefully with numerous innovative dishes on offer. 😊

Having now seen the menu this holds true with nine dishes on the menu and 5 sides plus of course puddings.

The food menu is split into five sections Appetisers, Small plates, Main courses, sides and puddings.

Try, goats curd, black olive tapenade, croutes, watercress, balsamic, or the lovely sounding beetroot, and feta croustade, samphire, bearnaise sauce, orange on the appetisers.

Or, Bosworth’s Ash Goats Cheese and watercress pancakes, Apple chutney or charred kale, caramelised swede, coconut, cranberries, walnuts. Which I have been told is delicious. Thanks Vicky😊

Or Sesame, Coated Halloumi, Seared Honeydew, Melon, Black olive tapenade.

For main courses you could try Mediterranean Vegetable Crumble, tofu, Roast Tomato sauce, Spinach, figs. Sounds lovely.

Or Quinoa, Broccoli, Sweet Potato, Olives, coriander, toasted butter bean, cannelloni, bean salad.

Or Roast Aubergine, Lentil, feta, Basil leaves, chick peas, croutons, curry oil, raisins, shiitake mushroom salad.

For sides try a number of salads, the roasted sweet potato and fig salad sounds delicious, as does the baby spinach salad, dates and walnuts.

Puddings include a Repertory mess, plum orange and apricot crumble and a gingerbread cheese cake. Yummy!

Vegetarian Appetisers are priced between £3.25 and £6.50 vegetarian small plates between £6.75 and £7.25 and veggie mains priced at £10.95. Puddings at £5.75.

I think the menu shows innovation and real thought for vegetarian diners, and many high end restaurants and bistros could take a leaf out of Marmalade’s book. Credit is therefore given to Bitters ‘n’ Twisted. Thank you.

Of course the proof is in the pudding as they say (or in the small plate) so I look forward to trying some of the above dishes soon and feeding back shortly.

The Marmalade Lounge bar is happily affordable, focussing on the creative and intrigue of its food menu. The veggie options certainly show exciting flavour combinations with an independent twist and style that would be expected. Food that is fresh and local where it can be.

For vegetarians Marmalade has the potential to be one of the most exciting new openings in Birmingham City Centre this year.

Remember Marmalade is open today. They are taking bistro bookings online via their website and serve brunch every Saturday and Sunday from 10-12 noon and Sunday lunches hereafter.

I will check on the menu and update my post. Full menus see below.

http://www.marmaladebirmingham.co.uk

http://marmaladebirmingham.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/marmalade-food web.pdf

Also follow them on Face book/Marmalade and Twitter @marmaladeBham

You may even bump into Paddington.

Marmalade Bistro Bar
Birmingham Rep Theatre
Broad Street
Birmingham
B1 2EP

0121-633 9349

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Some of the veggie dishes at Marmalade.

Photos courtesy of Bitter ‘n’ Twisted and Jack Spicer Adams.

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The Victoria: A seriously superb pub


For a spontaneous ‘let’s eat out’ moment, nothing is better than a good old pub- one that does good food- one that does good drink!

In Birmingham we are lucky we have a few. One that I hadn’t eaten at though is The Victoria on John Bright Street in the city centre near the Alexandra theatre. Now John Bright street is becoming a cool place. Not only does The Victoria sit comfortably there, but new Caribbean restaurant and bar Turtle Bay, Brew Dog craft beer bar, and Cherry Reds also line up in harmony on an up and coming street. A feast of good food and good drinks.

The Victoria is a theatre pub, dating back to the end of the 19 Century. It has plenty of character and according to its website its own ghost.

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Well let’s just say there are no ghosts In their food or drink when we visited on a mid week evening.

The Victoria offers quality hand picked wines, cask ales and some superb sounding cocktails. It is listed on Birmingham’s Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) website and for a real ale fan like myself it’s a superb place to try out new cask beers. The ‘Sleepless’ ale that I tried along with their Otley ale were superb. Both different but both superb for drinking alone or in my case with food. Both hoppy, both with a superb character. Ruth chose a couple of glasses of excellent Chenin Blanc which she enjoyed.

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The food at The Victoria has recently been taken over by Vicky’s Kitchen, with a range of authentic gourmet sourdough based pizzas (2 vegetarian options) burgers (1 option) and salads and numerous bar snacks.

The food is made fresh in house with a quality rarely seen in pubs I find. After all it’s all in the ingredients and fine dining doesn’t just mean white table cloths and linen. Vicky’s Kitchen at The Victoria certainly executes food well and it’s hearty and generous in portion size too. Good hearty pub food. Perfect!

I ordered a burger called ‘Animal Friendly’ which was a salted courgette and beetroot, carrot, toasted almonds, mixed herbs, lettuce, tomato, onion and chipotle mayo with sweet potato fries and a side of onion rings to share with Ruth.

The veggie burger was superb, served in a brioche bun, with fennel coleslaw. The flavours of the beetroot and courgette complimented each other well and gave a lovely contrasting flavour with the beautiful mayo and fennel coleslaw, which was lovely spread in the bun on the lettuce. It was one of the best burgers I have had anywhere, made more delicious by the brioche bun which was firm and fresh and didn’t fall apart and held the burger to the end. Bonus! The fries were crispy and tasted subtly of sweet potato they were ok. The onion rings were delicious, a good idea to order them as a side. They are handmade, crispy and soul foodie.

It was the burgers though we had come to taste, so the pizza will have to wait for another day:).

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At The Victoria you can’t fail to be seduced and impressed by the Victorian decor. It’s colourful and arty, with a quirky feel. It’s traditional in feel, but search deeper then you will find a twist with quirky furniture and art which is very bohemian with a wooden hand designed arty feel.

The bar staff are warm and friendly. They are very knowledgable offering advice and samples of the beer before you buy. I have been told the bar staff make superb cocktails which we will have to try out at another time. See website for details on drinks and menus.

The Victoria may be tucked away slightly, but its a memorable place to wile away a few hours or get a quick lunch. It’s a great independent, very bohemian and friendly with a young and cool crowd, a local to re visit.

With such a good food and drinks menu it would be foolish not to.

Next stop pizza and cocktails 🙂

The Victoria
48 John Bright Street
Birmingham
B1 1BN

0121 633 9439

http://www.thevictoriabirmingham.co.uk

@thevictoria

http://www.independent-Birmingham.co.uk/the-Victoria/

For entertainment and events at The Victoria see their website for details or Facebook or twitter.

You can get 20% off with the independent Birmingham card from Sunday to Thursday.

The Victoria is part of the Bitters ‘n’ Twisted venues which also include Bodega, Island Bar, the Jekyl and Hyde, and the Rose Villa Tavern.

You can obtain a loyalty card for these venues on the website of the venues. This gives you top deals on food and drinks across the six venues.

http://www.bitterstwisted.co.uk