They say a Horseshoe brings good luck - at The Horseshoe Bar and Restaurant in Hall Green it brings the very best Indian Cuisine

Bored of the same old city centre eateries claiming to be Birmingham’s best Indian restaurant, The Birmingham Gazette decided to visit the infamous Horseshoe Bar and Restaurant which really does have a reputation as serving Birmingham’s finest, authentic Indian cuisine.

Whether you’re in the mood for a glass of Merlot, or feeling adventurous and want to try something different like their spiced Mojito Cocktail, the owner was only too happy to show us around the impressive interiors and warm and cosy atmosphere the venue has since its recent refurbishment.

Based in Hall Green, the Horseshoe has all the comforts of a modern country pub with the added benefit of being close to the city centre and most commuting routes within Birmingham. There’s also ample parking which caters for both the bar and restaurant and lavish banqueting hall next door.

There are a variety of menus at the Horseshoe but after speaking with the owner for a few minutes we decide to go for the Indian dining menu.

With such an array of mouth-watering dishes, we needed some help to choose. We opted for a platter of both vegetarian and meat starters that gave broad range of North Indian flavours and combinations. As a meat eater I enjoyed the tiger king prawns, the honey giving them a gentle sweetness with kick of chilli added for good measure. 

These were succulent and juicy and went perfectly with both a Barrah Kebab of baby lamb chops, marinated in yoghurt, ginger and garlic coupled with chicken tikka in achari marinade and roasted in a tandoor.  My friend Swapon loved his vegetarian option of a Hara Bhara Kebab. These were spinach and fenugreek patties lightly filled with cheese, onion and coriander. Using just the right amount of spices, these left you wanting more and a bharwan aloo was an excellent finishing touch, the stuffed potato with raisins and nuts leaving a deliciously sweet aftertaste on the tongue.

The owner took time to explain how many of the top Indian restaurants that win so many awards often have a common flaw, and The Birmingham Gazette happened to agree. Indian restaurants can often claim to be 100% authentic but their head chefs aren’t even from India. India is a sublime fusion of the west and the east, in the most delicate and subtle ways the Horseshoe definitely comes up top trumps as our number one Indian restaurant after our delightful experience. 

The key the owner tells us is in this authenticity. Chefs are firstly from India, and second have worked in some of the finest restaurants in Delhi making for a truly unforgettable selection of starters.

The Chilli and Spice Restaurant offers the very best North Indian cuisine, led by the majesty and five star experience of Chef Chandra Shekhar Raturi.

Our table was booked on a Saturday evening and it was great to see the restaurant at a traditionally quiet time of year with such a buzzing ambience. The restaurant was packed out but surprisingly enough the service kept up with the pace effortlessly. Our waitress and the Manager spent time making sure that we had everything we needed, even a top up of mango chutney to accompany my starter.

Onto the mains, it had to be said that this is an even more difficult choice. The Raarah Gosht  is a classic Punjabi recipe of boneless lamb in keema curry. This went incredibly well wrapped in pieces of Laccha Parantha, Pudina or Ajwain – an aromatic layered bread  made with whole-wheat flour.

A bespoke story: The renaissance of the high street tailor

Ever since Caesar himself took to the stage in his fine white silk robes, delivering “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” to his kingdom or the Knights of the Round Table went out to battle in their bespoke chain-mail suits of armour, the tailor has existed.

Throughout the centuries the art form grew shape and became a trade for the upper echelons of society to relish. Gentlemen visited their tailor whenever an important formal or high society social occasion presented itself. Sailors, captains on long voyages across the oceans would haggle with cloth merchants on the Nile, and from Arabia to the Far East, travelling colonials would sample and barter to obtain the finest fabrics to bring home to England. 

It was there that materials were taken to the first tailors. The Aristocratic hierarchy was easily recognisable by what shawl you wore, the cloth that made up your attire, the cut of your collar or the monogram on your cuff. This was the art of bespoke tailoring. In the mid 18th to early 19th Centuries most of the population were living in poverty and could barely afford clean, new rags let alone a tailor made costume or outfit.

