good food guide

Ynyshir, August 2018

The morning after our dinner at Ynyshir we are back in the restaurant eating breakfast. Perched on the pass bench we can see the kitchen hard at work whist Marvin Gaye hums quietly in the background. The smell of bacon lingers in the air. The team are in a great mood, poking gentle fun at one another whilst poaching eggs and frying off the lamb patties, happy to engage in conversation despite the late finish and early start. It was during these exchanges that we discussed ambitions, with one chef saying that after Ynyshir he would only want to work at Nathan Outlaw; to learn fish in the same manner Gareth Ward had taught them meat. This statement only sunk in during the long drive back to Birmingham. In the same way Nathan Outlaw is the place to go for seafood, Ynyshir has become a meat mecca without ever labelling themselves as such. The treatment of animal – from the salt rooms through to the cooking – is like nowhere else. And the team here know that, describing the present feel in the kitchen as similar to ‘the Harveys days’ when a young Marco Pierre White ripped the arse out of cooking in this country, leaving a legacy of shit chain restaurants and ultra talented chefs such as Gordon Ramsey, Phil Howard, and Stephen Terry.

It appears that the association with Harveys may not be far off the mark. As of this morning, Ynyshir have leapt into the top 5 list of the Good Food Guide with Gareth Ward named Chef of The Year. It’s phenomal work for a kitchen that refuses to stand still. A couple of weeks back we saw this firsthand, perched high upon the chef’s pass seats for this, our fourth meal there in a year. I won’t run through all twenty-odd courses again, instead I’ll focus on the new dishes, or those that have improved. And a few favourites: it would be a shame to leave those out. What I will say from the top is that this was the best meal yet, a nigh on perfect riot of flavour that consistently hit the two star standard and occasionally the level above that. Ynyshir is worthy of a special trip. Everything about the place, from the rooms, to the mountain views, the firepit outside, the drinks programme, and especially the restaurant, has a certain magic about it.

After the ‘Not French Onion Soup’, the crispy duck leg with seasame oil, and the bread course starter procession, we get the first of the new dishes on tonights menu. Mackerel cooked under the heat lamps, in a puddle of fermented raspberry juice with the same fruit frozen, and a little freshly grated wasabi (you’ll get none of the dyed green shit here). I have a little issue in general with oily fish, though I really like the clever interplay between the acidic, the sweet, and heat. What follows this is the best thing I’ve eaten this year: crab katsu has picked white meat coated in a katsu sauce that is instanstly recognisable, yet so much better than the Wagamamas version you are now thinking of. All it needs is a soy dressing enriched by the shell, and a little puffed rice for texture. Perfection.

One of Gareth’s main skills is the construction of dishes that have instant conection with food memory. In a similar way that Heston links meals to book narratives or childhood, many here are instant riffs on takeaway dishes, or fast food. We get Char Sui pork which are cuts of slowly cooked pig belly that melt in the mouth, sat in a puddle of the cooking broth. There is duck kissed with hoisin sauce and blanketed in a slice of compressed cucumber. Both in theory could be ordered with a hangover and ate in front of the telly. Neither would taste as perfectly rounded as this. The Wagyu beef burger course is the ultimate Big Mac. You cant help but smile whilst eating.

The whipped foie course has been upgraded to a fermented bilberry juice that cuts through the richness even better than its predecessors, whilst a new dish of tomatoes with lardo is fresh and unuasually restrained for the kitchen. After this is a flurry of our favourite courses; Wagyu short rib with mushrooms, that swoonworthy garlic prawn, the deconstructed Caesar salad, the lamb rib that I tell everyone about, and the lamb with kombucha that is a Sunday roast with mint sauce. Claire has the cheese course because her eyes rule her body: I request a short break.

