Thai time for new restaurant

Chain set to open in Sutton Coldfield

A specialist Thai restaurant chain, which prides itself on its tapas-style simplicity and ethical approach to business, is to open its doors in Sutton Coldfield.

A spokesperson for Giggling Squid, which offers ‘simple, rustic, fresh Thai food,’ confirmed the company is set to move into Mulberry Walk in Mere Green.

It will join a diverse group of restaurants operating in Mulberry Walk and Mere Green, with a specialist offering of Thai food.

It will take over the former Gustos restaurant which closed last year, subject to planning approval.

Giggling Squid opened its first restaurant in 2009 and currently operate over 35 restaurants, including an establishment in Harborne, Birmingham, employing around 900 employees who are all directly employed rather than agency staff.

The brand founded by husband and wife Andrew and Pranee Laurillard,  prides itself on serving ‘staggeringly good Thai food.’

Pranee said: “My husband and I sat in the basement of a tiny, tiny fisherman’s cottage (now our Brighton restaurant!) way back in 2002 and pulled together our first Thai Tapas menu.

” Our idea was to cook simple, rustic, fresh Thai food. We wanted a menu that people could eat like they do at home. In Thailand, mealtimes are all about lots of dishes that everyone shares.”

The opening date has not been confirmed yet, but all of its other venues will open for dine-in guests on Monday 17th May. A typical selection of what it offers can be found here

The group say it is proud to its ethical manner and works to key values such as integrity, quality and treating everyone fairly and this ethos runs through our business decisions including employment policies and supply chain management.

In a statement on its website, Giggling Squid says: “We have long-standing, close relationships with suppliers and prioritise quality and provenance. We continue to monitor suppliers that we believe may present high modern slavery risks in our supply chain.

“We are committed to continuously improving our practices to eliminate any slavery and human trafficking in the supply chain and to act ethically and with integrity in all business relationships.

“Over the course of the next financial year we will be implementing new policies, training and key performance indicators to help us identify, prevent and mitigate any risks of modern slavery or human trafficking in relation to new and existing suppliers and in relation to our own operations.”

A statement from Gustos said COVID-19 has had a significant impact on its business, like many in the industry, and it had to make the incredibly tough decision to close four of its restaurants in order to protect the future of Gusto.


Cutting knife crime in Sutton Coldfield

Weapon found as police launch Operation Sceptre

Police in Sutton Coldfield have recovered a knife from the town’s railway station as part of a week-long campaign.

Knife crime is a serious issue in many parts of the country and has tragic consequences and creates too many victims.

West Midlands Police are conducting Operation Sceptre and the week long campaign will see officers conducting weapon sweeps, knife arch operations , and extra high visibility patrols.

They have been working alongside colleagues from the British Transport. The knife was recovered on Monday morning by neighbourhood team officers from Sutton Coldfield who say the knife taken off the street will help make journeys safer.

Police are urging the public to play their part and remain vigilant and made the following appeal:

  • If you see ,or suspect some one has a knife then call 999.
  • If you find a knife, make a note of its location and report this immediately.
  • If you think some one you know may be considering getting involved with knife crime, or has contacts with those that are then report this to the police or visit: 

Alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111

Carving out a special niche

Audi A1 Citycarver 

By Bill McCarthy

Even superminis are getting the steroids treatment these days as the appetite for SUVs/crossovers seems insatiable.

So I suppose it should be no surprise that Audi, who produce some pretty mean SUVs already, has given its smallest car the muscle treatment.

The A1 Citycarver is a striking looking car with a striking name. What is the idea behind it? Does it carve its way through city traffic? Who knows. But it’s sure to be popular with Audi enthusiasts offering the rugged look with Audi quality and a price that will not actually blow your socks off. Those looking for all-wheel drive will be disappointed however, so despite its looks there is no Quattro version available yet.

 There’s a choice of two petrol engines, the lively 1.5 litre, 148bhp petrol on this model and a smaller, three pot one litre,113bhp power unit.

The design is based on the A1 Sportback, but the more muscular look includes wheel arch cladding, underbody protection, a stainless steel finish and raised suspension giving around four centimetres of additional ground clearance for easier entry and better visibility. The striking black grille has the knobbly honeycomb finish seen across the range while two slots above the grille differentiate it from the Sportback.

