Hidden Gems of Birmingham - Sushi Passion



Scratch beneath the surface of our city and you'll find some real hidden gems. So we have set out to explore the best-kept secrets and unsung heroes of Birmingham. This week, Emma Cann ventures to the fabulous Sushi Passion...

Birmingham has a fantastic foodie scene for different types of cuisine from all over the world yet, until the last couple of years, the city has been lacking a really good sushi offering. However, since the opening of Rofuto at the Park Regis Hotel and the utterly gorgeous Sushi Passion, Birmingham can now offer some of the best sushi experiences in the country.

Sushi Passion is a petite but perfectly formed restaurant in Birmingham’s Great Western Arcade. The Great Western Arcade is in itself one of the hidden gems of Birmingham. Tucked neatly in between Colmore Row and Temple Row, this stunning Victorian arcade boasts a glass domed roof, intricately painted ceiling and gilded golden balconies. It is one of the best places in Birmingham for independent shopping and little foodie retreats; one of my favourite places to simply wander and pass the time, feeling like I have taken a step into the past.



In this glittering arcade, Sushi Passion is a subtle, unassuming presence. The window display of bonsai trees, pebbles and trickling water feature, combined with the dark curtain fluttering across the entrance, instantly convey the traditional Japanese design of this restaurant. Upon entry, we were very taken with Sushi Passion’s showpiece - two traditional low tables, raised on a small platform, with cushions to kneel on and a beautiful painted backdrop of a Japanese mural and sliding walls.

Greeted by a waitress wearing a traditional kimono, we chose to sit at the open bar and kitchen. I love to sit in the thick of the action so I can see the chefs at work! Everything about Sushi Passion is simple yet stunning, from the tactile slate teapot, to our polished lacquer plates and bowls. Even on a busy Saturday lunchtime, the restaurant is completely tranquil and calming; it’s hard to believe that Pigeon Park is just a stone’s throw away!



We ordered a pot of green tea and a bowl of miso soup each to begin our dining experience. I loved the lightly brewed green tea, which I always find is the perfect, refreshing accompaniment to sushi. Our miso soup was served in grand style. One of the delightful, quirky features of Sushi Passion is a miniature steam train, which glides around the gleaming bar top, serving drinks and soup to the waiting customers. I was so distracted by this adorable novelty that I forgot retrieve my miso soup from its carriage! The miso was satisfyingly salty and comforting, with gorgeous pink and white swirled tofu.



To complete our light lunch, we opted to share a platter of traditional Japanese sushi. As salmon and tuna maki are served by all sushi restaurants, I always order them as an easy way of benchmarking my favourite sushi places. I wasn’t disappointed: the seaweed outer was rich and full of flavour, the rice gorgeously sticky, and there was a generous amount of both tuna and salmon.

Another reason we went for the traditional Japanese platter was the opportunity to try a wide variety of nigiri - tuna, salmon, monkfish, cuttlefish, eel and octopus. All served on a delicious bed of vinegared rice, the fish was incredibly fresh with the refreshing and subtle flavours characteristic of Japanese cuisine. I was quite nervous of trying the eel but it was absolutely amazing, with an almost smoky flavour and surprisingly delicate texture. 

I would highly recommend Sushi Passion for an indulgent yet light and delicious lunch. The atmosphere is incredibly tranquil and relaxing, and the traditional Japanese decor transports you far away from the streets of Birmingham. It would be perfect for meeting up with a group of friends, so you can order multiple platters and sets to enjoy a wide variety of stunning sushi.

Review written by SWOOPE content partner Emma Cann. 
Download the SWOOPE app now to access exclusive deals all over Birmingham: www.swoope.co.uk 


Hidden Gems of Birmingham - Rainbow Venues



Scratch beneath the surface of our city and you'll find some real hidden gems. So we have set out to explore the best-kept secrets and unsung heroes of Birmingham. This week, Luke James ventures to Rainbow Venues...


The Rainbow Venues has been around for many years and has garnered something of a cult following. The venue, which celebrated its twelfth birthday in March, has hosted a range of artists across a number of genres throughout its history such as Annie Mac, PEACE, Jamie XX, Skepta, Mike Skinner, and many more. With its venues in and around The Custard Factory, The Rainbow Venues make up an integral part of Digbeth, an area often referred to as “the Shoreditch of Birmingham”.

After a discussion with my friends, we’d decided to go to a popular night event called 2:31. I’d been to The Bow once or twice before so I had a decent idea what to expect. What I’d forgotten was how truly grimy it was.

Don’t expect to see a sign.

Situated in the back streets of Digbeth, from the outside, Rainbow looks like just another abandoned building in the area. Aside from the booming music, and a mingling of people on the roof, you couldn’t tell it was a nightclub.

