Sunday, February 22, 2009

Postcard from The REP

The Birmingham Rep is a hideous building. I suppose elephant-hide concrete cladding was the height of architectural design in the 1960s, but it now stands between the classical proportions of Baskerville House (named after John Baskerville, an innovator in typesetting, writing-trivia fans) and the 1990s plate glass and tubular steel of the International Convention Centre. The Rep doesn’t bear up well to the comparison.

What goes on inside, however, makes you forgive surface ugliness. I saw the Kneehigh Theatre production of Don John - Mozart’s Don Giovanni revisited as 1970s rock opera. Hilarious stuff with a quality soundtrack. Kneehigh deserve the accolades they attract, I loved their version of Brief Encounter with song and dance. I wonder if they had to tone down the Brummie accents when they took it to the West End though?

One other thing makes the Rep stand out from other theatres - their restaurant: WineREP. Not only is the food delicious and keenly priced. Not only, as you’d guess from the name, is the wine list superb. But the stroke of genius is the showtime deal. Eat your starter and main course before the performance, return to your table for your pudding and coffee in the interval. So civilised I can’t imagine why nowhere else does it. They should.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Postcard from underwater

There are places in Britain that are further from the coast than Birmingham, but not many. The city doesn't even have a major river running through it. So, it's an apt location for a Sea Life Centre – bringing the best of the underwater world to Brummies.

Highlights include the Bay of Rays, a huge tank filled with weird creatures gliding through the water, flipping and turning like kites. It was hard to draw the smallest member of our group away from the fascination of this drama playing out at toddler-eye level.

My favourite though, was the seahorses. Tiny, delicate, vibrant-coloured and strange shaped, it seems hard to believe these funny fish could survive in the open ocean. Fortunately, they appear to be happy at home in the big city.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Postcard from Pizza Express

OK, so I'm a cheap date, but I love Pizza Express. There are so many of us devotees that we even have a club where our loyalty is rewarded with free pizza. What more could the pizza lover need?

This is the Fiorentina as cooked at Birmingham Bullring – extremely tasty and one of my favourites from the menu. I recommend having the egg soft – lots of delicious runny yolk to soak up with the dough. Serving suggestion is a glass of red and a salad on the side. But you didn't need me to tell you that, did you?

There is only one thing which could improve this meal, are you listening Pizza Express management? I can be trusted with a sharper knife. The toddler at the next table was served bambinoccino in a real cup, so how about letting the adults have cutlery that, you know, cuts? Just, whatever you do, don't mess with my pizza.

Will save my raving about the gelato and the cheesecake for another post, all this pizza talk is making me peckish…