It also features a large bumper to the rear, full LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels and roof edge spoiler. The colour palette is extensive and features include a two-tone option like the unmissable yellow and black combo on the model driven here, enhancing, or diminishing the muscular look, depending on your point of view.

While the exterior looks different, the interior pretty much mirrors the A1 with the centrepiece the familiar eight-inch MMI touchscreen that controls major functions like navigation, infotainment and smartphone connectivity mirroring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

It sits in the middle of a sweeping, ergonomically designed dashboard, which also houses a version of the Audi digital ‘cockpit’ which can be configured in various ways to show a different combination of dials and information readouts.

Fixtures and fittings are sturdy and typically Audi with soft touch finish for the most part, but some cheaper plastics thrown in which you won’t find on some its bigger (and more expensive) stablemates.

The power unit is excellent, mated to the seven-speed DSG auto transmission, it has plenty of urge and even when pushed hard retains a sweet note.

Acceleration is brisk, the car hitting 60mph in just under eight seconds, ideal for smart getaways around town, and can confirm it is a pretty refined motorway cruiser, have completed around 300 miles on the country’s main highways. There’s plenty of power in reserve for overtaking, while road and engine noise is barely noticeable. Economy is pretty impressive to with official figures of 44mpg.

Sitting higher off the ground than the A1, handling is only slightly compromised and it feels assured when cornering, with lots of grip, while the steering is direct and nicely weighted.

Seats are comfortable with decent space in the front, even for taller occupants, but is cramped in the rear, which you would expect with this type of car.

Small it may be but it scores well with practicality with a decent sized, sensibly shaped boot. Stowage space is also good with  335 litres, increasing to 1,090 litres with the rear seats folded.

Standard spec includes  full-LED headlights with dynamic rear turn signals, air conditioning, the Audi drive select dynamic handling system and assistance technologies such as cruise control, and for safety a full complement of airbags, plus Audi Pre-sense Front with pedestrian and cyclist recognition, lane departure warning and hill-hold assist.

As ever with Audi options abound and this model included the Technology pack at £1,695 and Comfort & sound pack at £1,150. The Technology Pack incorporating the Audi virtual cockpit with an increased range of views and functions, MMI navigation plus with larger 10.1-inch high resolution screen, Audi connect with its wide variety of online services and the Audi Phone Box facilitating wireless smartphone charging.

Comfort and Sound Pack adds Parking System Plus with acoustic and visual assistance and additional front protection to complement the standard rear sensors, front seat heating and the Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system with 560 watts of music power.


Audi A1 Citycarver 35 TFSI S tronic

Price: £25,435

Mechanical: 150PS, 1,498cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 7-speed DSG auto gearbox

Max speed: 136mph

0-60mph: 8 seconds

Combined mpg: 44.1

Insurance group: 24E

CO2 emissions: 145g/km

BiK rating: 33%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

Book tells story of MS

Grateful for help with the book, Dr Emma Hodges, CEO of St Giles Hospice, with copies of the publication on multiple sclerosis
Collaboration highlights experiences of Sutton Coldfield people living with multiple sclerosis

Sutton Coldfield people directly affected by multiple sclerosis (MS) have told their stories and offered their honest insights into living with the condition in a new book.

Collected Stories: Living with Multiple Sclerosis has been developed to provide a learning resource for health professionals across the UK and was released during National MS Awareness Week (19-25th April, 2021).

The book is one of the outputs from a research project carried out by St Giles Hospice, Keele University and members of the hospice’s MS support group.  

The project began in 2018 and involved focus groups and interviews designed to help understand the experiences of people with MS in accessing hospice care and support. It was conducted by Professor Sue Read and Teaching Fellow Dr Sotirios Santatzoglou from Keele University, Dr Emma Hodges from St Giles Hospice and participants from the hospice’s MS groups based in Whittington and Sutton Coldfield.

Following the study, the research team were so inspired by the experiences the group shared that they spoke to participants about how they might want to share their stories more widely. 

Professor Read said: “I have been involved in the production of books previously as a way of sharing important life experiences and supporting healthcare professionals to learn and reflect on their practice.  The group wanted to have their voices heard so they asked us to support them. It was a pleasure to help them do that as an outcome of the research.

