There have been times when I’ve been distinctly underwhelmed by the food at Fumo, the smart Italian restaurant and bar overlooking Birmingham Cathedral.
So the opening of an offshoot beyond the vulgar handbags and shoes on the top-floor of Selfridges in the Bullring didn’t cause my heart to dance like an over-frisky pixie at a festive party.
How foolish of me: the food I ate there after my first bout of Christmas shopping was very good indeed.
Fumo has taken over the large curved space that once was occupied by The Balcony.
A million quid has been spent tarting up the room.
There are marble-topped tables, a shiny wooden floor, banquettes upholstered in vivid yellow, leather scatter cushions, a bamboo-themed backlit wall and eye-catching light fittings.
It’s the sort of decor that a 1980s porn baron might have favoured for his Miami love-nest.
I liked it.
The service was attentive and efficient, with the young easy-on-the-eye staff knowledgable about the dishes and drinks on the menu.
They left no-one in any doubt that they were Italian.
Like its sister restaurant across town, the emphasis is on small plates.
Though small is, I guess, a comparative term – a truth I, an infamous short-arse, hold dear.
But I digress: though not great big things, the plates I ordered with my fellow diner were more than adequate to share.
And all were very flavoursome and satisfying.
Ingredients were of good quality and the cooking, though uncomplicated, was skilled.
Deep-fried pizza was a revelation – two rings of crunchy doughnut-like deliciousness stuffed with melting cheese and tangy ham.
Sicilian red prawns arrived with thin strands of courgette and whitebait.
All were battered and expertly fried so that they were oil-free and rip.
An Italian sausage was meaty and moist and had a delicate flavour of fennel.
It came on top of a stringy Italian vegetable that was said to be a type of broccoli and which had a good deep green flavour.
The classic aubergine dish melanzane was rich and enjoyable.
A mixed salad was unfussy but fresh and varied and a welcome nod towards healthy eating after so much fried grub.
No room remained for desserts, which was a pity because I was sorely tempted.
But no doubt that will be corrected the next time I’m shopping and in need or refuelling, especially since I consider the prices here very reasonable.
Need to know
Five dishes and an Italian bottled beer cost just under £40.
There are vegetarian options.
The place is child-friendly.
Its opening times are tied to those of the store.
It’s accessible for disabled people.
Selfridges, Upper Mall East, Bullring, Birmingham, B5 4BP, 0121 600 6869.