Digbeth you are Spoiling Us!
Kanteen and Digbrew
As a couple of professional types working and socialising in the centre of Birmingham, our sideline of sourcing the best places to eat and drink and publishing our findings to our ever growing audience is hopefully a guide to what’s new and fresh and sometimes curiously unfound in the West Midlands food and drink scene.
Last Saturday we headed off to Digbeth in Birmingham to try out the two of the newest places to take residence in this famously cool and edgy part of town – Kanteen and Digbrew Co.
Kanteen has been open for about three weeks now, serving a wide range of mainly healthy plant based dishes alongside (reasonably) healthy cakes, hot drinks and smoothies. You can eat in or takeaway, which is handy as they’re based in the Custard Factory a noted office complex with a huge amount of potential trade from the startups and media and design companies housed there.
Following a recommendation from a colleague, we decided that the Kanteen concept sounded worthwhile investigating. First impressions were very welcoming with a suggestion to take a table to sit down to read the menu before ordering at the till (handy if you’re paying separately).
The first thing I noticed about the food in general is how reasonably priced it is – they have a whole section of the menu dedicated to poached eggs (my kind of place) and you can add an extra one for just £1 or add a hot drink for £1.50. The main dishes are only about £5.95 on average. They also offer a ‘give back to the community’ scheme, meaning for every main you buy they give a free eat to a less fortunate member of the public.
I wanted to be awkward, (situation normal) and order something not officially on the menu which they said was no problem at all. I ordered the ‘posh toast’ option which came with Iberico chorizo, red pepper and goat’s curd – but asked for it to be topped with a poached egg. My partner Jimm ordered the poached eggs with sausage and kale and we sat back down with our drinks a lovely flat white (me) and San Pellegrino Limon (him).
The décor of the place is akin to an English country garden. A hanging garden above a large table was accommodated by a group of students (nice to see some of them realise you can’t live off cider and pasta for over a term) and there are various board games stacked on the wall, which customers are invited to take and play. Indeed, a family had come in just after us and sat on the table opposite to play what looked like a very intense game of Scrabble.
The food arrived and was absolutely delicious – Jimm even managed to eat a vegetable without making the noise our cat does before he vomits. The chorizo in mine had some heat but wasn’t unbearably spicy, the flavours combined on the plate worked beautifully. The owner was pottering about, talking to the customers and helping collect plates, and we had a chat about how Kanteen had meant to have been open two weeks previously, but obviously there are always teething problems with these kind of projects.
We thanked him for a lovely meal and headed off to try the new urban brewery which was just up the road (and rather dangerously, only a two-minute walk from my office).
If Digbrew didn’t have a sign outside, you wouldn’t know it was there. The front is an open shutter to a space that looks a bit like an abattoir, and after you walk through the plastic fringing hanging from the ceiling you notice the ginormous brewing tanks against the wall, and a bar running alongside the left hand wall. The seating reminded me almost of a German beer tent – rows of long benches adjacent to the bar in a big rather open room.
Digbrew is owned by Tipton based Mad O’ Rourkes home of the famous Desperate Dan pie. The food area is at the back, where you can purchase bar snacks like smoked chicken wings and brisket buns also includes the famous pies – hurrah.
Digbrew have brewed their own beer, called Digbeth Lager and also Digbeth Lager export, which is a bit stronger in alcohol. Of course, this had to be the one we tried first, so ordered a pint each and sat at one of the benches. I wasn’t brave enough to try the export, but the Digbeth larger was lovely and hoppy, but light enough to enjoy more than one pint.
Having only been open three days, I asked the barmaid how business was and she informed me that on the Thursday and Friday evenings it was pleasingly busy and this evening was looking to continue the trend. And on cue as we enjoyed our beer the bar started filling up and by the time we left the atmosphere of the place was starting to change to an almost ‘night-out’ vibe.
Alongside their own lager, they also have a decent range of other premium beers and ciders on tap, although they’re quite lacking in bottles. They make up for this in the amount of different types of standard spirits they have (I counted 5 different gins) and they seem to have the premium versions of standard spirits – Jose tequila etc.
It really wasn’t badly priced as far as city prices for drinks can go and it does have a really distinct feel to it. There is a ladder by all the brewing equipment so you can explore these yourself, and all the staff seemed more than happy to answer any questions you might have. I can’t think of anywhere even near the city centre which has the same attraction, and as mentioned, with my office being so close I’m sure I’ll be back in the not too distant future.
Digbeth is becoming a real destination for food and drink venues and with an ever growing conversion of industrial units to office space, the potential footfall is increasing. The area used to feel a little too edgy, (the ‘Garrison’ pub as featured in Peaky Blinders is still there), but as a destination and place to work, it’s appeal is increasing. New venues like Kanteen and Digbrew are helping that conversion – give them a try – good on the pocket and good on the palate.