Birmingham. Perhaps not the British city you think of for its gastronomic prowess, but the West Midlands’ capital has been quietly establishing itself as the UK’s second starred destination behind London. The clear evidence of this is a neighbourhood restaurant in leafy Harborne, where chef Richard Turner delivers his classic, yet creative menu. Like all good neighbourhood restaurants, it’s intimate but relaxed, the maître d’ knows his stuff and the welcome is warm. Even better for the residents of Harborne, the food is exceptional.
Amuses bouches are a great way for a chef to throw down the gauntlet. Turner instantly succeeds in seducing with a melting Pecorino beignet, a puffed seaweed crisp with mackerel tartare, and a duck parfait sandwiched in pain épicé. Each very different, but expertly matched.
To follow, beautiful slices of scallops are left in a yuzu marinade for an exact amount of time so that they keep their sashimi-like texture while taking-on a delicate citrus flavour. Disks of fresh green apple add some crunch, and a freeze-dried powder of horseradish provides a kick, while not overpowering the flavour of the shellfish; a refined starter.
The turbot, steamed to perfection (if not luxurious enough) is accompanied by juicy langoustine flesh and a selection of wonderful mushrooms. Ceps are cooked to just the right firmness and the trompettes de la mort are delightfully juicy. Heavenly potato gnocchi are light and tasty while a bisque-style foam pulls everything together; a dish to remember.
Desserts are impressive too. The blackberry soufflé is the perfect specimen, billowing over its copper pan. The flavour is extraordinarily deep, but it’s the hedgerow sorrel ice cream which makes this dish a winner. Green, lemony and herby, alongside the lightly sweetened berry souffé. It’s impressive stuff.
The meal is then made complete by the maître d’ meticulously going through the excellent selection of cheeses, one-by-one, showing his real passion.
Overall, Turner’s couldn’t do more to meet its *1 star brief. We wonder if with a few refinements, **2 stars could be within reach.