Piccolino, Brindleypalce

I sometimes think we’re a bit snooty about chains, like somehow ambition is a dirty word. And when does a chain become a chain anyway? Two restaurants, three, four? By those standards the brilliant and local Sabai Sabai would be a chain.

We enjoy supporting independents as much as the next man – they’re exciting, unique, local and feel-good, but what’s wrong with the odd chain? Cue Piccolino which we hadn’t frequented in a long time.

Oozells Square in springtime has to be one of the most photographed spots in Brum after the Selfridges building. We’ve all done it and watched the ‘likes’ flood in. Delicate pink blossom and wonderful architecture – provided you’re facing the playfulness of the Ikon Gallery – it’s super pretty. Piccolino flanks one side of the blossom and with its heated terrace takes full advantage. Chuck a cosy blanket over your shoulders and you’re good to go.

The menu is a biggie and one that has mass appeal. With a focus on provenance it also lists the restaurant’s suppliers which is a nice touch although some of the ingredients seem to be doing a heck of a lot of food miles.

A glass of champagne slipped down nicely while we made some decisions. Predictably, the other half couldn’t see beyond prawn cocktail and steak while I went for calamari followed by mushroom risotto. Prawn cocktail was pleasing. Juicy prawns, tangy marie rose sauce and fresh crunchy lettuce. Nothing to write home about, but perfectly good. Calamari was tender with a punchy crust and a delicious roast garlic mayonnaise. So far, so good.

The menu talked up the steak big time. From the Usda Creekstone Farm it was, ‘finished for 150 days on a corn diet, raised in Kansas, hand selected, prime 100 per cent black Aberdeen Angus beef sirloin’. Phew. At £30.50 for 300g we reckoned on it being mighty fine. Served medium as requested it was utterly brilliant, beautifully cooked with bags of flavour. I did wonder why the air miles from Kansas rather than home grown in Hereford, but it was superb. Crunchy hand cut chips were a joyous accompaniment as was garlic and parsley butter.

The risotto funghi was a bit ‘meh’ by comparison. Yes it was earthy and creamy, but not a knock-out. A big handful of parmesan perked it up a bit and a side of buttery spinach provided one of our five a day.

A panna cotta with rhubarb sated the other half’s sweet tooth and he devoured the lot. I find panna cotta’s blancmange-like texture off-putting so refrained, but if you like that sort of thing this one was a winner apparently.

As well as enjoying a lovely meal we had a great time. The place was bustling and lively and the service was charming and efficient. Although the steak was pricey, it was totally worth it and the bill in its entirety was pretty reasonable. We might not leave it so long next time.

PICCOLINO, Oozells Square, Brindleyplace, Birmingham, B1 2HS. Tel: 0121 634 3055 individualrestaurants.com/piccolino/birmingham/