My soft-landing return to the UK continued with a couple of days in Birmingham. The main reason for my visit was to go to Purnell’s for dinner which I did on the middle night of a three day stay in town.
Glyn Purnell is the lovable Brummie chef from the telly. His restaurant has held 1 Michelin star since 2009. It’s a smart place located in Birmingham’s city centre which while not the most picturesque is a thriving food and drink hub, with a notable Chinese Quarter and a strong Indian/Bangladeshi heritage.
Service was fairly quiet but if you’re looking for the ingredients for a slow night, sub zero temperatures, the midweek day before payday, and the last day of Dry January would constitute a veritable perfect storm.
There were a la carte or seasonal tasting menu options. As I sipped a glass of Champagne in their lounge area, I opted for the latter along with paired drinks.
I was soon at my table. Snacks were up first with an intriguingly blackened plate of morsels rather eye-catching. There were two charcoal coated potatoes served with a garlicky sauce in the Canarian style. The other pieces of charred whatnot were edible, too. They were oddly compelling like Skips.
Rather more conventional were a couple of panisses served with a wasabi mayo. This was a promising opener.
We then had excellent slices of pain de campagne bread with butter and salt. The bread was warm with beautifully crisp crusts.
We then took our first foray into flamboyant liquid nitrogen presentation with a dish of ‘disco’ cheese and pineapple. A cheese mousse with pineapple pieces in it was topped with pineapple nitro granita at the table. This was fun but I’m not sure the dish was all that brilliant.
Much more assured cooking was on display with a riff on mushrooms on toast featuring foie gras and a poached quail egg. This was rich, earthy and delicious.
We then had a lovely little dish of Jerusalem artichoke, black garlic puree and purple potato veloute. This was elegant and satisfying.
Next was an ambitious dish of halibut with bordelaise sauce, parsley oil, and a deep-fried dauphinoise quenelle. The elements were all very well executed but I was left uncertain as to whether they really hung together as a dish.
The main course was Scottish venison served with butternut squash and an array of sauce dots and a nori crisp. This was lovely cooking and a fine marriage of simple, clean flavours.
Dessert was a three stage business with a good palate cleanser of mango topped with a white chocolate disc followed by Purnell’s signature 10/10/10 rhubarb and custard that wowed the judges on Great British Menu.
It was interesting to see the Passard egg presentation again so soon after my trip to Arpège, this time filled with custard crème brulée. It was another clean and elegant dish.
The final flourish was more nitro showmanship for a decadent mint choc chip bonanza with the nitro flooding the table with mint aroma. It was more fun stuff.
Throughout, paired wines had been varied, highly interesting and top notch, with a central Otago pinot noir absolutely outstanding.
Overall, Purnell’s served me a very good dinner with dishes full of creativity and charm. It’s well worthy of your attention next time you’re in these parts. I’m confident you’ll be impressed.
Blythe scores Purnell’s
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4.5/5 for service
4/5 for setting
giving an overall 16.5/20
I ate: winter tasting menu
I drank: bubbles, paired wines, sparkly water, espresso
I wore: classic Hawaiian wear
Total bill: £281.25