If nothing else, Rialto Plaza stands as a successful work of renovation for the community. In a period of time where the easy option would have been to tear it down and build flats, the former 1930’s ballroom is a now a mixed purpose venue of hall (gigs, comedy, weddings, bingo(?!)), works (offices; the clue is in the name) and The Loft (why I’m here). And it’s great. On the Saturday lunch we were there Kathryn Ryan had supplied the LOLZ the night prior, and a wedding was taking place downstairs. There is something beautiful about returning a building where people had once enjoyed themselves to one where people do again, albeit under slightly different terms. If they would like to do the cinema on Harborne High Street next I’d be hugely appreciative.
The Loft is the restaurant at the Rialto. It sits on the top floor in a square room with an open kitchen at one end. It’s all exposed brick and low hanging industrial light fittings. The crowd is as mixed as the menu, which goes from gastropub food to some serious offerings in the evening. This being lunch, our options are reduced to the more casual dishes, but they serve the pre-starter and dessert options. It’s ambitious, which is something I’ll never knock.
That pre-starter is rubix cubes of fish cake, heavy on salmon, topped with a little cream fraiche and smoked salmon. Textbook. Then, for no other reason than greed, halloumi fries, tanned and salty, with a creme fraiche dip littered with fresh herbs.
It’s beef for mains. Had to be really. The burger is a mix of wagyu for fat and British brisket for flavour. It’s a combination that works. Juicy, with a hint of pink, eminently beefy. Decent fries, good burger. Not a patch on the steak though; meat sourced from Aubrey Allen, sirloin cooked to precisely medium rare, with tempura onion, mushroom, tomato, proper peppercorn sauce, and fat chips cooked twice. Good enough to hold its own in the more premium of steakhouses, worth every penny of the £25.
There’s a pre-dessert of chocolate mousse with lemon that is short on the desired acidity, before a dessert menu that is appealing to all. Forgoing the creme brûlée and brownie, we take a lemon tart which could handle more tang, with a clotted cream ice cream that was spot on. Top marks for the sticky toffee pudding, rich and light, with another excellent ice cream, this time salted caramel. Two gins, some orange juice for my hangover and lunch is done.
After lunch we head over to Fargo, a bustling market of food and booze and independents where we spend three hours shopping and catching up with friends. Coventry is the City of Culture for 2021 and it’s clear that it is benefitting from the investment. Rialto Plaza is a prime example of that, with The Loft leading the way. The plan is to do a smarter tasting menu in the future and I reckon they’ve the team to pull it off. I’ll be back on the train to let you know about it.