At the heart of The Grand Hotel sits Madeleine, a two-parlour bar of exaggerated proportions. Ceilings and windows are double-sized, whilst sofas are long, curving monsters that swallow entire humans into the deep furnishings. It’s beautiful in an imposing way, which is exactly how anything with grand in the title should be. But a nice imposing. The kind you want to take a date on. Or the in-laws. It’s a very impressive space.
I’ve naturally been lots of times. I like it there. The drinks are great, made by people I recognise from the better parts of the city. I’ve completed the drinks menu several times over and now I’m on the classics; wet martini to start, pyscho killer to finish. Negronis in the middle. They do it all extremely well.
I suppose I should get to point of this post, which is the food you’ll get in Madeleine. I was there recently for the afternoon tea; scones better than savoury, sweets better than them both. A strawberry choux was superb, as was a chocolate and praline layered mousse cake. The price point of £29 per person including a glass of champagne is outrageous value given the skill involved.
The bar menu surprised me most. Most dishes are pre-portioned to be shared with ease, or eaten alone if you’re likely me. There’s crispy potato terrines under the guise of hash browns with brown sauce, and spiced and fried batons of halloumi. I can highly recommend to you the best Croque Monsieur to come to Birmingham, but not so much the french onion soup which was thin and a fraction under-seasoned.
The pick of this particular lunch is a prawn cocktail that nods towards the 80’s with the kitsch presentation but delivers in flavour due to some excellent prawns and a clever passion fruit purée. I prefer it slightly more to the lobster roll, which is very good all the same. There are padron peppers because I can’t not order them. It’s too much food for two people. Way too much food. A normal person could eat half the amount and leave stuffed.
From my position within the bar at Madeleine I’ve seen a hotel come alive. From the first weeks when the team were adapting into their new space, to the last visits when capacity is slowly being reached and the walls chime with laughter and conversation. It feels pivotal to Birmingham going forward; a genuine reason to come into the city at a time when few of us work there. For years The Grand has sat dormant, now it’s alive again, with a cocktail bar that does food and drink exceptionally well. I’m so pleased it’s so good. It’s precisely what Birmingham deserves.