Whilst the term “Rainbow Venues” refers to over 11 separate venues owned by Bow Warehouse Ltd, it’s not strictly accurate. The 11 venues are merely a series of rooms spread out over four venues within walking distance, The Rainbow Pub, The Rainbow nightclub, Spotlight and a number of areas around The Custard factory. A night out usually means going to one of these four locations. My Nu Leng were on in The Rainbow Nightclub, which meant I’d most likely see Blackbox, Rooftop Terrace and perhaps The Warehouse.

Stepping in the queue you can immediately get a sense of the sort of night that you’ll have. This is a far cry from the shirts, shoes and dresses akin to a Saturday night on Broad Street. Instead people are dressed in t-shirts and jeans, some were wearing shorts and large amounts were dressed in vintage 90s sports-wear. After a very very thorough pat down I entered the nightclub into the first venue known as Blackbox.

Blackbox

Blackbox was the main room for the evening, hosting headlining DJ duo My Nu Leng. For some the night it was full, for most of the night it was packed to the rafters. The room was full of good vibes, even though it was fairly unpleasant to stand in at times. Getting served at the bar in here was a nightmare as it was the first bar that you come across, however as the night went on it became easier. The room itself is pretty much a Blackbox. With its exposed brick walls, unfinished floors and exposed metal décor, the room pays homage to the local area with this industrial feel. Although fleeting, my time in this room was probably the best.



Rooftop Terrace

The Rooftop Terrace is now probably my favourite place in The Rainbow Venues and is almost completely the opposite to the Blackbox room downstairs. The venue is kitted out with two bars, a dance floor, a number of sofa and cushioned seats and then a literal rooftop terrace with fantastic view of the Birmingham skyline. Two bars mean that getting served up there is never a hassle. As it is an open-air terrace, it is treated as a smoking area, which may put some off. However with the gorgeous view of Birmingham (I may be a tad biased as I’m from Birmingham) and the refreshing cool-air, this is definitely a very cool little spot to recharge your batteries during the evening.

Music

The Rainbow Venues is commonly the place to find many house artists, DJ’s, grime artists and up and coming bands. So if you prefer listening to Capital rather than BBC Radio 1Xtra, this may not be the place for you. House music isn’t really my forte so I found it difficult to differentiate between the DJs playing throughout the night. My Nu Leng actually had a different sound to the others and worked the crowd extremely well. Even I think the mood it creates is great. As someone who’s a bigger fan of hip-hop, RnB and grime, going to a place that plays house music is an interesting change of pace. Whilst I will agree that at times it is repetitive, it creates a completely different, much more relaxed and less “hype” atmosphere



Clientele

During my evening at Rainbow there was never a time where I felt intimidated or ever concerned that I might be in trouble. The strict pat-down on the door is enough to quell any raver’s fears of violence. The bouncers, whilst not constantly in sight, made regular patrols around the club. Everyone I met was extremely friendly, in fact I probably spent more time outside and around the venue talking to strangers and new friends, than inside enjoying the music and dancing. It was mostly full of young people, with virtually no one over the age of 30. The clientele practically screams youth culture.



Dress Code

Trainers everywhere

This is certainly not the place to be wearing Louboutins. This is the place to experiment with new outfits and pretty much wear whatever you want. A number of the people I went with ended up going into the rave in shorts. Vintage sports jackets seemed to be fairly popular, so if you’re concerned about fitting in pop down to COW or Urban Outfitters. Anything street-wear also seemed to be fairly popular, so think brands such as Palace, A Bathing Ape, Adidas, Nike and Kenzo. For girls I suggest either a tank top or an oversized vintage t-shirt with shorts or jeans or generally anything found in COW. For guys, you won’t stick out too much in jeans and any t-shirt found in Footasylum. It’s definitely the place to experiment though; I’m looking forward to planning my next outfit for Rainbow. I asked a number of people what they thought the dress code was for Rainbow and the overwhelming response was “Wavy Garms”.

Alcohol

Considering the décor and the feel that The Rainbow Venues try to put out, I feel that the drinks were overpriced. I didn’t see anyone drinking any spirits, shots or wine. This meant that for most of the night we drank the cider(£3.50), the cheapest option. However, I did notice that a large amount of people in the club had opted to drink water, which is something that the venue is aware of as a bottle cost £2.50.


Would I recommend it?

Absolutely yes. If you’re purely looking to go out, have a good time, and don’t care about keeping up appearances, this is the place for you.

CONCLUSION

The Rainbow Venues is probably the easiest, Saturday night out you’ll ever have and is a breath of fresh air for anyone fatigued by Arcadian or the Broad Street Strip of clubs in Birmingham. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I think everyone should go and experience it once. In my entire clubbing history I can say that I’ve never been to nightclub quite like The Rainbow Venues.

