Chung Ying Garden


Oh woe is me! My go to place for Yum Cha or to eat Cantonese dim sum Golden Pond closed late last year. I shed a tear, it had been our family favourite for decades. The Golden Pond has turned into Shanghai Blues, a Cantonese Sichuanese hybrid. But the jury is still out on the quality of the dim sum. It certainly isn’t as good as it was before the change. Some of the items at GP, in particular the steamed chicken feet in black bean sauce 豉汁鳳爪 and deep fried squid 炸魷魚鬚, were better than I’ve eaten in good Hong Kong dim sum places. It was cheap too, no matter how much we ate it was impossible to spend more than tenner!

So from the pool of also-rans in the Birmingham dim sum stakes who will now come out on top? At the moment the front runner is Chung Ying Garden the sister restaurant to the more prominent Chung Ying. It edges out Ken Lo next to the Hippodrome. But more careful sampling of the rest of the competition is required before a winner is declared; a revisit to the once atrocious but now apparently excellent China Court may prove decisive.

Chung Ying Garden have special prawn dumplings in the shape of rabbits! Which makes me think that to address the balance they should make rabbit dumplings in the shape of prawns.

Chung Ying Garden
17 Thorp St, Birmingham B5 4AT

Beckett’s Farm Breakfast


I’m not really a breakfast person. All that early morning mastication is hard work if you ask me. Especially if confronted with the full English. On the rare occasion I have one for brekkie, usually getting my money’s worth in a B&B, I’m guaranteed to be in a drowsy stupor by midday. That’s not to say I don’t like them, I love them! I mean what’s not to like? But more usually I’ll cook myself a full English as the main meal of the day. That way I can be sure that everything I like is on the plate.

When I feel the need to have one cooked for me there’s only one place guaranteed to get it right, Becketts Farm Shop & Restaurant. Which handily is next to where I work. This place has been here for years and I’m sure it used to be a farm but any pretense that it sells local farm produce disappeared long ago. But blimey their breakfast is legendary. Every component is good quality. My favourite is actually the Irish breakfast with Clonakilty black and white pudding, soda farl and fried potato. Other options are available. Check them out next time you’re heading in or out of Brum on that road.

Becketts Breakfasts are served Monday to Saturday 7.30am-5pm and Sunday 8.30am-11.30am

Fish and Chips at the Black Country Living Museum


P1150723-768x1024 dsc_0309 dsc_0311 dsc_0019“Is there anywhere to eat between Walsall and Birmingham?”, a Twitter-er (tweeter?) asked t’other day. “Why yes, the Black Country Museum for fish and chips!” I responded, instantly. “Seriously?” came the response.

Yes! Seriously. I’ve been banging on about the fish and chips at the Black Country Museum for at least five years now, and still people think I’m joking. I’m not! To my mind they easily do the best fish and chips in the West Midlands, whilst laying a strong claim to the best fish and chips in the UK (and by extension the known Universe).

As with all great food experiences, it transcends what on the plate, or in this case in the cone. Ideally you will visit BCLM on a bright, sunny day which is slightly too cold to be completely comfortable. The bitter cold will sharpen the appetite and prime the stomach for its incoming raft of vinegar-soaked fats and carbs. The museum – which is indisputedly the best of the living museums – will have already given you a taste of the appalling conditions of the working class as they mined, chain-made and forged their way through a tough, tough life. The thoughts of such privation will serve to make your first bite of the dripping-fried, perfectly crisp, never greasy batter feel even more luxurious. The flakes of cod (always cod) are soft, thick and not overcooked. The chips have a good heft of dripping about them. Absolute perfection.

A few practical points: The museum isn’t particularly cheap to get into at around £12, although worth every penny. This is offset by the fact that you can use your receipt for free entry for the forthcoming year. Think of it as membership to an exclusive fish and chip club. The queues for Hobbs & Son, which was a real fish and chip shop before being moved to the museum from Hall Street, Dudley – brick-by-brick and painstakingly rebuilt and refurbished will probably be long at a weekend and busy periods, although I’ve never had to wait more than 30 minutes. Bear in mind in busy periods they sometimes run both fish and chip shops and sometimes one shop will be serving fish and chips for non-meat eaters, do not on any circumstances get tricked into eating these!!

I’ll leave it to your conscience to decide if you should get a pickled egg.

