I eat out a lot. Since 2004 I reckon I’ve had over a thousand meals in restaurants, cafes, bistros, and fast food joints, world over. In that time I have sent one dish back to a kitchen (a virtually raw risotto) and complained about maybe a couple of dozen times about one thing or another. In short, I am not someone who complains often in restaurants. However on the odd occasion I do complain, I do not expect to be told I am incorrect with my complaint, nor to be tweeted about the day after by the chef and the owner who surmised publicly and incorrectly that because I’d criticised them, I must be drunk. It does somewhat suggest an air of hubris of the proprietor, don’t you think?
Despite that, we did have a lovely evening at Purnell’s Bistro on Newhall Street – just up
the road from the eponymous Glynn Purnell’s Michelin starred restaurant in the Colmore business district. You will no doubt recognise Glynn from one of his many TV appearances, a strong Brummy accent reminding us he’s a local lad despite his impressive culinary CV.
Purnell’s Bistro was formerly known as The Asquith, which was also owned by Glynn. It’s new incarnation, to my mind at least, is a marked improvement as the restaurant has been opened up making the place much more inviting for both food and drinks at the fabulous cocktail bar. The refurb has brought the place together, before it felt like two very separate venues, bar and restaurant, with different clientele. I will note there are some design oddities that could do with sorting out (I’ve not seen shelf brackets like that since 1987), but the place feels generally plush.
When we were seated for dinner at a spacious table (don’t you just hate having to squeeze
around tiny tables?) we ordered some aperitifs. I had a killer Old Fashioned served in a beautiful crystal glass, and my dining companions had Mojitos which were also good. We had some warm focaccia to nibble while we made up our minds on our orders.
For starters we ate black pudding with rosti and poached hen’s egg yolk; onion tart glazed with balsamic with goat’s cheese, chives and winter salad; and confit duck leg with pickled apple and spiced parsnip salad. The poached egg yolk wasn’t near warm enough, but other than that the starters were nice.
For mains we had: roasted sea bass with gruyere and potato terrine and caramelised onions; roast ribeye steak with creamed baked potatoes, and spinach; and venison Bourgogne pie with roast foie gras and spiced red cabbage. We all thought the mains were a little on the salty side. Particularly the mash on the venison pies and the skin on the sea bass.
The venison pies were short on venison and the meat that was there had oddly gone very dry during cooking. We told our server when she did the check-back who came to the table five minutes later with the news that chef was “happy” with the amount of meat in the pies. There are cards on the candles that invite feedback on twitter and facebook so we duly commented on twitter. The server came back with pre-desserts on the house, and a message from Glynn who had phoned to say that they would take a dish off the bill and give us some pre-desserts, and that he’d rather we sort it out in the restaurant and not twitter. We had tried that, but chef was “happy”! If the server had have initially said “oh I’m sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy it have a glass of wine on the house” I would’ve been fine, if she’d have come back and said “I’m sorry about that” I would have been fine if somewhat surprised they weren’t going to fix it, but I do not take well to being told I am incorrect, when I’m not. It was soured further when the next day the chef and Glynn passed remarks on twitter about the drunk complaining tweets. Leaving that unpleasantness aside, the roasted foie gras and pickled cabbage were delicious – and I’ve subsequently spent a week in Paris and Normandy eating foie gras at every opportunity having remembered how lovely it is.
It’s nice to see a good selection of wines available by the glass and small carafe – I don’t understand why this continental touch hasn’t been picked up in more restaurants here, as it is nice to have a little of one wine or another even if no one else at the table wants to drink the rest of a bottle.
We finished with digestifs (port, another Old Fashioned); cheeses (alas, no chutney, I love a good chutney); and a gooey chocolate brownie. All lovely.
Would we go back? There are plenty of places in this price range in Brum of a similar quality, that haven’t ever shown me the kind of attitude we received here. Starters are around £7, mains £18, and desserts £6. I’m sure we will go back but maybe not in the near future…
And a couple more pictures in case you don’t think I’m justified in complaining about the pie, and the suggestion on twitter that I was drunk. Firstly, the pie, the three bits on the top left were the bits of Venison that I could find:
And the twitter post…