I’m not prone to visit a new restaurant within its early days of opening, due to
the potential to either be vastly disappointed or underwhelmed by the package presented.
So it was with some trepidation that Ruth and I visited Bitters N’ Twisted’s Marmalade’s in its first week ( its first proper night after a soft launch) seduced by the much trumpeted vegetarian dishes and a bargain 50% off opening week deal. Based at the Birmingham Rep Theatre near the ICC building/Symphony Hall and on Broad Street.
On entering we were quietly relieved to see that the old style of theatre dining had disappeared. A Nondescript, dull, quietness had been replaced by a modern, funky, wooden, quite cosy feeling space, that had all the hallmarks of other Bitters N Twisted venues. (Bodega, Jekyll and Hyde, Rose Villa Tavern to name just three).
I liked the room, long tables, small tables, good lighting, large windows, a bit like Bodega, but unique too the brand too. It had potential to be buzzy when busy.
The Bistro was quite busy when we got there, though the pre theatre guests would be engrossed in their play and the night was quite cold.
We were seated in a cosy corner and perished the menu. Service initially was quite slow, but generally improved as the night went on. Though it felt decidedly chilly and without a personable touch, more functional with little enthusiasm compared with say Bodega. Not fitting for a restaurant in its opening days, where you may expect that touch.
One must not grumble though, it’s early days, and this is something to work on.
We ordered a couple of drinks. Ruth a white wine me a Mojito. My cocktail was good, a good touch of rum, refreshing, sweet, what you would expect.
So onto the food.
We decided to order one of Marmalade’s small plate options to share along with some bread.
We ordered the stone bread basket, homemade butters (Balsamic and Thyme, Fig and Rosemary, and sun dried tomato) plus the Charred Kale, caramelised swede, coconut, cranberries, walnuts.
The bread we felt wasn’t as fresh as it could have been. It was ok. The butters didn’t taste of any ingredients in the description and were disappointing as we were looking foreword to trying them. Great idea though.
The Kale dish looked impressive, pretty on the plate. It was delicious, the crunch of the kale against the soft swede and blended into a coconut sauce felt quite Thai or Malaysian, subtly spiced and a good plate of food, and with the bread for dipping into the creamy coconut a good mix. For £7.25 good value shared with another sharing plate dish as a taster.
To follow I ordered the tasty sounding
Roast Aubergine, lentil, feta, Basil
Leaves, chick peas, croutons, curry oil, raisins, shiitake mushrooms salad. (A long title).
Which when it arrived didn’t look anything like the press release photographs, but was covered in rocket/salad which his the beautiful bright colours of the chick peas, lentils and aubergine, as if it was embarrassed by them. Shame. It was that presentation that grabbed me.
The official photo.
How it was presented.
On the whole though the taste of the dish was very good. Lovely flavours running through it, it felt healthy, warming, the chick peas, lentils, mushrooms and aubergine gave it a bite and vitality and with the toasted croutons made for a filling warm salad. I enjoyed it.
It would make a good starter (and is available as such) promising and with two other vegetarian main dishes plenty to return to, including a lovely sounding vegetable crumble with tofu.
We also ordered a good side portion of chips which were good.
Ruth ordered cod fish and chips which was she said ok, cooked well but a bit bland and unseasoned, and served with a small portion of chips, hence the extra portion ordered.
For desert we decided to share the brilliant sounding Repertory Mess- almond meringue, coffee sponge, whipped cream, raspberries, and blue berries.
It was ok, good in fact until we came across (about half way down) the cloying and overpowering coffee soaked sponge, and then a good mess became a tiramisu, a bit confused, we liked half of the pudding, but was left with an after taste of coffee not fruit and meringue. A shame.
So on the whole Marmalade was a good experience. It has massive potential. Credit is deserved and due for the varied and from what I tasted good vegetarian dishes. A lot of work has been put into them and thinking of us veggies as an important diner. They show a progression and trend for a varied tastes, textures, and ingredients. Yet, maybe a curates egg on the day I visited.
The service was only ok, no one checked whether we enjoyed the food, no one checked how the veggie dishes were, no market research, not a great deal of enthusiasm but always polite.
I liked the space though, the decor, lighting and potential and I did return to enjoy a fine flat white the next day in the bar, and service there was much better.
So maybe a return visit in a few months, once things have settled down. Those veggie dishes deserve to be discovered. Theirs lots to like about Marmalade, the cocktails, the varied and imaginative menu, the pre theatre deal, and there’s some things to work on.
That’s normal at this stage, so perhaps I should have waited a little longer? But then I’ve always loved Marmalade…
See you again.
Marmalade Bistro Bar
Birmingham Rep Theatre
0121 245 2080
Has anyone visited Marmalade yet? What did you think? Let me know your thoughts via the comments below and in Twitter @andydhare
Thanks for reading.
We ate at Marmalade with 50% off the bill. The other 50% we paid for. My opinions are my own, honest as always.
I also drunk a delicious Brew Dog Punk IPA. Part of a good selection of craft beers on offer at Marmalade.
Three official photos courtesy of Marmalade and Bitters N’ Twisted