It’s little secret that Smoke is one of my very favourite restaurants. And my girlfriends. And my girlfriends parents. And the friends of my girlfriends parents. In fact I’m yet to meet anyone who has failed to be won over by the charm of its building on the edge of the walled garden, engaging team, and subtly brilliant food. And for anyone who has ever read this blog eagerly awaiting the score at the bottom I’ll save you the hassle straight away; it’s another ten. Had to be a ten. Would be nigh on impossible to not get a ten. A recommendation from me that you’ll be hard pushed to spend a better £65 for three courses just about anywhere.

We bag a table on two days notice for two reasons. Firstly, there is the 600th train strike of the year, and somewhat more importantly, they’ve decided to go all day on Saturday, meaning that I get to shake my hangover off in a thirty quid Uber and have a glass of champagne in my hand by 2.30pm. There’s a bite of something boldly cheesey with notes of beer and pickle. I try to blag another, sink another glass of fizz. Then the most astonishing sourdough made by the most astonishing baker in-house. Sink another glass of fizz.

I’ve had the burrata with Bloody Mary gazpacho before. It’s as brilliant as it sounds. They’ve changed it up a little, drafting in hazlenuts over pine nuts for the furikake that rounds off the flavours beautifully. And that probably embodies where Smoke is right now; everything has gone up ten percent since my last visit. Bigger, better team meaning that the dishes are all bonafide one Michelin star standard.

Never has that statement been more true than the next couple of dishes. A scallop in the kind of Thai green sauce that bread was invented for, gently humming with kaffir lime and galangal, the scallops pert and sweet enough to handle the perfumed spice. And pasta dumplings filled with white crab, paddling in an XO that’s all saline umami. Eat, take the last of the bread and chase the last of the sauce out.

It remains on impeccable form throughout. Sea bream, cooked one side down so that the skin shatters to a buttery shard, with hispi cabbage and a tartare sauce that’s been warmed to resemble a piquant and more interesting bernaise. Guinea Hen, smoked over the barbecue and finished in the oven with wild garlic and tenderstem, sent into the stratosphere with a jamon sauce that’s more umami and even more meatiness.

The finish is a blur. Tarte tatin with blue cheese, something like an espresso martini, finish off the red, something like an old fashioned, the arrival of Sophie’s mom to pick us up because we still can’t get a train, her offering to take Stu on holiday, finish off the fizz, a rhubarb baked Alaska, my god that rhubarb baked Alaska, another cocktail, my face deep in that rhubarb baked Alaska, the realisation that people are turning up for dinner, the bill, and a ride back to Harborne where we fully ignore the pleas from the driver to stay in and not go out. Another brilliant, epic lunch, which is a phrase I usually reserve for four hour tasting menus and not somewhere I can choose what I want to eat. So it’s a ten. Just like I said. And a strong recommendation to eat here before Michelin pull their socks up and award the star it so obviously deserves.


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