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 A Nondescript, dull, quietness had been replaced by a modern, funky, wooden, quite cosy feeling space, that had all the hallmarks of other Bitters N Twisted venues.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.

#CoffeeTime: Marmalade at Birmingham Rep Theatre


Marmalade is the new bar and bistro that opened last week at The Birmingham Rep Theatre on Broad Street near the ICC complex.

It’s bar and bistro received a lot of Social Media action prior to its launch and since, promising murmurings have been given on its food menu especially the much heralded vegetarian dishes.

Last week Ruth and I visited the bistro for dinner and you can read my thoughts on their aforementioned veggie dishes in a few days time.

As if once wasn’t enough to visit Marmalade Last week I decided coincidently to try their coffee, and why not. The Rep space has always had a cafe and on the whole I remember having a decent coffee their before.

Now Marmalade is owned by Bitters N Twisted who own Bodega, The Victoria, and The Jekyll and Hyde amongst others I thought it would be a good independent bet.

Good news is that it is.

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I ordered a flat white, which was well made, creamy with a good sharp coffee under lying flavour, a very good coffee and it looks good in the photos. I was impressed that it came with a glass of water, very European. Excellent.

As a space to work it’s excellent, you are seated in the bar area and the friendly service on this occasion takes over. At £2.50 it is competitively priced. The seating is comfortable with plenty of room if you wish to work seated on a semi circle type seating with a large table.

I thought it was a good space, though small, it felt new, clean and with windows all around was light and airy.

They also serve sandwiches at lunch in the bar/coffee area so if you are peckish then it’s your lucky day. I didn’t see any cake offerings, but that maybe it was hiding, but if not well why not?

As an alternative to the nearby coffee chains of Costa, Starbucks, and Cafe Nero that you find in that Broad Street/ Brindley Place area then the Independent Marmalade is the real deal.

If you are walking through to Brindley Place or just want a small space to sit and take in a pleasant view then this is your place.

And remember it is independent.

I wasn’t disappointed. I hope you won’t be either.

Marmalade bar and bistro
Birmingham Rep Theatre
Broad street
Birmingham
B1 2EP

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#CoffeeTime: Loco Lounge- Kings Heath


I’m making no apologies for mentioning the Loco Lounge on Kings Heath High Street in Birmingham again on my blog.

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The Loco Lounge Is part of the Lounges group of cafe bars that offer an all day space and cater for the whole community and neighbourhood.

They also sell and eclectic mix of cocktails, craft beers and wine.

Loco has a large double fronted shop front which has some outside seating. Inside the the ground floor is open plan with stairs leading to a snug with a covered terrace to the rear of that.

It’s a large space with a loyal customer base and is popular at all times of the day. A real community space. A place for all the family.

The Loco Lounge is near my house, but until this occasion I hadn’t drunk a coffee in its cosy cafe.

As a cafe/bar caters for many different people in many different ways. Since this visit I have visited in the morning a couple of times and this time is popular with parents with children and people working on laptops…and me 🙂

It is for this reason one Friday afternoon that I visited. To work on my blog and my poetry. Yes I have new work 🙂 x 6!

The Loco Lounge I think is the best space for working in
in Kings Heath, spacious, free wi fi, and with comfy chairs, sofas and cushions, it’s like your front room with a casual buzz and friendly staff.

On the afternoon (a Friday) I visited the cafe was busy.
Some people had eaten lunch others were working with a coffee and some were chilling with a book and a coffee.

You have to order at the bar, and I chose my favourite coffee test a Flat White with a Vegan (yes vegan) chocolate and Ginger torte.

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The Flat White was lovely, creamy, well made, a good coffee with a decorative twist. Presented in a glass mug which was quite retro like. Excellent.

The torte alongside it was a lovely choice. The ginger against the vegan chocolate was delicious. It was well baked, soft, sticky, the vegan chocolate was thick and gooey. It was superb. A real surprise, I don’t mind saying.

