Seldom have I been moved by a turnip, but Restaurant Folium’s treatment of this humble root vegetable left me even more slack-jawed than usual.
Cut into tagliatelle-style strips that had been carefully cooked so that they remained al dente, the earthy veg came in a rich, deep and well-balanced sauce made from Lincolnshire Poacher cheese given further umami notes by black truffle and other mushrooms.
This was a kind of riff of the Italian classic, carbonara.
It was one of many successful, convincing dishes cooked up by Ben Tesh and his small brigade at the newly-opened restaurant in the Jewellery Quarter – a successor to his recent pop-ups.
Expect bare bricks, moss-green walls, polished wooden floors and well-judged lighting.
The tables are bare wood, the chairs are retro-cool.
Tableware is on-trend – lots of rough-hewn crockery and oaty colours.
Knives, forks and spoons are slender with tapered wooden handles.
There’s an open-plan kitchen in which Ben and his cooks work calmly and quietly.
Folium’s got an unmistakable Scandi feel to the place – in keeping with the menu.
This is high-end modern British cookery with Nordic sensibilities – a reflection of Ben’s stints at Turners in Harborne and the renowned Noma in Copenhagen.
Plates and bowls mightn’t look terribly pretty and all are pared down to a few ingredients.
But, boy, there’s some skill and imagination in their creation and cooking, utilising lots of contemporary techniques.
A bowl of potato, smoked eel and chicken skin was comfort food raised to a high level – in the manner of Glynn Purnell’s famous smoked haddock, egg and cornflakes combo or a coddled egg and mushroom dish I remember on the menu at Dabbous in London.
There was a luxurious creaminess to the spuds, broken by the smoky flavour and almost gelatinous texture of the eel.
Crisp chicken skin added texture and savoury notes.
Cured mackerel with cucumber, an oyster emulsion and wasabi refreshed the palate with its zingy flavours and frozen textures.
Then THAT turnip dish.
After, cod was beautifully cooked so that it was pearly white and flaking, whilst still firm.
Its crisp skin lay on top and, below, was a parsley-flecked sauce rich with flavour of mussels but with a restraining balance of sharpness.
Lamb came pink and tender in a rich jus given an extra layer by the addition of seaweed.
Jerusalem artichoke added earthy sweetness, an anchovy emulsion gave an almost indecent saltiness.
Sheep yoghurt, lemon thyme and spruce was another palate-cleansing combination of contrasting textures and temperatures.
Here was a dish that hovered successfully between savoury and sweet.
Concluding desserts of caramelised apple, caramel and creamed prune kernel and chocolate, cobnut and milk ice cream were unashamedly sweet and may have benefited from a few sharp notes here and there.
And while sauces and garnishes were perfectly season, I thought the lamb and cod itself would have benefited from a little more salt.
But this is being picky for here was a meal that will rank among the year’s highlights… and it’s been a good 12 months.
Need to know
The menu is made up of tasting courses: five for £40, seven for £55, nine for £70.
It’s open for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday.
It’s open for lunch from Wednesday to Sunday.
Menus vary according to availability of produce.
Vegetarian menus are offered.
8 Caroline Street, Jewellery Quarter Birmingham B3 1TR. 0121 638 0100.