Review: Marmalade Bistro, Birmingham

This is the new restaurant attached to the REP theatre, right in the middle of Birmingham. We stopped for a quick meal of small plates after a performance at the Symphony Hall next door. Sorry, no photos – way too dark for my phonecam.

I like the decor and ambiance, slightly mad hatter with the jaggedly scrawled quotes on the wall and all the bare cable lighting strewn about, with big velvet curtains framing the windows. Service was young, friendly and still learning the ropes. We ordered a few small plates between us along with some chips.

I’m really unconvinced by the triple-cooked chips. They were very chunky and not even remotely crispy. If they were on the menu as “saute potato chunks” then I’d feel that I got what I ordered, cos that’s what they were.

My main problem was the garnish. On two of our plates we had a little pile of yellow, spotty, wilting watercress. That betrays real lack of basic thought. If I pulled that out of the fridge at home to have with our dinner, I’d say to Maureen “oops, the watercress has gone” and throw it in the bin. Putting it out on a plate in a restaurant says to the diner: “hi there, I’m happy to be serving you food I wouldn’t want to eat myself!”

Blech. Wonder what else is on our plates? How old is the fish in these crispy fried nduja fish bites (a bit overwhelmed by their spicy mayo dip)? What about the white pudding served with this pig cheek (nice enough plate, this one)? And are these thin sliced of grilled honeydew melon unripe enough to give me indigestion? They were served with sesame seed coated halloumi and a big blob of black olive tapenade, and might have been a nice idea but the melon was too unripe to have any flavour.

The menu is quite inventive. I don’t think it was written by the guy in the kitchen. And I don’t think he or she is yet up to delivering it properly. Maybe they’ll improve?

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