A convivial lunch that stretches almost to tea-time is a thing of great beauty.
Chat, wine, food – let’s face it: that’s better than working for a living.
Thus the several hours spent eating, drinking and talking about all manner of nonsense at St Paul’s House – the recently-opened boutique hotel, bar and restaurant set in gorgeous St Paul’s Square – was a very pleasant experience.
With that other newcomer, 40 St Paul’s Square, a gin house of some substance, it’s a welcome addition to that bit of the Jewellery Quarter, an area that seems to be getting ever better.
The hotel entrance is elegant, respecting the Georgian architecture of the building.
Walk through a neat, unfussy and contemporary bar and you’ll reach the restaurant, a light an airy space of understated style.
Tables are generous in dimensions and are set well apart.
There’s a conservatory alongside.
The waiting staff were attentive and friendly and dishes emerged from the kitchen swiftly.
A little confusion over which dishes were gluten-free – my companion has an intolerance to the stuff – caused consternation to the staff but didn’t detract from a very enjoyable lunch.
Here I’m going to use to describe the menu a phrase that fills me with self-loathing for it’s so over-used – modern British.
But that best describes a list of dishes that takes inspiration from other parts of the world but which is true to its roots.
The venison charcuterie with which I began was a harmonious dish.
Cured slices of Bambi had a smokey edge and were almost like deer-meat corned beef.
Red and golden beetroot added earthy sweetness and dark chocolate crumbs gave texture and richness.
My friend’s daintier dish partnered precisely-cooked scallops with pickled fennel, a red pepper puree and seafood crips.
The fact that it disappeared from her plate so quickly suggests that it was well appreciated.
Greedily we shared an intermediary course of seared duck liver so gloriously rich that I felt almost guilty.
The fillets of red mullet to which I progressed were, like the scallops, precisely cooked.
Borlotti bean puree had a silky texture and rich flavour, kale added bitter verdancy and an orange oil gave zing.
This was a very smart modern dish.
Across the table, chargrilled chicken with parsley and garlic pearl barley risotto and truffle oil was praised.
We shared a side order of chips.
Neither of us could manage dessert after the generous servings of the previous courses.
This was a lunch that showed plenty of skill at work in the kitchen and, more importantly, was good to eat.
Wines kick in at a very reasonable £16.50 a bottle and plenty are available by the glass.
The reds and whites I sampled were fine accompaniments to the dishes I ate.
There’s also a tempting cocktail list (to which I inevitably succumbed) and a decent range of beers (to which I also later succombed).
Need to know
Expect to pay around £35 for three courses and wine.
Cheaper options are available, including sandwiches and platters.
There are vegetarian choices.
There’s P&D in the square.
St Paul’s House
15-20 St Paul’s Square, Birmingham B3 1QU. 0121 272 0999.