Birmingham’s new gin and craft beer bar hits the target

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It is to stretch a point to suggest that sitting in the courtyard of The Distillery is akin to loafing on the harbourside of St Tropez.

It is true that a boat bobbed jauntily on the canal beyond the cobbled courtyard.
And that the sun beat down with the ferocity of Kenny Burns in a 50/50 challenge.

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True, too, that I ate merguez, those vividly red spiced mutton sausages that originate from North Africa but which I first ate in Provence decades ago when I still had hair and hope.
Alas, the Brummie accents of most of the punters nearby didn’t sound half as charming as French folk chattering away over a pastis and Gauloises.
And, hard as I looked, I wouldn’t spot any sign of the young Brigette Bardot.
But these factors did not detract from a very pleasant couple of hours on a midweek evening.
I liked The Distillery.

The place

This is a fine old building near Brindleyplace and Broad Street.
It once housed the Fiddle and Bone, a music-orientated pub that closed after people who bought expensive flats to enjoy the hustle and bustle of city centre living decided that hustle and bustle was better outside someone else’s window.

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It’s spread over two floors and there’s lots of bare brick and wood.
It’s been sympathetically restored and retains a semi-industrial Victorian feel.
It has its own small gin distillery and outside is a gorgeous courtyard with lots of seating.
The bar opens out to the terrace so that traipsing from bar to table is seamless.

The food and drink

There’s lots and lots of gins, obviously. And lots of gin-based cocktails.
A glass of London No.1 Gin was a reviving way to start matters, with its nicely-rounded flavours.

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The Double Dutch tonic that came as a mixer was a new one for me, but up there with Fever Tree in its quality.
Afterwards came a well-kept pint of Purity Gold.
The menu is simple but interesting, with lots of Mediterranean influences.
There are salads, snacks, burgers, sourdough pizzas and dishes cooked on the Robata grill.

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A snack of scorched pardon peppers was enjoyable.
They were generously salted and ate well with a cool G&T.
A plate of crunchy breakfast radishes with a black olive mayonaisse that was, I thought, a touch light on black olive oomph.

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Then came flavoursome merguez sausages served on flatbread with blackened spring onions and an aioli of such garlicky power that Count Dracula is unlikely to want to snog me any time soon.
A little side salad was pleasant.
Opposite was eaten a salad of chicken with butter lettuce, peas, Jersey royals, mint and home-made salad cream.
It was said to be enjoyable but unremarkable – which I regard as a consequence rightly endured by those seeking to eat healthily rather than for pure fun and indulgence.
She who was seeking to eat healthily did, however, help me to finish an accompanying bowl of truly gorgeous fries.

The service

Order food at the bar and it’s bought to your table. You can open tab.
The young staff were helpful, informed and absolutely charming.
Dishes arrived promptly and empty bowls and plates were cleared swiftly.

Need to now

We spent £54 for two for snacks, main courses and two drinks each.
You could eat cheaper by choosing from the bar snacks menu.
The most expensive item on the menu is bavette steak at £15.50.
There’s a Sunday lunch menu.
The place is child friendly.

The Distillery
4 Sheepcote Street, Birmingham B16 8AE. 0121 200 2223.
http://thedistillerybirmingham.co.uk/#about