They seat us in the new extension at the rear of Bank, which is new in that it absolutely wasn’t here when I came for dinner seven years ago. It’s an odd space; ski chalet-like and in total juxtaposition to the rest of the decor which hasn’t really changed since they opened twenty years back. Out here the expense accounts are in full effect, the boisterous laughter of those wanting to keep the toxic masculinity stereotype raging just a little longer. It’s all TM Lewin and brogues picking from menu staples like Thai green curry and porterhouse steaks. In perhaps the least surprising news of 2019 we are told that the Merlot is a popular choice of wine. Of course it is. I gaze out the window, across the canal and over to Legoland, drawing the similarities in my head with children pointing at all the toys over there and those choosing their dinner inside here. The room rumbles with the belly laugh of a man who has clearly drank too much. A little part inside of me dies.
The reality is that if there is anywhere in Birmingham more deserving of a Dignitas send-off, it is Bank. You’ve served your time, now lets all stand around your bed and reminisce about the good times whilst they stick the needle in and end it quietly. The place is tired, a shadow of what it was, even if there was the occasional moment where the food crawled above mediocrity. A cider and onion soup is competent, as is the cheese on sourdough it is served with. The other starter of crispy squid might not be crispy but it avoids chewiness from a quick cook and solid technique. The thai style salad underneath lacks seasoning and the sweet chilli sauce is from a squeezy bottle, but together it’s pleasant in the way your great aunt was before you packed her off to Dignitas and sold her house to give you your deposit for yours.
But then we are served two of the worst mains I can recall eating. My burger is a disaster; the work of a chef who doesn’t eat them and has worked from someone elses recipe. The beef is a crowded patty of cheap cuts and the occasional bonus nugget of cartiledge. It’s dry. So dry. Dryer than Jack Dee on vacation in the Sahara. And the fucking thing has burger sauce on it and cheese that I’ve paid an extra £1.50 for. Imagine the carnage without that smear of lubrication. The skin on chips are almost exclusively curls of deep fried skin and not pleasant ones at that. If anything Claire’s butternut squash ravioli was worse. The ravioli was poorly made so that the uneven textures mean that some parts are a little soggy and others almost raw, the insides of some are okay and others less great where it has leaked. The beurre noisette loaded with cream so no such thing, clumsily made and coagulated on the hot plates. It’s a disaster. “Food this bad makes me sad” says Claire. She couldn’t have been more right.
They do desserts but I’m not sure I can take any more sadness, so we pay the bill and head to anywhere other than here to continue the evening. We both eat from the early evening menu at £17.50 for two courses, though go later and that burger with cheese is £15.50 on it’s own. With Craft across the bridge and the new Argentinian opening in the same square I despair at anyone who would choose to eat here. A final word: the staff are brilliant, particularly the girl on reception. They deserve better. The paying customer deserves better. Bank, you’ve served your city and had your moment, now it’s time to give up and let someone more relevant takeover.
let A2B be the carriage to get you far away from here.