The Boat is heaving on the sunny bank holiday lunch we eat on. There are no spaces, inside or out, we’re told, unless you have a booking like we do. People are queuing, others making frantic phone calls to those inside to join their tables. The refurbished pub already looks like a local success despite being a month open when we are there. It’s great to see. Solihull really needs it.
Inside and it’s clear that money has been spent. I never saw the old version of The Boat but the new one is a tasteful mix of dark greens and panelling set around a large bar area. We start with cocktails – mine a negroni in need of tweaking – then onto wine whilst I decide what to eat. The menu is appealing, too big in size but appealing. We take one from the ‘stix’ section, two starters, two mains, and a dessert. Nothing from the burgers, steaks, salads, pizza, or sides sections. See, I told you it was too big.
I’m going to blame the size of the menu on the slips during the meal and not the kitchen, because no team can cook this many options perfectly every time. Overall the food is good; they have interesting ideas and it’s mostly executed to a standard you’d expect for this price. The kofta stix (essentially half starter portion) is robustly seasoned and enjoyable, whilst cheddar and spring onion croquettes are oozy and generously filled, if maybe short on mashed potato stability. Potato bravas are not as crisp as they could be down to the choice of spud, but the portions are large and the two sauces are well made.
Mains follow a similar plot line. A dairy free risotto with butternut squash, almonds and chestnuts is cohesive with well cooked grains, but the garlic is burnt and should have been left off the plate. The chicken is better; good, free range bird, nicely cooked (though a crispy skin would have been nice) and seasoned, with chorizo, saffron aioli and some excellent potatoes. Two dishes that have potential to be very good with a tighter execution. The best dish of the day happens to be one of the simplest; pineapple, soaked in rum and grilled, with coconut cream and almonds. It’s delicious. Grown up and boozy.
The bill for this would have been a few quid shy of £100, though on this occasion it’s picked up elsewhere. Afterwards I have the opportunity to chat briefly with management who are keen to correct the minor niggles. This is a big project; possibly too big at present, though the ambition is commendable. I personally felt that by streamlining what comes out of the kitchen they can get to the standard they need to be at.