“The book incorporates a wonderful, unique collection of stories that provides powerful insights into the impact that multiple sclerosis has on the individual, their families and professional carers.”

Contributors include people living with the condition along with volunteers and staff at St Giles Hospice. The book also features a foreword written by community historian Professor Carl Chinn, who offers a moving account of his childhood experience of living with his own grandfather who was diagnosed with MS in the 1950s.

The powerful testimonies in the book feature the life stories of several people diagnosed with MS, highlighting their different experiences, the philosophies and coping mechanisms that have helped them through the years and the actions of the wider community that have helped or hindered their daily lives.

An exercise instructor working with the MS groups at St Giles and a hospice member of staff have also contributed to the collection, revealing how their own preconceptions have been challenged by their experiences and the insights they have gained as a result.

“We didn’t intend to pull together this collection of stories from the beginning of the research project – it simply evolved as stories often do in life. Little did we know the work that it would entail, or the impact that these stories would have on those people involved and those listening to the stories.”Professor Sue Read

Dr Emma Hodges, CEO of St Giles Hospice, said: “Research is a small but important part of our strategy at St Giles. We support a range of national research studies and also design our own in order to improve patient care and/or community support for people with a terminal illness.  In all of our research we aim to proactively involve the people we support.

“We are extremely grateful to members of the St Giles MS groups who shared their stories with us and wrote with such thoughtfulness, dignity and compassion. We hope that their candour and wisdom will help us to better understand their individual and varied experiences of MS and to shape our services more effectively to support their needs.

“We also hope that their insights will be useful to professionals in the wider community as they learn from the real MS experts – the people who are living with the condition every day of their lives.”

For more details of the book or to buy a printed copy or downloadable version, visit

All proceeds from the sale of Collected Stories: Living with Multiple Sclerosis will support St Giles Hospice and help fund vital care for local people and families living with a terminal illness.

For more information about St Giles Hospice and the expert care it provides, please visit

For further information or for any media enquiries please contact or Gary Young on 07855 926123.

Pubs back in business … mostly

Sutton Coldfield opens up as restrictions lifted

“While the new ways of working have been a little challenging, the rewards have far outweighed the negatives.”

Those are the optimistic words of a Sutton Coldfield pub manager whose premises enjoyed a better than expected return to business than anticipated.

For Clare Moran, manager at The Crown in Four Oaks, it’s so far so good.

But into the second week of latest lifting of lockdown restrictions and it would appear the glass is half full, certainly as far as the pubs in Sutton are concerned. With many keeping their doors shut and those that are open operating with restricted hours.

While many celebrated better-than-expected business thanks mainly to the fine weather, which is expected to continue, pubgoers returned to release months of pent-up demand, eager to get out for a meal or just a couple of pints during the continuing fine weather. Things appear to have slowed after the initial rush during the Easter break, but pubs are still busy.

Clare is delighted to be back in business. She said: “We were over the moon when Boris announced his roadmap out of lockdown and that we could begin to serve the great folks of Four Oaks again.

“It has certainly been busier than we anticipated and I think this is down to the nation’s confidence in the vaccine scheme and the measures we have in place to protect our team and guests. People trust their local, it’s ‘home from home’.

“It’s important to remember we are publicans not politicians, we must follow and enforce the guidelines, which we do, but we still have to ensure our guests enjoy our hospitality, albeit safely.”

Clare with customers enjoying the sun at The Crown

“Initially, the company I work for, only had plans to open around 200 pubs, but as we are proving more and more successful, they now have plans to open more pubs before the re-opening of our indoor areas.

“I’m optimistic that lockdown life is over, I have faith that the majority of people know and will follow the guidelines set for us.”

The boost in trade could also have been helped by the number of pubs that remained closed, with many choosing to sit it out until the next round of restrictions are lifted next month.

Many are also geared to to providing carvery-like menus which mean customers would not be allowed onto the premises to serve their own food.

A straw poll of the general area around showed up to half of pubs remained closed.

The reopening of non-essential shops, pubs, hairdressers and gyms and other venues was blessed with fine weather as those businesses appeared to being doing a roaring trade.

