Birmingham’s four Michelin chefs are vying with each other for the city’s lunch trade, but is it Game, Set & Match to Turners Restaurant, Harborne? By Philippe Boucheron for ETM (C)
Richard Turner is an exciting, talented and brilliantly driven chef. His tiny eponymous Michelin starred restaurant in Harborne, the leafy suburb near Birmingham City Centre, is ample testament to this. His elegant cooking combines refinement and style with carefully chosen fresh produce, creating beautifully balanced dishes without the vulgar display of too many ingredients creating conflicting flavours. As interesting as these flavours might be, they makes it almost impossible to choose the right wine to match the dish.
With his table d’hôte three plus two course lunch, with an amuse bouche and pre-dessert, Richard has added the final element to the perfect lunch: most carefully selected wines to accompany each dish. And he does all of this for a very competative price range: 2 course £22, 3 course £27 & 3 course with wine flight £37 including 20% Vat. We dined on the 3 courses with wine flights matching each course…plus a few tasty extras included.
A two and a half-hour lunch the other day with my publisher provided the ideal opportunity for us – and our well-practiced roving forks – to sample both the dishes offered, to say nothing of the wines.
The first choice was either house cured organic salmon with an avocado purée and pink grape fruit accompanied by a crisp, aromatic 2010 Domaine de Pellehaut, French Sauvignon-Blanc. The other quite spectacular dish was a slowly cooked duck egg, onion skins, mushroom and wood sorrel topped by shavings of precious white bianchetti truffles. Beautifully cooked and assembled, this culinary art on a plate tasted as beautiful as it looked, while the delicate 2010 Rhône Valley Viognier – Domaine de la Bastide – provided the perfect foil.
A duo of suckling pig – loin and belly – was served with confit cabbage, parsnip purée, wild mushrooms with a Madeira jus. The accompanying wine was a most unusual, yet excellent pairing – a 2008 Petit Sirah (nothing at all to do with Syrah or even Shiraz) L.A. Cotto from Mexico. However it was the pavé of halibut, cooked to absolute perfection (sorry about that P word again) by Richard, that won top marks. Glistening like wet marble and fantastically flaky, it tasted of the sea, and served with new seasons (under cloche) asparagus with a sublime vanilla sauce, was a dish devoutly to be desired. An un-oaked Macon-Village, classic Chardonnay at its most traditional, added a hint of butter and honey.
Following the wonderful pre-dessert, which included the stickiest doughnut I have ever tasted, there was a choice of either an elderflower cheesecake with rhubarb, served with one of my most favourite sweet wine – a Coteaux du Lyon from the Loire, or a Banna soufflé, served with a rum & raisin ice cream›. But it was the surprising selection of sweet wine to go with the soufflé that stopped me in my tracks. It was not a wine as such but a rosé Pineau des Charantes, from the Cognac region, made from unfermented grape juice and one year old brandy that is too young to be called Cognac. Sweet, but not cloying, it was exactly what the soufflé required.
Good, strong, black coffee set the final seal on a most enjoyable interlude. Sincere congratulations to chef Turner and his brigade, not only for their superb cooking, but equally to Richard for being brave enough to make such a scintillating selection of wines. It takes a most courageous chef to subjugate his cooking by selecting such awesome wines. It was an object lesson in food and wine matching; in every sense a case of game, set & match.
Served Tuesday-Saturday Lunch: 2 course £22, 3 course £27 & 3 course with wine flight £37.