On our recent lunchtime visit to Carters of Moseley my wife and I observed how refreshing it is to eat a lighter but tasty meal in the middle of the day compared to having a blowout in the evening.
Back in the 1980s I remember visiting the first TGI Fridays in the UK – the Hayley Road site in Birmingham. To this day, after a three course meal, its the fullest I can remember ever being. I also remember it as being a good thing – in the days before diet consciousness, heartburn, vegetables etc.
Since those heavy days it seems to me that the gap between the price of everyday pub food, everyday restaurant food and fine dining has narrowed. The average price of a pub main course is pushing up towards £10 where I live and a decent curry with rice averages at £12-£16 in most of the Indian restaurants. With a steady inflation in the cost of eating out and a growing interest in eating healthily its a good time to consider what we value.
Unexpectedly, my wife booked us in at The Cross in Kenilworth – Adam Bennett’s Michelin starred restaurant I’ve been before in the evening and really enjoyed the unfussy British cuisine with a classical emphasis. The lunchtime menu offers two courses for £25 or three courses for £30. There’s a la carte for those who want to (including the splendid taster menu) but I really like the idea of something a little lighter.
There were two choices for each course and we began with the salmon rillettes with cucumber, horseradish and a herb salad. Cold salmon at its best is light and refreshing and this did not disappoint. There was a wafer thin slice of sourdough toast which was able to scoop up a dollop which shows the lightness of the salmon. The horseradish just added a little hint of heat.
For the main course we went our separate ways. My Cornish pollock was cooked beautifully and seasoned well. It sat on a bed of fermented barley. I don’t think I have had this before but the pearl barley carried a little acidity and the grain flavour was enhanced. The red wine sauce reduction and cavolo nero just finished the dish well. This was what I remembered from last time around. There are no pyrotechnics at the Cross – just well executed and delicately balanced dishes that are really tasty and satisfying. My wife opted for poussin on a lettuce, bacon and pea bed and enjoyed it immensely too.
For dessert I went onto the main menu and had the rhubarb and ginger soufflé. My wife had the cardamom rice pudding with oranges and a caramel sabayon. The oranges gave little flavour bombs in the aromatic rice pudding. My soufflé was incredibly light and the accompanying ginger ice cream worked well with it.
Our meal with a good bottle of Gavi was £110 for two. We had three small but faultlessly cooked and flavour packed courses for the same price we would pay for very average but much heavier meals elsewhere. We left and continued with our busy day unencumbered by the food. I really like the Cross. It helps that it is local but I think it serves good honest food using great ingredients in a relaxed environment. I am also totally sold on eating out at lunchtime rather that the evening and, wallet permitting, we’ll do it more.