One barber shop owner in Four Oaks, Graham Whitehouse, said he was snowed under with demand. He usually took booking a couple of days in advance, but was fully booked initially.

Graham, who has been at the premises at Walsall Road for nearly 50 years, said: “It was manic. We had loads of bookings in the first week, but in the second week it levelled off again.

“Everyone was keen to get haircut.”

But retail business was also on a roll with one observer describing the re-opening as a carnival atmosphere and the first day reminiscent of VE Day celebrations.

The next round of lifting restriction is due on May 17, Covid cases permitting, when people will be allowed back inside hospitality venues.

Lidl a step nearer to completion

The view from what will be the car park for the new Lidl in Mere Green

Work is gathering pace on the new Lidl supermarket being built in Mere Green.

The roof is now on with brickwork in place, filling in the steel skeleton of the new building. The car parking area, seen from the picture above is now laid with just final resurfacing before the opening of the store in a matter of weeks.

The store looks to be on schedule for completion by the end of the spring, but the German owned store are tight-lipped about the opening date and how many jobs will be created.

The new supermarket will on the site of the former industrial site in Mere Green Road, which has lain derelict for more than 10 years.

The store has not met with universal approval with fears of traffic chaos, further exacerbated by new of a new Aldi store set to be built on the old Waitrose site on Belwell Lane.

It does seem inevitable there will be a big increase in traffic on the busy stretch of road, with Mulberry Walk virtually fully open with gym, shops like Poundland, bars and restaurants, together with existing supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer. With a busy garage also at Mere Green island, it looks like delays will be on the way.

Tiguan a true ‘people’s car’

Volkswagen Tiguan

By Bill McCarthy

THE translation of Volkswagen into English could well describe the latest version of the firm’s hugely popular SUV.

‘The people’s car’ is very apt, with the VW Tiguan having sold six million worldwide since its introduction in 2007. So popular it took another nine years for the second generation to come along in 2016 and now that model has had a major revamp at the end of last year.

It is Europe’s best selling SUV and gets a new trim line-up and a choice of petrol, diesel and hybrid power units, together with design and technological advances.

Already one of the most stylish and recognisable on the market, it retains its muscular SUV look, sitting high off the ground with stylish 18-inch alloys. However the rugged look is softened with roof rails, rear tinted glass, LED Matrix headlights flanking the slim grille and large air flow ducts below.

 The firm’s Y-structure trim allows for two range toppers. It starts with Tiguan, then Life and a choice at the top end of Elegance for luxury, and R-Line, driven here, being the sportier model. This features 20-inch ‘Misano’ alloy wheels, lowered sports suspension, bespoke  bumpers and rear roof spoiler, as well as upgraded light clusters.

“Acceleration is brisk, hitting 60mph in just over nine seconds, with top seed of 121mph, if you are driving on German autobahns”

This model featured the hi-tech 1.5-litre TSI, 150 PS engine, mated with the familiar, slick-shifting 7-speed DSG transmission. The engine features cylinder deactivation, shutting down two cylinders under certain conditions to boost mpg and reduce CO2 emissions.

The interior is much improved  with the digital instrument panel ‘cockpit’ and the eight-inch touch screen dominating. The touchscreen controls navigation and sound system which includes DAB radio, and connectivity with streaming and internet capabilities. Smartphones can be hooked to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto via screen mirroring.

In typical VW style the interior is solidly built with high quality fixtures and fittings, together with high-end soft touch finish to dash and doors and leather bound steering wheel and gearshift.

It is a comfortable place to be, with 30-colour ambient lighting, heated front seats, sports steering wheel with touch control function, brushed stainless steel pedals and a black headliner and aluminium scuff plates displaying the R-Line logo.

On the road the engine is refined, with plenty of grunt, and whether in full auto mode or having fun with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, is an engaging drive. Acceleration is brisk, hitting 60 in just over nine seconds and on to a top speed of 121 mph, if you fancy it, driving on the German autobahns.

Considering its high-off-the-ground stance, it feels stable, even when cornering at higher speeds, while the steering is nicely weighted and direct. The gearshifts via the dual-clutch box are barely perceptible, particularly around town. On the motorway is a comfortable cruiser with plenty of torque to aid overtaking at higher speeds, with only road noise from the large alloys occasionally intrusive and, if being really picky, some wind noise from the door mirrors.

