Sunday, 29 May 2016

New opening: Be at One

Be At One opened in Birmingham last week and I was there on the press night and the opening night to check it out. It's a massive chain, with 30 bars across the country. They have a giant cocktail menu- 140 cocktails I believe.

I looked at the menu online and was pleased to find some of my favourite cocktails in there- not just creamy frozen things. I heard that staff undergo weeks of training and have all the cocktails memorised. Everyone had positive things to say. 

Equally, they seemed to be selling themselves as a party bar with cocktails, rather than a cocktail bar. So the focus is on the party rather than the drinks. The music is loud and cheesy, it's dark and there's some fun lights. It's like the 80's grew up.

I'd read a few reviews of Be At One in other cities and people had mentioned the extensive cocktails and the happy, friendly staff, who were happy to climb up the shelves to reach bottles.

So when I walked into the Birmingham branch to find staff doing the exact same thing I'm afraid my cynicism kicked in.


I have worked in retail and bars and I very rarely had to climb onto anything unless we were doing a deep clean.

Perhaps because I've spent many years working in retail, I don't particularly need bar staff to be my best friend. Some people are naturally friendly and naturally great at customer service. I just found it weird that they all seemed to have the exact same *super*friendly*vibe*. I'm talking TGIs. They came across like they had been trained in bantering with each other. 

Anyway I wasn't there for the service- I was there for the cocktails. 

Edd and I made our way through a few as you can see.

I was underwhelmed by my Aviation- too lemony. And Laura of Full to the Brum wasn't happy with her over-strained Clover Club.

Edd and I both had Manhattans- it was good that they asked how we would like them ( we went for perfect, with equal parts dry and sweet vermouth) and what whiskey we preferred ( we went with the house as we aren't whiskey experts). These were not too bad but would have been better if not left to dilute in the mixing jug as the bartender took the next customer's order. This is what they are trained to do.

My favourite drink I tried was the Champagne Cocktail, made with champagne, cognac, bitters and a sugar cube. I tried a bit of the Killing Monica, a vodka and rhubarb based champagne drink and that was lovely too. Next time I go I will definitely be sticking to the fizz cocktails.

A massive selling point for Be At One (and what will take me back) is the app. You can have a random cocktail for £5 or choose your own 'appy hour' with two drinks for £10 which is a crazy bargain. I also like the cocktail wheel at the start of the menu, which is split into spirits and types of drink e.g. dry, sweet and so on. Very helpful for cocktail newbies.

I may not appreciate the over the top service and the drinks are not the best for their price (between £7 and £11) but if I adjust my expectations and think of it as a nightlife spot where I can get two champagne cocktails for £10 then it's not so bad.

Be At One

Photos by myself and Edd. 

I had a couple of drinks for free and purchased the rest through the app.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Foodie news: Spam Can at Foodies Festival

Foodies Festival is just over a week away now and more information on shows and vendors is starting to creep through.

One of the brands appearing at the festival is SPAM- yes, SPAM! The chopped pork and ham in a can is celebrating its 75th birthday this year by touring the country and showing what 'Spam can' do (see what they did there?)

Look out for the shiny van where chefs will be demonstrating recipes including 'spambled eggs' and fajitas. You can also try Spam fries, which sound insane and I want them, and pick up a recipe lanyard.

Foodie experts Rob Kennedy, Clover Hutson and Richard Fox will be there over the weekend, demonstrating the recipes and giving advice.

I'm certainly very interested to see what Spam can be like as I've never cooked with it.

Foodies Festival is at Cannon Hill Park 3rd-5th June and the SPAM Can Tour will be there the whole time.

Find out more about the SPAM Can tour.

Foodies Festival Birmingham

I received tickets to the festival in return for this post.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Birmingham: Faith in Birmingham at BMAG

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is one of my favourite places in the city and it keeps getting better. There's a huge collection of Pre-Raphaelite art and a lovely people of Birmingham exhibition. But the place is massive and you have to keep exploring to find more.

The Faith in Birmingham gallery is an excellent example of the way BMAG are involving local people. 40 representatives from the 6 world faiths in Birmingham worked together with the museum to create a gallery which celebrated their similarities and differences.

Each faith has its own area, with items which are special to its followers or that tell us more about the religion.

The plan is for the gallery to be open for 3 years, with the faiths represented rotating.

Around the outside, there are displays which explore the similarities in the life of a follower, the history and so on. These themes will stay the same even as the faiths change.

Did you know 70% of the Birmingham population adhere to a faith? This is a large amount compared to other cities so it's great to see that represented at BMAG.

There was some controversy over the moving of the Buddha. I had no idea that it was actually the second item in the museum, after being discovered in 1862 in Northern India.

One of the most interesting items is the Christian Gospels written in Arabic, which was used by European scholars to learn Arabic.

Another prize item is the famous Birmingham Qur'an. This was discovered in the University of Birmingham's archives and is thought to date from the 1st century, based on the paper. If you want to see this, it's only going to be in the gallery until about August 3rd.

A great deal of thought and care was put into where each item would be. For example, the Buddha shouldn't be able to see the Qur'an.  So far, there has been no criticism, probably due to the different religions being consulted.

There are 13 faiths recognised by the council and the plan is to represent all of them at some point.

The gallery is very peaceful and it is lovely to see the different faiths sitting together. I loved how the people who worked on it were keen to celebrate the similarities as well as the differences.

Any trip to BMAG should involve tea and cake as well. We gathered in the lovely Edwardian tearooms for a giant slice of ginger cake and pots of tea.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Photos by me.

This was an event for bloggers but the museum is free for all to enter.