For my wife’s birthday I planned a surprise day of events beginning with lunch. She loves good food she also wants to eat healthily and doesn’t want to worship it in the process. The word she uses to describe what she dislikes is ‘ponciness’. Most restaurant reviews don’t feature this description but I think we all have an interpretation of what she means – excessive fawning, pretentious, patronising, cloches, way too many tools to do the job, and ‘installation’ food with all its smoke and mirrors.
I chose Carters of Moseley – a new Michelin star for a modern British restaurant. I’d heard a few good reviews and I thought it may just fit the bill. First impressions are very promising. It’s tucked away up Wake Green Road a stone’s throw from trendy Moseley’s hipster student life. From the front it is a nice tidy modern-looking frontage. Inside it’s the same – very unpretentious with a banquette down on side with tables, a wine fridge on the other and an open kitchen at the end. The biggest first impression is the very friendly smile and welcome. Massive points were also scored when we were offered tap water rather than be left feeling like a philistine for asking for it.
I really like the approach to food here – it’s a tasting menu of four or six courses with no choice. When I booked I was asked if there were any dietary requirements so I guess that’s the get out. We opted for four.
The snacks beforehand began with an absolutely wonderful chicken liver cream under a bed of seeds. Soooo chickeny. We could both happily have had a big bowl of this. This was served in a dinky earthenware pot with a small spoon and this continued through the meal – clearly handmade, very tactile and i did feel that the decor and presentation reminded me of no-nonsense L’Enclume. This feeling was continued with the Queen scallop ceviche which had a slightly fermented flavour to the marinade.
There was a slice of home cured ham before the final snack of a large wedge of raw kohlrabi with a citrusy vinaigrette on top.
Another highlight followed with some homebaked bread made using flour from nearby Sarehole Mill and served with homemade salted butter and some sublime fat rendered from the Tamworth pig we’d sampled earlier. At this point I think I would be happy with a bowl of the chicken and some slices of this bread and pig fat (vegetarians should look away).
The first course was some mushroom porridge which had oats and pearl barley with a superb mushroom reduction running through it. You would never die wondering what flavour it was supposed to be. On top were some slivers of black truffle. Its worth at this point doing a ‘ponciness’ check. Each dish was brought and a brief explanation given with no detailed notes. If we wanted to know more the servers knew all there was but it wasn’t lectured.
Course two was some cod. This was served with a wonderful marbled sauce which was part hollandaise-buttery and looked wonderfully green and gold. The cod was a special North Atlantic fish (no more details were asked). An absolute highlight on the plate was a new potato rolled in leek ash. It looked like a black bullet but tasted amazing – a streak of bonfire bitterness against the butter and acidity. The single leek was slightly sweet by contrast.
The duck course had two small slices of breast with some leg meat stuffed under the skin. All was served in an aged soy sauce which was packed with flavour. The duck was pink but the skin was beautifully rendered and the stuffing contrasted nicely with the tender breast. There was a simple bit of green dressing and some shiitake mushroom.
The finale was a creamy eggless ice cream with cardamom and seaweed running through it which had a lovely yoghurty cheesiness. The puffed black rice gave a nice crunchy texture to finish it off.
We had a filtered coffee – more than a bit of ceremony here. Suffice it to say you wont get a straightforward coffee here. The peppermint tea was nice too and there was a little chocolate cream topped with a fragrant oil. We also got a nice surprise plate with a happy birthday message in chocolate which was a nice touch along with some yummy homemade wrapped ginger and cardamom chocolate.
Four small, flavoursome courses is a really nice way of lunching. We were pleasantly full and ready to do more in the afternoon rather than just sleep. My wife really enjoyed the food and the ambience. The warm welcome and lack of ponciness did the trick. Its quite pricey – our lunch came to £140 including the service charge and two glasses of wine. The essentials, the 4 course taster menu, is £45 which is what I’d expect to pay. The remainder is the optional extras. We’ll happily do it again and maybe double it with a wine flight.