 The cylinder technology helps to deliver impressive real-world economy, with nearly 40mpg possible according to the WLTP figures and CO2 emissions of 143 g/km.

There are multiple space and stowage options via the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats which also slide back and forth. It has a large boot, which comes with the option of ‘kick’ operation for easy remote opening and easy loading, and partitions for keeping items separate.

The generous 615 litres increases to a huge 1,665 with the seats folded flat. In addition a large bin between the front seats offers further stowage space, as do the roof rails.

 There is a full complement of airbags, plus features like stability and traction control together with Adaptive Cruise Control, Front Assist and front and rear parking sensors, as well as a Driver Alert System and Dynamic Road Sign Display.

The R-Line also features Emergency Assist and Travel Assist over the Elegance trim model, facilitating Level 2 autonomous driving at speeds of up to 130 mph (where permitted).

The entry-level trim kicks off with a generous raft of equipment, including 17-inch alloy wheels and LED headlights and the goodies mount up as you move up through Life and then twin range toppers Elegance and R-Line.


Volkswagen Tiguan R-Line 1.5 TSI 150 DSG

Price: £ 32,135

Mechanical: 1498cc, 150PS, four-cylinder petrol engine driving front wheels via seven-speed DSG auto transmission

Maximum speed: 126mph

Acceleration: 0-60mph in 9.2 seconds

Economy: 38.8 mpg

Insurance group: 20E

CO2 emissions: 165g/km

BiK rating: 36 per cent

Warranty: three years, 60,000 miles

‘Sinnerman’ Paul at Sutton Town Hall


Comedian and quiz champion Paul Sinha, ‘The Sinnerman’ from ITV show The Chase, is to host a special on-line quiz to raise money to support the future of our theatre and heritage venue.

The quiz, which will take place next week on Wednesday 21st April, will be broadcast live to ticket holders on zoom, with a downloadable answer sheet to complete at home. 

Audience members won’t be seen by each other but can live message the host, star of ITV’s The Chase, and send in their scores. Revenue from tickets will go towards the £5million major renovation of Sutton Coldfield Town Hall. The essential works will secure and restore our Edwardian venue for future generations to use and enjoy.

Following his sell out show here in 2019, Paul Sinha was a natural choice as first  guest host of our quiz, working with top producers InQuizition. They are superb quiz producers – challenging enough but also accessible for non-quizzers and good fun.

Tickets are £7.50 per device – so you can play at home with the family with just one ticket.  The quiz will start at 8pm, with streaming starting at 7.50pm, until around 9.30pm. To purchase a unique link, or for more information, click here. 

Audience members can quiz alone or with family at home, or work with friends and family over the telephone or messaging apps. Ticket holders will be quizzed on a range of topics from popular culture to geography, history to science, and everything in between. 

Businesses / Teams wanting to take part should contact the Town Hall to arrange a group booking.

At the Town Hall, we have been successful in receiving additional funding through the Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund, to enable us to bring more staff back to work and plan the autumn and winter programme, including the pre-production of the venue’s December pantomime, Cinderella.  Funding will also support artistic projects  – such as this quiz – through the year to keep you entertained at home.

A further online quiz hosted by Eggheads’ Jeremy Vine will take place in June, ahead of his rescheduled live show at the venue in September. More to follow in our next newsletter!

Fun in the sun as lockdown eased

Enjoying a pint at the Mare Pool in Mere Green

Sutton rocking as restrictions lifted

“It’s like a carnival out there”, said one businessman returning from his first shopping trip to Sutton Coldfield town centre in months. “There’s crowds of people everywhere, ” he added.

He was, of course, referring to the latest relaxation of lockdown rules, which saw hundreds of people flock into the town and fill the pub gardens in what another observer described as like a VE Day celebration.

In the town centre, both The Station and The Town House, formerly The Royal, were packed out in their gardens.

But in a sobering reminder, just down the road at Sutton town hall, vaccinations were still taking place.

The reopening of non-essential shops, pubs, hairdressers and gyms and other venues was blessed with fine weather as the sun shone on drinkers and shoppers.