The Golden Age of tailoring was in the times of those such as Oscar Wilde who believed that “the artistic feeling of a nation should find expression in its costume quite as much as in its architecture”. A narrator of the Victorian era, Wilde lived through the birth of the tailor, when Britain’s colonial power was reflected by its craftsmanship in cloth. Those that lived amongst the upper classes had a tailor that would visit them in their home but by the late 19th Century Henry Poole and others like him saw the human shape as a work of art to be explored and exploited for all. In the backstreets of London, it was Jermyn Street and Saville Row that put London on the map for housing the finest tailors in the whole kingdom. Each millimetre of the frame required an individual measurement, nip or tuck to be perfected. The common man could now have a pair of trousers, or a shirt crafted to their own unique style and fit. This you could say, was the birth of high street fashion but it was far from what we see today. A tailors shop welcomed a certain calibre of individual from a groom to the local bank manager or even a politicians, gentlemen all over Britain were visiting their tailors for that extra fitted cut or feather soft fabric. The tailors of the day walked along Oxford street feared by the masses for their eccentric style and accessorising luxury, boasting stovepipe hats, umbrellas and bourgeois business attire.

In the 1970s tailors sprang up right around the UK, Burtons was first known on the high street for making clothes to measure. Bespoke fashion, not to be mistaken with made to measure is aimed at the higher end of the market, hand made with each slice of fabric cut by the trained and expert eye of a master tailor. Made to Measure is a more affordable and highly popular choice deployed with the use of sewing machines and faster production rates, requiring just a single fitting before being manufactured. The matter of which to go for is a matter of continuous debate and therefore for another time.

By 2009 the world of celebrity, catwalks and growth in mass media led to a frenzy in bespoke fashion - from Obama wearing a woollen two button in twill to James Bond’s iconic black wool three piece. In Birmingham it seems, there is a man who is responsible for igniting a renaissance in tailoring, and he happens to be one of the countries youngest and most ambitious fashion designers.

At first you could venture into Selfridges, with its high priced labels straight out of Saville Row that carry the badge of quality but don’t always cater for the common man. Or perhaps you could venture to Yusuf’s, one of the last remaining master tailors outside of the Capital.

Or, you could try Benjamin’s Bespoke Shirt Makers and Tailors owned by Benjamin Vaughan, one of the most enterprising entrepreneurs rising up as I write. Bravely launching a bespoke boutique at the height of the recession, Benjamin has made shirts for both your everyday fashion savvy gentleman and also for local celebrities and key business figures alike. He is no stranger to the world of high fashion. An apprentice to the great Frank Rostron in Manchester, Benjamin learned his craft from the bottom up and has the passion and energy of a rising Ralph Lauren or the male Vivian Westwood. Benjamin is able to ignite flare in his customers, allowing them to design and create a shirt, suit, jacket or hand made tie that reflects their individual style and personality. 

Using mainly UK based manufacturers Benjamin takes his customers on a journey of self discovery and his boundless youth and enthusiasm has created quite a stir having drawn visitors from right across the Midlands and afar. Word is that even members of the House of Lords have registered interest in his products. 

When examining the secret to his success Benjamin is quick to argue that it’s been no mean feat. He said, “We’re only just emerging from a recession and I started at the heart of it. It takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears to launch a successful business but you have to know your customers. I spend time getting to know each of them personally and have never really taken a hard sell approach. When people visit me, we often have a coffee and I allow them the freedom to browse through the fabric swatches and material books.

Vaughan’s tailoring is classic but inspiring and energetic, by this he means that a colourful mix of breathtaking fabrics and a rich palette of solids, bold stripes and unmatched customer service make for the perfect garment. 

So is the time ripe for a new wave of High Street tailors in the UK? “I don’t honestly know,” says Benjamin. “There’s definitely a renewed interest in men taking pride in their appearance, plus an emphasis on personalised, value-added service in many retail sectors; wanting a shirt or suit that fits perfectly is a natural extension of these trends.” 

For now, this genius mind has orders to attend to, with four metres of mohair to cut for one client, two wedding suits to finish for an Indian customer, another to call about his completed shirt and, most importantly, “the kettle to put on for a tea break”. There’s nothing it seems like the great British traditions.

Benjamin Vaughan can be found by appointment only by visiting

Filini, Radisson BLU Hotel, Holloway Circus, Birmingham. 0121 654 6000

For those that remember one of Birmingham’s best loved city bars, Circo was a venue that brought musical greats from around the world to the 2nd city. When it closed down a tall contemporary tower rose from the ground with an ocean coloured shimmer to its exterior and people all over the West Midlands wondered what the new venue was. 

Now, a few years on and the Radisson Blu is one of our favourite hotels, internationally recognised for its epic facia and slick and stylish rooms that boast the best views in Birmingham, the Radisson also has a secret weapon – it’s infamous restaurant Filini. 

Ever since it opened it had a plethora of great chefs from Chris Duffy to Jonathan Parnell much of the restaurants success can be paid to the excellent ingredients it uses. 

