There comes a time during the consumption of many tasting menus when the spirit of discovery wanes and the body wilts under the weight of so much food.
I think back, for instance, to a many-coursed lunch at the exquisite Mugaritz on the outskirts of San Sebastian in Spain where my stomach cried out “No more!” when I was served a dish based on Iberian pig tail before the first of several desserts.
Being a trencherman, I ploughed on, but the pleasure I derived from the final courses was diminished for I was simply too full.
Upwards of seven courses, I’ve concluded, is a challenge – one sometimes worth the effort because of the brilliance of the chef, but frequently an experience to be endured rather than enjoyed towards the meal’s conclusion.
Which brings me in a roundabout kind of way to old favourite Opus, which recently launched a tasting menu.
Now this filled me with joy for two reasons.
First because the tasting menu consists of five courses, a reasonable number.
Secondly because the cooking at Opus has always been spot-on.
This is a kitchen that produces well-crafted and imaginative dishes that primarily showcase the superb quality of the ingredients that are used.
Thus it was with the tasting menu that I was invited to eat.
First came a light but luxurious mousse of mild goats’ cheese served with earthy local beetroots, grapes that I think had been lightly pickled in verjus, crisp and sweet candied walnuts and a gorgeously refreshing celery gel.
This light and playful dish did what it should – got tastebuds tingling in anticipation for the courses to follow.
A glass of Dr Loosen riesling was a wonderful match, with its fruity, subdued sweetness and backbone of minerality.
A stuffed breast and roasted leg of quail came with a a sort of risotto of pearl barley made punchy by dice of chorizo and enlivened by peas and sweetcorn.
A well-balanced jus and carrot puree added extra notes to the dish.
A course billed “Fish, Chips and Peas” was the most chaffy of the evening – a classy riff on what you’d get at your chippy.
A chunk of hake was fresh, flakey and sweet and came with straw fries, batter scraps, pea puree and vinegar gel to replicate the flavours and textures of classes fish and chips but raise them to a higher level.
Beef fillet – a cut of cow of which I’m not overly fond – was here full of flavour and perfectly cooked.
It came with a strongly meaty braised oxtail faggot dotted with bits of offal, mash spuds pungent with roast garlic and an array of vegetables.
A Uruguayan tannat – the grape used to make strong, purple, tooth-staining madiran in south-west France – was lighter and fruitier and drank well with the beef.
Last came the evening’s star dish – a rich and squidgy dark chocolate fondant with a refreshing raspberry sorbet and fresh and freeze-dried raspberries.
This was a grown-up dessert with a clever balance of sweet, bitter and sharp.
A Rivesalte wine – think a light tawny port with a little more sugar but balancing acidity – stood upwell to the chocolate and berries.
This was a dish that left me feeling happily replete rather than stuffed.
Need to know
The tasting menu costs £45 or £80 with matching wines.
It is available on Fridays and Saturdays.
The dishes featured change regularly.
The menu and matching wines available during my visit is pictured below this article.
A la carte and vegetarian menus are also available.
50 Cornwall Street, Birmingham B3 2DE. 0121 200 2323.
My thanks to Opus for inviting me to sample the tasting menu.