Issue 318
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READY, STEADY, BAKE... AGAIN

You wouldn't have made it to William Anderton's leaving drinks either, what with the baker retiring back in 1872. Almost 150 years later, Sarehole Mill has hired a replacement, built a new bakehouse and restored the oven Anderton spent so many hours with. And yes, yes the location that originally inspired JRR Tolkien's fictional Shire does now serve stonebaked pizza.
There's been some sort of mill on the Hall Green spot since 1542, using the nearby River Cole to power its water wheels through the years. As well as corn grinding, the site's been used for metal trades, like tool sharpening and metal rolling, with Matthew Boulton taking over the lease in 1756 for five years — to produce sheet metal for button manufacturing if you're asking.

The current building (pictured, millers included) dates back from that period, with a steam engine installed and a chimney additionally being built in 1850, providing the Mill with rather more consistency and that distinctive silhouette. A silhouette and surrounds immortalised by Tolkien, who lived across the road in rural Sarehole village as it then was, between the ages of four and eight.
In a history about as dramatic as Mordor, the Mill then shut completely in 1919. Despite the growth of Birmingham — including the addition of the not-so-rural A4040 which chugs along next to the countrified site — it was saved from demolition by local campaigners, and eventually restored to use in 1969. In 2013, the Mill got one helluva facelift, with love for that chimney, the millpond, water wheel and machinery, even producing flour again.

LOOK! Here's a cutaway which explains the milling process across Sarehole's three floors: the water wheel in the bottom right-hand corner powers the cogs and the pulleys and the grinding mechanism, that moves flour between the floors during the process. The illustration, by art student, James Baldwin, is a slightly simplified interpretation of the real deal, which he created from old archival imagery and having a good old look at the site. Actual guided tours of the Mill also available...
Taking over the pinafore — which has presumably had a wash — from Anderton, Sis Kaur is now the baker in charge of production. You'll find large farmhouse loaves (£2.20), crusty rolls (50p) and gingerbread men (£1.80) coming out of the oven and available to take away on the regs. There'll also be specials like scones, cupcakes and French stick on rotation. Over in Millers Tea Room, stonebaked Neapolitan pizza (£6) is the correct answer. Sausage rolls and plenty of afternoon tea-y sort of sweet options also come straight from the new bakery into the site's cafe, which is open this Sunday (March 1) from 11am until 4pm and on various other days during soft launch, before permanent Wednesday through Sunday opening hours from April.
The restoration process has been a right proper labour of love and admin, with less-than-glam jobs like lime-washing, cable-laying and flue-fixing all major parts of getting the site visitor-ready. But happily, the team has been able to get the original bread oven fired up once more. Back over in the original Victorian bakehouse, which was constructed in the 1850s, up to 60 (SIXTY!) loaves can be baked at one time. And you can see it in all its yeasty, feasty, roaring joy on special event dates throughout 2020. Follow the Bakehouse for the latest opening times, happenings and really pretty pictures of cake.

FEB FILM PICK: DARK WATERS


Well folks, we’ve got some bad news – the evil American corporations have been at it again. Mark Ruffalo stars as a crusading lawyer determined to hold real-life chemical company DuPont accountable for dumping poisonous chemicals into drinking water. This is no John Grisham thriller, mind – it’s instead about the gradual accumulation of the kind of detail you need to beat the best legal teams money can buy. If you’re super into lengthy discussions of the precise toxicity of Teflon if ingested by human beings, then this sure is the film for you – and if that isn’t your thing, Ruffalo is still great, and the much-delayed payoff here is hugely satisfying. And it has the president from Independence Day in it, which is always nice. See it at Cineworld at Resorts World. Tickets & trailer

SUMMER *IS* COMING


We've spoken to the Gods, they've spoken to the sun, and long story short, on July 11, there's going to be glorious sunshine in Brum. And you're going to be supping summery sparklings, crisp whites, light reds and chilled roses at Loki's first Summer Wine Fair. At Millennium Point, half of the 200+ wines and spirits will be outdoorsy, with the rest inside the substantial space, with plenty of room to bring everyone in should it rain. It won't. Included in your just released early bird tickets (£20 instead of £30) is the opportunity for samplings with Wines of South Africa and their Argentinean and New Zealand namesakes, each having their own stands at a Midlands tasting for the first time. Laghi's is on pizza, Anderson & Hill is on cheese. Choose from an afternoon or evening session.
Venue: Formosa Izakaya, 115-117 Hurst St, B5 6SE; Facebook
Choice: Okonomiyaki (£7.50) Chooser: We chose this time