Fiesta Del Asado








Two! Count them, two Brazilian restaurants before we get an Argentinian one. But what a one. When I’d heard that the team behind Brum’s most famous Indian restaurant Lasan were to open this place, I was a little incredulous. It would be like Alan Yau opening a Mexican eatery. I needn’t have worried though because they’ve delivered (as I’m sure Yau would have too)!

Taking over an old guest house on the Hagley Rd, Fiesta Del Asado oozes warmth and class. The parilla or Argentine grill is at the forefront of the open kitchen. The grill master turning out perfectly grilled cuts of beef as well as lamb and chicken over charcoal and wood. The starters are exemplary; Iberico jamon de bellota served on warmed plates so that the complex flavour is magnified. Morcilla is rich and deeply seasoned, empanadas moreish, whitebait often disappointing elsewhere are as you hope they’ll always be, crispy and fresh. Piglet belly main is tender and juicy but the skin should be crispier and the chimichurri could do with more punch but these are minor gripes. Especially as the postres are so wonderful. The Santiago tart on my last visit was wolfed down so quickly that I must have inhaled it.

Fiesta Del Asado is quite pricey but this is superior cooking without unnecessary high-end flourishes. It’s food you want to eat, just how it should be.

Fiesta Del Asado
229 Hagley Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16 9RP

Tel 0121 4559331

Charcoal Chicken


Right I know you think I’ve lost it. Charcoal flipping Chicken?! Yes get the timing right and you’ve basically got the best fast food imaginable. Seriously! Who doesn’t like chargrilled chicken, it’s like a universal language. From Japan to Mexico a nicely grilled bit of chicken equals a good meal.

Charcoal Chicken have their own patented charcoal rotisserie (no photos allowed) in which several whole flattened chicken smothered in tandoori spices rotate slowly till they’re slightly overdone. Now there’s the rub, they’re not cooked to order, which means you could get one that’s been drying out even more in the holding cabinet. But if you can get one fresh off the grill then it’s truly delicious. I mean who else is actually chargrilling fresh chicken? Answer: no one, they’re all using gas.

Whole chicken, naan, fries & salad. Enough for two people £7.99. Stick that Nandos. They like to bill themselves as healthy do Charcoal Chicken, if you took away the fries then er maybe. Other things on the menu include chicken wings and jerk chicken wraps. But I only go for the charcoal chicken, the clue is in the name.

Hall Green Branch (the only I can vouch for): 1158 Stratford Rd, Birmingham B28 8AF
Alum Rock: 710 Alum Rock Road, Birmingham B8 3PP
Kings Heath: Deceased


Carters of Moseley, Birmingham

Carters of Moseley is your perfect neighbourhood restaurant, particularly if you live in Moseley. After a particularly bruising week at work, this is where I want head to. The food is reassuringly comforting, featuring favourite ingredients like quail, pigeon, ox cheek or a decent tranche of fish, and cooked with rock-solid technique. It’s not just classic bistro though, there are enough little touches of flair; maybe some modernist technique here, or a scattering of foraged ingredients there, enough to show that chef Brad Carter has got real talent and style. But he never ruins things by showing off. It’s delivering a 21st-century hug on a plate, not an ego-driven descent into brick-licking moss in a flower pot madness. There are no shouty swearies going on back in the kitchen I suspect. Holly runs her front of house with real warmth and they are both real foodies, spending the small amount of free time they have checking out openings in London for inspiration. They have a beer menu with proper beers. They have decent wines by the glass. You can buy a good bottle for between £20-30.

They will also likely have a Michelin star before long, but I’m selfishly hoping it won’t be for a while, lest it ruin this little gem.

It’s not cheap, go for the set lunch menu if you are on a budget. Saturday lunch would be a good idea, straight after Moseley Farmers market. They also do afternoon tea. Bookings are advised, and definitely required for busy periods like Friday evenings and weekends. They also don’t cater for children, which has meant we haven’t gone for a while, but just as soon as I can convince Hannah to let us get a baby-sitter, this is the first place I’ll head …



Min Min Noodle Bar


Min Min Noodle Bar opposite the Arcadian car park entrance offers something a little different to the rest of Chinatown. And not just in terms of decor which can only be described as funky fresh lime green. The menu noodles its way around Asia. From classic Chinese stir-fried noodles to Japanese soup noodles. Their flavours are always clean, they eschew the heavy sauces and chemical enhancements that is so common with this kind of food. It’s part of their philosophy.

