Way before I started eating and writing about the nicer places around Birmingham, I used to read about them and not eat at them. I would buy the Birmingham (then Evening) Mail on a Friday only, moving just past halfway to Paul Fulford’s weekly piece. There you would have found a small picture of his small and shiny head in the upper left and two hundred words or so of Paul’s concise writing below. His occasionally acerbic, always honest writing style was an early favourite of mine, more so on the occasions he slipped in a subtle knob innuendo. He’s my neighbour now, which I still find bizarre, and occasionally I get to spend time over dinner with him, taking in his stories and counting the wrinkles on his face. A couple of nights back I met him at 7pm sharp at Nosh & Quaff where in the deep red leather booths you would have found the unlikely combination of a Birmingham food legend and Paul Fulford, the ex restaurant critic for the Birmingham Mail.
There is a valid reason for us being here. Back when I first wrote about Nosh & Quaff the menu was even shorter than Paul; lobster, burgers, some ribs. I liked it, others less so, finding the options too limiting and the pricing aggressive. Two years and a little introspection later, we have a full page of options and a considerable decrease in the pricing. I think it needs it. Downstairs is still a beautiful space of marble and deep red leather with ceilings high enough to fit my ego without the need to crouch, it just now has the kind of pricing and options to fill it more frequently. There is a large industrial room of bare brick and wood upstairs that they should turn into the city centre location of Fiesta Del Asado, a stablemate of the same group.
The hotdog is one of those items that has fallen in price. Impeccably sourced from the Big Apple Hotdog company it is now half the price of the fifteen quid it used to be, with only fries losing their tray gig. It showcases what N&Q is all about; quality produce, generous portions, and an underlying guilt that you probably will need to run your dinner off the following morning. It is worth the run. The dog snaps, the bun is sturdy enough to hold everything else in place. Order this and ask for a bib to come with it.
From the newer items are rib tips that really transpire to be precise cubes of unctuous pork, slowly cooked and glazed in a funky BBQ sauce. This is a lot of pig for £4.50. Chick Norris may be a dreadful name for a burger but is a hefty bit of dinner. Two hulks of free range thigh meat in one of those thick American buttermilk batters with bacon and processed cheese. Heat lurks in the background with enough tang in the ‘slaw to cut through the richness of it all. As far as the composition of a burger goes this has it all.
American portions mean only real Americans will have room for desserts. For the rest of us it’s a small dent in the wallet and a lie down. I still really like Nosh & Quaff, they’re not pushing boundaries but they are taking a familiar cuisine and applying quality ingredients with precise cooking. It’s managed to improve what it previously was, now with a menu with enough scope to warrant repeat visits. And all in the company of a man who definitely makes the list of my top 172 food writers. Life really doesn’t get much better.
Mr Fulford picked up the bill, I got the Uber home. I guess that makes us quits.