More than ever I wanted to compare the food here, up against the two Michelin starred place that we ate at the previous week.
Now then, we have been fans of Glyn Purnell's cooking for some time, but during that time we have never spoken to him or had, (nor asked for) any preferential treatment. We have of course paid in full for each and every meal.
Unusually we managed to get a lunch table at short notice, normally there is a bit of a waiting list.
Of some surprise, a number of the tables were unoccupied which made me think Birmingham has suffered badly in the recession. Normally it is full to overflowing at lunch and we have struggled to get a table more than a few times, sometimes having to book well in advance. As time went by though nearly all the tables were taken with just one solitary table a deux remaining.
We were seated by the wall, next to the kitchen where the "Yummy Brummy" was barking out the food orders to his crew.
As a point of interest, we have never eaten the tasting menu, "The Tour". We just don't seem to get past the set lunch menu, there is always something there to tempt us. Not at all because we are poor or mean or anything like that its just that we know that the quality does not waver whatever we choose.
Pain de Campagne( country bread ) was a change from our previous visits, and a step up. I'm fairly certain it would have been baked on the premises, but did not verify. Up there with some of the best that we have eaten. Like a big soft sponge inside and a thick-ish tasty crunchy outer.
Amuse bouche was Leek and Potato velute with some crunchy Japanese black rice and cubed feta cheese.
Quail was on the menu, my favourite, so I will talk you around the plate Ballotine of Quail.
The ballotine of quail, of course, propping up the pan fried leg. Quails egg, some gorgeous crunchy pigs trotter nuggets, bang in season wild garlic, sweetcorn and garlic puree.
A really enjoyable plate of food.
My wife's starter next, Slow cooked Pollock with scorched baby gem No complains from across the table, I enjoyed it too.
Oh BTW some of the other components. Some arty squeezed watercress puree slashes, marinated shallots, confit lemon.
Cor, I wanted the next dish badly but my missus wanted it more. I'm sure this is Purnell's playful take on the many curries I assume he has eaten since being a lad. Indian lentils seems to feature on other dishes on the menu, as do carrots, as in his signature " toffee carrots". In fact as I understand it, quite a few of his dishes have links to his past.
Daube of Beef with Indian lentils, red pepper, "carrots".
Admittedly not the prettiest plate of food, but what the heck, in my book taste is all.
Yes, and this was a corker of a dish. My wife gave me a taste between me taking snaps of the food and getting tucked into my plate before it went cold. The carrots were confit, there was a red pepper puree and the lentils were lightly curried although don't ask me what spices were in there. On reflection I should have ordered this dish myself instead of the Grey Mullet.
So my dish next Grey Mullet with a basil emulsion. pickled cucumber, quinoa, capers.
I'm always surprised by many fish dishes in restaurants. Not my first choice normally, at home, or in a restaurant. I'm a meat and game man by nature. This was a good eat in any event. Texturally interesting, very decent flavour on the fish, even though it is not that highly prized by some chefs. Take note of the caper ball.
Head pastry chef at Purnells, Pete Casson, can certainly knock out some pretty decent desserts and he did so today.
Poached English rhubarb, custard and meringues.
So, textures of rhubarb, sorbet, jelly, puree, etc.
I'm fairly certain that I did see this on someones twitter page and wanted to eat it as soon as I saw it. Initially I thought the rhubarb needed sweetening up a bit, but I was wrong of course. It would have made the dish too sweet. As it was, the main sugar hit came from the custard and the meringues.
Across the table was Passion fruit and vanilla panacotta
Another good dessert, note the compressed pineapple, and pineapple sorbet, oh and an orange tuille.
Yep, well worth the journey down a windswept M6.
We both thought Mr Purnell had upped his game a bit since our last visit, and without hesitation can suggest that you pay him a visit.
What's more because of the lunch price of £27 for three courses and my desire to cut down on my drinking a bit, we managed to get through the door for around £80, nearly a third of the price of another meal last week.
The above price included two glasses of house wine, a beer for me and service charge.
Pretty darn good I would say.