Of the four starred restaurants in Birmingham, it was Turners that kept on alluding me, despite the fact that I walk past it weekly on the way from my home to my local boozer. I really don’t know why. Perhaps its location always pitted it directly against Simpsons, who’s Georgian grandeur a mile away always won against the bijou building a couple of doors away from Iceland. After all, nobody wants to be that close to a potential encounter with Kerry Katona or Stacey Solomon.
Within the confides of the tiny, dimly lit space, is the cooking of Richard Turner, who’s seemingly modern approach to cuisine is direct juxtaposition to the staunch French approach to service. I asked for the wine list which took twenty minutes to arrive. The first nibbles came some fifteen minutes after that. They were okay. There was some toast with truffle, a parmesan donut and a deep fried beet top with cep powder. All capably eaten given how hungry we were at this point.
There was a starter of salad of radish and cauliflower with kohlrabi juice that took me back to the wonders of L’enclume a year back, the flavours clean and accurate, with nice salty notes from grated parmesan. This came swiftly after a lesson in texture from an amouse of stinking bishop, potato and parsley, seemingly straight out of the kitchen of Sat Bains, even if the cheesy mousse didn’t sit too well with the parsley extraction for my liking.
Watching truffle being sliced tableside is a joy that will never grow tired for me. Here lashings of it covered a salt baked celeriac, again served tableside, with some morels and asparagus. Sadly, it was all ceremony and little flavour, as the truffles lacked depth of character that you would expect. The celeriac proved any root vegetable tastes better when encrusted in salt and baked.
There was a loin of pork betrayed of any real heat, atop of a piece of belly, with some lovely tender stem broccoli, silky mash potato and cubes of roasted apple. All very textbook and I’m sure the chef intended it to be like this, but the texture of meat that has been sous-vide only feels wrong to me – especially so with pork. That said, the plate came nicely together in an inoffensive way, much in the same way brown curtains are matched to magnolia painted walls.
Dessert was a vanilla parfait, with pistachio ice-cream and various bits of rhubarb. Rhubarb and custard, if you like. It was a stunning piece of cooking, both skilful and witty. Classical with a modern touch. It was also the first time throughout the two hours that I felt excited by something I ate. Like watching Basic Instinct to find the interview scene had been moved to the end.
I can tell you with certainty that Turners is my least favourite of the Michelin starred restaurants in Birmingham. I can also say fairly confidently that its possibly my least favourite of any restaurant I have eaten in to be graced with a star, or stars. Food is subjective. Everyone has an opinion. The restaurant was full when I was there and that proves that people will pay good money to eat food which is technically flawless. Everything I ate was served as intended by the chef. It just didn’t excite me. Michelin By Numbers. I genuinely had no idea of the chefs cooking style, if he has one at all – sometimes like Turner himself was referencing the restaurants he had dined in. I’m glad I went to Turners to satisfy my curiosity. It means I can now keep on walking past it.