A lovely combination.

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The Loco Lounge is a brilliant space to work in. It’s buzzy without been in your face, it’s spacious and cosy. The food and drink is varied, with lunches, evening specials, breakfasts, and a whole vegan menu on offer it covers all basis. In fact if you stay all day you can be well fed.

For coffee and cake it ticks all the boxes and makes for a satisfying stop off whilst in Kings Heath, for locals like me well it’s an extension of our living room, a home from home.

In my case with better coffee and cake.

The Loco Lounge
32/34 High Street
Kings Heath
Birmingham
B14 7JT

0121 444 1296

@loco_lounge

http://www.thelounges.co.uk/loco-lounge

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On Monday Loco do a pub quiz. On Tuesday they offer Tapas Tuesday where you can have three tapas dishes and a large glass of house wine for £9.75.

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Update: A delicious Cappuccino, creamy with a touch of chocolate class.

#Coffeetime: Coffee Lounge, Wake up and smell the coffee


Coffee Lounge is a newish independent coffee shop located on Newhall Street in Birmingham City centre near St Paul’s Square.

It’s tucked a bit out of the way of the main drag of the city centre, but is well worth the walk.

It was in mid week, feeling quite stressed due to moving house that I decided to find some calm and enjoy the soothing harmony ‘s of lower Newhall street and the nearby St Paul’s Square.

On entering Coffee Lounge I found a laid back and contemporary coffee shop that was quite quiet and had the peace and serenity that I required to read and relax.

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Coffee Lounge has a good mix of sofas and table seating and bar stools that should suit all tastes and customers. Though it is apparent that at certain times of the day it caters for the local business sector, it’s was also popular with families and customers eating afternoon tea and stopping off after touring the Jewellery Quarter.

The decor is modern, light with a good purple and white colour scheme that is cosy whilst been spacious. It’s a relaxed space, good for work, good for catching up with friends and good for reading.

It’s not crammed full of tables so it feels a place whereby you don’t feel rushed to leave. You can take your time and relax. Perfect😊

My flat white was good, well made, a good coffee flavour and though not the best in the city it came with a nice biscuit that is quite rare to find generally in coffee houses in Birmingham. Very welcome as I didn’t feel like any cake or sandwiches, well not on this occasion.

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The food on offer last looks good though, from cakes, pastries, sandwiches, afternoon tea, breakfasts such as full English, and burgers, soup and jacket potatoes, it is quite a lengthy list.

Charmain and Daphne are the owners, the service is friendly, and they have created a fun, modern and relaxed place to while away time and in my case chill for awhile.

As an independent coffee shop it’s a nice addition to the growing Birmingham scene, and has a different feel to the ones in the main part of the city.

This is good and I recommend the informality and charm this brings us coffee drinkers.

The Coffee Lounge is a place to return to, and for me to eat in and read or write.

A good detour with a nice vibe.

I used my Independent Birmingham card to obtain 10% off my drink. You can also gain 20% off afternoon tea for two people with the IB card. See website below if you wish to purchase one or two.

Twitter: @cdlounge
http://www.facebook.com/cdlounge

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

Coffee Lounge,
101 Newhall Street
Brindley House
Birmingham
B3 1LL

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Thanks for reading.

Has anyone been to the Coffee Lounge?

Please feel free to leave a comment underneath or via Twitter @andydhare

#COFFEETIME: URBAN COFFEE COMPANY BIRMINGHAM CITY CENTRE


Drinking Coffee is a past time that I love. Birmingham as you know as a number of very good Independent coffee shops that offer many differing experiences and provide a solace for many different people. One of my favorites, and one that I have been frequenting since it opened is Urban Coffee on Church Street, Birmingham city Centre. Sitting a little away from Birmingham Cathedral and Snow Hill Station Urban Coffee is one of the original coffee pioneeers of independent coffee in the city.

