Saturday, 8 February 2014

Purnell's Bistro & Ginger's, Birmingham

Our trip to Birmingham was to be all about thrift. Despite the sprinkling of Michelin stars across the city, I promised the Ewing that Adams, Simpsons and Turners were out and pork scratchings, pints of bitter and late night noodles in Chinatown were in.

Sadly the parsimony also extended to Purnells, somewhere I've wanted to eat since Glynn appeared on the Great British Menu, cooking up crazy dishes including haddock foam and cornflakes and masala spiced monkfish with toffee carrots. But while the restaurant would have blown the budget, his near by Bistro - complete with its 50% off food 'Monday Madness' - promised to be a lot more wallet friendly and a table was duly booked. 

Adjoining the Bistro is the, rather snazzy, Ginger's Cocktail, Bar. And as well as the deal on food they also run a Liquid Economics menu, with cocktails priced at £4.50 everyday from 12 until 8. Well, it would have been rude not to...

The Ewing started proceedings with a Scorched Lemon, Apricot and Walnut Sour; a funky number with woody walnut bitters and burnt citrus setting off the sweetness of the stone fruit.

I had a classic white peach Bellini while the Ewing quickly chased her first drink down with a Cherry, Vanilla and Almond Cooler, as recommended by the waitress. Featuring yet more scorched fruit, this time an orange, Ameretto, Kirsch and home made cream soda. I found it a little bit odd (probably due to the porter and prosecco I was necking), but there were no complaints from the other side of the table.

Bread was a decent housemade foccacia, studded with pumpkin seeds and sprinkled with shards of sea salt, served with sweet whipped butter.

I started with the chicken and rabbit presse, with remoulade and apple puree. This was my kind of plate; a juicy slice of herb-studded terrine served with a tangle of creamy shredded veg and blobs of sweet/sour fruit. The waitress also kindly provided more bread, so I had something to slather it all onto. The only slightly disconcerting note was the slight whiff of packet chicken roll about it. While not unpleasant, it did remind me of school lunchboxes.

The Ewing chose the Jerusalem artichoke and potato veloute with rosemary oil and chives. A soup of a well seasoned, creamy richness that hid a delicate and intensely savoury and gossamer thin Parmesan ravioli in its depths.

My fillet of sea bream with butternut squash, potato and greye terrine, baby onions and leeks was a refined plate that showcased a well judged piece of fish, with parchment-crisp skin and pearly flesh, atop a nice little ragu of alliums, shot through with piquant nuggets of caper. While the bright orange and yellow pinwheel of root veg was great fun to eat, with coils of springy Swiss cheese between each layer, that stretched from from plate to mouth with every forkful. 

A fine plate of food, and a steal at half price, but - and I don't know if the portions are adjusted accordingly for the beginning of the week -  pretty steep for the full whack (£17.50) normally charged.

The Ewing's pork belly with creamed cabbage, mash and 'Glynn's sausage roll' was a far more imposing plate, with its dominant duo of porcine goodness (the potato was also advertised as being flavoured with smoked bacon, but the triple whammy of pigginess was reticent, if there at all).

Thankfully, my darling wife was unusually happy to share and I got to enjoy a chunk of the tender-fleshed and crisp-skinned belly and a sausage roll that would put any stodge-laden and limp high street offering to shame. Highlight of the plate, though, was the cabbage. While I'm not sure veg imbued with that much better and cream does much for your health, it certainly made me happy.

My pavlova with warm Griottine cherries and cherry sorbet was solid, if unspectacular. While everything was well judged, and the combination of fruit, meringue and whipped cream will always be a good one, it was only the fabulously tart cherry sorbet that really stood out.

The Ewing's chocolate and tropical fruit combination packed more of a wow factor. I, surprisingly, enjoyed this more than she did, with the, very, sharp pineapple being too much for her sweet-tooth. The disc of fudgy chocolate terrine was more to her taste, being ably supported by some crisp dark chocolate wafers and a fragrant pineapple sorbet.

While we promised to end the evening with Brandy Alexanders, the preceding pub crawl, cocktails, a couple of bread baskets and three courses saw us defeated.

Undeterred I pointed out that we would be in the vicinity the following afternoon, just before catching our train home. Providing the perfect opportunity for a farewell drink and fuelling the chance of grabbing a nice nap on the journey back.

The Alexanders are served in three ways; the pre-prohibition with Beefeater gin, the post-prohibition with Courvoisier VS and the Contemporary, shaken with their house brandy infused with cocoa bean and vanilla.

We had a brace of the, nutmeg-scented, contemporary version, a deceptively easy to drink libation with its warming undercurrent of cognac and spice.

With the Alexanders slipping down a treat there was still time for one more (there's always time for one more...). This time I had the Spiced Cockney Sling, my favourite tipple of all the ones we tried. A zingy mix of pear vodka, apple liqueur, juice and puree and gingerbread syrup, finished with fresh lime.

The Ewing's Honey and Pear Configuration was a classy tipple; heady with fresh thyme and fig and had with decent kick from yet more pear Absolut.

I've got mixed feelings about Purnells; I enjoyed our meal - the cooking was solid and the staff sweet and well drilled, and Ginger's is a great place for a drink - but overall I found it rather staid. With the Bistro falling somewhere between fine dining and pub grub, for me it's a solid choice for a first date, but not marriage material.

Purnell's Bistro on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant Brummie Bluenose of Birmingham's best........