Good luck and phone your mum.
The countdown to my leaving the UK in 2016 for an unspecified amount of time was under way and, as part of my goodbyes, I was treated by my mum to a meal at the restaurant of one of my favourite Chef’s, Glynn Purnell.
The menu of choice at his Michelin star restaurant? The 9 course tasting menu.
To put it simply, it was a phenomenal dining experience.
Cornwall Street in Birmingham is the home of Purnell’s Restuarant. It is actually quite an understated building and, if you aren’t looking out for it, it is somewhere you could easily walk past without a second thought.
We were greeted immediately upon arrival, our bags and coats put to one side, and allowed to push the conversation with the staff ourselves, whilst being guided with open-ended questions; a sign of well-trained, well-disciplined FoH team members.
We decided upon letting the wine specialist dictate what we would drink with our meals, before being sat down, waiting with anticipation for the first course to be served.
Course 1 – Taste of cheese and pineapple
Inspired by the classic cheese and pineapple on a stick appetiser, Purnell’s twist saw pineapple – that had been dehydrated in liquid nitrogen – paired with a cheese sauce. The plate was then finished off with some thin bread sticks, parmesan shavings and edible foil to remind you of the dishes roots.
Course 2 – Poached duck egg yolk
A layered dish served in the duck egg shell. Black pudding made up with base, with the poached egg yolk on top of that. The shell was then filled to the brim with a cauliflower and bacon cheese sauce. Served on a bad of straw with a cheese twist to dip – a little nod to the classic “eggy soldiers” from Glynn’s childhood that was the foundation of this dish.
Course 3 – Cured sea trout
Served without the scorched kiwi due to one of mum’s stranger allergies, the sea trout was flavoursome however it was the sea herbs that really stole the show; they brought the dish together beautifully.
Course 4 – Orkney scallop
Ever since my ski trip with Dad in 2015 when I first tried scallops, I have been tentative to have them again, purely because they were so good. However, when I saw they were on the tasting menu, my excitement grew. The star of this dish was actually the thin strips of smoked eel (a delicacy I had never had before), whilst the pickled turnips and caviar allowed for a balance of finely tuned flavours throughout the dish – it was basically a tasting masterclass.
Course 5 – Monkfish masala GBM 2009
I was first introduced to Glynn Purnell through the British cooking show ‘Great British Menu’. Instantly, his style of cooking and presentation captured my imagination. This particular dish featured on the 2009 series of GBM, winning a place at the banquet. Upon tasting this dish, it isn’t hard to understand why either. Initially I was worried that the masala would over-power the monkfish, but somehow Glynn Purnell had worked the flavours so finely that they in fact complimented each other beautifully. It was also my first time trying monkfish and, thanks to this course, it certainly won’t be the last.
Course 6 – Balmoral venison
This was my favourite course by far, but not for the food. In fact, I can barely remember the actual dish (although I know the flavours were immense and the venison breath-taking). No, the reason this was my favourite course was because of who it was served by; Chef Purnell himself.
This isn’t a usual occurance mind you. Glynn Purnell just happened to be in the restaurant at the same time as us that day, and I happened to notice this before proceeding to tell my mum. She then explained the fact that I was leaving to go to Australia and that we came to eat here because Glynn Purnell is my favourite “celebrity chef” to our waiter and it would make my day to meet him. The waiter then asked Glynn Purnell if he wouldn’t mind meeting me if he had the time which, as it happened, he did.
Of course, this was all done without my knowledge so you can try imagine my reaction when he came up to our table with our dishes, placed them down, and addressed me by name. I was gob-smacked. Also, because my back was to the kitchen door, I had no idea he was bringing over the venison until he spoke – kudos to my mum for keeping a straight face!
Anyway, it was amazing. Mum led the conversation because I was lost for words and either on the verge of tears or already crying. Honestly, just, it was an amazing moment. Eventually I found my voice though and we talked for a few minutes about my travel plans, how much I loved watching him on GBM, and how my mum had previously come to his restaurant without me! I was treated to a firm handshake before he left, and plucked up the courage to ask him to sign my menu, which he dutifully agreed to. It is where the quote at the start of this post came from, and you can see an image of the signed menu below.
Course 7 – Mango and passionfruit
The first of the desserts! A delicate dish with a beautiful white chocolate disk decorated in verbena gel and autumn flowers. As much a feast for the eyes as it was for the stomach. The lightness and clarity of flavour also meant it doubled-up as a sort of pallet cleanser for between the richness of the main course and the desserts still to come – something I am sure hadn’t escaped their attention.
Course 8 – Burnt english custard egg surprise ’10/10/10′
The big one. Purnell’s pièce de résistance. The dish that probably helped the career of an already promising chef making a name for himself become something so much more. This dish was the winning dessert on the 2008 rendition of GBM and just blew the rest of the competition away. It is extremely popular and is still a presence on his restaurants menu. However, the dish is not exactly the same as it once was, with the iconic teaspoon egg cup no longer used and – due to seasonal availability – blackberries replacing the strawberries. Not that it takes anything away from this dish. Yes, I am probably very biased, but it was something I had wanted to try for nearly 8years, the dish that I was most looking forward to. In my head, it was the pinnacle of cooking can and should be, and it did not disappoint. Not at all. Not one bit. ’10/10/10′? Yeah, without doubt.
Course 9 – “Mint choccy chip”
As mum had been here before, she had already tried the “Mint choccy chip” and had declared it her favourite dish of her previous visit. Mum can be quite hard to please, so this level of praise really raised my expectations. In terms of presentation, as the dish is served the waiter activated the dry ice that was nestled beneath the dish, creating an absolutely beautiful foggy effect that took the breath away. Curious? Click here to watch a video that demonstrates just how cool it is.
Anyway, it was minty, it was chocolatey, it was exactly as advertised and it was fantastic. A rich, well-rounded dessert combining classic flavours to bring this amazing tasting menu to the perfect conclusion.
10/10 would recommend, but if you read all of this then you probably already knew that.
To see my complete bucket list, click here