Knife & Fork: Opus Café

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.

At any rate there was no confusion of any sort in the kitchen of this culinary haven, the offshoot of serious eating house Opus in Cornwall Street. Not that this is in any way a lightweight; while it is definitely a café, it is a very serious café with light and airy food which is easy to eat yet complex and utterly fulfilling as a culinary experience.

We had ample but not large portions of bread with a nicely balanced olive oil while we decide on our main (and only) course and talked shop. By coincidence, we both chose the same dish, the Fillet of Cod with Spiced Orzo, Wilted Spinach, and Lemon Tahini Yoghurt. Under normal circumstances that would be a terrible mistake for a food writer but on this occasion I had not been intending to write about the experience, simply savour it, which I most certainly did.

The Cod, for such a butch kind of fish, was light, delicate, just melting in the mouth. The lightly spiced Orzo and the Lemon Tahini Yoghurt binding it bringing a wonderful mixture of North and South shores of the Mediterranean to Oozells Square, a perfect complement. This was, on the face of it, uncomplicated lunchtime food but clearly cooked with thoughtfulness, care and, might I suggest, love. Since the days of wine at lunchtime have largely gone, we were content to have sparkling water but I imagine a light, not too complex sauvignon blanc from the Adige would have been a perfect accompaniment.

This was the second time I have taken lunch at the Ikon since Opus took over the kitchen and I shall certainly be back. The price for two? I have no idea as my colleague was paying, and a gentlemen, especially one who cannot keep his own appointments diary, would never dream of asking, but somewhere in the region of £29 including two coffees.  Pretty good value for such excellent cooking and courteous, friendly service.

#KnifeandFork by Big Enn who can be contacted on @NcherryNorman

Photos courtesy of Café Opus.

Neighbourhood Watch: Brindleyplace

With its opulent pillars holding up relatively low office blocks, the canal-side area has had a fantastic transformation in the last couple of decades. This is one area of Birmingham that has not been filled with glass towers.

It does have an abundance of eateries and squares so you won’t necessarily notice the eleven office blocks housing the likes of Lloyds Bank, Deloitte, BT, Royal Bank of Scotland and Free Radio and their 8500 employees.

Amid the big names such as Costa and Eat that bring comfort to the many tourists, especially due to the Symphony Hall, ICC and NIA located around here, there are some wonderful local businesses too.

One of Birmingham’s finest restaurants, Loves, is situated just outside, a pretty canal bridge away on Canal Square. Run by husband and wife, Steve & Claire Love and their excellent team, the place takes you away from the hustle and transports you into a blissful space of amazing food, five star hospitality and tranquillity, with zero pretentiousness.

If you’re after a more casual experience, JusJus is right there too or back into Brindleyplace, try Opus Café on the ground floor of Ikon Gallery. A little sister to the long-established Opus in the Colmore Business District. Another pre-theatre option is Edmunds, situated right in the heart of Brindleyplace and its just a few minutes’ walk to get you to your performance at ICC, NIA or Symphony Hall or even the nearby Birmingham Rep.

Brindleyplace houses the purpose-built Sea Life centre and the wonder that is the Crescent Theatre. This charity venue run partly by volunteers puts on its own productions in the mix and has its very own cinema showing classics.

There is decent sized Hilton Garden Inn hotel but there are thousands of beds in hotels nearby as you are just on the edge of the Convention Quarter here.

In the summer, take in the outside events including cinema, live music, the Chilli Festival and the food market. There are plenty of places to sit on the grass, along the fountain water feature or underneath the pillared walkways. There are car parks plus convenience stores include Spar, Sainsbury’s and Boots as well as Ethos Flowers for when you’ve forgotten your colleague’s birthday. There really is no excuse!

Finally, if you spend a lot of time in the area, it’s worth picking up a free discount card here. The offers varies but there are plenty of options to make it worth adding to the bulge of your loyalty cards in your wallet.

By Rickie, founder of Birmingham Favourites who can be reached on @BrumFaves or @RickieWrites or add your comments below.