Dining out in Birmingham has been very interesting in the last few months.
Folium opened in Caroline Street. I've had two excellent lunches there so far. Ben Tesh is producing some wonderful food and the place is bright and modern and comfortable.
What a pleasure indeed was the salt marsh lamb. A fine start to Folium in its Jewellery Quarter home.
A little further into the Jewellery Quarter a surprise temporary home for The Wilderness. With work on its new Bennett's Hill home delayed, Alex Claridge is cooking in the previous location, down an alley in Warstone Lane, of Two Cats and, more historically, The Toque D'Or. The all-black decor follows the rule that less is more and Claridge's whimsies are no worse showcased in this perhaps slightly claustrophobic environment than anywhere else. Claridge' food is magnificent and full of humour. His Big Mac appetiser does to steak tartare what it has always been asking for. His lamb (charcoal, cucumber) is perfect and his 'Quail, Tamarind' (NAFB - the waitress will tell you what it stands for - not only is Claridge a gastronomic genius but also one of Britain's great comedians) gives us one of the most memorable 'curries' ever served up in Birmingham. Notably, all tables were taken at a mid-week lunchtime.
Perhaps The Jewellery Quarter is the new Ludlow.
Having mentioned the Toque D'Or there comes the sad news that Didier Philpott's later restaurant, Edmund's in Brinkley Place, closed suddenly and is to be reopened as Maribel where the Head Chef will be, of all people, Richard Turner, who closed his own Turner's At 69 shockingly suddenly in January this year. I liked Edmund's though it's fate always seemed sealed by how few people were lunching there whenever I went. Philpott's cooking gave us perfectly fine and accurate French cuisine better than that served at the persistently 2 Michelin star Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham and I shall miss it.
Turner of course went through revisions of his menus at Turner's eventually ditching his multi-course tasting menus for a return to the pleasures of a la carte. Now an article in the Birmingham Post tells us that Turner will be presenting an 11 course tasting menu at a cost of £85 in Maribel but that there will also be a three-course a la carte menu which in my view is a relief.
Finally The Post tells us that Aktar Islam, his days at Lasan numbered, is planning 2 new restaurants in the coming months - the Opheem in Summer Row which will feature 'progressive Indian cuisine' and also in Summer Row will be the Mi Amore Ristorante Pizzaria to open in May. Oh good, another Italian-style restaurant - as Claridge would say, "NAFP", the last initial standing for 'pizza'.