Bitters ‘n’ Twisted are a phenomenally popular name in the Birmingham scene. With sister bars The Victoria, Bodega, The Rose Villa Tavern, The Jekyll and Hyde, Island Bar and The New Inn in Harborne, they’ve expanded the family to open Marmalade; a bar and bistro inside the Birmingham REP theatre.
With thick curtains framing a gorgeous night time view of bustling Broad Street outside, it’s quirky and cosy on the inside. Over-sized lampshades with purposely exposed wiring for that industrial touch, sturdy wooden furniture and funky old-school tiling on the walls, this place instantly feels homely and instantly attracts the Bitters 'N' Twisted fan to their subtle but charming quirks. In fact, the entire experience is designed to feel as such.
The Food and Drink
In true B’n’T style, there’s a cocktail menu that’s far from the old classics. My co-reviewer had a Strawberry and Pepper Daiquiri, and I had the Blackberry Julep (£6); a cheeky whisky number. 10/10 for presentation as you’d expect, with a pretty peppery kick to the Daiquiri, while my cocktail was a bold and mature whisky whiff; even with fresh fruit and mint leaves in the mix.
The starters, for me, were the best part. We had the Venison Carpaccio (£6.75) and the Margarita salmon. Both came out looking stunning. We followed with some small plates. Between us, we tried the coffee-infused lamb, fish fritters, duck samosas and chicken thighs with lentils. The lamb was our favourite; the coffee is subtle, but really adds depth. But for me, I would say it all needs a touch of seasoning to lift those flavours.
The staff all recommended the lasagne from the main meal section, and they were kind enough to give us a taster – this was hearty and delicious. A melt-in-the-mouth mix of slow cooked beef rib in a gorgeous thick ragu, with lashings of Gruyere. I’ll admit we didn’t try the vegetarian options, but it should be noted that the selection on offer is well thought out and much more exciting than your usual run-of-the-mill veggie choices.
The Atmosphere and Clientele
Theatre-goers. Sounds simple, but in reality this could be anyone in Birmingham. The show of the evening seems to generally dictate what clientele are booking in, from families with kids, to a slightly older audience, to couples and younger folk. A charming buzz is more than apparent, and the dining style definitely suits its relaxed atmosphere.
This is a good venue and the service is fantastic. What you must appreciate is that on any given night, the clientele at the REP can and will be varied. The challenge is pleasing such an unpredictable audience and, actually, the menu is cleverly designed to meet these needs. This is why I think the flavours are downplayed; they grab your attention on the menu, but they have to be subtle enough to be pleasing to many people. Would you bring your parents or partner here for a pleasant meal pre-theatre? Absolutely.