(Issue 131)
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You know how tequila slammers are the devil's work and should be avoided at all and every cost? Well, while watching the latest season of House of Cards we spotted a moment in which the Russian President leads a table full of political fat cats in a vodka shot that includes eating a pickled gherkin and smelling (yes, smelling) fresh bread. We were intrigued. So intrigued, in fact, with that we devised an entire meal around this drink. Here be your invite. 
Okay, to be honest, we haven't devised the meal. Two Cats Kitchen — Brum's runaway culinary success story of 2015 — have conjured up a five-course Russian tapas menu that includes shots of Auksta Zupa: Cold beetroot and buttermilk gazpacho (pictured above), a really appetising sounding dish called Pork Fat (smoked, salted and whipped) and Shuba, which involves herrings, smoked sausage and Russian mayo. We're not totally sure what makes this different to the Hellmann's variety. Also on the menu is goat cheese pelmeni (pictured below) and Stroganoff - smoked beef croquette, pickled mushrooms, kefir and Hungarian paprika. So you'll be coming, right?
The Rose Villa Tavern is our venue of choice, thanks to their almost concerningly close relationship with vodka. They'll be getting you acquainted with two cocktails (one a wild twist on a Martini, the other a quirky vodka tonic made with diced radish and micro red amaranth), an iced neat vodka over lemon balm and what may well come to be known simply as 'that shot' (below). All four drinks come as part of the ticket price and will be made with the closest thing to a fairy tale that the vodka family has to offer, Snow Queen. Oh and those ever so obliging folk from Staying Cool at the top of the Rotunda will be offering one diner a night (and we're assuming at least part of a day) in one of their cityscape capturing Clubman rooms.
We'll also be giving away a blooming great magnum of Snow Queen at the event on May 15. And though you don't need to have any interest in House of Cards, a passing interest in vodka is probably best. This is the second event by our Companies House brethren, Crushed & Cubed. Their first event was a sellout and we're expecting this one to fly off the shelves, too. Not literally. There are no shelves involved. Tickets (at £25 worth of the Queen's paper), right here


If you’ve seen Blue Ruin (and if you haven’t, Netflix—stat), you’ll know Jeremy Saulnier is a director to watch. Pleasingly, his follow-up doubles down on the exploitation feel, stranding a punk band backstage at a skinhead club where, having antagonised the crowd by playing a certain Dead Kennedys song, they witness a murder. Trapped in their green room, an ever-escalating confrontation ensues that takes in Stanley knives, pitbulls, machettes and a lip-smacking bodycount. The stunt casting of Patrick Stewart as a neo-Nazi doesn’t quite work, but there’s a down-and-dirty nastiness that makes the reflective conclusion surprisingly moving. Though the squeamish should abstain, this is a fantastic revival of punk cinema – and next week you can see a preview with live music, appropriately enough. Times


Timeless elegance. It's one of those looks that we've been successfully failing to master for over thirty years. And it's the history behind the suits the world has come to see as iconic that forms the centre piece for an evening with Royal Warrant holders, Gieves & Hawkes. Join their experts for a canter through the suits that designers and tailors are still learning lessons from—and enjoy perfectly matched cocktails care of the Mailbox's master mixologists at Aluna—while you do so. There'll be shoe shining from The Barber House, food AND a ready-to-wear Gieves & Hawkes suit together with fitting for the winning. All you need do is secure a spot and attend to have a chance at the prize. Tickets are the very best price (so, free) but unsurprisingly, they're also limited. Tuesday, May 24 from 6pm until 8pm.


From Carlos Acosta to troupes of gravity-defying performers, the International Dance Festival Birmingham has officially begun. And if, like us, you're in the market for a bit of everything, Centenary Square is where you're going to want to base yourself from May 11. Across four evenings, the IDFB will completely take over Broad Street's concrete playground with an international premier, individual performances, circus acts and a big ol' side of Digbeth Dining Club by way of nourishment. Showing every night, The Machine Show is a power-driven performance set against a wall of sound, dance and circus, which is being billed as this year's big ticket item (not that you'll need a ticket - Live Nights is completely free). A variety of other shows will also be starting from 6pm each night, including Torque (pictured) which explores our relationship with machinery, a JCB and the sort of risk-taking you categorically cannot insure against. Full programme here.
Venue: Bank, 4 Brindleyplace, Birmingham B1 2JB; website
Choice: Spring vegetable risotto (£7.95/£11.95) Chooser: Waiter

As spring has sprung and all that, Bank's been busy updating its menu to match the aspirations of the season. And if, like Bank's restaurant manager, the team's mushroom risotto sent you into a bit of a wide-eyed taste spin, we've got some suboptimal news for you. It is no more. But in its stead, and in accordance with the good stuff that's growing right now, a veg risotto, primarily of asparagus and broad beans is the new rice creation to get gooey about. Topped off with goats cheese, basil and a goodly thwack of citrus, the two latter ingredients prevent an obviously creamy dish falling into a dairy-filled abyss. With its light, bright and airy terrace extension, as well as an updated menu to match its canal surrounds, Bank is back on our luncheon hit list—best enjoyed with a glass of something very, very chilled. Spring/Summer menu.
  • Gusbourne, Wiston Estate and Three Choirs can all be found at the English Wine Takeover on May 21. General admission is £15, or upgrade for brunch and bubbles (£30). Eight Foot Grocer is on food
  • The best of last year's BE Festival is coming to The Bramall tonight (Thursday). Tickets are £5. This is what to expectington
  • Book now: Atsuko's Kitchen is putting on a vegetarian sushi class and lunch in the IDFB hub—the Municipal Bank. May 14 (with Shun Ito's exhibition by way of backdrop). Tickets are £23
  • Peaky Blinders is back on your screens tonight. Some striking Jon Jones art inspired by the series is also at Castle Galleries
  • The Coffee Lab is a pop-up coffee shop and research programme run out of the soon-to-be Wilderness. Opens 8am, Tuesday to Friday right now, though keep an eye on its Facebook page for the latest
"If you don’t like how the table is set, turn over the table." 
- Frank Underwood, 'House of Cards'
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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Andrew LowryTom Cullen
IMAGES: Dan Tucker (Torque), Shutterstock (Vodka shot)

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