When we arrive restaurant services manager Florien is there waiting to greet us. He knows everything there is to know about Filini and takes time to guide us through the wine and food list before introducing us to our excellent waitress Natalie. 

Already on the table are some giant olives complete with a selection of homemade breads which consist of wafer thin scented breads, gorgeously doughy focaccia and some lightly baked bread sticks which come complete with a dipping sauce of balsamic vinegar and oils. 

My partner decides on a non alcoholic cocktail with apple and raspberries and I opt for a 2007 glass of Riserva, Mezzacorona (Trentino). This is a Pinot Grigio with a complex fragrance of well-matured fruit which is just the right balance to have with my starter,Insalata di calamari al peperoncino. This dish is delicately seasoned and the squid is tender and juicy. The chilli oil gives it a kick but the refreshing Riserva wine washes this down to perfection. 

Antipasti di verdure is more to my other halves fancy. This is a mixed vegetarian starter with Grilled aubergine, zucchini, roast peppers, marinated mushrooms, lentil salad, green beans & bruschetta with vine ripe tomatoes. This is a great dish for sharing to and allows room for a dessert, not being too heavy. 

Inside the restaurant the interior is warm and elegant with draping curtains that hang from the high ceiling to the roaring wood burning over that is a centrepiece for the eyes while you watch fresh pizzas bubble and cook. Filini has an aromatic fusion of flavours that is the trademark of Italian cuisine. Filini, which refers to matchstick-thin pasta, is a key aspect of an innovative culinary philosophy. The concept was designed by Roy Ackerman and is based on the premise that meals should be simple and authentic. 

On to the main, our waitress Natalie guides me toward the beef which cooked medium is too tempting not to try. I also decided to go for the highly recommended mashed spuds, spiked with garlic and parmesan, which were of perfect texture and flavour. A glass of 2005 Sicilian Shiraz was a great friend to bring out the best flavours of the meat. 

Of course, the interior d├ęcor swayed my partner, she took one look at the open view Italian wood burning oven and decided on a freshly baked Margherita - pomodoro, mozzarella e basilica. This arrived with the cheese visibly melting wonderfully and the edges just curling on the plate. 

After the delights of the best creamed garlic mash mixed with the aged well beef I still felt like something savoury which led me to tasting a plate of cheeses some warm and other soft and cool. My partners’ sweet tooth and a recommendation by Natalie helped her choose her dessert, a stunning chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream, the fondant exploding out its warm and sticky treats once the sponge had been broken through. 

To book a table call now, 0121 654 6000.

NatWest Shirley team supports Acorns Hospice

Fundraisers for Acorns Children’s Hospice in Birmingham were delighted to receive a cheque for £1,225 following a number of charity events undertaken by the team from the NatWest in Shirley.

The NatWest team are very much aware of the important work Acorns does in providing a network of care for life limited and life threatened children, young people and their families, and wanted to do something to help. With this in mind, the team lead by branch manager Laura Gravenor organised a series of fundraising events. These raised the £1,225 which has been presented to the charity.

Laura Gravenor, Branch Manager of NatWest Shirley, said: ‘Acorns is an important local charity which provides help to so many children and young people. They rely on donations to make a difference so we were determined to raise as much money as we could to help. I would like to say a big thank you to our friends, colleagues and customers who kindly supported us.’

John Carter, NatWest’s Local CEO for Solihull and East Staffordshire, added: ‘The fundraising was a great team effort as well as a lot of fun. Most importantly it raised some vital funds. I am determined that my colleagues and I will continue to support good causes such as Acorns and make a real difference at the heart of the communities we serve.’

The National Golf Show comes to Birmingham

Visitors to this year’s National Golf Show will be able to experience the complete world of golf, all at Birmingham’s NEC from 20-22 April 2012.
This year’s show will give a comprehensive insight into both the technical and lifestyle sides of the sport, with a wide range of exhibitors displaying everything from equipment to clothing to travel destinations. There will be tuition packages, PGA coaches and even designated chipping and putting practice areas. As well as this, help and advice will be given by experts on the health and nutrition aspects of the sport, custom fittings and club testing, and the latest golf gadgets.

If it is entertainment that you are looking for there will be a number of trick show displays, competitions and prizes, the latest fashions, exclusive offers and plenty of fun for golfers of all levels.

Supported by some of the biggest and best household names in golf, you’ll also be able to test and buy the newest equipment on the show’s 16 driving bays, including Callaway, Taylor Made, Cleveland, Yonex, Wilson Nike and Mizuno.

