I used to work in an office at Five Ways. Back then it was a depressing place to be; the trashy Broad St in one direction, Edgbaston’s elitist housing to the other. Lunch time was equally lack lustre. You would, if you were lucky, get to see a riddled prostitute on the way to picking up a jacket potato from a man in a van who wished he’d stayed on at school. Or even worse, a Boots sandwich meal deal. But that was then, and Birmingham is a changed place after those many years, with few areas more transformed than this meeting point of Edgbaston and the city centre. Many of the office blocks still remain but the area has become a culinary corner with Rofuto peering down over The Highfield, Simpsons and Blue Piano. Its become one of my favourite places in the city to be.
To this list of great places to eat please add El Borracho De Oro, found directly opposite Blue Piano on Harborne Road. I’d known about the place for some time; my girlfriend had been on a couple of occasions and had raved about the tapas here, to which I had promised to take her and never got round to. Its my loss. The dining room feels like a pintxos bar in San Sebastian, albeit with food tucked safely away in the kitchen, decorated with splashes of colours on the wall and patterned tiles across the floor and bar front. Hard wooden tables take up the main seating area whilst seating gets gradually more comfortable the closer to the rooms peripherals you get. The menu is a list of things that you want to eat; the land, sea, and vegetables all equally represented along with cured meats and eggs.
We order widely from the options and are impressed from the off. A plate of cured meats are the very essence of a Spanish pintxos, from top quality lomo and chorizo to dried beef the colour of a bruise. Best are wafer thin slices of jamon with ribbons of fat that dissolve on the tongue and leave a memory of flavour in the mouth. Crisp croquettes give way to a creamy béchamel full of ham which are as good as I can recall ever eating. A fried egg with soft chorizo and crisp potato becomes self saucing when the yolk is let loose. Its at these moments that I remember why Spanish food is one of my favourites when done properly.
Pan con Tomato is correctly served with the mushed tomato on top of lightly charred bread rubbed with just enough garlic to create interest. I often hanker for this style of cooking without ever finding success (yes, I’m looking at you, Tapas Revolution. Best Spanish restaurant my arse). Here it feeds the soul. Padron peppers are also they should be; blistered and well salted to create that bitter, savoury and slightly fiery taste. Give me these two dishes and a glass of sherry and I am yours. Please don’t give me the tortilla which was not loose enough in the centre to have me ordering it again.
But then we move up a gear. Octopus, dusted with paprika and served with slithers of potato, is cooked to retain a little bite with none of the chewiness that you would usually associate with this cephalopod. We finish the savoury courses with the ox cheek, a dish that could easily be served with just a dessert spoon. The slow cooked meat collapsing upon itself easier than a post Brexit Tory government, served simply with the onions and cooking liqueur it has been braised with. Its a stunning plate of food, deserving alone of regular revisits.
For desserts we take churro’s with a dark chocolate sauce and a crème brulee made with Tonka beans. The churro’s are good freshly piped lengths of deep fried choux, though the brulee wins for being lusciously addictive. Tonka can easily overpower other ingredient’s, though here it benefits from standing alone centre stage.
Service was knowledgeable and efficient, with a well constructed wine list that hardly ever peeks above the twenties for a bottle. El Borracho is as unashamedly a Spanish experience as you will find in the city, and for that I thank them. Its the kind of place I expect I will gladly return to time and time again.
My meal here was complimentary