The National Provincial Bank building, most recently used as Bennetts Bar, was constructed in 1833, and in 1869 was refurbished to have the grand façade it has today, with tall Corinthian columns separating ceiling-high semi-circled topped windows. Its doorways are beautifully decorated in plaster and wood and intrigue the passer-by as they intrude in to the building. Intrigued they should be, because over the past couple of months the interior has been transformed in to (and I quote) “Birmingham’s best Victorian botanical hideaway”, called The Lost & Found.
The place has quite a back story, contrived around the life of fictional Hettie G Watson, a Victorian botany scholar who’s wealthy father built the bank that the bar now resides in. There are portraits of Hettie in the bar and the decoration is based around Hettie’s botanical roots. The ceilings here are super high and while it was Bennetts, a faded wine bar with sticky carpets and surly staff, it gave the air of a coach station, somewhere you passed through on the way to somewhere else. Not so now though, every surface has been redecorated and the lighting has been updated so that it’s sympathetic to the needs of its diners and drinkers, I particularly like the cut down decanters used as light shades over the booths. The booths are spacious and reminded us, with their leather and brass feel, of sitting on a hotel luggage trolley. There is a living wall and lots of other shrubbery around the place and despite its voluminous space it feels cosy, somewhere to sit and have a bite to eat with friends, or a cocktail with a first date.
The intention is that there will be a large cocktail list, and when we went on Tuesday night we tried a black pepper and pineapple Martini and a couple of other cocktails. On our return on Friday though, the first night it’s been open to the general public, it was so busy that the bar were not offering cocktails at all, and one of the bar men didn’t want to top up a £4.75 Peroni that was clearly short filled – I’m hoping it was a first night aberration rather than a reflection of the attitude going forward.
There’s a lot of dining space but with their emphasis on cocktails I’m not sure whether it’s drinks lead or food lead. The food we ate was super. For starters we had Goats cheese, beetroot and red onion tart, topped with tapenade. The pastry was very thin and the filling was tasty, I really enjoyed it. The tapenade was an unusual touch but went with it perfectly. We also had some scallops, it was a good sized portion and I’m told they were nice.
I had the Fish Pie for my main and it was full of haddock and salmon pieces with a burnished gold potato topping prettily piped on. The batter on the fish and chips was crisp although we found a couple of bones in the fish – first night problems that will, given the standard of the rest of the food, be ironed out quickly no doubt. We also had a Swordfish steak, and a Pousson, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the mains. I had a side of green beans and they were buttery and seasoned well with salt, pepper, and garlic. I think when venues take care with the small things like that, it’s a good sign. For dessert we had a novel molecular-cookery style dish of chocolate soil with an unctuous chocolate mousse and honeycomb. It was massively chocolatey and was certainly a winner, although there was a lot of it! Our waiter, Phillip, was fantastic. He was personable and professional, it’s a shame Birmingham doesn’t have more waiting staff like him.
We’ll definitely be back, now that we know Hettie’s secret, maybe you’ll find it when you go too…