A year on, this restaurant is starting to make waves

Craft

Some restaurants arrive in a blaze of publicity fuelled by canapés and flutes of cheap fizz to massage the egos of “influencers” so that they plaster their social media accounts with photographs and flattering comments.

Others arrive more quietly – taking modest steps to ensure that they offer something of quality.

Craft falls very much into this latter category.

It was opened without much fanfare just over a year ago in the space at the ICC once occupied by Strada.

I admit that when I paid my first visit late last summer, I wondered whether it would survive after quiet birth in a location that’s a little tucked away.

Now, having eaten there more recently, those doubts have disappeared for it has evolved into a very smart restaurant indeed.

The entrance is flower-festooned so that you arrive thinking you may be entering a hippy grotto.

Outside there are tables beneath the floral canopy and self-contained pods available all year round and booked up months in advance.

The lay-out inside has been altered so that it is cosier and more welcoming.

But the revelation was the food, which champions British produce and classics given a contemporary twist by chef Andrew Sheridan, who rose to fame on Great British Menu.

Its flexibility is impressive – with afternoon teas, picnics and platters as well as a formal menu comprising four choices for each course.

And the cooking is very fine indeed – intelligent, well-judged and conjuring memories of dishes we love.

Craft

The salt beef with pickles and mustard with which I began my meal was a refined, clever dish full of robust but carefully controlled tastes.

The meat was beautifully flavoured and had just the right texture. The pickles and mustard were elevated versions of the usual accompaniments.

A beef fat brioche roll that sat alongside was a marvellous thing – perhaps the best riff on dripping toast ever executed.

Craft

Opposite, my wife ate a crab and apple slice that was easy on the eye and, apparently, highly pleasing to the palate.

Another inventive riff on an old favourite was my choice as a main course – pork, pineapple and egg.

Here the pork was mangalista – taken from the curly-coated pigs that originated in Hungary and is famed for its high fat content and exquisite flavour.

Craft

There were three cuts – each treated differently to show off the various qualities of the meat.

A sort of loose faggot was tender and almost funky.

Belly had been pressed and cooked so that the layers of fat melted.

A prime cut – from the loin? – was nicely pink and had been deftly  and cleverly seasoned with vanilla and five spice.

Pineapple, topped with grated egg yolk, retained a good level or acidity to cut through the richness of the meat and the caramelised sauce that came with the dish.

Craft

Meanwhile, my wife waxed lyrical over a lamb, aubergine and back garlic combo that was beautifully presented.

Desserts – the work of the respected pastry chef Howing Lai – maintained the quality.

The doughnuts and coffee ice cream that I ordered was a clever dish – the doughnuts light, the ice cream packing a restrained coffee punch and perfectly soft.

This was a dish full of fairground delights and fine dining refinement.

Craft

Lynn’s Cambridge burnt cream was equally well-received – a dainty and pretty dessert.

A word, too, about the wine list – again, celebrating British producers.

A late-harvested white from Worcestershire’s Astley Vineyard was especially fine.

And, this being a post-lockdown review, a final word on precautions.

Craft take them very seriously indeed – tables are well-spaced, menus are disposable and the temperatures of customers are checked on entry.

After it’s quiet arrival, I expect Craft to start making big noises in Birmingham’s food scene.

Craft

The Terrace, Unit 10 & 11, ICC, Birmingham B1 2EA. 0121 655 5550.

https://weare-craft.co.uk

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