Michelin Come to Birmingham (2005) – Part II Jessica’s

Posted on: October 5th, 2005 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood








Emerging from the kitchen after the lunch service, Glynn Purnell still looks relaxed, cheerful and bubbling with energy……….

The initial discussion was about food combinations and cooking techniques: goat’s cheese royale and beetroot sorbet; scallops with mackerel and apple puree rather than with black pudding; his love of vegetable starters; how to poach an egg yolk, which acts as a natural sauce for his dish of cepes.

What amazes the listener is the creative buzz that preoccupies his thinking. Combinations of colours – such as the pastel shades of pear and artichoke – as well as flavours, textures and temperatures constantly inspire him. Crab with pear, rather than kohlrabi, ravioli worked better given the need for sweetness.. Being able to picture a new taste combination, such as sweet and sour lemon with pumpkin, helps drive him forward in the kitchen.

We talk of matters local. Where quality exists, he will use local suppliers. When time allows, he will help the Midland Association of Chefs, especially the younger ones, and support the links with Lyons. All of his team of five in the kitchen are local, three being graduates of the prestigious School of Food.

The conversation switches to his experience and mentors. Surprisingly, despite being in kitchens for 16 years, he has only been a chef in charge of his own kitchen for two. On reflection, his preference for building up experience under top names such as Andreas Antona, Luke Tipping and Claude Bossi, has provided the necessary skills to establish a Michelin recognised restaurant. He was sous chef for two years each at Simpsons and Hibiscus: Simpsons gave him a solid grounding in a mainly classical repertoire, whereas Claude Bossi taught him to be more expressive.

His regime in the restaurant is non Ramsayesque. A more gentle, quiet approach has paid dividends with staff, who are an enthusiastic and professional team. Front of House is the charming Pascal Cuny. .Although he has the pick of the crop when recruiting staff, Glynn laments the relative lack of dedication there used to be in the trade. Too many budding chefs nowadays want to gain Michelin stars without having proved themselves on the basics.

Glynn is very optimistic about the Birmingham food scene, not just because he has been nominated as a “Food Hero”. He stresses there has always been a strong food culture with the diversity of ethnic restaurants, but opportunities for fine dining have been lacking. What is exciting is that people are coming into rather than leaving the city to eat, encouraged by the city centre development of retail outlets, cafes, bars and quality restaurants. As for his own restaurant and Simpsons, the last year has shown – despite his initial fears – that demand is more than enough to allow both of them to thrive. Their success will also encourage those on a lower level to raise their game.

And what of the future?

Glynn is only 30 and is eager to develop further, despite the large number of accolades already heaped upon him. Appreciating the limitations of décor, size and location of his present operation, who knows what the future holds. What is unlikely to change is the creative energy and imagination that injects his style of cooking with an excitement and dynamism rarely experienced at this level

Review of Jessicas

Roasted ceps with confit potatoes in rosemary, free range egg yolk, cep foam, potato crisps. Served as a generous amuse bouche, it featured local – yes Edgbaston! – wild mushrooms, the intense flavour and delicate texture of which provided a rich foil to the herb infused potato.

Selection of Jessicas starters

Royale of goat’s cheese with beetroot sorbet, watercress puree and beetroot crisps Goat’s cheese in a palatable, non cloying form! Essentially a warm egg custard, it was beautifully offset by an intense beetroot sorbet of perfect smoothness. The colours of this dish were remarkable.

Smoked ham hock terrine, salad of pickled squid, tomato and muscavado marmalade, tomato jelly. This unusual combination of strong flavours succeeded because they all complemented, rather than conflicted with, each other.

Sauteed hand dived scallops with tartare of mackerel, cucumber, apple, hazelnut and mackerel beignets. This was an inspired partnering of rich and poor man’s seafood. The delicate sweetness of the scallop was balanced by the intense oily fishiness of the mackerel and the light acidity of the apple puree.

Red mullet with roasted pumpkin, coriander seeds, parmesan and sweet and sour lemon. This strongly flavoured fish harmonised well with its mild spicing,.and varied accompaniments.

Crab salad, pear ravioli, pigs trotter beignets, liquorice. This was an impromptu dish, demonstrating true creativity. The freshness of the crab, the crisp sweetness of the pear and the contrasting texture and temperatures of the beignets added to success of a dish that was both delicate yet robust.

main course

Duck breast caramelised pineapple, smoked black olives and aromatic mouli, veal jus The intensely flavoured and perfectly timed Gressingham duck breast was inventively paired with and sweet and savoury garnishes in a lip smacking, well reduced sauce.


Warm chocolate mousse with passion fruit sorbet. For someone who does not usually eat chocolate desserts, this dish had a surprising lightness. The sorbet was exquisite in taste and texture. Blackberry parfait, yogurt and marjoram sorbet; these two iced desserts married well, with a fragrance reminiscent of the hedgerows.  In all a first class experience and one I look forward to repeating in the future.