When Keith Marsden joined forces with the daughter of one of Birmingham’s other stalwart hospitality families there were high hopes that they would produce a knockout venue, and they have not disappointed. Keith Marsden, owner of the British Oak in Stirchley, and The Prince of Wales and Dark Horse in Moseley, has teamed up with Abby Connolley, of Connolleys, a go-to city wine merchant who’ve been selling wine to hotels and restaurants for four decades, and who have had seven generations in the wine slurping and sipping business. Some months ago the Marsdens opened Cheval Blanc, a wine bar with food, next door to the Dark Horse – can you see what they’ve done with the name there?
Like other suburbs of Brum over recent years Moseley has up and come. It has always been perhaps a bit alternative, and the locals’ fierce opposition to chains and their support of independents means they’ve ended up with many interesting family run venues that are hard to beat. Keith’s other venues serve up all sorts of fun from smokehouse food, cocktails, and cigar bars, to garden hoedowns (and a drenching in beer sometimes, eh, Mr. L?). Add to those Carters – a Michelin starred restaurant, a tapas restaurant or two, a Cuban, and now a new Indian street food joint Xindiya which we’re yet to try, and you’re sure to find something to suit your fancy.
Cheval Blanc is an upmarket affair. Inside you’ll find velvet clad seating and bright walls and woodwork. Plus, there’s a wonderful Spiral Cellar. To the uninitiated, that’s a hole around six foot across bored through the floor some fifteen feet in to the earth, and then lined with wine shelving and topped with sexy glass. There are few material things in this world that I covet, but one of these cellars is on the list.
The bar is fronted and managed by the affable certified sommelier Abby Connolly who’ll help you choose something from the extensive wine list to suit your tastes. That could be two glasses of prosecco for £7, or an £800 bottle of Chateau Cheval Blanc St. Emillion ’86. There are plenty of bottles and glasses in the middle of that price range, and the bulk are in the £21 to £50 range. For our lunch with a few friends we drank some wonderful Pinot Noir. Quite a lot of it as it came to pass… Hic!
It wasn’t only a liquid lunch, thankfully. The food is all served as either small plates to share or large sharer boards. Sort of like tapas but broad classic european cookery rather than just Spanish. Most small dishes are around £6 each and three per person is a good fill. I loved the girolles & mozzerella arancini (deep fried balls of flavoured risotto rice). They were crispy on the outside and gooey in the middle, with a heady girolle sauce. My favourite of the day was the Wild Boar Casserole, very french, and so comforting. A flat tart combined sharp cheese with sweet onion on a crispy pastry base. Mussels were perfectly cooked, smoked salmon home cured, and we also loved the smoked Monkfish with puy lentils.
It would be a wonderful place to come on a romantic night out, for special wine and sharing food, but equally we sat happily as a group of six for two or three hours, eating and drinking, watching the world go by outside.
Tasteful and tasty food and wine with great service. We will be back.