There are so many excellent places that I've managed to visit only once, that when I sat down to write this list, they were crowding out the 'unvisited' places in my mind. But I want to concentrate on the new – places as yet unexplored – that will offer up a proper adventure.
So there are three categories forming in my mind – beery places, foodie places, and 'things I haven't had yet' which might be found in either. No doubt I will be adding to this list as time goes on, as I read other bloggers' reviews, hear about places on the grapevine, and new bars are opened or tired ones given a new lease of life by a clued-up brewery or enthusiastic landlord. But for now, best to get some aims to focus on:
- Microbar in the Arndale Centre (a Boggart bar), Soup Kitchen, and other Manchester pubs I didn't get round on my last visit.
- Borefts Beer Festival, Netherlands – @ThornbridgeDom posted a great account of his trip there to showcase some Thornbridge beers last year, and included a call to arms for attendance in 2012 – I've never been to Amsterdam, and loved the sound of his daytrip to Utrecht, which apparently has a large population of 'pub cats', so I was sold on the idea – why not? It would also give me the chance to visit beer bars In de Wildeman and t'Arendsnest.
- Mikkeller Bar, Copenhagen – I love Mikkeller beers – I love the inventiveness and mix of subtlety and strength of flavour – so of course I'm dying to go to this bar sometime. And I can't deny that watching The Killing and Borgen has also whetted my appetite to visit Denmark for the first time too – all those great cheekbones, little pastries, and brooding buildings.
- Brasserie du Lombard, Brussels – this has opened since my last visit to Brussels, and apparently already has a good beer list, so as it's just round the corner from Moeder Lambic Fontainas, it has to be checked out.
- The Apple Cider Bar, Bristol – a dedicated cider bar, on a boat – would be great to sit by the river sipping cider on a sunny day, though I'd want to stay overnight to avoid any cider-induced train hassles on the way back! And of course hunting down some Bristol Beer Factory offerings could be a handy add-on for a two day visit.
- The Asquith, Birmingham – this is top of my 'must visit' list, since I read a review in December stating the chef was “all about texture” – it's something I really notice when eating in this kind of restaurant – I like a more formal meal to have three carefully thought-out elements – flavours that complement; artful presentation that delights the eye; and a contrast in textures. It's something that totally stood out when I ate at Vanilla Black, and so I'm keen to find out what The Asquith has to deliver in this respect.
- Annexe, Birmingham – this restaurant space used to be occupied by the lovely Michelle's La Bastille – a French cafe/restaurant that had some great events and a well-priced bistro menu, as well as bottled beers and a real ale on tap. But recently this has changed to Annexe, a modern European style restaurant, and by all Tripadvisor accounts is consistently offering a delightful experience. People have asked my opinion of it, and it felt remiss to say I hadn't tried it out yet when it's in the middle of the city, so it's on the list for an appraising visit.
- Turners, Harborne – again I've heard nothing but praise for this Michelin-starred restaurant in an unassuming location on Harborne High Street. I'm in the area quite often, but usually with bags full of farmers' market shopping, so I need to arrange a proper visit and check out their lunching menu.
- Jyoti's, Birmingham – a South Indian Gujerati vegetarian restaurant, with a great reputation and several recommendations from friends. They also have dosa, which I didn't think you could easily find in Brum. It's BYO too so I can browse the menu and have fun choosing some beer or wine to go with it.
- Yamamori Izakaya, Dublin – the original Yamamori Sushi is a fabulous restaurant, with great food, a good sake selection, and most importantly, Hitachino Nest Japanese craft beers. They've just opened a more informal bar/Japanese cafe in the middle of Dublin, and I'm dying to get over there to hang out for the evening.
Things to consume
- Salt beef. I haven't come across any of this in Birmingham, and I miss it since giving up a part-time life in London, so I need so seek it out – any recommendations for a salt beef fix?
- Banh mi – I've not managed to have one of these Vietnamese lunchtime inventions yet – and I'm not entirely sure whether I'm missing out, or whether life is fine without them – so got to try one to find out what my opinion is
- Dim sum – I've never been out for dim sum at a restaurant, though I've picked up the odd packet of shao mai dumplings from Chinese shops in Brum to steam at home. I'd like to experience both a traditional Chinese restaurant dim sum offering (preferably with someone to guide me!) and also the more fusion-y, possibly Westernised, offerings of somewhere like Ping Pong.
- Dogfish Head beers – tricky, as they stopped exporting from the US when they reached production capacity, but if I keep my eyes peeled I'm sure I can find one somewhere this year
- Welsh perry, new season – I still recall how good the fresh 'Nuff' perry tasted at the Clytha Arms festival I went to one year, bursting with just-pressed pear flavours, and I'd love to have that spring-like flavour again. Don't know how or where I'll come across this as a trip to Wales isn't currently on the cards, but I'll keep hoping for now.
So, quite enough to keep me busy, but not an exhaustive list. I'll aim to revist this a bit later in the year and see what can be ticked off as achieved, or added as a new 'must visit' comes to my attention.