Is this the best seafood in Birmingham?

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Perhaps as a result of seeing a photograph of Michael Gove’s fish-like face, I was overwhelmed by a sudden urge for seafood.

Not easy in Birmingham – a city where specialist seafood restaurants seem to last about as long as Theresa May’s manifesto commitments or Jeremy Corbyn’s commitment to national defence.
So where to head for good fish treated simply but with skill and respect?

Opus at Cornwall St Friday Evenings At Opus
Opus seemed the obvious answer for it’s a restaurant with a long tradition of sourcing high-quality ingredients and cooking them with a huge degree of skill.
It’s not a specialist fish restaurant but it’s hard to think go anywhere that does it better.

The food

An amuse bouche of runny quail’s egg encased in delicately smoked haddock served on lot of properly peppery watercress puree with an egg yolk dressing was a palate-enlivening start to the evening.

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This was probably the prettiest Scotch egg I’ve ever seen.
Afterwards came plump scallops cooked perfectly and served with peas, nicely sharp apple and Irish black pudding that offered sweet spice as well as savoury depth.
Opposite was eaten – and enjoyed – a salad of succulent pulled pork with candied walnuts, apples, celery and grapes.
The Brixham-caught lemon sole that I ate next was a gorgeous bit of fish.

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Cooked on the bone so that it retained moisture and flavour, it was precisely judged – its surface dark, rich and buttery, its interior pure white and flaking.
A simple accompaniment of confit ratte potatoes, samphire and a herb and lemon butter meant the fish remained the star.
Mutterings of delight came from the other side of the table over a generous chunk of meaty turbot with crushed new spuds, asparagus and hollandaise.

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A dessert of blueberry and raspberry iced parfait with fresh berries and granola was refreshing end to the meal.
OK – this isn’t cutting-edge cookery.
But there are times when I don’t crave fermented turnips, pickled mushrooms and yeasted yak knackers but want instead a plate of food treated sympathetically and with restraint.

The service and decor

There’s efficiency but more importantly a great deal of pride and knowledge displayed by the staff.
Thus an explanation of why a pre-prandial spiced tomato juice was so deftly judged – a 16-year-old recipe featuring a fresh spice mix, apparently.
And a conversation about the under-appreciated merits of Sardinian wines – we’d ordered a bottle of zingy, complex white.
The decor is airy, bright, quite plain and, unusually in Birmingham these days, there are table-cloths.
Maybe it needs a little freshening up here and there but it’s a smart and pleasant space.

Need to know

Two courses from the extensive a la carte cost £27.50.
Three courses are £32.50.
A tasting menu is offered on Fridays and Saturdays at £45.
There are plenty of meat dishes for those feeling carnivorous.
There’s also a separate vegetarian menu.
Wine kicks in at £21 a bottle.
The restaurant is accessible for disabled people.

Opus
54 Cornwall Street, Birmingham B3 2DE. 0121 200 2323.
http://www.opusrestaurant.co.uk

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