Birmingham – fine dining in the city centre

Birmingham has many fine dining establishments, some Michelin starred and some on their way to getting one. Here are three I’ve been to in 2019, 2016 and in 2010. My map here.

Adam’s (Advanced A), New Oxford House, 16 Waterloo St, Birmingham B2 5UG, www.adamsrestaurant.co.uk

At the time of writing in January 2019, Adam’s is TripAdvisor #1 in Brum, beating off competition from four other Michelin starred restaurants. Its five star rating is fully deserved in my experience.

I went for the £65 three course à la carte menu rather than the £95 tasting menu (the only two choices) as I wasn’t hungry enough for six courses. You get three choices for each course with the à la carte menu and this being a Michelin place, lots of little extras as well.

The first amuse bouche was fairly non-descript but the second was fantastic. The tiny lump of savoury ice cream (forgot what it was sorry) paddling in a beetroot based liquid and anointed with olive oil was full of flavour and looked great (A). This was the case with all the following dishes.

The beetroot theme continued with the following dish of Cornish mackerel. A beetroot jelly overlaying tiny cubes of beetroot and apple accompanied an immaculately grilled fillet (B+). On the side in a bowl of pebbles was a tiny goblet of grilled eel in some kind of pastry which was fabulous (A).

Next a little extra of a warm bun with a mushroom filling served with butter topped with seaweed powder (A).

With this a glass of Greco di Tufo by Lapilli, one of my favourite Italian whites. It was okay but I’ve had better (B).

Next a satisfying main of Cumbrian suckling pig, both loin and confit belly, pressed all the right buttons (A).

I really liked the St Laurent by Johanneshof Reinisch from Thermenregion in Austria which had a great nose and an unusual fruity flavour (B+).

The ‘transition’ from savoury to sweet was made with this little number. Again I didn’t keep track of what it was exactly (mango, creme fraiche, pecans?) but it was wonderful (A).

For dessert an innovative concept called Pear William; a candied sponge filled with speculoos (spiced shortcrust biscuit popular in Germanic countries) , vanilla and bergamot (an Italian citrus).

It looked great but I was slightly disappointed it didn’t have more flavour (B+).

To go with it a glass of sweet 2017 Auslese from Tschida Angerhof (B).

Finally a chocolate bonbon and another chocolate in a box to take home.

By this time I think they’d worked out I was a blogger as I was given a tour of the kitchens and an introduction to the head chef.

Total cost just shy of £100 with tip. The wines were £7 and £8.50 respectively for a 125ml pour, and £5 for 70ml of the dessert wine. I felt it was pretty good value for a top quality experience.

After such a good meal I wanted a brandy to finish but nothing on the drinks list grabbed me so I went around the corner to the The Old Joint Stock, www.oldjointstock.co.uk at 4 Temple Way. It’s in a lovely building with an opulent interior.

I had a couple of glasses of Janneau, a French brandy I hadn’t had before (B).

And in 2016 I went to…

The Wilderness (Intermediate A), 27 Warstone Ln, Birmingham B18 6JQ, wearethewilderness.co.uk

Rather strange location, inside an office block, less than a minute away from the south exit of Birmingham New Street. The décor scheme makes use of moss glued to the walls train-set style and a canopy of artificial leaves springing from dead branches fastened to the pillars.

As a lone diner I got the worst seat in the house but I didn’t mind it too much. The lovely attentive staff made up for it, especially Luby. It’s the kind of place where they refold napkins whenever a customer leaves the table.

I had their tasting menu ‘The Full Story’ with wine matching for £105 (£65 without drinks). Apologies for the lack of good photos, the lighting did not allow.

Proceedings began with a hot bread bun and some smoked homemade butter which was made delicious by some heavy salting, a bit too much on my second serving, and I like salt (A-).

After this, Mackerel, Apple, Pear and Bergamot (A).

This was matched with a Digby Reserve (A). Made with the same grapes and methods as Champagne and Chardonnay.

Pork Belly, Parsnip, Squid (A+). The pork had been roasted for 16 hours and would have got A++ but the meat was a little bit dry, although the flavour couldn’t be faulted.

