Adam’s: Bowled over by the minestrone

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There are dishes that seem beyond improvement and such a dish was the ‘minestrone’ served to me during a long and indulgent lunch at Adams.

A rustic bowl contained a tiny puddle of clear amber liquid dotted with tiny vegetables, all precisely cooked.
Lying among them were chunks of sweet, zingy Dublin bay prawns and cubes of punchy garlic sausage.
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And the stock itself – a dashi – had a depth of flavour and vibrancy that danced on my palate.
This was a dish – the first part of an eight-course tasting menu – that seemed to incapsulated Adam Stoke’s cooking.
There were bold and striking flavours, but also a delicacy of touch that suggests a chef of extraordinary talent.
A prediction: don’t be surprised if Adam’s Restaurant moves from one Michelin star to two.
Especially in the fantastic new premises.

The decor

This former French bank has been transformed into a light and airy space that’s elegant but informal.
There’s an art deco influence, but plenty of contemporary touches such as stripped metal light fittings.
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Tables are bare wood but smart.
Check out downstairs where a beautiful U-shaped chef’s table overlooks a huge, modern kitchen where the chefs move with choreographed ease.

The food

Stokes’s cooking bears the hallmarks of contemporary cuisine.
There are gels and powders and soils. There are light pickles. There are things cooked sous vide. There are ingredients that appear on a plate in many different guises.
There are Japanese influences.
There are micro-herbs and flowers.
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There are eye-catching ways of serving stuff such as smoked pork fat and butter.
But there’s a purpose to each and every ingredient and to the way in which it is used.
For this is a chef who is well grounded in the classical tradition and who instinctively knows how to create food that is explosively good to eat.
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Thus veal sweetbreads came perfectly cooked with earthy cauliflower, umami-packed hen of the woods mushrooms, tangy shallots, ham and dense brown shrimps in a Béarnaise mayo that held the the combo together.
A slab of pearly white halibut arrived just the right side of firm with shiitake, sweet leek and fragrant oregano.
Asparagus was full of urine-tainting verdancy with little cakes of wild garlic, egg yolk and a white onion ash.
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A brave dish combined venison tartar with beetroot, unsweetened coco crumbs and orange to create something that was startling to see and thrilling to eat.
Firm, meaty roasted scallops were a delight with white onion, baby leeks and tiny pieces of rhubarb.
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Lamb cooked two ways – both perfectly achieved – was the most substantial course, featuring caramelised onions with real depth, enlivening miso and refreshing fennel.
Rhubarb and custard was a modernist reworking of a classic, emphasising the flavours and introducing new textures.
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Brittle, flavoursome chunks of aerated chocolate came with Earl Grey, ginger and orange and was a properly grown-up indulgence.

The service

All these – and the pre-lunch snacks and after-lunch petit four – were brought by staff who were knowledgeable, efficient and charming.
This is the way Michelin food should be served – with poise and skill but in an utterly relaxed manner.

Need to know

A three-course lunch menu costs £35.
A tasting menu costs £85.
The three-course dinner menu is £60.
Vegetarian dishes are available.
Plenty of wines are available by the glass.
Bottles kick in at £25.

Adam’s
New Oxford House, 16 Waterloo Street, Birmingham B2 5UG. 0121 643 3745.
www.adamsrestaurant.co.uk

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