Month: August 2014

Turners Restaurant, Harborne

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.


Turners on Urbanspoon

The Orange Tree, Chadwick End

Sometimes I feel obliged to try the worst sounding item on a menu.  It’s an instinctive impulse to satisfy my curiosity that happened recently at The Orange Tree, a smart pub in the affluent village of Chadwick End.  A tandori chicken burger with advocado, raita, and mango chutney, rounded off with a bucket of fries.  What? Why?!  My first thought was that perhaps this was the closest the villagers would get to a kebab shop offering and that the evenings bell for last round would see a rush of boat shoes to the bar, all drooling at the thought of satisfying their grease quota for the night.  My second thought was wow, this sounds atrocious, I must try it.

Try it I did and low and behold, it was tasty stuff.  Quite why it worked, I’m not so sure, though there was an element of gourmet kebab shop to it.  The chicken moist and with good flavour of both bird and spice, the bun soft and the raita a natural accompaniment to the heat from the whole chilli that lurked unannounced underneath the breast.  The mango chutney was mercifully served on the side, as its cloying sweetness really had no place on the plate.  That aside, this was a quirky, fun, main course.


And so to the rest of The Orange Tree, which is part of a small chain in equally well-to-do areas.  Its light and cosy, with the names of game species hanging from the white washed walls, as if to reinforce the rural spot it sits in.  There is a fine wine list, a good selection of ales and some truly horrific lagers on tap.  The staff are unobtrusive, if a little stretched at times.

I plumped for a starter of pulled pork chilli with nachos, sweet corn sour cream and guacamole.  The meat was tender and spicy, yet swamped by the flavour of the chilli to the point that it was unrecognisable as pork.  Not that I am bemoaning this, it was flavoursome, the nachos were grease free and the portion was huge.  Many a man could get lost in this over an afternoon and several pints.  Another starter was wisely shared between three as the portion was again massive.  It was a mezze, Moroccan in style and with too many elements to list before I fall to sleep at the keyboard.  It was all declared delicious, in particular the salsa dotted with pomegranate seeds and watermelon.  A salad with beetroot, feta, and carrot was all earth and salt.  The accompanying flat breads left the plate useless to the dish washer.

pulled pork

I knew the pasta dish would defeat it us before it reached the table.  It was a generous portion that could have been visible from space.  Within the mound of bucatini was fennel sausage, pine nuts, and goats cheese, with a good amount of red pepper pesto to provide moisture.  It was as satisfying and comforting as a hug from your mother.  It was also way too much food, as was the roast beef with traditional trimmings.  The meat perfectly pink and from a good beast, hiding some very good roasties.  There was a thick gravy and carrots thankfully boiled past al dente.  There were also some green veg served separately.  There had to be.  Because there is no way that huge pile of food would be enough to fill one person alone.



Somehow room was found for desserts.  A brown sugar meringue that was chewy in all the right spots was paired with rose water cream and pistachios.  It was impressive in the way that we wanted to try and recreate it at home, though knew that we could never quite manage.  It was this course that also saw the only duff dish of the day.  A coupe, or sundae, call it what you will, should be a sum of its parts:  Good quality ice cream, some crunch, a good quality sauce or syrup, all so that every spoonful feels different.  Here it was coffee ice cream with a dusting of amoretti crumbs, bashed beyond the point of any textural recognition.



Once I was rolled out of the dining area and into the car, I stopped for recollection during the journey home.  I really enjoyed The Orange Tree.  The food is well sourced and equally well cooked.  It’s at a fair price point for seriously big plates of food.  The portions here may get the back up of those who hate waste, but those should go to enjoy a main course and leave feeling wonderfully replete.  It’s a great place in a great location.  The locals have it lucky.


Orange Tree on Urbanspoon