Cocktail evening inspired by Studio Ghibli review

What I love about this job, is quite simply it continues to expand my mind and knowledge of food, drink and culture, whilst meeting some fascinating people – The Vanguard is a prime example of all that rolled into one.

I attended the pre-opening pop up of The Vanguard in 1000 Trades some months back and I must admit, I wasn’t sure what it was about, I had no preconception of a Mead bar and didn’t know what to expect. So I kind of forgot about it, that is until I dropped in with a friend a few weeks ago.

We ended up chatting to Sam who heads up the show in this new drinking establishment. Sam joined the ranks of Grapevine Brum that evening, and kindly sent an invite to a fascinating event he had planned to celebrate one of his passions. Studio Ghibli, Inc is a Japanese animation film studio based in Koganei, Tokyo, Japan. The studio is best known for its anime feature films and many will have watched their work without realising.

An evening inspired by Studio Ghibli

The Vanguard is a beautiful space situated on the third floor above the equally as unique 1000 Trades bar, on Frederick Street in the Jewellery Quarter.

Think industrial, New York loft style, contemporary, minimal with old metal windows which allow natural light to bath the interior – it’s a place you can escape to, especially if you’ve been unfortunate enough to experience the horrors of a stag party on the roof terrace and flat lager in The Button Factory – The Vanguard is something really special. Let’s hope we see more places like The Vanguard and 1000 Trades in the JQ and keep Broad Street for rowdy gangs of lads on the piss.

Sam makes a great host and grafts his ass off front of house, supported by a team of busy helpers. The bar is small and everyone worked well together pushing out the orders to a happy throng of drinkers who lapped up his creations. I overheard him telling someone he used to be a professional ballet dancer with awards, not sure if this was a joke but I can well imagine it being true anyway as he deals with the flurry of orders calmly and professionally.

The cocktails all looked fantastic, colourful, and enticing, each one coming complete with a Studio Ghibli character on top.

I went through the list:

  • Ponyo – Nikka Gin – Yuzu – Bubbles
  • Howl’s Moving Castle – Calvados, Umeshu, Lemon
  • My Neighbour Totoro – Nikka Gin, Cantaloupe Melon, Watermelon, Cucumber
  • Princess Mononoke – Whisky, Cinnamon, Caramelised Banana, Smoke
  • Spirited Away – Vodka, Asian Pear, Apple, Lemon

The taste for each cocktail was delicate and delicious, each one complimented the other, some sweeter than others, some sharp, and really worth savouring. Sam and his team really do know their stuff and how to present works of art that match the great taste, add to that the ambiance and lovely people enjoying the bar offerings and you have a 10/10 experience right in the heart of this historical quarter.

Just to add authenticity, there were Japanese snacks too. Nori (Seaweed) Rice Crackers, Red Bean Paste Mochi and Green Tea biscuits plus some tiny sugary sweets that reminded me of that 1980s craze ‘nerdz’.

In all a brilliantly curated experience, topped off with a swig of Port. Of course, you can visit The Vanguard for their wide selection of spirits and Mead drinks any time, the Mead beer is superb by the way. Will be back with reinforcements soon. Watch out for their next event and make sure you go..

Review by Nick Byng of Grapevine Birmingham.

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