Oko-NOM-iyaki more like! Remember when everyone said “nom, nom,” for years? Bad times. What isn’t bad times is finding somewhere in Birmingham knocking out a very decent version of this Japanese delicacy. Picture the scene, it’s 2009 and a hungry Brummie is walking around Osaka, he spots a restaurant with shiny plastic versions of their dishes in the window and reads ‘Okonomiyaki: Japanese Pizza’. Turned out the only similarity with pizza is the shape – but, there began a love affair. The fundamentals for an Osaka style Okonomiyaki (the name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning "what you like" and yaki meaning "cooked") are a batter made of shredded cabbage, grilled on a hot plate, topped with thinly sliced pork belly, Okonomi sauce — think a fruitier, naughtier version of HP — Japanese mayo, a dusting of seaweed and bonito fish flakes. You are absolutely bang on to be intrigued. Plenty of big umami flavours, and for the Insta obsessed there's prime boomerang fodder as the bonito flakes dance from side-to-side from the heat below. This was one of the bigger plates on offer alongside plenty of big ol’ bowls of broth at Formosa, which describes itself as a ‘Taiwanese Gastropub’. And beer-drinking, small plate territory is where the other good stuff is to be had — think teriyaki skewers, fried octopus balls, some gnarly fried chicken and bao. We also had a really funky, green egg. Honestly? Not really our thing. But we're going back for that Okonomiyaki which was significantly better than the Asia Asia Foodhall version.
Menu 

ANDY LOW 'N'
SL-OPUS


Brum barbecue badman Andy Low N Slow is returning to Bar Opus, the restaurant that most inspired him, on March 22, with bookings from 12pm until 4pm. The Opus team were the first to take Andy under their wing and they're the reason he's committed to fresh produce and ethical sourcing. So what's cooking? It's looking a lot like a woodfired celeriac soup with wild garlic oil, plus a hazelnut and bacon crumb (£5) to start. On mains (£18), a smoked Paddock Farm Tamworth pork belly (pictured) or Dunwood Farm Aged Longhorn rump cap. Both come with beef fat roasties, buttered greens, cauliflower cheese and Yorkies. Sticky toffee pudding (£5) to finish. To book, email lownslowbookings@gmail.com.

IT CAN BE HARD TO LEGO


Here you go, have 60 facts about LEGO that will literally (yes, literally!) blow your mind. Our favourite is that LEGO sells over 400 million tyres each year, which makes it the world’s largest tyre manufacturer. Nice, right? Stirchley Library has long held kid-only LEGO events, but howsabout a one-off, adults only LEGO sesh? Tuesday, March 3, at 6pm, it's free with donations to Friends of Stirchley Library something your conscience should probably be pestering you to get involved in. Maybe they'll even supply children who'll walk around the play area in dressing gowns, bare foot, treading on the pieces and hobbling off muttering expletives. That way the tables would finally be turned.
 
Remember Salad Fingers? Hard to forget. Put yourself through all 11 nightmarish episodes then ask creator David Firth what the hell he was thinking. Glee Club, Aug 17, £12
BEAST — or the slightly less easy to say Birmingham Electroacoustic Sound Theatre — are having a mini-festival, starting today. Beneath the Dome complete with 30+ channel sound system at UoB's Bramall (Saturday) looks like the pick.
Beavertown is hosting the Brum portion of its birthday bash at Bonehead, with an intergalactic beer to mark each of its eight years. From 5pm on March 5, explore all these planet-related IPAs. 
Enter Stage Write (not a typo) is an X Factor style writing event and awards ceremony showcasing local playwrights and acting talent. At the Patrick Studio on March 11, tickets are £15.
About ready to flick that big old DSLR of yours from auto? Join a beginners' photography class at the JQ's Pen Museum on April 25. Then win awards, presumably. It's £50 a spot, running from 11am 'til 4pm.


"The LEGO molding process is so accurate that just 18 elements in every million do not pass the company’s high quality standard."



LEGO Fact Number 54



 
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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Tom Cullen, Rob Newsome, Andrew Lowry
PICTURES: Sarehole Mill photos — © Birmingham Museums Trust; Sarehole Mill illustration - James Baldwin


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