See Birmingham Revisited Part II
Fine Dining Guide reviewed the Birmingham restaurant scene in 2005 and found much to recommend in a variety of cuisines. Since then, the city has gone from strength to strength and is now the proud possessor of three Michelin starred restaurants. The 2011 AA Restaurant Guide has awarded rosettes to eleven restaurants, whilst the 2011 Good Food Guide has ten main entries. It’s not just the quantity, but the quality that also impresses: Love’s, Simpsons and Purnell’s each have three AA rosettes, and the same establishments, along with Edmund’s and Turner’s, gained four or more out of ten in the Good Food Guide
Love’s is situated in a modern, multi-storey residential canal side development behind the busy Brindley Place. Accessed by a footbridge, this glass fronted, minimalist chic designed restaurant has little chance of passing trade, relying more on local residents, word of mouth and strong marketing to reach a discerning clientele. It has succeeded in doing this, given its recent expansion and partial refurbishment. Weekends are very busy, and the private dining room has proved especially popular. Claire Love oversees the front of house, her warm welcome and engaging charm putting diners at their ease. The wine list is also her responsibility, one which she has shown great care and attention in selecting. Service is efficient and knowledgeable.
As one would expect from the ex Roux Scholar and National Chef of the Year, Steve Love’s cooking continues to amaze. For those who visited his previous restaurants in Leamington Spa and Lower Quinton, his mastery of classical techniques is unquestioned. Now his food has developed even further with clarity of taste and balance of flavours being paramount. Diners can choose from a good value lunch and early evening set menu, or from the carte. The ultimate delight is the tasting menu (with optional wines), a tour de force of skill, invention and artistry.
An amuse bouche of celeriac and goat’s cheese puree was lifted by the judicious addition of nutmeg.
A starter of tuna sashumi and goat’s cheese with raw, cooked, pickled and jellied beetroot, with its own sorbet, was brilliantly conceived and spectacularly presented.
Next, a perfectly timed scallop with caramelized crust was served with braised belly pork. These two rich elements were balanced by piquant peas and an earthy crumble of black pudding.
A sublime seared tranche of top quality foie gras, was set against figs poached in port and cinnamon. Pain d’espices gave a fragrant textural contrast.
A palate cleansing sorbet of banana and lime with pork scratchings was another eclectic combination which succeeded in re-awakening the taste buds
The main course demonstrated Steve’s forte in transforming humble ingredients into delectable morsels: crispy tongue and braised ox cheek accompanied rib eye of Herefordshire beef cooked in carrot ash and sauced with an intense red wine reduction. Celeriac choucroute and smoked mash potato also helped to make this dish a taste sensation.
A light but intense passion fruit crème with biscotti was followed by two well judged desserts.
A dish of poached pineapple, coconut milk porridge, coconut sorbet and pinacolada foam was well balanced in temperatures and textures
Iced raspberry and turron parfait, hazelnut cake, marinated raspberries and sherbet showed again the real skill of the pastry section.
Overall, this was a highly memorable meal. Given the composite nature and labour intensity of the dishes, the fact that there are only three in the kitchen is remarkable. A gifted chef and creative artist, Steve Love has yet to receive the full recognition he deserves. Let us hope that Birmingham is the city where he achieves it.