Not all pubs have reopened with some waiting for a further relaxation next month when, Covid cases permitting, people will be allowed back inside, but for those that did open it was boom time.

In Four Oaks, The Butlers Arms, The Crown, The Old School House and Wetherspoons were doing a roaring trade is people wrapped up against the early spring chill.

It seemed, however, that many had thrown caution to the wind, with social distancing being at best patchy and in some cases non existent.

But for Sutton businesses and those across the rest of the UK, it is a welcome release from the icy grip of winter and the death grip of the coronavirus.

Fingers crossed we have seen the last of lockdown and there are better times ahead.

Early bird spring offers for Greek luxury resort

By Bill McCarthy

One of the top holiday resorts on Greece’s lesser-known Western Greece mainland worth considering for a summer break, is the 5-star Aldemar Olympian Village Beach Resort in Olympia. Consider heading here for a five star seascape, located in one of the most scenically beautiful areas of the country. 

We experienced the delights of western Greece and this luxury resort on a visit in May 2019

The 5-star Olympian Village Beach Resort in Olympia, Western Greece is located in a historic region, home of the Greek gods and the Olympic Games, filled with ancient temples and Byzantine monasteries, this is a stunning hotel complex overlooking the sea.

There are great offers from UK’s tour operators including jet2holidays, easyjetholidays and British Airways Holidays or visit the resorts own web site for holiday packages too, with  a 10 per cent early booking, spring offer throughout April: an ‘exclusive, fully flexible’ offer.

While uncertainty stills surrounds international travel for UK holidaymakers because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Aldemar team in Olympia is gearing up for its Summer Season 2021. Covid protocols are in place as they were last year, implemented for the safety of both the hotel staff and guests, throughout their stay.

It is a visually stunning hotel complex that stretches along (5 kms) sandy beach, surrounded by dozens of pools and beautiful gardens.

This part of Greece is one of the greenest and its natural wonders range from breathtaking mountains to ancient pine forests. The UK PR for this resort refers to this area as ‘Tuscany without the price-tag’ and as she’s partly Italian, we took her word for it when we visited, only to discover that indeed it was just that too and more!

The sprawling, low-rise five-star complex is situated in a secluded area near the village of Skafidia, just 30 kms from Ancient Olympia, hence why this area of Western Greece is also referred to as the ‘Olympian region’ of Greece. 

There’s accommodation to suit all budgets, from hotel-style rooms to apartments, family bungalows and even luxurious, top-of-the-range presidential suites with their own pools. 

Sit on the patio and in the distance is the island of Zante/Zakynthos and a little further north, Captain Corelli’s Kefalonia. Daily ferries can transport those eager to have their Greek Island fix, to both. The ferries depart from the port of Kyllini which is a 40 minute taxi ride away from the resort hotel.

Out and about Olympia is a must see. It was a major Panhellenic religious sanctuary of ancient Greece, where the ancient Olympic Games were held. The site was primarily dedicated to Zeus and drew visitors from all over the Greek world 

The Olympic Games were held every four years from the eighth century BC to the fourth century AD. The archaeological site held over 70 significant buildings, and ruins of many of these survive, although the main Temple of Zeus survives only as stones on the ground and a single column. 

Further afield is historic Sparta, Patras and Kalamata, all a full day trip. But if touring is not you thing. The resort has plenty to keep all ages entertained and relaxed. 

What’s on offer for early bird bookings

  • Welcome Package: Μineral water and Aldemar bath set (soap, shampoo, shower gel, nail file, shower cap, cotton buds, and sewing kit).
  • Free Internet Access
  • Complimentary bottle of wine in-room on arrival
  • Free use of beach and pool chairs & umbrellas
  • Free use of slippers during your stay in the hotel (for VIP & Family rooms bathrobes and beach towels are also available to use during your stay in the hotel) 
  • FREE Mini Club. For children aged 4-12, seven days a week, 10:00 – 18:00, multilingual supervisors (upon request).
  • Entertainment activities, Mini Buffet at the Mini Club “ALDY”, including a selection of sponge cakes, sandwiches, juices, water, one ice cream per child, children’s play area and mini restaurant.