On the lunch we visit Scott’s of Harborne the paint has barely given up its odour. It’s new, just five weeks old, with the glazed white tiles that mark the table tops and walls still gleaming and wooden frames unblemished. They built this place themselves, they would later tell us, and you can tell they are rightly proud. It looks great. I’ll even forgive the jaunty toilet seat that non-consensually bends you to an acute angle like a prison shower victim. It doesn’t let you cogitate, which is good thing when you only have one loo.
And they’re trying hard to succeed. Maybe too hard. Being usually a champion of generous portions I will go against my own words and say that they either need to reduce portion sizes or increase the prices. At present I fail to see where the profit margins are. Take the lamb kofta’s with hummus, grilled courgette, and sourdough flatbreads – its £4, less if you order multiples like we did. The lamb had been spiked with pine nuts, the hummus perfectly serviceable. It is a very clean tasting plate of food and a cheap lunch in itself, which is fine if you’re the frugal shopper. I personally think it’s too kind.
The best bits happen to be the most simple. Wedges of chorizo in lacquered red wine sauce, and square chips of potato with aioli and a tomato sauce. That tomato sauce would reappear throughout the brunch and needs more swagger, though is a good starting point for now. In some cases, such as the meatballs, the lack of punch allows the quality of the beef to shine. These three, squash ball in size, are another £4. It’s a very nice bit of food.
The only real let down is the baked eggs. That tomato sauce has sweet corn this time for company but it is not enough to stop it from veering into boredom. We save it by taking focaccia from the ever-excellent Peel and Stone bakery, dipping it in a little of the treacly balsamic vinegar and piling the egg and tomato on. Suddenly it has character. We finish up with a goats cheese and sundried tomato tart. The pastry crumbles in all the right places, the filling is plentiful. We take the rest home to enjoy later on.
Thirty quid buys more food than we need, when half of that could fed the both of us. It’s a lovely place with lovely staff and I desperately want them to be a local success, something that the full dining room is clearly in agreement with. But please make the most of these busy periods by putting cash in the till. Make the people of Harborne pay for something this nice. They can afford it.