Thrilled to see that the great and the good were raving about a new restaurant just a five minute walk from our front door, we booked our anniversary dinner at Tropea, now some weeks ago. While we’d seen the chef and maître d’ proprietors were Kasia and Ben respectively, we hadn’t twigged it was Ben who we’d known at Harborne Kitchen and who had told me that he had ambitions to open his own restaurant. How lucky we are that this was not just a pipe dream, and that he and his girlfriend were able to find such a well-positioned property, just beyond the High Street of leafy Harborne.
They’ve renovated the former Boo Boo Coffee site into a grown-up dining room, and Ben’s interior design skills have been proven as impressive as Kasia’s cookery. It’s an intimate and trendy space equally perfect for a food-sharing dinner with friends, or for a romantic celebration.
We started with an aperitif Paper Plane cocktail (£10) with Salumi & Pickles (£6) and focaccia (£3.5). The Salumi (cured meats) included speck, copa, and spianata chorizo which was a particular favourite, and the pickles were crunchy and sharp. The focaccia, made in-house of course, was spongy and salty with a delicious rosemary punch. We were keen to try the fried courgette flower with goat’s cheese, mint, and Harborne honey, but it was already sold out – hopefully we’ll try it on an inevitable future trip.
For the Italian-initiated you’ll know that typically dinner courses run in an intricate order of aperitif, starter, pasta course, meat course plus salad and side dishes, then desserts and digestifs. It’s a drawn out relaxing affair taking several hours. So next up after starters we had two pasta dishes.
Enormous ravioli were filled with ricotta, lemon, pistachio pesto, and herbs (£11), and the pasta (obviously made in house) was perfectly al dente. Fillings were generous and subtly balanced without the lemon overtaking as it so often does. Our other pasta was a special and while I took photos I failed to take notes – I recall it was beefy delicious but can’t recall much else!
Our main dish of octopus was my favourite of the evening, served with fried potato cubes, black olive, and saffron aioli (£14). It was salty and sweet, a little charred, and perfect with the richness of the mayonnaise. Octopus can sometimes be a little too pungent, but this had a good glug of the sea without overwhelming the other flavours.
The octopus dish paired well with the Gavi di Gavi (£39). The wine list is small but curated and, excluding fizz, ranges £24 to £58 a bottle. Bottled beers and cider, and selected cocktails and spirits also available, of course.
Ox cheek (£13) was glossy and rich, heady with umami and well-seasoned. Its softness was relieved by the crispy golden polenta cake. Slices of pickled walnut offered extra complexity and a charred shallot completed the dish.
We finished up with a not-too-sweet Tiramisu (£7), brought-in from the well-reviewed @TuttoAposto. And then, seeing as it was our anniversary, we had a bottle of Nyetimber (sponsored by the bad idea bears).
During the day Tropea is opening as a café serving lighter food such as focaccia sandwiches (how about N’duja, Provolone cheese, roasted red peppers, & rocket for a lunchtime snack?) and Piadina (like Italian quesadillas). They serve Hundred House coffee, and have a great looking list of sweets and cakes, and of course they’re licensed so the yummy mummies and dishy daddies of Harborne can have a beer or wine even with lunch.
While we had quite an elaborate dinner for around £60 a head (excluding fizz) it can easily be an affordable evening out, and we’re thrilled that it’s on the doorstep.
Well done to Ben, Kasia, and team.
More info available on their website here: