Husband and wife Adam and Natasha Stokes are celebrating after their restaurant was named in the world’s top 10 and the best in Britain – but there’s no time to rest on their laurels, they say
Adam Stokes’ dream as a young lad was to have a 20-seater restaurant by the sea but as he grew older he realised that, wonderful as that idea might be, it would never pay the mortgage and the bills.
Growing up in a family that enjoyed their food and with a father that produced all the veg they could eat and more from his allotment – none of that pre-packaged supermarket nonsense – it’s not surprising that Adam wanted to make a career in the kitchen.
“Actually, the family kitchen was out of bounds to me as my dad produced good quality food while enjoying a beer and listening to music,” says Adam. Despite the lack of ‘hands-on’ action in the kitchen, his love of food took him to college for a couple of years before spending seven years learning all he could at Hambleton Hall in Leicestershire before taking a head chef role at Glenapp Castle in the Scottish lowlands.
Fast forward to 2020, and Adam is – with his wife Natasha – the owner of two of the Midlands finest restaurants – Adam’s and the Oyster Club in Birmingham. And not just the Midlands either! Adam’s has been named the tenth best restaurant in the world and the number one in the UK in the prestigious TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Restaurants Awards. The awards are a big thing in the restaurant world because they are decided by analysis of millions of reviews and opinions collected over a single year from travellers around the globe. Adam’s ranks in the world top 10 with premier eateries in Beijing, Paris, Thailand, Buenos Aires and Girona in Spain. Impressive. And a nice addition to the restaurant’s Michelin star which it retained in the new 2020 guide.
Adam and Natasha’s success feels like a bit of whirlwind. They launched Adam’s as a pop-up in sandwich shop in Bennetts Hill in 2013 and earned a Michelin star within six months before moving to Waterloo Street in 2016, where they have held the star ever since. The couple opened the Oyster Club earlier this year on 1 April. “We’re not superstitious types,” Adam confirmed.
“I’ve always thought to myself that’s I love to have a fish and chip shop – nine times out of 10 when I go out to eat I will order fish,” said Adam. “With the Oyster Club we identified a gap in the market in Birmingham that no one had focussed on. Oysters are actually a small part of the offering – there’s plenty else to eat.”
With the Midlands now holding six Michelin stars – the most in the UK outside of London – and with the likes of the Ivy and the new Gino’s opening up close by, Adam says there has never been a more exciting time to be a foodie in Brum. “The food scene here is incredible,” he said. “It has changed massively just in the short time we have been here. Birmingham is such a vibrant and interesting city. We could see the potential which is why we chose to come here.”
With Adam looking after the food and Natasha concentrating on the management side, the couple have plenty of ideas to expand over the coming years. “We will continue to push and strive for more,” said Adam. “We are currently investing in wine at Adam’s. People get awkward about the cost of wine in a restaurant. They don’t understand the ins and outs of buying the wine, the tax you pay and the storage and so on.”
To give the customer long-term better value, Adam is stocking up with good quality wine now with the help of a wine advisor. “The aim is to buy the wine at today’s prices, store it and then later we can serve it to the customer at the original cost and that way pass on the saving,” he said.