Aria, Hyatt Regency Birmingham

We’re guilty. Hands up. We hadn’t been to the Hyatt in an age and we’d forgotten just how blooming gorgeous the atrium is. It creates a greenhouse effect allowing actual trees and plants to flourish and this, teamed with the background bubbling of a water feature, makes for an indoor/outdoor experience unique to the city.

It makes sense then, that the Aria restaurant which shares this epic space with the burgeoning foliage should embrace it. Head chef Justin Gabrielle Brown has done just that creating a menu inspired by Frances Hodges Burnett’s The Secret Garden focusing on all things natural.

Table settings follow the natural theme with napkins tied with rustic string and fragrant lavender, but the main event is definitely the food. A stunning starter of beetroot cured salmon with crisp slivers of Miller’s sourdough, crème fraiche and edible flowers was delicate, pretty and flavour packed. Then there was chargrilled asparagus with a poached egg, hollandaise and black truffle. While there’s no doubt it tasted fantastic with smokey charred flavours and earthy truffle, the egg could have done with less cooking. We didn’t get any satisfying ooze which would have made it pretty perfect.

The main courses all appealed, but I plumped for a Goosnargh chicken dish mainly because I got married near Goosnargh – as good a reason as any. The breast was moist and tasty, carrot – roasted and pureed -– was sweet and delicious and then there were moreish crisp shards of chicken skin and a rich jus to complete the pleasing piece.

Sea bream with mustard and tarragon veloute, asparagus and samphire prompted a response from our friend that surprised us. It knocked spots off a sea bream dish he’d eaten the week before at Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant. High praise indeed.

I could have lived without dessert, but when in Rome and all that. I basically ate a plate of chocolate – mousse, ganache, crumb, curl – the sweet stuff in all its glory. There was a refreshing mint sorbet to tone down the chocolatey richness. What’s not to love? A deconstructed panna cotta with rhubarb, lemon and lime shortbread, lemon curd and Thai basil was all zingy and fresh.

As dining out in the city goes the menu is competitively priced at £27 for two courses which takes it from special occasion to a more regular feature in our dining out calendar. We won’t leave it so long next time.

ARIA RESTAURANT, Hyatt Regency Birmingham, 2 Bridge Street, Birmingham, B1 2JZ. Tel: 0121 643 1234