My favourite noodle dish is a Hong Kong classic, beef brisket hor fun (pictured). The appetisers are fun and varied. Vietnamese cheung fun and special skewers are particularly good. They’ve got an evening menu too, dishes more for sharing like soft shell crab, Thai style fried fish and pigs trotters. Some dishes are more successful than others but there’s always something interesting on the menu. I can’t wait till they actually get that ramen machine though. That broth and pork deserve better noodles!

Nom Nom Noodles


Vietnamese cuisine, simple, fresh, vibrant and delicious but overlooked in our city. It’s to our detriment, I can think of few foods more comforting than a bowl of Pho. We had our first proper Vietnamese restaurant open a couple of years ago opposite the magistrates courts, Viet An, but I think that’s gone now. Then there’s Viet Moon on the other edge the Jewellery Quarter, so including Nom Nom that makes two but that’s all. And no if you think Cafe Soya is Vietnamese then you need to get out more.

Nom Nom Noodles opened with little fanfare late 2012. Situated on the ring road next to the massive Tesco in Spring Hill it’s an unlikely location. The interior is basic, functional and clean. But the food is wonderful. Deeply rich yet clean tasting bowls of Pho Bo and tender morsels of grilled pork with vermicelli are the highlight of the small menu. Wash it down with some strong Vietnamese drip coffee sweetened with evaporated milk or try one of fluorescent dessert jellies.

Due to their location they’re finding business tough and have recently decided to close on Sundays. Please support them and help reverse the trend. Soon there may be nowhere you can get this lovely cuisine in our city.

Fenky Janes


Wah gwan bredren?! Everyone loves Caribbean food right? Curry goat, jerk chicken, rice and peas, saltfish and ackee, fried fish, festivals, curry patties. The canon of West Indian food is like comfort food for spice lovers. But I had big issues with curry patties though, for some reason the bright yellow patties from the likes of Island Delight never cut it with me. They were well rarted! The pastry is crumbly and dry and the filling is like some kinda slop, give me a Ginsters any day.

Fenky Janes Caribbean Patties are a local treasure. Find them in discerning West Indian outlets or better still get them from the small factory unit in Hockley. Buy them by the dozen because they freeze really well and you can bake them from frozen. The flaky pastry is perfection and all the fillings are great but my fave is the Ackee & Saltfish. Quite simply you have not eaten a curry pattie until you have tried one of these. They are proppa!

(Some people say that Russells in Lozells make the best patties but not to start a turf war or anything, them people are damnfool)

Fenky Janes
Unit 6, Park Trading Estate, Birmingham B18 5HB
0121 507 0660

Find other great places to eat and buy food in Birmingham on the Birmingham Food Map!

Walter Smith Butchers: Branches in Harborne, Indoor Market, elsewhere

pork pie 2-large

Look into the window of this Harborne High Street pensioners favourite, and the display of bright red beef untroubled by marbling, pre-marinated meat and the frankly terrifying/hilarious lamb “long-boat” might make you wonder why I have sent you here ….

Don’t be scared dear reader, such off-putting wares are to protect the shop from any influx of foodies/food bloggers/hipsters/Southern shandy drinkers from getting to the prize on offer: the legendary Walter Smith Pork Pie.

It’s like the bit at the end of Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail.

If you have braved the display and have come inside, elbow past the trolley-wielders waiting to blow their still warm post office cheque on half a pound of stewing steak and a couple of kidneys and fight your way to the cooked meat counter.

Try not to worry too much about corned beef and haslet. Instead, in your best Brummie – ask for a large pork pie. Those are the ones adorned with a ‘Great Taste Award’ sticker, and for once the judges are bloody spot-on.

Before eating, take a good look at your treasure. Marvel at its reassuring dark, burnished exterior of perfectly baked short-crust pastry. Cut into quarters, or simply sink your teeth in. Note how the filling is made of just the right proportions of pork meat and fat. Enjoy the hit of black pepper and spice at the back of your throat. Delight in the correctly judged jelly component which hardly ever reminds of dog food.

So then, truly a king of pork pies, and certainly better than any I have tried in the East Midlands (Yes, I am trying to start a second civil war in the Midlands, bring it on Melton Mowbray!).

Whilst you are there, you may wish to note the availability of plentiful ham hocks, usually at giveaway prices. Their pork sausages are also way above average, and if you are in the mood to BBQ they can usually rustle you up a few racks of pork ribs or a whole pork shoulder on the bone.

Just don’t get between the elderly and their tea.

There are other branches of Walter Smith across the midlands, check their website for details.

Find other great places to eat and buy food in Birmingham on the Birmingham Food Map!