Here’s a new independent that made even me smile

Noel's Bar & Grill

Now it may come as a surprise, but there are times when I can be quite grumpy.

The sort of situation that might bring out my inner Victor Meldrew would be sitting in a restaurant next to a large hen party complete with sashes, wobbly fluorescent wands the purpose of which evades me and a passion for taking an unnecessary number of selfies and group photographs.

Such a group was, indeed, seated near me as I paid my first visit to Noel’s Bar & Restaurant, an independent place that’s been open two months on the canal-side near the Mailbox.

And you know what?

I grinned rather than grimaced for the women were having a grand old time and, more pertinently, Noel’s Bar & Restaurant is a joyous sort of place.

It’s welcoming, hospitable and generous.

Very professional, too, for the service was slick, friendly and informed, especially from our charming Romanian waitress.

Noel's Bar & Grill

Large windows look out over the canal basin and Noel’s is light and airy.

It’s got a great buzzy vibe, with some interesting authentic flamenco music being played on the Saturday night I visited.

Other restaurants have occupied the space and disappeared, but this one, I fancy, with survive and thrive.

A major factor in my confidence is the menu – devised by the very talented Michelin star winning chef Andy Waters, formerly of Simpsons and Edmunds.

It’s Mediterranean themed, with influences from across the region. I was a little worried before visiting that it was too eclectic.

But now I see that sensibly it simply ticks a number of boxes enabling people on all sorts of budgets and with differing tastes to visit.

There are competitively priced pizza and pasta dishes and more expensive, more formal dishes.

Especially exciting are those from Noel’s charcoal-fuelled grill. But more of that when I come to my main course.

Noel's Bar & Grill

For now, let’s concentrate on my starter – caprino fritto.

Two globes of breadcrumbed goats cheese had been precisely deep-fried so they had a crunchy crust and a yielding interior.

The cheese itself was mild and comforting.

Beetroot brought an earthy sweetness. A lemon dressing added zing. Black olives added a salty snap.

But best of all were the slow-roasted tomatoes.

Years ago, when I could be arsed, I’d cook tomatoes the same way – skinning the annoying little sods, deseeding them, cooking them at a low temperature for an age.

Here the kitchen can be arsed and uses a similar method . The result is tomato with the texture of soft chewy toffee and an extraordinarily complex and deep flavour.

Noel's Bar & Grill

Opposite, my wife ate a caprese salad made with various sorts of tomato and featuring good mozzarella.

It was a dish that immediately won her heart.

I progressed to a dish from the chargrilled section that matched the high standard of my starter.

Its menu title included the word “ossobuco”, but it wasn’t the glorious bony Milanese stew to which this word is usually attached.

In front of me was placed a beautifully tender sweet slice of veal that had picked up marvellously smoky notes from the charcoal grill.

Noel's Bar & Grill

It was topped with Parma ham and sage and came with a Madeira sauce of great depth and oomph.

The chips that accompanied it were good ones. Tomatoes roasted on the vine added fruity sweetness.

My only moan is that the green beans – though still darkly green – were slightly overcooked so that they were floppy rather than al dente.

Lynn, however, had no reservations about the gnocchi alla Sorrentina that she ordered – light dumplings in a light, fresh tomato sauce with basil and mozzarella.

This was a homely, satisfying dish and a bargain at £12.95.

Greed alone drove me to order dessert, but my choice suggested gluttony isn’t always a bad thing.

Noel's Bar & Grill

Lemon verbena crema Catalana was a very pretty dish, with deftly judged acidity cutting through the richness and sweetness.

A garnish of raspberries, nicely crisp meringues and a garish of green shoots I couldn’t recognise added extra layers of flavour and interest.

As my spoon scraped my bowl, the hen group had gathered giggling for another group shot.

We two considerably older diners felt like giggling, too, for Noel’s is a place that raised a smile even on my ugly miserable old mug.

Need to know

Our bill was around £70 for two for food and drinks.

You could spend considerably less by choosing pizza or pasta.

There are plenty of veggie options.

There’s a kids’ menu.

Check out the extensive cocktail list.

Noel’s pasta is homemade each day.

Noel’s Bar & Restaurant

22 Waterfront Walk, Birmingham B1 1SN.

https://noelsbar.co.uk