Some restaurants tick many boxes in that way beloved of corporate marketeers. They offer huge menus that are supposed to offer something for everyone but, in fact, please no-one.
Butchers Social, a pop-up that’s destined to become permanent, is the opposite – doing a small number of things very well indeed rather than a vast array of dishes quite poorly. And top of that list of things done very well is chicken wings. Which are clucking brilliant here.
This former butchers’ shop retains many of its original features, given an urban edge by seemingly makeshift wooden furniture softened with cushions and artwork. It’s a functional rather than a pretty space – and none the worse for that. Outside there’s a marquee with seats and tables and, for those chillier evenings, heating. I applaud that it looks like a place knocked together by a bunch of enthusiasts with good taste rather than a team of interior designers who charge a small fortune for constructing faux quirkiness.
Queue up at the bar/food serving area to place your orders. Drinks are handed over in plastic glasses. Food arrives in polystyrene plastic trays such as you might get in a take-away. It’s fun, funky and utterly appropriate. The staff are knowledgeable and passionate about the food and drink they serve. This ain’t a Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant – but it sure as heck ain’t a clip-joint where the accountants call the shots and the staff go through the motions.
A visit with my family saw us eat virtually everything on the menu, scrawled on blackboards behind the bar. Spiced cauliflower beignets – featuring both white and purple cauliflower – were an absolute delight: crisp, flavoursome, moist inside. A dipping sauce featuring a pungent cheese was a wonderful contrast. Confit duck leg and tongue stir-fried in Oriental style and served with pancakes was pleasing. Thin-cut rosemary-salted fries were just too good to resist.
But on to the wings – from a properly mature, properly-reared bird, a fantastic cut of meat. Here they are large and tasty, deep-fried in various coatings so they’re crunchy but remain succulent. The hot wings are deftly spiced so they impart a restrained whack to your palate, the BBQ wings stickily good. Chorizo-flavoured wings come with a sort of black pudding puree and are divine. But the salted caramel wings with honeycomb – yep, I know that sounds wrong – provide a fabulous explosion of flavours and textures. That our table was, within a short time, empty of any food whatsoever is testimony to the finger-lickin’ quality of what we were served. Just a moan: there are no desserts in the evenings… a great tragedy because all that savoury goodness would have been rounded off nicely by a bit of sweet indulgence. A knickerbocker glory would have gone down a treat. Maybe even a classy cheesecake.
Butchers Social serves some truly splendid craft beers and spirits and has a limited range of wines. There are soft drinks, tea and coffee for those so inclined to spurn the warm embrace of alcohol.
You need to know
- Expect to pay around £15 a head for drink and plenty of food
- There are brunch menus and gourmet evenings
- It’s a great place for hungry kids
- Forget the plastic knives and forks and use your fingers
179 High St, Harborne, Birmingham B17 9QE
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