TL:DR

The Rainbow Venues if an 11-part venue that you probably won’t see all of until the second or third time you go. The nightclub is fuelled by youth culture and so is a very laid-back and yet galvanising night out. Worth a go if you’re purely looking to party and don’t care about looking good doing it.

Review written by SWOOPE content partner Luke James. 
Download the SWOOPE app now to access exclusive deals all over Birmingham: www.swoope.co.uk 


Hidden Gems of Birmingham - Buffalo and Rye




Scratch beneath the surface of our city and you'll find some real hidden gems. So we have set out to explore the best-kept secrets and unsung heroes of Birmingham. This week, Kim ventures to Buffalo and Rye...



Buffalo and Rye is a kitschy little joint on Bennets Road, pulling inspirations from American culture and with a deep Chicago hip hop vibe it’s an easy eatery with friends on a warm weekday night.  The moment you walk into Buffalo and Rye you are greeted with a warm reception, a cool hipster looking chap with a beard approaches you to take your order and recommend a quirky cocktail or two.  




We took our seats at wooden benches with a 70’s mustard yellow stool and ordered our drinks, a Root Beer for the gentleman and a Mountain Dew Tom Collins for the lady.  James and I took in the ambience whilst we waited for the bar man to return with drinks.
But what matters is the food and the overall taste.   The first thing I dug into was the parmesan and truffle fries I had been dreaming about since I perused the menu on the car ride over – these babies were the shizz.  They were crisp on the outside whilst fluffy on the inside, the truffle oil was merely a hint whilst the parmesan did the talking.  They were incredible and are on my list for a guilty pleasure snack from this point forward whenever I’m in the city centre.  






The cheeseburger was equally as good, the pattys were thick and juicy on top of a toasted brioche bun.  One thing I hate about burgers at restaurant is how badly they can be put together so when you bite in it will fall apart – this one retained it’s structure and was a delight in my mouth!  Unfortunately this meant the expectations were high for the burnt ends, which didn’t meet what I was hoping.  The smoked barbeque sauce was overpowering and swamped the taste of the delicate brisket, which is a shame when compared to the triumphs of the mains.  


James made sounds akin to a cow in labour whil
st eating his food so I’m guessing that’s a good sign he enjoyed his brisket burger!

I ordered the pie (£4) which came with whipped cream, James ordered a knickerbocker brownie with salted caramel (£4).  The key lie pie didn’t live up to expectations, whilst I could tell this was homemade and not just some generic supermarket pie that the owner had picked up on his way to work, it simply wasn’t that great.  It was slightly burnt on the bottom and wasn’t tart enough for my personal taste.  James on the order hand enjoyed his, the ice cream was creamy and the caramel was rich in flavour… more animal like noises came out of his mouth.





Onto the mains, B&R’s Instagram boasts a burger that I won’t forget so, of course, that’s what I had to get. I ordered the house cheese burger (priced at £7.50) with a side of parmesan and truffle fries (£3) and a pot of burnt ends to share (£4.50). James is a very fussy eater, typically staying away from most dairy products and potato based meals (trust me, Sunday dinners are interesting) so when he forewarned the waiter he was going to be making a lot of amendments I was curious to see how the restaurant would cater for it.  We’ve been in restaurants before where we have received bad customer service or flat out refusal to amend an item before, Buffalo and Rye did neither of these things and simply took the changes with grace. James ordered a brisket burger, holding the cheese and sauces (priced at £8.50) and chilli fries without any cheese (£5.00).   




Whilst we waited for our meal we took in the surroundings, to simply put it – this place is cool. It’s hipster chic without being pretentious and could easily take it’s place in trendy areas of London such as Soho. The walls are lined with upcycled pallets and tiles, the showcase displays have various comic dolls and retro prints. The light fixtures and furniture have a seventies feel whilst feeling clean and simple.  Over the stereo plays hip hop and rap, giving it that modern feel – it feels cosy whilst being effortlessly on trend.  I could have spent all night drinking Tom Collins and cocktails listening to the music and taking in the ambience. 

Our waiter bought our meal over on trays, a simple sheet of grease proof paper and basic crockery that is common place with restaurants going for that ‘rustic’ feel these days.  Generally well presented but nothing to write home to mom about… 

Feeling content with our meals we were tempted by the dessert menu, which we never usually order from (I’m a savoury girl through and through) but the Floridian Key Lime Pie called to me…

We finished the night with a late Summer night stroll in Victoria Square to walk off our full bellies before heading home for a night cap.  All in all we really enjoyed Buffalo and Rye, it happens to sit opposite a fantastic pub (The Sun on the Hill) so would be a great eat before heading out for some live music and drinks literally across the road.  We’ll be back for a cheeseburger very soon!



Review written by SWOOPE content partner Kim Chanlter. Check out more from Kim on her blog: www.callmekim.net

Download the SWOOPE app now to access exclusive deals all over Birmingham: www.swoope.co.uk