Sunday, 11 September 2011

The Bone Collector

I have never been blinkered to the fact that my knowledge in the kitchen or the restaurant is limited and it has become almost an obsession of mine to learn more.

That learning curve took a huge upward swerve recently when I was invited to Beef and Simpsons – on the same day! I had never been to a Michelin star restaurant before and the excitement was mixed with a little trepidation. I have always had the misguided view that such high brow dining would be stuffy and reserved, a library like atmosphere where a mere utterance to a fellow diner would be greeted by scowls from the waiting staff and utter contempt from regular customers.

I could not have been more wrong. Simpsons has a relaxed air, a genuine feeling that you are part of some wonderful dining experience, where the chatter of those gathered is a fundamental part of the meal and not to be frowned upon.

More on Simpsons later, however the lunchtime treat was Beef. Situated in Kenilworth, it has an unassuming façade and the clue to what’s inside really is in the name.

Andreas Antona had a vision when opening Beef and the New York Steak House style really does work. The décor makes no attempts to disguise the delights of the menu either.

You are greeted by beautiful cuts of different meats as soon as you walk in, displayed for your perusal and aiding your choice when ordering. Expecting my choice to be limited by the obvious, I was pleasantly surprised by the wonderful range of options available on the menu although there was never any doubt that, as a steak lover, I would be tempted to stray.

It isn’t difficult to see why Beef was voted in the top 10 steak houses in the UK. All meats are aged for a minimum of 21 days and I was able to sample the Wagyu (Japanese cattle fed on beer mash and sake), the fragrant USDA (US Cattle fed on more grass giving the extra flavour) and a Highland variety. All had surprisingly different qualities, marbling and texture and all were sumptuous.

The supporting cast of Roasted Marrowbone and finishing off with a palate cleansing bon bon made for an exceptional lunch. When you can also get 2 courses for £12.95 at lunchtime, such a high class and quality venue doesn’t have to be to the detriment of your wallet.

The evening leg of our mini Birmingham tour took us to Simpsons – Beef’s sister restaurant. Set in a beautiful building in Edgbaston, the whole place has a feel of splendour but not in an overpowering or condescending way. The finer details – every member of staff remembered the first names of our party after one brief introduction – ensured a comfortable introduction to the finest dining.

A pre-starter of Israeli cous cous, squid, squid ink, Greek lemons and silver leaf was one hell of an insight into what was to come. I will let Neil do the food justice in his own inimitable style and imminent recounting of the numerous courses. This wasn’t just about the exemplary food and incredible accompanying wines. The whole experience lifted dining to a whole new level for me. Previously occupied by the stereotypical view that I would immediately need another meal after leaving a restaurant such as this, I instead left satiated, amazed and desperate to learn more.

And again at £37.50 for a set 3 course evening meal, you won’t need to bother the bank manager in order to dine there.

I referenced a gherkin in a previous post and promised an explanation. On tasting one dish I was asked by a companion what the delicacy adorning my fork was. Although it looked and tasted like none before I KNEW it was a gherkin yet my lack of confidence in my own taste buds and culinary eye lead to mutterings and shame. However, I know that I am learning and thanks to James, Neil and all at the aforementioned establishments, I am receiving a very helping hand along the way.

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