Jai Thompson has brought flavours, tastes and experiences to the bars of Birmingham for the last 30 years.
And now he is creating Heston Blumenthal-style cocktail fusions at the Craeft bar and restaurant in Gas Street.
Bar manager Jai is one of the city’s pre-eminent food experts and talks about ingredients like they are the food of love.
He said: “I have been part of the Birmingham food scene for 30 years and I love ingredients which fuel the senses, that keeps me bubbly and happy.
“I want to get the ingredients and tastes that Italian people take for granted but where we are still surprised to get.”
A proud European, Jai’s parents own a seven acre olive farm in rural Italy, and at the moment Craeft is using their olive oil exclusively.
He said: “The main focus is pickling, curing and pouring. I am a creative person and I love being on when its people’s time off – I am the doctor for their medicine.”
In the kitchen is renowned chef Samantha Sullivan, who is passionate about bringing new taste sensations to Birmingham with lamb, venison, and black treacle-cured salmon all on the menu.
She said: “Our emphasis on seasonal British produce is from ‘field to fork’, with attention to detail and flavour.”
Jai praised her efforts: “Our chef Samantha is an incredible talent and my job is to ensure she can create the incredible food she is capable of producing – it is a joy watching her work.”
Craeft is in the historic building which used to be the home of The Pickled Piglet, while there’s also a sister pub called The Pig and Tail in the Jewellery Quarter.
Behind Craeft’s bar is a smorgasbord of syrups, infusions, jars of herbs and other ingredients ready to be used in Jai’s creative cocktails. And the cocktail menu uses old English fermenting techniques for a unique taste experience.
Jai, a former artist, added: “We could probably have a 100 covers if needed, but to start off with I’m going for 30 covers and then build it up.
“Everything is cooked fresh to order, so nothing should take longer than 20 minutes. We are relaxed fine dining.
“We have beautiful products, ingredients, venue and a very homely feel. I want us to be a destination cocktail bar, and we are close to the ICC and Symphony Hall.
“We are open for networking events, meetings and people can come here on the way to or from their night out to have a unique experience.”