It’s early Friday evening and the sun is belting down on the railway arches beneath Snow Hill Station.
From one dark-bricked arch, people are almost spilling into the street, so busy are the premises.
There’s a sense of buzz. People are happy. They’re holding wine glasses and enjoying the moment.
Arch 13 might in inauspiciously named for those of a superstitious disposition.
But, to me, it looks like it’s going to be a great big success.
This is the new wine bar at the front of the long-established family-run Connolly’s Wine Merchants in the Jewellery Quarter.
The vibe’s very much that of a traditional wine cellar, but distressed timbers, copper, honed stone and zinc add a contemporary twist.
Behind, caged off, is the shop area where you’ll find over 500 wines and other drinks.
But this evening we’re concentrating on the wine bar and, despite the crowd, manage to find a table.
Director Abi Connolly – late of Cheval Blanc and many other notable establishments – has put together a team of informed, friendly and efficient front-of-house who couldn’t be more welcoming.
It’s tempting to order a bottle of wine from the shop and pay the ridiculously low £7.50 corkage fee – remember: the average mark-up on wines in restaurants in around 70%.
Instead we order glasses.
A refreshing flute of cava to start – crisp, full of fruit and vivacious.
Next for me a glass of the fortified wine Madeira.
D’Oliveiras 1988 Verdelho is a £12.50 taste of paradise.
It’s amber in colour, in graduations of shade a little like a tawny port.
There’s minerality, subdued sweetness, notes of burnt orange and delicate dried fruit.
What a pity that Madeira – made by a unique process during which the wine is heated – is unfashionable.
What a joy that Arch 13 seeks to rectify that by listing eight Madeiras by the glass, including one dating from 1968 and priced at £28.
It’s my plan to work my way through that list.
Afterwards comes a glass of red from Tenerife bursting with early summer sunlight.
And, to accompany the wines, we order sharing plates of cheese and cured meats, for this is the type of food on which Arch 13 is concentrating.
Both are of impeccable quality and served in peak condition.
This is a joint that knows exactly what it’s about – great wine (and cocktails), simple but good food and welcoming hospitality.
I fear that in the months ahead my wallet, cholesterol levels and liver may take a battering.
Arch 13 at Connolly’s
220 Livery Street, Birmingham B3 1EU. 0121 236 3837.
Twitter/ Instagram/ Facebook: @arch13bar