Finally, visitors will also be given the opportunity to watch and interact with a number of expert speakers, knowledgeable PGA professionals and some special, celebrity guests.

Tickets are now available priced at £12 per adult, £18 for two. One Junior (Under 14’s) will also be admitted free when accompanied by an adult ticket holder. Tickets are available from The Ticket Factory: or 0844 338 8000. For a group of 6, the cost is £48 available on 0800 358 0058 (all tickets are subject to booking and transaction fees).

Birmingham's own DJ Marc Spence reaches for new heights

Back in the day, Marc was scouted by some of the biggest music venue owners in Birmingham. His quick wit and loveable character made him the perfect face for many a Brum club night. Before long he was the head promoter at venues spanning right across the 2nd city, but this was just a stepping stone for Marc aka Spenna’s real passion, music.

At the age of 21, Marc had a vision that he wanted to perform to thousands as he loved music, and loved seeing people having a good time. Despite CDJs already being adopted by many of the cities venues, Marc understood that to gain real respect on the DJ scene you had to learn on the age old technics 1210s.

With a strong armoury of beats, playing everything from Electro, Tech, Dubstep, Drum&Bass, even hip hop The Birmingham Gazette was pleased to see Spenna doing so well. We caught up with him to see how everything had being getting on.

TBG: What’s been happening for you over the last couple of years?

Marc: It’s been amazing to be fair. I’ve been lucky enough to earn some great residencies at nights like RHouse, Switch, If…U Want It, and it’s just been getting better and better.

TBG: It’s great to see you’re in demand. Tell us about your recent work.

Marc: I can’t be happier. I have been playing sets at B1, the infamous FACE, Eclectricity – at the old Sanctuary (HMV Institute). I have also been having great fun as a resident at Rocknrolla which is seeing great things happen since the recent launch of The Rooftop.

TBG: So what were some of the highlights of 2011.

Marc: It began with the midnight set at Gods Kitchen’s New Years Eve bash where I got the chance to warm up for DJ Zinc, obviously Global Gathering in the summer and last but not least playing at Space this summer.

TBG: Already you’ve played alongside top names like David Guetta in Pacha Ibiza, Sub Focus, Chase & Status, Laidback Luke, D Ramirez, Example, Sidney Sampson, Funkagenda, Riva Starr, Micky Slim, Will Bailey, Kenny Dope, Jack Beats, Jamie Jones, Lee Foss the list goes on and on but tell us about some of your other influences.
Marc: In recent times, I’ve been heavily focussing on producing my own beats, and artists like Jesse Rose, Trevor Loveys, Mowgli, Dj Shadow and Neptunes have all influenced the way I write music and also how it sounds.

TBG: You’ve already had a number of releases out on Warehouse, Blocbeats, Beatdown, Universe and with a forth coming EP on Simma as well as already having done official remixes for Kelis - Brave (Interscope) and a host of other local artists. What’s next for you music wise?

Marc: Hot off the press I am pleased to announce that myself and good friend Danny Kane created the alias Jakkin Rabbit and our recent track - Blame, was signed to major label Hot Creations on a digital and vinyl release which managed to climb to no.15 in the beatport download charts as well as receiving major support from many big name DJs. By far the biggest achievement was getting some air time on Pete Tong’s legendary Radio One essential selection.

TBG: That’s what we like to hear. Can you tell us how people can get in touch or follow you?

