It’s not every day you get to try and new concept in cooking, particularly one as outlandish as “Baltic-Russian”. On the face on it, it sounds heavy and hearty. However, Two Cats Kitchen in Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter serves food that couldn’t be further from heavy. Light, delicate dishes are beautifully dressed and exceptionally well-conceived. Influences of the Baltic come through unusual ingredient combinations, smoke and pickles.
A great example of this is the slow-poached duck egg. A rich goo of yolk oozes in that slow-poached way. Not too thick, not too runny, and with bags of flavour. It sits in a salty, smoky cep miso and is given some texture by some pickled beetroot and turnip. A fresh green touch is added by some parsley. Simple, creative, tasty.
Perhaps more challenging is the beef tartare, which is almost too pretty to eat. Instead of the seasoned French version that you are familiar with, Two Cats dresses the hand diced beef with freeze dried raspberry, slices of fermented apple and toasted almonds (again smoky). Most surprising though is the addition of the new trendy herb on the block – oyster leaf; a catcus-like structure, which bursts with aloe-vera freshness. Together, these ingredients reinvent the traditional dish to make it light and clean.
Another surprisingly delicate dish is the sweet onion broth, which is consommé clear. A autumnal, warming concept is again transformed with some handmade pelmeni. A sort of dumpling, stuffed with a soft goat’s cheese. Autumn becomes spring, helped by gleaming dots of lovage oil, which give a lovely acidic, chlorophyll boost. A real surprise.
Following dishes all surprise, using this technique of turning the heavy into the fresh, with that touch of smokiness running through the menu. Without writing 1,000 words on the full six courses, it would be wrong to not mention the pre-dessert. Large, floppy sorrel leaves are glued together with honey, ensnaring toasted oats, pumpkin seeds and a zippy sorrel granita. All of this comes served, tied up with some brown strong. A herby, sweet sandwich that will really make you smile.