Eating out, no matter how often or seldom you do it, is always still something of an adventure. Many of us like to stick to what we know and love and therefore don’t stray much beyond our favourite local eating spot. I hope that in my columns I will persuade you to try the unfamiliar and sometimes even the exotic as I work my way through the great variety of culinary experiences Birmingham has to offer.
Having recently returned to the city after a six year sojourn in the East of the country in a small city with excellent restaurants, I have been enjoying reacquainting myself with what Birmingham has to offer. The Michelin starred restaurants will undoubtedly be tried at some point but for the moment I am concentrating on those places that most of us can afford to eat in without having to apply for an overdraft.
Several years ago I found myself chatting to the local manager of Friends of the Earth, who told me about the vegetarian restaurant operated by the organisation. As someone who normally eschews “that vegetarian muck” I was kind of intrigued and decided to put it on my list of places to try. So, a few weeks ago, some seven years later, I eventually made it there with a former colleague.
My goodness, why did I leave it so long? Set in a dark, slightly foreboding, street in Digbeth, this turned out to be a little oasis of culinary light. We began with the soup of the day which was a Tomato and Coriander confection, sweet enough with just enough pungency for the spice and a more or less perfect texture: the kind of soup you might almost want to take with a knife and fork, so powerful is it.
Our main courses were the Halloumi “Fish n Chips” which I have to say cold almost persuade me to give up the real thing and the Halloumi special which was a casserole of Halloumi with mixed veg. In both cases the tastes and textures were as near to perfect as a seasoned vegetarian might desire, with a mix of well-balanced complementary flavours. Even this confirmed “meatie” was convinced that vegetarian cooking can be interesting and satisfying.
The Kreissler pudding, which we shared, was something of a revelation. Subtle yet powerful, slightly sour yet fruity and full flavoured, delightfully textured, this was something I want to try again and again. My taste buds discovered one flavour after another, as each part of the confection made itself apparent. Made, I presume, with little or no added sugar, this is what healthy desserts should be about.
The Warehouse isn’t licensed but customers can bring their own. I had selected a bottle of Simpson’s Sauvignon Blanc (Naked Wines) which I had hoped would be a fairly safe bet and found that it worked pretty well. BYOB is always a slight risk if you don’t know the menu but at least in this case the choice turned out to be a reasonable one, the acidity and complexities of flavours complementing those of the food pretty well. Charles and Ruth Simpson fetched up in the Languedoc some years ago and have established a reputation for wonderfully zingy white wines which benefit from the hot summers of this part of Southern France. This one is a beauty!
Would I return? Absolutely, and it won’t take me seven years either. This is a little gem of a place. It was certainly busy that night, and it deserves to be. The staff were polite, calm, jolly, and gave every sign of being able to take almost anything in their stride. The overall cost for two starters, two mains, and one dessert shared: £34, a snip, I’d say.
#KnifeandFork by Big Enn who can be contacted on @NcherryNorman
Photos courtesy of The Warehouse