“A chauffeur in a uniform of robin’s-egg blue crossed my lawn early that Saturday morning with a surprisingly formal note from his employer: the honour would be entirely Gatsby’s, it said, if I would attend his ‘little party’ that night”. A Gatsby invitation it may not have been, coming as is usual nowadays via Twitter, but the feeling of pending extravagance was certainly apparent when we were invited to the launch of The Edgbaston’s first full menu. We were to sample the six course taster menu, with matched cocktails.
The Edgbaston is still little known considering it’s been up and running for a while now – I see this not as a failing but as a reflection of its niche clientele who want to keep the byzantine 1920s glory to themselves. Richly shining golds and blacks adorn every surface; coupes, flutes, and highballs are filled with smoking many-coloured cocktails. From the understated frontage of the beautiful Georgian building to the chandeliers and checkerboard tiles of the entrance hall, the place feels special.
Chef Ryan Swift has recently joined the team which completes the epicurean triumvirate for The Edgbaston – rooms, booze, and now food. I’ll try and summarise their food offering, but like many places nowadays you may need a sliding rule and a spreadsheet.
In their fine dining setting they offer an a la carte menu, bar snacks, or taster menus. For the taster menus there’s a 4 course (£40), or a 6 course (£60) taster menu which can be accompanied with either a cocktail flight (a cocktail with each course, £45 for the 4 course and £55 for the 6 course) or wine flight (£50 for the 4 course and £60 for the 6 course). It’s pitched at about the same price point as other fine dining restaurants in Birmingham. We’re not aware of another restaurant, anywhere, that offers a cocktail flight with food and we weren’t sure whether we’d be sozzled by the end of dinner, nor whether the pairings would work – needless to say, they absolutely did. The cocktail manager, Robert, also ensured that the cocktail flight was within 1 alcoholic unit of the corresponding wine flight, so although you won’t leave sober, you won’t fall unconscious during pudding either.
Down to the nitty gritty, the food! While we waited at the bar we tried feather light earthy beetroot meringue with whipped goats cheese, and also salmon with baked lemon and cucumber pickle on rye bread. Then on to the first of our six courses – Smoked Eel which was served with cubes of apple, apple and lovage purees, and a tube of eel mousse. The eel was delicate and tender, and didn’t have that overly fishy taste that can ruin a meal. I particularly liked the delicate mousse.
Our next course was Foie Gras, a personal favourite. Served with texturally different pain d’epice toasts the buttery foie gras was also accompanied by Yorkshire rhubarb poached, jellied, and pureed. This course was served with a Rhubarb and Raspberry cocktail with Ginger, that cut through the foie gras and lifted it.
We moved on to sweet hand dived scallops that were burnished from the pan. Served with wafer thin slices of cauliflower, and dollops of caviar, and an unusual white chocolate sauce. The cocktail for this plate was a Yuzu liqueur with fennel and lovage. A very pretty plate, and luckily the other half has a shellfish allergy so I got to eat some of his too. I think this was my favourite course of the night.
My favourite drink of the night though was the “Chateau Edgbaston” cocktail, served in a labelled red wine bottle and looking just like red wine this was a heady mixture of sloe gin, dubonnet and creme de cassis with an oak smoke. It accompanied a filling beef sirloin with white onion and garlic, laid on a flat blanket of strongly flavoured beef.
We then had a pre-dessert of an “Edible Cocktail”. This was a liquid nitrogen frozen block of cocktail. I like theatre in my restaurants and the smoky look of dry ice cocktails and nitrogen frozen food. I’m not sure though that eating nitrogen frozen stuff is for me! I don’t think I get it.
Our final course was Valrhona Chocolate with a Parma violet ice cream and cookie crumb. The Parma violet was just right, and worked well with the deep chocolate flavours, it could’ve been so easy to overdo it. This was matched with a Rubis (chocolate red wine) and espresso and wild berry cocktail.
Certainly a marathon not a sprint of a meal! If you want that luxurious place for a evening of fine food and drink, then this is the place for you. If it’s an extra special occassion splash out on one of their beautiful rooms and make a night of it, serious boyfriend/girlfriend points to be had!
Thanks to The Edgbaston for a wonderful evening.