For bookings you can email

Birmingham's high speed railway network likely to go ahead

The Transport Secretary Justine Greening has today released this statement on high speed rail, which she will base her speech to the House of Commons on.
The consultation High Speed Rail: Investing in Britain’s Future was one of the largest national consultations ever undertaken by the Department for Transport. 54,909 responses were received, from individuals, businesses and organisations across the country. It is clear from the consultation that a national high speed rail network - High Speed 2 - generates strong feelings, both in favour and against the scheme.
Since becoming Secretary of State for Transport I have taken time to consider all aspects of the consultation proposals and the evidence arising from both consultation responses and further work undertaken or commissioned by my Department and HS2 Ltd. This statement summarises my decisions.
I have decided Britain should embark upon the most significant transport infrastructure project since the building of the motorways by supporting the development and delivery of a new national high speed rail network. By following in the footsteps of the 19th century railway pioneers, the Government is signalling its commitment to providing 21st century infrastructure and connections – laying the groundwork for long-term, sustainable economic growth.
High Speed 2 (HS2) is a scheme to deliver hugely enhanced rail capacity and connectivity between Britain’s major conurbations. It is the largest transport infrastructure investment in the UK for a generation, and, with the exception of High Speed 1 (HS1), is the first major new railway line since the Victorian era.
The HS2 Y network will provide direct, high capacity, high speed links between London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, with intermediate stations in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire. There will also be direct links to Heathrow Airport and to the Continent via the HS1 line. It will form a foundation for a potentially wider high speed network in years to come.
HS2 will be built in two phases to ensure that the benefits of high speed rail are realised at the earliest possible opportunity. The line from London to the West Midlands and the connection to HS1 are expected to open in 2026, followed, in 2032-33, by the onward legs to Manchester and Leeds and the connection to Heathrow. The capital cost at 2011 prices of building the complete Y network is £32.7 billion. At present values, it will generate benefits of up to £47 billion and fare revenues of up to £34 billion over a 60-year period.
The benefits of HS2 will extend beyond the network itself; links to current lines will enable direct trains to run to cities such as Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh and, with long-distance services transferring to the new network, space will be freed up for new commuter, regional and freight services on other lines, opening up new opportunities for Britain’s existing railways. Links to key urban transport networks, such as Crossrail, will help to spread the benefits further still.
HS2 is entirely consistent with the Government’s objectives for carbon emissions. Electrified rail is a comparatively low-carbon mode of transport, especially with the continued decarbonisation of the grid. Speed increases power consumption, but also makes HS2 more attractive to those currently flying or driving. The faster journeys on HS2 - Edinburgh and Glasgow will be just 3.5 hours from London - could transfer around 4.5 million journeys per year who might otherwise have travelled by air and 9 million from the roads. HS2 will also create more rail capacity on existing conventional speed lines for freight – removing lorries from our busy trunk roads. HS2 is therefore an important part of transport’s low-carbon future.
In securing these benefits for our country, I am committed to developing a network with the lowest feasible impacts on local communities and the natural environment. I have been mindful that we must safeguard the natural environment as far as possible, both for the benefit of those enjoying our beautiful countryside today and for future generations.
People living along the line of route highlighted particular concerns and provided constructive and thoughtful comments about the London to West Midlands route proposed at consultation. Following careful study by my engineers I can announce a package of alterations to further reduce the route’s impacts. The changes mean that more than half the route will now be mitigated by tunnel or cutting and there will also be a reduction in the impacts on people and communities, ancient woodlands and important heritage sites.
The changes include:

•A longer, continuous tunnel from Little Missenden to the M25 through the Chilterns;

•A new 2.75 mile (4.4 km) bored tunnel along the Northolt Corridor to entirely avoid major works to the Chilterns Line and impacts on local communities in the Ruislip area;

•A longer green tunnel past Chipping Warden and Aston Le Walls, and to curve the route to avoid a cluster of important heritage sites around Edgcote; and,

•A longer green tunnel to significantly reduce impacts around Wendover, and an extension to the green tunnel at South Heath.

The revised route offers considerable improvements to communities, with the number of dwellings at risk of land take almost halving and the number experiencing increased noise levels reducing by a third. Despite these improvements to limit the negative impacts of the line, HS2 will inevitably affect some homeowners, communities and businesses. To help those affected, we will bring in a package of measures, which are over and above what affected homeowners are already entitled to under law. These include:

•A streamlined purchase scheme to simplify the statutory blight process for property owners;

•A sale and rent back scheme to give homeowners within the safeguarded area more flexibility;

•A streamlined small claims scheme for construction damage which will allow individuals and businesses who are entitled to compensation under existing law to claim it more quickly and simply;

•A package of measures to reinforce confidence in properties above tunnels. Homeowners will be offered before and after surveys, a thorough assessment of the impact of similar tunnels, an explanation of the measures that will be taken to prevent perceptible vibration impacts, financial compensation for the compulsory purchase of subsoil, and a legally binding promise that HS2 will be permanently responsible for resolving any related settlement or subsidence issues; and,

•A refreshed hardship-based property purchase scheme.

Finally, we will work constructively with local authorities along the line of route to minimise the negative consequences of HS2 and maximise the benefits.

In November I announced the Triennial Review of HS2 Ltd, and in making my decision I have accepted the finding that HS2 Ltd is the appropriate body to continue undertaking this work.

Today I have presented to Parliament a full account of my decisions titled High Speed Rail: Investing in Britain’s Future – Decisions and Next Steps. My Department has published a series of supporting documents which set out in further detail the basis on which I ha
ve reached my decisions.