The Wobbly Munk cider was flat but had great depth of flavour (A).

Seabass, Cauliflower, Turnip, Kohlrabi, Chorizo (A).

Green Gimlet (A).

Celeriac, Egg Yolk, Caviar, Wild Mushrooms, Chicken Skin (A).

To drink, Mencia (2012) an unusual red from Galicia with notes of Cherries, Liquorice, Dark Tannins (B+).

Lamb, Carrot, Swede (B).

Albillo, a fresh wine from Madrid with notes of white flowers and stone fruit (B+).

Cheddar , Shallot, Wood Ants, Edible Flowers (A). The ants tasted strongly of citrus, apparently from the formic acid they produce for defensive purposes. A first for me! Wish the photo had come out as it’s quite a sight seeing a plate dotted with ants.

Black Cow Vodka made from milk whey. The curds were used to make the cheddar in the next dish.

Beetroot, Lavender, served with berries and the plate coated with Beetroot Dust (A).

My only dissatisfaction was that the food was served quite slowly. I was served in lockstep with the table next to me, which was a bit annoying as they kept going for a smoke.

To finish a Kings Heath Americano with Dark Chocolate, Salted Caramel and Butter Scotch Whisky.

A very interesting experience, thoroughly recommended.

And from back in March 2010…

Purnells (Advanced A), 55 Cornwall St, Birmingham B3 2DH www.purnellsrestaurant.com , GEM ALERT!

This was an eight course Michelin starred escapade with my friends Luke, Alex and his lady and the Bragazzi’s boys; Tim and Matt. This was one of my first meals as a blogger and I hadn’t yet started taking photos but here’s what we had anyway:

Amuse Bouche (can’t remember what).

Poached egg yolk, smoked haddock milk foam, cornflakes, curry oil.

(In the shape of a fried egg, the foam was wonderfully fishy and the cornflakes gave flavour as well as texture).

Royal of goats’ cheese and pineapple on sticks, watercress puree.

(A nostalgia trip reminiscent of my parents cheese and wine evenings in the 70’s, but far more refined! Loved it.)

Salad of Devonshire crab, apple, celeriac, smoked paprika honeycomb. (Loved the combination of crab with apple).

Monkfish masala, Indian lentils, coconut, coriander, pickled carrots. (Not what I wanted to eat after a month in Bangladesh! but the fish was great and the dahl far better than over there!).

Breast of duck, liquorice charcoal, butternut squash terrine, cep & liquorice purees, quinoa. (My favourite course and the best duck I have ever eaten. Wonderfully concentrated mushroom puree, left the liquorice one though. Quinoa has left me cold in the past, but again this was the best I’d ever tasted!).

Warm, dark chocolate mousse, mango & rosewater sorbet, mango leather. (Filled the need but drowned the sorbet, which was very nice).

Burnt English custard egg surprise, blackberries, crystallised tarragon, blackberry sorbet. (Memory going but was great at the time! Crystallised tarragon!).

Coffee and petit fours. (Nice little machiato. Matteo rated the coffee highly so it must be good!)

The wines, waiter’s handwriting permitting were:

Michel Arnold Grand Cru, Verzency Rose. (Refreshing pink fizz to start).

Jordan Estate Chenin Blanc South Africa 2007. (Lovely honey coloured, good legs, great with the cheese and pineapple).

Akaishi Sai Junmon Sake, Yamada Nishiki rice, Japan. (Rather unsettling nose and dry leaf taste but very interesting. Like no other sake I had ever tasted, even after three years of living in Japan. Amazing when combined with the crab salad).

Gewurtztramiener Austria, Willi Opite, Spaatslese 2006. (Went very well with the spices and the monkfish).

Merlot Coonawana, Western Austrailia 1999. (Perfect accompaniment for the duck, pure bliss).

Pineau des Charentes, South of La Rochelle, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot of Cognac, no vintage.

Colecaian (?) 125, late harvest Moscatel, Julian Chinte, Navarra 2005. (Wonderful, clear singing dessert wine that reminded me of Muscat di Trani).

£150 all in, worth every penny.

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