Our first blog post comes from friend of Nicholsons, and blogger, Ailsa Renk. Whilst studying at university in Birmingham, Ailsa has authored her own lifestyle blog, Common Toff, and she recently took time out of her busy schedule to pay a visit to our new Yurt Café. Here is what she had to say:
Obviously Birmingham is brilliant, it offers the wonders of public transport that Cherwell Valley seems to so considerably lack. It is also home to some really exciting restaurants, bars and cafes… and I make it my mission to visit them all in order to review them on Common Toff (oh such a hardship).
However, what the concrete jungle cannot offer is fresh air, considerable areas of genuinely, naturally pretty greenness, or a yurt for that matter. In all the weird and wonderful adventures I have had in this city, I have never come across a café in a super glamorous tent. Therefore, the prospect of such an intriguing project has been bubbling with anticipation in the back of my mind since the Nicholson’s first suggested the project. As soon as I heard the news of its opening on the 16th February, I hopped on a train and made the journey back into the leafy green Oxfordshire valley and headed over to North Aston to experience lunch in a beautifully decorated Nomadic canvas structure.
It seems to me that the yurt is all the craze at the moment. Despite middle England being somewhat of a different context to Central Asia, the yurt has graced us with its presence as the glamping accommodation of choice at many an English festival. Nobody can deny how fancy the yurt bedroom looked in Bridget Jones’ Baby. So I suppose opening a café in this new fashionable phenomenon is the next logical step. I had my doubts, I maybe couldn’t quite envisage it. But actually, having visited, I absolutely advocate the idea!
Nicholson’s Nurseries are about the outdoors and a trip to their site is always a little treat. A lot of us will have spent many an entertaining hour browsing the name tags of Christmas trees or exploring the various aisles of plant life on offer. A visit to Nicholson’s is a pleasant one, the Cotswold stone and beautiful wooden structures create a peaceful ambience that I would often compare with that of Daylesford or Soho Farmhouse. And in this sophisticated, outdoors, country environment, the cream canvas yurt sits perfectly; it belongs. The quaintly penned signposts set the path to the home of some really delicious food, and an even lovelier atmosphere.
Anybody that knows of the Rosara range can probably picture just how elegantly quirky the yurt’s interior is. The central point is marked by a beautiful, tall pom pom tree, serving as a reminder of the outdoor/indoors scenario you are dining in. Because actually this is quite easy to forget. Contrary to expectation, there are no chilly drafts, the inside is beautifully light and made warm by the surrounding twinkles of fairylights. You may take your seat at a long bench table around the edge of the yurt or claim an intricately floral wooden stool in the central ring. I felt as though there was something Midsummer Night’s Dream about the magic of the place- it felt both civilised and sophisticated as well as peculiar and adventurous.
The menu offers a tantalising array of unusual meals, delicate cakes and treats and delicious drinks or coffees. My lunching partner chose a plate of cold roasted beef with blue cheese, caramelised onions and crunchy salad, whilst I devoured a bowl of tomato and celery soup with quails eggs and Italian flatbread. Both of us found our meals to be utterly scrumptious, with flavours or foods that may not be conventionally put together but that worked so well. Nicholson’s have chosen a chef who is clearly passionate about, and brilliantly successful in experimenting with their cooking. This is also reflected in their plan to have regularly changing menus, always offering new options to try.
The waiting staff are lovely, willing to cater to any need or want you might have and also happy to just have a friendly chat. To have somebody take your order, and do so with a smile and with conversation is what I always seek to find in cafes, particularly independent ones. The yurt has hit the nail on the head with this, and it made my experience all the more delightful.
I feel I may struggle to find anywhere with such endearing and sentimental quirks as The Yurt at Nicholsons back here in Birmingham, but that’s all the more reason to journey home every now and then! And I have no doubt that anybody living in the nearby area will adore a new, convenient and happy place to meet for coffee or enjoy a quick but gorgeous bite to eat. If you haven’t yet been, what are you waiting for? It’s not every day that you can munch through some rose cake with olive oil ice cream in a yurt… or maybe that’s now exactly the opportunity we do have!
We would like to say thank you to Ailsa for writing this lovely blog post, if you would like to read more of her wonderful work click the link: Common Toff