Back in May, myself and Nicola took a trip to Birmingham in order to attend the launch party of Nocking Point Wines. We had never been to Birmingham before but thanks to cheap rail tickets from Virgin Trains and low cost accommodation at Premier Inn, we decided to stay two nights with the hope of seeing how the city measured up as a tourist destination.
There's loads to do in Birmingham but we never managed to do much because we had over indulged on free wine at the launch party the night before so ended up shuffling about England's second city feeling a little sorry for ourselves. That said, we did manage to enjoy a very nice meal, at Opus on Cornwall Street, on our second night.
When we were looking for somewhere to eat on the Monday night, we wanted to try somewhere that wasn't a part of a chain, after all we can go to the chains anytime. A quick Google search made it evident that Birmingham has plenty of independent restaurants to choose from including a few Michelin restaurant that we did consider although a couple appeared to be closed on a Monday so that cut our options down. One restaurant that did catch our attention was Opus at Cornwall Street, which holds 2 AA Rosettes, mainly down to the well priced market menu which offered three courses for just £16 including homemade bread. A little more googling found some great reviews so booked and made our way along later that night to what can only be described as one of the fancies restaurant fronts that we've ever seen. Let's just say, you wouldn't miss Opus as you walk along Cornwall Street!
Opus has a pretty extensive wine list and having spent most of the previous night drinking red wine at the party, we decided to get white wine with dinner and opted for a well priced bottle of Gavi di Gavi from Roberto Soretto. We both love Gavi and this offering was crisp and fresh with lots of honeydew melon and peach flavours that worked well with each of our courses.
The menu had stated that the soup was cream of broccoli, which is one of Nicola's favourite, but they had run out so had replaced with cream of carrot and coriander. Nicola stuck with soup and was glad that she did because the soup was perfectly spiced to counter the sweetness of the carrots.
My own starter was a fantastic creation of slow cooked duck leg with a summer bean salad and pine nut dressing. This would be perfect banqueting food - the duck was cooked well and fell from the bone at the slightest touch. The earthiness of the beans and the toasted pine nuts were a great match to the rich duck.
Nicola chose the fish of the day with pea & mint orzo. The fish was a chunky piece of hake that was pan fried to perfection, served atop a delicious pasta 'risotto' packed with fresh peas and freshly chopped mint. This was a great dish and made much lighter by replacing the more traditional rice with orzo.
There was nothing light about my own main though as I had opted for the black pudding and brown sauce sausages with creamed potatoes and apple purée! This was a hearty plate of food with three juicy pork sausages nestling on creamy, buttery mash. Apple purée was a new one to me but worked really well with the meaty sausages. If I were to make one criticism it would be that I could barely taste the black pudding in the sausages. You could definitely see the crumbed black pudding but it just wasn't spicy enough to compete with the well flavoured pork and sharpness from the brown sauce. Not a huge worry though as I quickly devoured the lot!
Nicola's dessert of caramel and coffee buttercream mouse with vanilla ice cream was one for those with a sweet tooth and maybe the perfect dessert to deliver those much needed sugars after a night of over-indulging. The mousse was very light and balanced by the rich caramel sauce and buttery crumbed biscuit, the coffee flavour hit was just right and worked really with the the sweet creamy vanilla ice cream.
I had chosen the white chocolate mousse with raspberry sorbet but in either a late change to the menu or perhaps being misheard, I ended up with Opus's take on a chocolate orange. I'm a fan of chocolate orange so decided to keep quiet about the wrong dessert being served. The dessert consisted of a milky chocolate ice cream wrapped in dark chocolate - a home made choc-ice - served with super sharp orange jelly cubes and macerated orange segments. This was a very grown up dessert and was a great way to finish off a very nice meal.
We were both feeling pretty well fed and have to say that at £16 for three courses, I'm not sure that we have had any better dinner deals, especially when you consider the quality of the food that we had on the night. Rest assured, next time that we are back in Birmingham, we'll be doing what we can to get back to try out Opus at Cornwall Street again.
Written by Gerry Haughian