Sunday, 29 November 2015

A visit to Buffalo and Rye, Birmingham City Centre

Reviewed by Dee

Buffalo and Rye is a newly opened Bar and Restaurant on Bennett’s Hill just off New Street in Birmingham City Centre.  To quote their web site; “Buffalo & Rye offers a taste of Americana in the centre of Birmingham.  Food-wise we’re talking dirty burgers, gourmet dogs, house smoked meats and all-day brunch.  Whilst with the drinks we cover milkshakes (with or without alcohol to accompany), in-house cocktail creations and US imported beers.”
It is the newest addition to the Bitters ‘n’ Twisted consortium of Midlands based food and drink venues, having opened its doors to the public in mid-November 2015.  Jay and I passed by it a couple of times while it was still being furnished and made a point to investigate once it had opened.
The ideal opportunity presented itself last Friday evening as we needed tea somewhere near to the Wellington, a pub also located on Bennett’s Hill, where I would later be heading to another event.
We arrived at 5.15pm to find the venue busy but not overcrowded.  Luckily we had just beaten the Friday evening rush, and were shown to a table.

The interior of the venue was quite dark, with lots of distressed wood panelling on the walls and floor, and display cases built into the walls containing Pop! Vinyl figurines.  Lighting was low level and the ceiling had de rigueur exposed metal girders.  Seating was organised into long communal tables in the centre of the floor, and smaller tables, at which Jay and I were seated, around the edges.  A well-stocked drinks and cocktail bar was situated in one corner.  There was music playing in the background, though it was difficult to identify much of it as the atmosphere was informal and chatty.  However, I did manage to pick out War’s ‘Low Rider’ and Rufus and Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t nobody’, both favourites of mine.

After we were seated, water was brought to our table, and we were notified of which items on the food menu were sold out.  It was encouraging to see that the sauce selection on the table included one from fellow Birmingham based business Pip’s Hot Sauce. 

The serving staff were attentive without being intrusive and maintained this standard throughout the evening, even with a full venue.

The food menu was divided into Hot Buns, Pit Smoked Meats, Salad Bowls, Gourmet Dogs, All-Day Brunches and Sides.  Vegetarian options were available in all categories apart from the Pit Smoked Meats.  There were quite a few enticing sounding choices so in the end we decided to choose together and share everything.  We chose a half rack of St Louis Ribs, a Buffalo Black Burger and side orders of Mac n Cheese and Parmesan Fries.  The food took a while to arrive but it was Friday evening and the venue was almost full by the time we’d put the order in.

The ribs were served topped with a subtly smooth sauce and accompanied by red cabbage and freshly grated carrot in a cumin and vinaigrette dressing.  The portion size was about right but we found the ribs to be a little on the dry side A combination of light charring on the outside and juiciness on the inside with a strongly flavoured, punchy sauce were more what we were looking for.
A side order of Cajun Spiced Fries, with salt and thyme predominating, was also included.

The Burger we chose, the Buffalo Black was described as having two beef patties, black pudding, burger cheese and sautéed onions, all inside a soft sesame bun.   Taste wise, the burger patties were cooked medium, as advertised, the distinctive soft burger cheese was nicely melted and the onions quite chunky and well sautéed.  The black pudding, which should have been the star of the meal, was only represented as a small slice and didn’t really make its presence felt, which meant that the burger was only good instead of being great.
The little red plastic basket and waxed paper that the burger was served in came in useful for the unavoidably messy eating experience.
The Parmesan Fries that accompanied the burger were also salty but slightly less so than the Cajun ones.  We’d asked for these to come without the Truffle Oil that they were advertised with, on account of Jay’s intense dislike of it, and that was accommodated without any problems.

The final part of the meal, the Mac 'n' Cheese, was superb.  Served in a metal tray with no frills whatsoever; just small pasta shapes in a simple but rich cheese sauce, baked in the oven to give the top a nice golden brown colour and slight crunchy texture.  Well worth the £4 we paid for it.

The drinks menu was geared towards Cocktails and Hard Shakes, all of which were in-keeping with the Americana-style branding.  All of these sounded tempting and looked it too.  They were served in a range of glasses, but all conventional ones.  Quirkiness is not the done thing here.  Looking beyond the house specialities will reveal some very reasonably priced wines.  The cheapest bottle was £14.50 and the most expensive £22.  Champagne was £40 a bottle.  We decided to order beers though.  The menu offered a choice of ten beers and one cider, most of which I hadn’t heard of before.  Jay chose a familiar Estrella Damm lager but I went for a Fire Rock Pal Ale.  Brewed in Hawaii by the Kona Brewing Company, it had a light copper colour and strong taste with a pronounced maltiness.  A good choice.

We had to skip dessert due to being pushed for time, but I recall there being two choices out of four available; a Knickerbocker Brownie and a slice of Key Lime Pie.  Had we been able to stay I dare say we would have ordered one of each.  

The bill arrived when requested and was presented in a Golden Virginia tobacco tin.  The grand total for the food and drinks was £34.95 which we both considered to be very reasonable for a city centre venue. 

On the whole, we were happy with our evening.  We felt that we’d been well looked after, we weren’t over-faced with the food and drink, and the final bill hadn’t broken the bank.

This would be an ideal venue for a group of friends to enjoy a relaxed and informal evening of food and drink, with the added bonus of supporting a growing local business. 

Buffalo and Rye should do well in the future and we wish them all the best.

Click here to visit the Buffalo and Rye web site

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