Urban Coffee Company are dedicated to bringing and creating a unique coffee experience. Started by a couple who were tired of the chains and wanted to start an independent coffee shop in Birmingham, they now have three emporiums, one in Church street in the city centre, one in The Jewellery Quarter and one in Harborne.

It was the Church Street emporium I visited on a friday afternoon. When I entered surprisingly it wasn’t very busy, with plenty of tables free. You see Urban Coffee can be very popular, and finding space can be difficult at certain times of the day.

The Church Street Emporium is light and airy and has two levels. The ground is busier usually and more fitting for a quicker visit, with a traditional cafe layout, with stout tables, mixed seating and one long communal table. Upstairs has a more loungy feel, with bean bags and couches, a more leasurely and relaxed space.
I chose on this occasion to sit downstarirs for a change.

I chose to drink a flat white and sample a cappuccino slice. Though it was cup cake friday, the slice tempted me more. The Flat White was good, artistically presented, but certainly not the best i’ve had in Birmingham. It did have a good coffee flavour though and went well with a lovely cake, that I enjoyed. The cakes have always been consistent, and the filter coffee and the cappucino is excellent too:)

Unfortuantely every time I visit they seem to have sold out of handmade Yipsy Macarons, but never mind.

Urban coffee offers a good selection of cakes, pastries, bagels, teas, sandwiches, and has a licence which allows it to serve alcohol such as craft beer, spirits, cocktails and wine. It has a number of events such as live music, poetry readings, cocktail nights and book clubs that happen from time to time. See their website for full diary and food and drinks menu.

They serve bottled beer from 5-7pm when the emporium closes.

Urban Coffee is a great Independent coffee shop, it has a strong free wi fi, and the urbanisters (staff) are friendly, passionate and know their coffee and are happy to assist if you are unable to decide from a long coffee menu.

I like the Church Street emporium, it’s away from the hustle and bustle of the main part of the city and on a street that is a nice one to wander down. (off Colmore Row opposite the Cathedral). Urban Coffee is a coffee shop that is full of people who love coffee and and know of a good product and service.

I would recommend Urban Coffee, and though have not tried their other two emporiums feel that The Church Street venue as the original offers a good mix of airy space that caters for a mixed crowd of people. Though it can be busy.

In many ways, Urban Coffee Company are what makes Birmingham’s Independent coffee scene exciting and something to be proud of. It offers another unique expereince and thus is well recommended for coffee and cake enthusiasts. All veggies welcome 🙂

Urban Coffee Company
30 Church Street,
Off Colmore Row
Colmore Business District
Birmingham
B3 2NP.

http://www.urbancoffee.co.uk
@urbancoffee

For Independent Birmingham card holders Urban offer a free refil on any single estate filter coffee or tea.

Disclaimer: I paid for my own coffee and cake. My review is my own experience and is honest.

Have you been to Urban Coffee? What did you think?

what are you favourite independent coffee shops? Let me know using the comment box below.

Thanks for reading 🙂

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#Coffeetime: Faculty in Piccadilly Arcade Birmingham city centre


Faculty is a small, charming and hip place in picturesque Piccadilly Arcade in Birmingham City Centre off New Street and near to New Street Station.

Faculty is a focused coffee and tea shop serving brewed drinks to have in or to take away, fresh home made cakes, coffee beans and equipment.

It has a simple and quirky decor and signage which allows the quality of the ingredients to shine. They have a small hot drinks menu.

I recommend the coffee. On the two occasions I have been I have had a Cappuccino and on this occasion a Flat White, both excellent.

The Flat White, was superb, smooth, with a good back kick of coffee, with the roasted beans giving it a quality finish.

The cups that it was served in was pretty with a delightfully decorative spoon. Lovely:)

I had it with the Monte Carlo cake, (see picture) which was a kind of viennese whirl with a shortbread topping, which was extremely good.

