This was loaf’s first year at Taste of Birmingham. We went on opening night (Thursday 9th July), with a small budget, on the hunt for real food from Birmingham and the Midlands. Cannon Hill Park was sunny and inviting, though the atmosphere was a bit like a high-powered networking event – packs of after-work suits stood around sipping champagne on expenses; loaf feeling a little out of place like we’d forgotten to get dressed.
Anyhoo, the hunt began after loaf exchanged it’s meagre funds for the equivalent in crowns (the official event ‘currency’ – £1 = 2 crowns). There seemed little point in having crowns (a variable exchange rate might make it more interesting) and some of the stall holders were unofficially ignoring it and taking cash with raised eye-brows. There are 16 or so local restaurants represented, serving out three dishes each – the busiest were the big names (Simpson’s, Filini, Cielo), and those with the most descriptive menu’s (Thai Edge, Lasan, Fushion Brasserie). Mal Maison were twiddling thumbs most of the night – their menu (‘Mal Burger’ et al) could have fitted into one SMS to the organisers the night before the event. Disappointed by the absence of Turners and Purnells (loaf was assured they’ll be present on Saturday and Sunday), loaf opted for Simpson’s delicate and sweet carpaccio of sashimi tuna with summer fruits scented with basil and verjus syrup, followed by Thai Edge’s hearty lamb penang with jasmine rice.
The Small Producers Market uncovered one or two local producers – Just Oil producing rapeseed oil in various forms from it’s farm in Staffordshire, and the excellent Purity Brewing Company from Warwickshire, but the most exciting producer was Freedom Lager, a Staffordshire brewery claiming to be the only lager-only microbrewery in England. Both their organic lagers were smooth and enjoyable, and the company owner was selling the stuff, and clearly passionate about his product. With the strong influence of Heart of England Fine Foods on the festival, loaf hoped to have seen more local producers than there were, but then the festival is more big business than earthy and organic, so maybe that was a turn off from some of the smaller artisans.
The entertainment highlight of the night was watching ‘Bobby’ sing Georgia on the BRMB stage, accompanied by the Jam House band – Bobby was a regular punter over here on holiday from LA, and was plucked out of the crowd to strut his stuff, a magical moment!
There’s still time to head down there for the Saturday or Sunday sessions, and it’s certainly worth a look around.
Photos courtesy of Greensnapper Photography