If the way to get to a good restaurant is to go through a good bar, then Purnells Bistro is quite probably top of the hit parade.
Ginger’s Bar embraces the relaxed vibes of Manhattan, inspired by Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, the decor and ambience is cool and collected with smart re-mastered classic cocktails. Ruth and I have visited numerous times, The Negroni is superb, the Old fashioned glitters. The Gin Martini possibly the best in Birmingham.
Purnells Bistro offers a menu inspired by rustic British fare. It is very much ‘rustic home cooking with an eclectic twist’ where dainty traditional food meets more exotic ingredients. Founded by Michelin Starred chef Glynn Purnell (his wonderful restaurant Purnells restaurant is around the corner) it shows his passion to good food in slick and chilled surroundings.
The Bistro decor has a relaxed and pleasant feel with soft moody lighting which felt quite chilled and modern on a quiet Monday lunchtime. It’s semi fine dining, nice pared down tables, smart cutlery, it felt like a place to celebrate in, which was a good thing as it was Ruth’s Birthday in the lovely company of her Mum.
On this occasion we went straight to the table rather than have a drink in the bar.
We ate off the Extended Weekend menu. Which is on offer only on a Monday where all items on the menu (including bar food menu) have discounts up to 50% off, which I think is a great deal. Having settled in the Bistro, which wasn’t surprisingly quiet for a Monday lunch time, we were given some pleasant rather than spectacular bread to have as we looked at the menu.
The starter I ordered Potato and Gruyere terrine, poached egg, Autumn Purée, potato crisp, bursting with flavour of the assertive Gruyere cheese, into an earthy noted and Moreish terrine, with a runny egg to give the depth of luxury into what mounted to a lovely brunch like dish. The purée adding a seasonal harmony or just simply shouting I am lunch. A real starter of note.
Potato and Gruyere terrine, poached egg, Autumn Green purée, potato crisp. £3.00
Pumpkin Risotto, Goats Cheese, Watercress. £7.25.
So onto the main course. Risotto’s fall into three camps for me. The not good at all, bland, grainy, why? The ok, (so many Italian restaurants in Birmingham do it this way) and the wow risotto, I’ve had two in my life. One in Florence (of course) deep earthy mushrooms, in season, outside in the evening sun. Then the best of all at Raymond Blanc’s gastranomic temple that is Le Manoir Aux Saison another Wild mushroom and Alba Truffle concoction (again in season) that blew me away and remains to this day the best I’ll probably ever eat. I vowed to not eat another risotto again, this lasted for only six months until the Asparagus season began, but still I feel Risotto desire when I think about it.
So began the journey to another temptress the (Pumpkin, goats cheese and watercress Risotto.)
The discovery pleased me, as it proved to be the second most enjoyable Risotto I’ve ever had in the UK.
The best Risottos are the simple ones, less is more. Pumpkins slap bang in the Autumn/Winter season, with harmonious gentle goats cheese. Soothing, comforting, satisfying, with plenty of deep seasonal flavour . A well executed risotto that surprised me. A triumph of simple things done simply well and with the confidence to lavish love on a plate. A stylish plate of food.
We also ordered some excellent seasonal vegetables that were a welcome addition.
Pumpkin Risotto, goats cheese, watercress. A bargain.
By this time I was glowing like a glow worm on a sunny day, and felt impassioned to dive into a gooey pudding. So I ordered the most gooey and chocolatey pudding on the menu, the Dark Chocolate cheesecake, ‘Cafe Liegeois’, Amaretti crumble. An elegant and refined desert without been fussy. Deep, dark chocolate, with a swish of coffee flavour from the cafe Liegeois, beautifully presented on a black slate, the amaretti crumble deconstructed and adding the desired crunch against the soft cheesecake.
A lovely elegant desert, again like my starter, rustic refined.
Suffice to say Ruth had a good Birthday lunch. She had the meaty type of food. Enough said.
Dark Chocolate Cheesecake ‘Cafe Liegeois’ amaretti crumble. £4.86 Warm Ginger Sponge-rum and raisin ice cream. £4.76, went down well also, with plenty of ginger flavour.
We also enjoyed a bottle of Chardonnay, Blue Ridge wine from Bulgaria.
Purnells Bistro serve the bistro classics well. In fact on this occasion with excellence. The food is simpler more rustic than Purnells Restaurant, less experimental, but it’s joy to eat such flavoursome and hearty Vegetarian dishes where ingredients are seasonal and treated the right way and presented beautifully. Made by a kitchen that takes pride in their dishes.
Maybe it’s the pedantic and greedy veggie nature in me, but it would be nice to have more options across the menu, (maybe specials) as vegetarian cooking this good shouldn’t be hid under a bushell, but should be delivered with aplomb, ambition, enthusiasm, and dare I say a bit more added variation to the standard (but well made) vegetarian pasta and risotto model.
Though this is only an opinion, I add that Purnells Bistro is a lovely restaurant, where service is excellent and a classy bar meets a clever bistro that shows talent and a sure touch, excellent for celebrations or an informal meal, but i can’t help thinking it could do much more with those seasonal simple (vegetable) ingredients.
Now that would be a Bistro that’s not feeding only the darkness of the Vegetarian past, but the authentic magic of new bistro vegetarian dining. But, that risotto…Mmm, was a joy to behold.
Thanks for reading,
We paid for our meal and drinks in full. All thoughts and opinions are my honest opinion as always.
Purnells Bistro and Gingers Bar, 11 Newhall Street, Birmingham B3 3NY.
New Purnell’s Bistro Spring Menu.
New Spring menu at Purnells Bistro With a lovely sounding Aubergine Rotolo and an interesting cream of onion Risotto. Two solid and nice looking options.
4 thoughts on “Restaurant review: Purnells Bistro, Birmingham.”
“The darkness of the vegetarian past” – love it! Looks like a great meal and hopefully they’ll listen to you on broadening the menu.
Thanks Liz, I hope so, but it depends on how they see themselves in fitting into the new movement for veggie and vegan food across the country, in London a place like Purnells bistro would be a beacon of progression. Sometimes it’s easier to go with the same and keep the costs Down.
Interesting. I had written Purnell’s off as a veggie friendly place I must admit. As we are both veggie, we would never going somewhere as a couple where there is only one veggie option and so we both have to have the same dish. Okay for the token veggie in a bigger party I suppose. So I hope your opinions are taken seriously!
Thanks, hopefully they will be. I can understand your frustration as you are both veggie. Limited options are never good, and there are so many nice places to eat that cater well for veggies. Fingers crossed.