Sweet courses start with a sharp fermented raspberry slushie, followed by a fermented raspberry jam on toasted sourdough. Jam on toast. They should offer that at breakfast, too. The knockout custard from last time returns with fermented blueberries, the dessert courses slowly edging sweeter whilst still staying true to the ethos. We have the strawberry dessert that riffs on summer cup, the tiramisu (still the best dessert I think I’ve eaten), and finish on the Wagyu fat fudge. Four hours done to the vinyl soundtrack of Stone Roses, INXS, and Kings of Leon. I loved every second of it.

Dinner is a boozy one and there are a couple of courses I struggle to remember in lieu of the cocktails and three bottles of wine consumed. This is a birthday treat so I’m not seeing the bill on this occasion, though you should allow a couple of hundred each for dinner and wine, more if you stay over in the beautiful appointed rooms. Stay in the rooms, treat yourself. The fact is that Ynyshir has made me a worse food blogger over the last year; I should be out using this money to eat in far more varied places. But we don’t want to. Everytime the idea comes around to take a weekend treat, it is here that we discuss first and ultimately last. There is nowhere else like it. They are on to something special; I know it, as does Gareth and all of his team. The accolades 2018 have delivered thus far are just the start; this is a restaurant destined to go all of the way to the top.

good pictures by Nosh & Breks, rest by me

Carters of Moseley

Had Giles Coren tried the pork butter at Carters of Moseley I am confident that the recent palava over Birmingham restaurants would never have had happened. No doubt he could have found a similar blend of animal fat and skin within his intellectual confides of the M25 at the likes of Fera or The Dairy. I am sure that he could point you in the direction of somewhere in his beloved Kentish Town that also makes bread using a local flour that has a both a chewy crust and palatable interior. None though would have the same effect on the soul as the lightly whipped lard embedding with shards of scratching that I was smearing an inch thick on to this loaf. Ten minutes into an evening that would take nearly two and a half hours, it was clear that the attention seeking publicity stunt that made me seethe just a week prior would not have seen the light of day had Coren been to Carters.

But enough about him. The small restaurant at the end of a row of shops on St Mary’s Row is making its own tidal waves since it was judged to be The Good Food Guides Restaurant of The Year. Inside its all dark wood with a window it in to the kitchen dominating back of the space, whilst a glass wine wall to the side stokes conversation and envy amongst us. Bread arrives with that butter and we’re off: A chestnut broth enhanced by truffles reinforces that we’re in safe hands. It also sets the tone for the evening with Brad Carters style of cooking: Most chefs go looking for that extra ingredient; here he takes away until it’s an uncluttered and concise plate, often with just two or three elements. Nothing jars. Everything is there for a reason.


A play on risotto tastes better than it looks. Underneath the powdered black trumpet mushrooms is a loose mound of grains, seeds and diced cauliflower. Its all textures until slivers of more trumpet release a little of the pickling juice and the whole dish lights up as intended. Roe deer loin relies on just two purées; one of quince for acidity, another of squash for earthiness.  A sprinkling of seeds add bite and a deftly judged red wine sauce finishes it off.  Its as brave a piece of cooking as you are likely to encounter.  See, I told you the boy could cook.



Desserts continued to impress.  Aerated sheep milk was the perfect foil for the juice and segment of blood orange that seemed more intense due to the sweet pop of fennel pollen. We save the best for last: A salted caramel mousse with poached pear and gingerbread works on every level as both the spice and salt elevate the dish, for the pear to cut through and give balance. Little chocolate bars flavoured with cardamom were gladly eaten at home once the fullness waned.




Service from Brad’s partner Holly was personal and attentive in a way that put shame on any other restaurant manager in Birmingham. We leave a fair tip because they deserve it, if only for having the balls to not put on a service charge after treating us so well. Carters is that kind of place; for a couple so relatively young they have nailed what it takes to be the ideal neighbourhood restaurant. There are people in Moseley, in Birmingham and even further afield that say Carters is the future of modern British cuisine. Those people are wrong. What they have is very much the present.


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