I’ve also enjoyed a superb chocolate brownie. The cakes are all home made and fresh and change often, the quality of care and the ingredients shine through in the same way as the coffee.

The room is made up of old school desks and seating and has a quirky character that is endearing and makes Faculty different to other coffee shops in the city. It’s that quirkyness that gives it a unique identity and reminds me of some London coffee bars, that are very hip and happening places to be.

The staff and owners Geoff and Lucy are very friendly, welcoming and passionate about their product and are happy to chat to the customer. It is this welcoming attitude which is valuable in attracting repeat customers and making for the unique atmosphere of Faculty.

They also serve tea, though I didn’t try any on this occasion I could see that they encourage you to let the leaves brew correctly, using a timer that they give with the sparkling pots.

For me what makes Faculty one of Birmingham’s best Indie coffee shops is that they really care about the product, how it is made, what kind of beans they use, their suppliers, their cakes and how they look and taste and the welcome.

The space is small, but big on ideas and exceptional in every way.

Suppliers: Square Mile Coffee roasters
Waterloo Tea.

Faculty
Coffee and tea shop
Piccadilly Arcade
Birmingham
B2 4HD

open 8am-6pm Monday-friday
10-5 Saturday
11-4 Sunday

@facultycoffee

@PiccadillyBrum

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Disclaimer: I paid for the coffee and cake myself. The views expressed are my own and are honest.

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Brewsmiths: Coffee and tea #Coffeetime


I’ve been hearing about Brewsmiths for awhile, via social media and Independent Birmingham. So it had to be on my ‘hit list’ to visit for #coffeetime 🙂

Brewsmiths is a little out of the centre of Birmingham, but well worth the short walk to nearby Livery Street, by Snow Hill Station (rear entrance) next to Connolly’s wine shop and near the Peel and Stone bakery. It sits in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter (St Paul’s Square and city side) and is a cosy and quaint looking place that is the epitome of independent in Birmingham.

On walking into Brewsmiths I immediately felt relaxed by its cosy air and wacky cushions, books, and comfy seating. It’s like a home from home kind of place, a very relaxed home with friendly staff and a feel good atmosphere.

Brewsmiths is owned by Andrew McKay who gives the impression that he knows his coffee and his audience well. Brewsmiths make superb coffee. My cappuccino I tried was excellent, well made, smooth, Italian style, with a an excellent coffee blend, deep and well executed.

I didn’t eat any food as I arrived quite late in the day and there wasn’t much choice on offer as far as cakes were concerned, so vowed to return and sample another time. Having though seen the reports, their cakes and all day breakfasts and pastries sound superb.

Brewsmiths is a quaint and homely coffee and tea destination, it has a relaxed vibe, with free wif fi (always a bonus) and an excellent selection on smart boards behind the counter of coffee and tea. They specialise in both, so for tea lovers it is a cool place to go too:)

It has mixed seating. Some comfy seats, some long communal tables, some and many cushions. It seems to be spacious, though it’s small inside, it’s cosy, and feels as I have said like a home to chill in. It plays laid back chilled music, its snug, and wort trying at different times of day to get a different atmosphere. I certainly will.

Brewsmiths plays to a mixed crowd, those on their way to work, those making use of the free wi fi and those out strolling in the lovely Jewellery Quarter.

It has fully stacked bookshelves, that can be read and brought if you wish, (proceeds going to the Big Issue). It’s a place to come back to over and over and is well recomended.

I sure will be, now I’ve found the Brewsmiths brew.

Brewsmiths Coffee and Tea
24 Livery Street,
Birmingham
B3 1EU

hi@brewsmiths.co.uk
http://www.facebook.com/brewsmiths
@brewsmiths_JQ

http://www.independent-birmingham.co.uk

Independent Birmingham IB card holders get 10% off with IB card at Brewsmiths. See website above for details.

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All opinions expressed in this review are honest and my own. I payed for my own drink.

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