Purnell’s Bistro & Ginger’s Bar

On my birthday in May, my mother-in-law and her food-loving husband decided to treat me to a very generous meal at Purnell’s Restaurant. How lovely!

Feeling spoilt and donning suitable glad rags we all hopped into a cab and made our way to Glynn’s celebrated restaurant. However, when we strode in feeling pretty special we were greeted with a terrifically blank expression from the front of house staff who couldn’t find our booking. Excitement was replaced with a sinking feeling. My mother-in-law had made the reservation and was adamant she had the right date and time, but a quick call to Glynn’s other foodie haunt, Purnell’s Bistro, revealed she had booked a table there instead. Slightly embarrassed we scurried from the restaurant rather more quickly than we’d entered and made our way to the Bistro. “I’m sure this happens all the time,” I mumbled trying to appease the situation.

HAPPY MIX UP

An amazingly spritely woman, and I don’t mean for her age, I knew that my mother-in-law would enjoy the lively atmosphere at Purnell’s Bistro, but I was a bit concerned about her slightly less spritely husband. However, once seated and slurping refreshing Pink Panther cocktails we were all rather pleased with the mix up. As you’d expect on a Friday evening, every table in the place was full and there was a bunch of punters sipping cocktails at the bar which created a noisy, merry vibe. Charming restaurant manager Pete proved such a hit with my mother-in- law she booked a table for her girlfriends the following Tuesday before we’d even looked at the menu. A nice mixture of classic dishes and inventive flavours, everything on the menu appealed and it took an age to decide. To start, two of us settled on presse of ham hock with pea salad, wasabi mayonnaise and mint oil which looked dainty and tasted great. The scotch hen’s egg with grilled black pudding, cream of onion soup and sour apple was apparently ‘flawless’ and the honey and black pepper glazed confit duck leg with lentil verde was really interesting and delicious, but there was a bit too much of it for a starter. Given we had been expecting Michelin-starred nosh we didn’t feel at all short changed. The food looked gorgeous and didn’t disappoint on taste either, so happy days. By the time the main courses arrived we’d forgotten about the booking blunder completely and were just having a fabulous time. The bistro vibe suited the occasion and our mood as it happened.

PURRING SOUND

Onto the mains. Asian flavoured aromatic pork belly passed the crispy skin test no problem and was gorgeous. Smoked haddock fishcakes with spinach and a light curry cream appeared more like three little fish balls, but tasted super and worked with the light curry flavour brilliantly. Poached cod with goat’s cheese, butter beans and chorizo packed a Mediterranean punch and the star of the show – the 10oz fillet of beef with hand cut chips and béarnaise sauce – was fantastic. The chips were amazing and the steak was cooked perfectly. My husband kept emitting a purring sound that suggested he approved big time. We really could have done without dessert, but it was all a bit too tempting. We shared a rhubarb and custard alaska and the cheese board. The cheese board was nice, but I didn’t know what I was sampling. I like to be talked through the cheeses so that if I find a great one I know its name and where to look for it. However, it’s probably unfair to expect those sorts of details – it’s a bustling bistro not fine dining. The alaska was sticky, sweet and fruity and a lovely way to round off dinner. Although the evening didn’t turn out quite the way we’d expected and Purnell’s Bistro is clearly a different concept to Purnell’s Restaurant, we’d enjoyed some fantastic food, great wine, sparkling company and had an absolute ball. Really what else would you want from dinner? A happy birthday indeed.

PURNELL’S BISTRO AND GINGER’S BAR 11 Newhall St, Birmingham B3 3NY. Tel: 0121 200 1588 www.purnellsbistro-gingers.com