GULP & Crazy Gin review by Ning-ning Li

As if you didn’t love Brum enough already, this one concretes that very feeling.

We happened upon something special that Saturday evening, owing to Birmingham-based artist Kaye Winwood whose concept for her immersive studio is wonderfully unique. Kaye invites people to experience food like they never have before. Her project inspires diners to experience their food by utilising all human senses to engage as organically as possible with what’s in front of us. And cleverly, she has accomplished so by conjoining with other artists, chefs and entrepreneurs. A recipe to dance for!

Kaye has transformed her studio which comprises four rooms: a studio, a kitchen, bathroom and the dining room. Kaye renovated the studio herself, creating an intimate and self-sufficient setting. I really enjoyed the choice of furniture with the light acting as a piece of art itself, beaming down to the fun and shiny iridescent tablecloth. Nine of us ate together that night around one table, including our hosts who joined in at parts! We introduced ourselves and learnt about each other as the evening went on.

This particular time, we as guests had the pleasure of meeting Paramjit and Bruce from ‘Crazy Gin’, who collaborated with Kaye to bring a seven-course meal that all three of them cooked together, paired with cocktails made with their branded gin. ‘Crazy Gin’ we were told, was born from a tipsy idea one night when Paramjit and Bruce decided they wanted to capture the essence of their British-Indian identity after a (sadly) disappointing Indian takeaway. The collaboration between Kaye and the ‘Crazy Gin’ team gave each person a platform to showcase flavours and concepts in an refreshing and boundless way.

For me, it was a perfect representation of what Birmingham is; Diversity! It welcomed a celebration of everyone’s passions, differences, history, heritage, and what connects us all.

From the beginning, the dishes and drinks were brought to life as all three hosts wove their stories of reason, memories and knowledge each time a course was brought out.

As Paramjit and Bruce hold pride in their identity as British and Indian, they aimed to express this by encapsulating flavours from their heritage within the dishes and cocktails which were executed artistically and imaginatively. You could clearly see that Paramjit, Bruce and Kaye must have had a lot of fun putting the journey together! All senses were to be felt and focused upon, making the whole thing a mindful, enthralling adventure.

One of the dishes required us making it on top of our own hands; using lime, a parsley leaf, chutney, sauces, popped rice…and gulp! All in one. For another, we had to lick two different tiles – one savoury tile with sauce in a line and the second with a mixture of sweet delights. One lick upwards, and there it was – everything you need to know! For one of the larger dishes, the food was served on a handmade clay plate which actually emulated that of a chapati, which we were delighted by. We loved to find that these were individually made by another local artist Kaye had commissioned. The whole thing felt like a domino effect of beautifully inclusive new ideas and creativity.

And that’s what I loved overall: For me, it was a perfect representation of what Birmingham is; Diversity! It welcomed a celebration of everyone’s passions, differences, history, heritage, and what connects us all.

The whole occasion felt humble and down to earth; anyone could enjoy the abstract and experimental elements of what these guys were doing without feeling inferior to understanding food and drink beyond our usual day-to-day. The relaxed nature of the delivery opened the table up for discussions and we didn’t hold back from being inquisitive and asking questions. I loved that the hosts came out to explain and even join in with the dinner, the atmosphere was truly alive and still personal!

As much as the evening was showcasing food and drink in a really imaginative way, I felt welcomed into the hosts’ cultures and ideas which they had all passionately expressed through such an interesting project. I walked away feeling very proud of the city we were in.

Thanks to Kaye and her collaborators week in and week out, we the people of Birmingham have an extraordinary story landed at our doorstep. This is a must, to experience. If you are open to pushing your boundaries beyond the norm of a sit-down meal then you will have so much fun! And it won’t only be the dinner that whisks you away, but perhaps the array of new friends you make around that special supper table of eight.

Words by Ning-ning Li @ningningli for Grapevine. *photos © by Ning-ning Li