TURNERS RESTAURANT BIRMINGHAM
A wedding anniversary celebration deserves a Michelin star and so my wife and I took the 30 minute drive to Harborne, on the outskirts of Birmingham and found Richard Turner's restaurant perched between Greggs and Boots in the High Street. Very unassuming from the outside, there are only about 20 covers so you get that exclusivity feeling as soon as you enter and the excellent waiting staff continue that theme throughout your meal. The interior is black with Turner mirrors reflecting back at you from every wall. I found the décor a little dated and my wife found it 'coffin' like. The furnishings are stylish, though one fellow guest discovered his chair was a little too flimsy for his apparent weight, but luckily an eagle eyed waiter spotted the collapsing chair before its occupant hit the floor.
We selected the 9 course 'Experience' taster menu and 'pushed the boat out' with a £65 bottle of Trebbiano d' Abruzzo to accompany it. Service was prompt, as Wednesday evenings clearly do not attract the Edgbaston set in their masses, and the restaurant was at 50% occupancy. After tasting our wine, canapés of Smoked haddock croquette and Oxtail doughnut arrived and were duly enjoyed for their different tastes and seasoning. The deep fried oxtail seemed the better of the two. The 'Tomato' course followed soon after, and while it's look was a little off-putting its taste truly compensated. The Heirloom tomato presse with buttermilk, tomato seeds and herbs was a refreshing mouthful of jelly that beautifully cleansed the palette. Squid minestrone occupied the soup course, and this unusual mix was delightful. I am not a lover of squid, but this dish of fresh vegetables and soft tender squid went down very well.
The taster menu provides small servings of lots of dishes and Turner's choices are expertly put together and presented and served with panache. The waiter delivers each course from the kitchen and then the maître de serves the dishes, while explain the serving. It is done with flair and skill which makes the guest feel that little bit special. So it was, we were on to the starter course of Roast duck liver, blackberry and 'minus 8 vinegar'. (I presumed 'minus' meant a vinegar reduction). I must admit that the duck liver alone was a little bland but combined with the blackberries, it is a stunning and delicious combination. I would have loved more! However, it was on to course number five and 'Jersey royals' - a sensational dish of potatoes with pine, lovage and fresh curds. The best dish so far! The sauce was 'to die for' and the potatoes were just like those Jerseys that Mum used to buy when I was a lad.
I must say that the main course was the most disappointing. A pork dish with variations of lettuce and yoghurt, while beautifully cooked and nicely pink with a reduced sauce, it lacked the delightful taste we had experienced with earlier courses. Yes, we both cleared our plates, as with almost every plate, but sadly there was no 'wow' factor. On to the cheese course - yes, before the dessert! It's the French way, I'm told. However, it's a filling course and while the walnut and raisin bread to accompany the Brillat truffle and Tamworth goat's cheese, made an excellent and tasty combination of flavours, my wife had to opt out of the two final dessert courses, for fear of 'stomach burst'.
I ploughed on and enjoyed Wild lime with bitter chocolate, avocado and coconut, a refreshing taste of fruits with a the bitterness of the chocolate sorbet. And finally course number nine, Raspberries with beetroot sorbet, rose, almond granola and basil. It was here that I finally found the one chink in Michelin Chef Richard Turner's 'experience' menu - beetroot and raspberries are not a good combination! In fact, they should be avoided! Their tastes do not work in harmony or in contrast and while the dish needed some coldness, the beetroot sorbet was not the answer. The basil and granola worked well with the sharpness of the fruit, but my sorbet went back to the kitchen as the only remnant from any otherwise fabulous wedding anniversary experience of 'Experience'.
The bill came to £281 which included the excellent wine and a 12.5% service charge.