Like Benny in Crossroads, the newly-opened Rustic Table has its heart firmly in the right place but a head that seems a bit confused.
The service is charming – in fact, it could hardly be friendlier or more welcoming.
The decor is pleasant in a pared-back, unfussy sort of way.
Prices are fair, the wine list is balanced and the food I ate was cooked with great care and skill.
But there seemed to me an incoherence about the menu, with dishes from far and wide.
Rustic Table’s website speaks of dishes that are old-fashioned and based on good ingredients.
That’s a box that it certainly ticks successfully.
The website goes on to mention the Mediterranean influences and it’s here where confusion began, for me, to creep in.
For the Med is a big bloody place with a cuisine that’s hugely varied.
On the menu you’ll find dishes from Spain, France, Italy and France so that baked camembert rubs should with albondigas and moussaka is listed alongside lasagne.
There’s even a nod towards Latin America with nachos and huevos rancheros and a detour to good old Blighty with bacon and egg and Sunday roasts.
Thus, I think, Rustic Table risks squandering the clear identity that restaurants need.
For me it needs a sharper focus on fewer culinary influences.
Which is why I and my wife stuck to Greek dishes – a style of food in Birmingham that is rarely executed well commercially.
And we both left pleased. So don’t run away with the notion that Rustic Table is anything other than likeable.
The spanakopita with which I began arrived as triangular parcels rather than the more traditional pie.
But that’s not an issue – the texture and flavour were spot-on.
The filo pastry was crisp and cooked so that there wasn’t a hint of greasiness.
The filling of spinach, onions and feta was tasty.
A salad garnish was fresh, crisp and refreshing.
Opposite was eaten a gigantic Greek salad that was everything a Greek salad should be – like my garnish, it was fresh, crisp and refreshing.
The nicely-seasoned moussaka I ate next was homely and flavoursome, with minced lamb and beef and slices of aubergine and potato in tangy tomato and béchamel sauces.
The chips alongside were wedges rather than fries, but good nevertheless.
Greek salad alongside was, again, enjoyable.
Lynn’s stifado was fragrant with sweet spice and a very satisfying and rich beef stew.
It came with two carbs – chunks of bread and potato cakes.
She’d have preferred just the bread and maybe a green veg in place of the spuds.
Main course portions were gigantic and this, rather than the quality of the food, was why much remained uneaten.
And why we didn’t progress to desserts.
Need to know
We paid around £60 for two courses each plus a bottle of wine.
Rustic Table is closed on Mondays.
It opens for breakfasts at weekends.
It’s open lunchtimes and evenings otherwise.
There are vegetarian options.
152 High Street, Harborne, Birmingham B17 9PN. 0121 448 1755.