How’s the new-look Primitivo shaping up?


In those bleak days two decades ago when Birmingham was woefully short of trendy bars and restaurants, one place stood out: Primitivo.

Tucked away in a back street behind Colmore Row, the city’s movers and shakers gathered there for lunchtime and afterwork drinks and food.
It had a buzz that seemed more akin to that found in bustling and well-heeled parts of London than – as it was then – dull old Brum.

Then it closed temporarily as part of the refurbishment of the Grand Hotel, in whose space it lurks.
Nearly two years passed before it re-emerged as identifiably the same place but with more contemporary feel.
This year it celebrates its 21st anniversary as the new old kid on the block.
Apart from the modern touches and greater sense of style amid the Gothic arches, it’s hard to believe that it ever went away.
A midweek visit found the bar busy and the restaurant nicely chilled.

We ate

Let’s start by describing the menu.
There’s nothing fussy, nothing innovative or surprising – just standard dishes, some with Italian, Thai or Cajun twists but overwhelmingly British.
There are burgers, salads, pasta, sandwiches, sharing platters and plenty of other options served from the open-plan kitchen.

The 8oz sirloin steak that I ordered came as I’d ordered – perfectly rare with good charred edges.
It was flavoursome meat well complemented by a Blue Stilton butter which added plenty of umami oomph.
Large grilled mushrooms, tomatoes, a little salad and chips were good accompaniments.
A chunk of hake eat opposite was pearly white and flaking and came with good mashed potatoes and creamed spinach.

A fish pie also looked impressive – good golden spuds on top of a creamy filling of white fish and prawns.
Alongside lay a bowl of mixed vegetables.

The lemon and ginger cheesecake to which I progressed was a lightly luxurious and delightful thing given plenty of zing by the ginger.
This is the sort of food that I long to eat when I’m hungry on a working day evening and can’t be bothered to cook.
Dishes are generous and a lot of skill and care goes into their creation.

Service was brilliantly friendly, welcoming and efficient.
There’s a good wine list and a decent selection of beers and other drinks.

Need to know

Expect to pay around £25 a head for two courses and drinks.
You could eat much more cheaply.
It’s open Monday to Friday, with Saturdays reserved for private parties.
Food is served between 12-8pm.
There’s parking nearby.

10 Barwick Street, Birmingham B3 2NT. 0121 236 6866.

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