Turner’s Restaurant Review by Daniel Darwood, November 2010
See Birmingham Revisited Part I
Located in a non-descript shopping parade in the Birmingham suburb of Harborne, Turner’s modest exterior belies the sophistication of the restaurant within. The dark paneling of the long narrow dining room is offset by striking wall of mirrors with the restaurant’s name etched on the glass. .
Turner’s is perhaps the most exciting of the city’s Michelin starred restaurants, producing modern European dishes with classical French influences. Cooking here is unashamedly complex and ambitious, with elements of molecular gastronomy. Nevertheless, clear and bold flavours take priority. Diners can choose from a carte of five starters, mains and desserts, a set lunch or a six course tasting menu, with optional matching wines. The restaurant is attracting a wide audience, as shown on the day we visited, when it had to turn away regulars from a fully booked mid week lunchtime service.
The tasting menu was a brilliant display of harmonious flavours, textures and temperatures, all dishes being beautifully presented.
Canapes of well seasoned salmon ceviche and beef tartare, served on spoons, came with a small dish of (molecular) melon caviar and goats cheese. Next came an amuse bouche of gently smoked cauliflower soup, enlivened with honey and cumin seeds. Both these dishes impressed visually and in terms of taste.
A first course of terrine of foie gras, properly marinated and seasoned, came with poached plums to cut its richness. Red wine syrup, salted meringues and sauternes jelly, all perfectly executed, added a range of complimentary tastes and textures.
A generous fillet of pan fried turbot was juxtaposed against braised oxtail and its consomme, with parsley root, kale, and baby onion garishes. The whole dish was carefully judged to allow the individual flavours to shine, the delicate fish not being overwhelmed by the robust, unctuous meat
Roast breast of grouse was not too gamey and came with a raviolo of its confit leg. This dish proved to be a master class in game cookery, with the seared foie gras and Madeira jus adding more depth of flavour. Bread sauce and swede helped to balance the richness.
Desserts showed the same high level of skill and attention to detail as the savoury courses. An exquisite assiette of rhubarb (poached, dried, jelly, sorbet, cheesecake, espuma in a tuile tower) showcased this versatile fruit at its best.
This was followed by a deeply flavoured and perfectly textured Prune and Armagnac soufflé, garnished with Earl Grey tea syrup and Armagnac ice cream.
Coffee and well made petits fours – the latter being boxed for later consumption – completed another memorable meal, enhanced by knowledgeable and efficient service.
Turner’s is a serious, fine dining establishment which thoroughly deserves the accolades it has gained. We shall watch is progress with interest.
Purnell’s Restaurant Review, By Daniel Darwood. November 2010.
In his spacious eponymous restaurant, set in the heart of the city’s financial district, Glynn Purnell has built on the success he first found at Jessica’s, and then on the “Great British Menu.” The elegant dining room, complete with venetian blinds, hung spotlights and balloon lampshades, has well spaced bare dark wood tables and comfortable leather seating.
The Kenny Everett of modern cooking saves his most inventive and fun dishes for his carte and tasting menu, which were popular choices at a weekday lunchtime when we visited. For those on more limited time and finances, the set lunch menu offers a viable alternative,
A warm amuse bouche based on feta milk spiked with crisp black Japanese rice provided a tasty, satisfying opening.
A starter of venison carpaccio was strangely under seasoned, the dish being saved by blue cheese beignets and an intense watercress puree
The main course of slow cooked belly pork was meltingly rich and tender. Cep puree, braised endive, confit potato and crisp were well judged accompaniments.
British and French cheeses, all in perfect condition, proved a satisfying end to the meal
The service was somewhat inconsistent: some dishes were described in great detail, others not at all. Nevertheless, when asked, the serving staff were highly knowledgeable in their explanations.
Regrettably, due to circumstances beyond its control, Fine Dining Guide had to cancel its mid week dinner booking at Simpsons. However, attempts to contact the restaurant by phone during the day, including the lunchtime service, proved impossible, hence the need to visit the restaurant in person to cancel. The young lady who answered the door claimed she was the only person in the office that day and had been inundated with calls. Surely this well established restaurant with rooms can do better than this?