Brindleyplace is one of the most improved and popular parts of town, although it’s never been truly close to my heart.
There are plenty of decent places to eat and drink, but the heavy footfall and weekend crowds have led some bar owners to hike their prices too far. Now, I don’t mind spending a few quid extra, but when I do, I expect genuine quality. So it was with sheer delight that I found myself at Nuvo, which does cocktails at £4 a throw during the week. The magazine’s publisher, Johnny, made the booking as he “knows the guys who own it” – and he has been pushing for me to give it a review for ages. Also along for the ride was the photographer, David Morphew
HIT THE BAR
We took full advantage of Nuvo’s £4 drinks offer. Often, when cocktails are part of a promotion, a bar offloads its cheapest booze and you get little more than a bad belly and sore head for your trouble. But Nuvo’s extensive bar contains some great labels and Elliot, our attentive mixologist, displayed the knowledge and skills to mix some thoroughly good drinks. David and I had an Old Fashioned (three shots of Bourbon and angostura bitters) which is at true man’s drink, whereas Johnny opted for a Cosmopolitan – my wife’s favourite tipple.
START WITH THE SEA
We moved to our table and got a bottle of chilled, dry white wine. The seating is soft and the decor is very modern. Nuvo has a club atmosphere and there was a jazz and blues band playing who were very good and didn’t drown us out with sound. For starters, I had the smoked salmon, which came with a salad, lemon and capers. It was tangy, salty and possessed a fair bit of seaside kick. Johnny had fishcakes, which he enjoyed and ate every bit of. David had scallops served with ham, rocket and tomato dressing, which was probably the pick of the three.
We’d all agreed to have something different as this was to be a review. So I wasted no time in ordering the slow-cooked crispy belly of pork, which came with mash, bacon, mushroom, baby onions and a mustard cream sauce. Pork bellies are popular with chefs at the moment, as are many of the things to be found on Nuvo’s menu. But these were great and the garnish and sauce made this dish a treat. It was also helped with a glass of red, served at room temperature. Johnny had the steak, which came with some big chunky chips and tomatoes. He enjoyed it all, but was jealous of mine and even demanded a slice. David, meanwhile, refrained from such squabbles and very happily polished off a large plate of sea bass by himself without complaint.
I sometimes think it’s a shame that we tend to have desserts last. They are the one thing British cuisine have brought to a world audience. Custards, puddings, sponges and tarts are all British inventions. Even the French call custard Crème Anglais, tipping those of us with GCSE language skills a Gallic nod. But we tend to eat them when we’re already full and don’t appreciate them as much as we should. Dessert for me was a sticky toffee pudding, which came with a very moreish butterscotch sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Meanwhile, Johnny was tucking into a plate of cheese and David had a Creme Brulee. It was Gallic nods and clean plates all round.
One of the nicest things about Nuvo was the staff who served us. Pleasant, helpful, chatty and, from what I could tell, well-trained. I have been to places like Nuvo before, but many have been in the US. It’s taken British retailers too long to realise that the public want to eat, drink, be entertained and talk to their friends, and that to do that you need good service – this has been an area where the Brits have been historically poor compared to our American cousins. But I am heartened to see increasingly better bar staff, mixologists and waiters from bars and restaurants in Birmingham, including Nuvo.