Review: Purnell’s Bistro, Birmingham

Purnell's Bistro

Purnell’s Bistro

I’ve already reviewed Purnell’s and it definitely still stands up in my top ten fine dining experiences in the UK for inventiveness and deliciousness. So it seemed worth a punt at his lower-end Purnell’s Bistro just around the corner when we were needing a pre-show bite to eat one evening.

The place is stylish, long bar area mixed up with a large dining area, very quiet early on a weekday evening and yet even with no-one there the service managed to be patchy and inattentive. Wasn’t a great start. Still, I don’t want to overdo this – it wasn’t too bad, certainly not enough to annoy us.

Bon bons? Really?

Bon bons? Really?

My starter was pear and blue cheese bon-bons, which sounded rather sticky and nifty. It wasn’t really, as the bon bons were just tiny round cheese croquettes and the cheese inside lacked any punch. So then it’s just some pieces of pear with a bit of generic salad garnish and scattered walnuts. Maureen’s mackerel fillet with beetroot on a galette was better.

Better still was her splendidly sticky slow-cooked piece of beef cheek, bourguignon-style with tiny onions and a very clear jus. Yeah, this is a perfectly good opportunity to use the word “unctuous” and really mean it. Mmm. For my part, I went strangely veggie and chose the aubergine rotolo, which turned out to be a sort of roulade of aubergine and pasta baked with a mildly cheesy bechamel sauce, then served on an amiable tomato passata. Eating it was a very soothing experience. It was gentle, nice, innocuous, mild, and to my great surprise I really quite liked it.

Prices were not bad, about £24 for these two courses without drinks. I can’t say we were blown away by the food; it was one of those meals where we talked about other things instead of talking much about what we were eating. And I wouldn’t go expecting any of Glynn Purnell’s culinary pizazz on show at his main restaurant – the inventiveness is more in the naming of the dishes than their actual execution. But, s’no bad either.



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