purnell’s, birmingham

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good british near birmingham new street. purnell’s is apparently well-known for its chef – though I hadn’t really heard of him previously – and after reading a couple of mixed reviews I wasn’t quite sure about what we would be getting.

we were directed into a cosy corner, which I was initially pleased with, until I realised that behind us was the exit by which the waiters and chefs and workmen took to get outside and so we had to contend with that throughout the meal. no matter though as I didn’t ask to move; our waiter was french and very polite and pleasant, even reminding us to eat while the dish was warm. I had been committing the mortal sin of food bloggers with photography.

our meal started with a surprisingly hearty serving of bread, complete with whipped unsalted butter and salt. the bread was very tasty, and later useful for dunking into our complimentary amuse-bouche of pumpkin veloute and crispy black rice crispies.

I should mention we had ordered the 3-course lunch set that was going for 27quid, but changed our desserts to the ones on the tasting menu for a supplement of 4.50quid each. I haven’t ever mentioned prices on this blog before, but receiving the bill was a bit surprising, even though I have eaten at quite a few restaurants before – our bill meant that each dessert was going for nearly 9 pounds, which I thought a little extravagant.

no matter, as our starters were tasty and fresh.  I had the ling fillet, served with slivers of pungent red onion, a basil puree and miniature greens – it was cooked perfectly, such that you could still see the faint veins in the fish. on the other side of the table was the rabbit and pork terrine – it was very pleasantly gamey and came with different purees and a quenelle of sour cream that helped cut through some of the richness. the terrine came apart in shreds of meat and was still very fresh-tasting.

there was a bit of a wait between our starter and main courses, probably due to the number of people who arrived at the restaurant during that time. the dishes were decent if unextraordinary, a plate of pork belly with a rich jus as well as my dish of cod with quinoa, which tasted a little middle-eastern. well-cooked, just nothing special.

our desserts were a little higher on the impress-me scale, but then again this was because they were on the more expensive meny. the original desserts were a sort of rhubarb crumble and pavlova, neither of which sounded great to us. our choice of chocolate-and-passion-fruit dome served with a mousse-y parfait was delicious; the little dome came topped with gold leaf and opened up to show an inside of rich chocolate ganache that was tangy with the flavours of passion fruit, while the parfait was an airy mousse topped with an airier foam of the same fruit and honey-comb tuiles. my apple crumble parfait was actually an apple sorbet atop pastry crumbs with a sesame tuile, as well as a fresh-tasting blackberry sorbet and halved blackberries and sugared orange rinds. tasty, special, and helped make the meal memorable.

I would agree with an unusual chinaman that purnell’s might not be worth the trip up from london, especially since there is a large number of restaurants here that do such good food. but when you’re in birmingham, it’s worth a visit for some very decent cooking.

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