I should have been writing about my meal in Upstairs from February. All £600 of it. The one with the apple tarte tatin and popcorn ice cream, and the scallop with Jerusalem artichoke that Sophie thinks is the joint best thing she has eaten all year along with the bowl of mash potato at Alex Dilling that I’m sure they would prefer if I called pomme purée. The meal where I start by leaning over the pass to ask Tom how he is doing and he mentions a banquet in Brighton he has just cooked the main course at, meaning I have to keep my massive gob shut for months. It was a great meal; pretty perfect actually, and I drank way too much champagne and I think a negroni or three and yes, I know, I’m extremely spoilt.

I didn’t get around the finishing it because my awful way of working means I have ten or so pieces on the go at one time, each started with a different tone, or mood, or level of hangover. Some get finished quickly whilst others stew, sat in the notes with the occasional line added or subtracted when I return to it. Now it happens that the meal from a couple of weeks back is fresh in my head, mostly because the in-laws came and it was a very nice beacon of light on what was otherwise a really bleak weekend. And I’m sure you’d much rather know about the present meal over one you can’t get now.

I’ll start by saying that there was a negroni waiting for me, along with three glasses of local fizz and a birthday card, and that we wasn’t charged for that, but we did leave £750 worse-off with four tasting menus, two bottles of wine, and three more cocktails. And I’ll add to that the three snacks we kicked-off with were of such a high standard that there can’t be many more complete one star restaurants in the UK right now. Starting with a slightly spicy beef tartare in a beer pastry case, before moving onto cheesey polenta with truffle, and finishing on more cheese, this time as a sablè biscuit with a tunworth custard. We can’t decide which one is best, but given only one of us gets paid for doing this shit as a living, it’s the polenta.

First up is the red cabbage soup with horseradish ice cream, surely a nod to The Fat Ducks version with grain mustard, followed by the Parker house roll with marmite butter that is worth every step of the many stages it takes to make. We get a scallop, a massive plump thing, in a satay sauce that I forget to take a picture of as I’m too busy lusting over it. It’s special. I ask Sophie if it’s as good the version with Jerusalem artichoke and apple we had in February. She says something about mashed potato.

And then the fireworks go off. Chicken breast with sweetcorn and girolles and lots and lots of black truffle in one of glossy sauces specked with fat that makes my nether regions go all funny. It’s followed by a croquette of lamb neck which is super rich and needs the parsley and radish for respite, before more lamb in more glossy sauce and some slow cooked lamb breast, all rendered fat and caramelised muscle, with a Caesar mayo kind-of-thing and a broccoli purée that’s so intensely broccoli I feel healthier just for being in its presence. By now I’m full. So very full. But not full enough to resist a crumpet with baron bigod, walnut ketchup, and more truffle.

We finish up on the Thai green curry transitional course which I’ve mentioned before and think has its origins in Nottingham, and the banana dessert he cooked on Great British Menu. I was curious to try it given the judges love of what is mostly just various forms of banana, but it really is something. It’s beauty is not just the homage to the fruit, but the subtlety of the flavours behind it. Notes of vanilla, rum, caramel, I think cinnamon, all built around the faux banana, the ice cream and the banana bread. It weirdly reminds me of Heston recreating the flavours of Chateau d’Yquem, but that’s more to do with the way that everything comes together on the spoon. It’s beautiful, as is the banana Manhattan we order to go with it.

We saw Sophie’s parents again last night for dinner, not my birthday this time but one of theirs. They eat well, very well, and have been going to the same well known Edgbaston restaurant for 20 odd years. Two weeks to the day since lunch and they have a new favourite in Lichfield and who am I to disagree, given that one us gets paid to do this shit for a living and have done four other starred restaurants since. Upstairs is a very special restaurant that crucially keeps on improving.


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