Leeds&me on tour: Birmingham

This weekend and last weekend have turned out to be completely different animals. This weekend: lazy breakfasts, a gentle meander round Yorkshire Sculpture Park, a barbecue. Last weekend: whistlestop tour of Birmingham and London, taking in an Olympic Party, a safari park, a gin parlour, parks, bookshops, the Tate Modern, and some theatre. All amazing venues in which to catch up with some good old friends! It was too much for one blogpost, so here’s the Birmingham instalment.

We were staying with friends for a couple of nights and one of our number had been out of the country for London 2012. We tried our hardest to recreate the experience for her, by spending Friday night watching the opening ceremony along with a rather brutal drinking game, and eating food from all the different Olympic countries. Representing France, I took chocolate macarons, a baguette and Camembert. Ant was Italy, and made pastries filled with prosciutto, asparagus and goat’s cheese, plus chocolate hazelnut cupcakes (too, too good) and some Prosecco. I can’t spell or even say either of the Brazilian treats, but I did learn a lot about the origin of some other foods. Pistachios: Syria (and various other Middle Eastern countries). Houmous: Lebanon. This was all accompanied by an incredible Lancashire hotpot, which obviously as a Yorkshirewoman I resented slightly. I kept quiet as I was vastly outnumbered by Red Roses, though!

Also, my team won the Olympic Quiz and was awarded a gold medal, which softened the blow.

The next day, after a rather shaky start we headed to West Midland Safari Park. I think we all had fairly low expectations, but it turned out to be much bigger than we thought. There was a park area at the beginning like a small zoo, with penguins, sealions (we watched the BEST sealion show), snakes, crocodiles, meerkats and more we didn’t get to see. Plus there are rides that we didn’t even get to look at!

Eventually we dragged ourselves away from this area to go do the safari proper, which was amazing! West Midlands Safari Park have the largest pride of white lions in the UK, and they’re absolutely stunning. They also have gorgeous white tigers, which look weird among all the greenery, like they should be prowling snow blown Alaska. On top of that there’s deer, zebras, camels, rhinos, cheetahs and of course elephants.

We finished the trip hot and tired, but we quickly changed, freshened up and headed out again to visit The Jekyll and Hyde, a bar in Birmingham. Downstairs is Mr Hyde’s bar, which sells sweet shop style cocktails like Turkish Delight and Cinder Toffee, while upstairs is Dr Jekyll’s sophisticated gin parlour, where we were headed. It was a gorgeous cosy room with table service and surprisingly reasonable prices – some of the cocktails were just £4 on a Saturday. It was such a great place to get pre-dinner drinks; really relaxed with incredibly knowledgeable service and absolutely delicious drinks. There are also some amazing novelty sharing drinks served in bowler hats, mini bathtubs and the like. They’re a bit pricier but I’d love to try one!

Learn from my experience: don’t get the Armistice unless you’re absolutely sure you like saffron and grapefruit (I didn’t!). Do ask for a bespoke cocktail. Just tell the server the flavours you like and they’ll rustle something up. Mine was rosé prosecco with raspberry, rosewater, jasmine and lemon juice – absolutely perfect.


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