Things change but stay the same.
The newly-opened bar and kitchen at Wine Freedom in Digbeth brought memories flooding back of Hosteria, a wine bar in Hurst Street that I frequented back in the 1980s as the New Romantic era reached its blusher-fuelled zenith.
It’s a place of which I have many vivid memories – such as the night a bibulous Glaswegian football reporter slipped slowly beneath a table and the rest of us sneaked off, happy to escape the sectarian tirades that, in his cups, he felt compelled to share with those around him.
He was out of place at Hosteria – and would be even more so at Wine Freedom, which is a civilised and convivial space.
Wine Freedom’s clientele are likelier to sport facial hair, tattoos and T-shirts than the eye liner, backcombed hair and frilly shirts of the New Romantics.
But, like Hosteria, it has the feel of a courtyard.
There are lots of plants and rough hewn furniture. It’s ramshackle but in a knowing, good sort of way way.
Central to this venture is, unsurprisingly, the wine.
Wine Freedom is a company that’s been around for a few years now, supplying natural, organic and orange wines from small makers to some very well-respected restaurants and bars.
Its bottles are a whole lot better and interesting than the mass-produced sickly-sweet German whites that I used to bollock back at Hosteria all those years ago.
Its new premises in a former industrial building are part warehouse and part retail outlet.
But there’s also a bar offering wines by the glass and bottle as well plates of cheese, potted pork, bread and home-made pickles.
There are coffees, soft drinks, beer, a few cocktails and soft drinks.
A visit on its first night of trading found the place busy, with a fantastic buzz.
Sam Olive – the main man behind the venture – couldn’t have been more helpful as he guided us through the wine list.
A glass of fizz from the Loire was lovely stuff – zesty and refreshing, but with a a chunky mouth-feel.
I progressed to a glass of Croatian orange wine that was far more refined and elegant that many orange wines I’ve tried. Its flavours were complex and intriguing.
My wife was equally pleased with the perky Cahors malbec that she drank.
Potted pork was rustic in texture and rich in flavour, with a nice hit of paprika.
A couple of cheese were in great condition and worked well with the pickled beetroot and pickled heritage carrots that we ordered.
Bread and butter were of a great standard.
This is a place that’s utterly committed to quality and to helping customers experience new and exciting wines, but is welcoming, relaxed and completely unpretentious.
It’s a place at which I fear I’ll drink a lot of wine and eat a lot of plates of food in the months and years ahead.
And I promise the staff that I won’t abandon any drunken sports reporters beneath their tables any time soon.
Need to know
Wines range from £5 to £8 a glass, with £5 corkage on bottles from Wine Freedom’s range.
You can also buy bottles to take away.
Food varies from £1 to £9 a place and servings are generous.
Check the bar’s operating time – it’s a phased opening.
28 Floodgate Street, Deritend, Birmingham B5 5SL.