The Physician: a diagnosis of the new pub

The urge to celebrate doesn’t overcome me when yet another chain decides to open a pub or restaurant in Birmingham.

The new ventures too frequently resemble money-making machines rather than anywhere I’d like to sit to enjoy a gargle and a scoff.
Thus the opening of the Brunning and Price pub The Physician didn’t fill me with uncontrollable excitement.
Perhaps I should curb my cynicism for this was a place I enjoyed a great deal.

The decor

The Physician is housed in a fine Calthorpe Estate building dating back 180 years that once held the Birmingham Medical Institute’s library.
It’s spacious, light and airy, with wooden floors, polished tables, sash windows, chandeliers and its white walls hung with old pictures.

The Physician - Birmingham
Brunning and Price have done a great job in respecting the heritage of the building while turning it into a functional and comfortable modern pub.
The walled beer garden outside looks set to be a hit when summer returns.

The service

The Physician was packed on the Friday evening I visited, both with drinkers and diners.
But a spare table was eventually found and service thereafter was swift, friendly and thoroughly professional.

The food

The thrust of the menu is British, though there are nods to further afield – a bit of Indian here, a bit of Italian there, a sortie to Morocco etc etc.
There are starters, main courses, puddings, light bites, sandwiches and a kids’ menu.

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The potted smoked trout and shrimps with which I began was a simple but pleasant dish.
The seafood was moist and tasty, though a touch under-seasoned.
A salad of pea shoots, radish, fennel and salted capers was refreshing.

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Likewise a wedge of deep-fried Cornish brie with pickled cranberries and candied pecan salad (essentially the same salad as mine but with the nuts replacing the capers) was a hit.
My slow-cooked ox cheek Bourguignon with horseradish mash and roast carrots was a manly sort of dish – a huge chunk of ridiculously tender meat in a rich sauce, with mashed spuds given a refreshing tang by the fiery horseradish and soft caramelised carrots.

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Pleasantly al dente greens added vibrancy to the dish.
Opposite, from the light bites section, came smoked haddock fishcake with a perfectly poached egg and a chive and caper sauce.
There were murmurs of approval.
None of this was breathtaking innovative cookery or anything like fine dining – just simple food done with great skill and care.

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Desserts were out of the question – though I was sorely tempted by the largely English selection.
Maybe next time I’ll order simply a light bite then something hot, sticky and sweet.

The drinks

The wines kick in at £16.95 a bottle and go up to £39.95 on a list that’s well-balanced but a little dull.
The beer selection is good, but the whisky menu is astonishingly varied and interesting – and which will tempt me back without my car.

Need to know

A meal for two with two courses, two glasses of wine and a pint of IPA cost us £60.
There’s a children’s menu.
There’s an area for dogs outside.
The Physician is suitable for disabled customers.
There’s P&D car parking right outside.

The Physician - Birmingham
The Physician
Harborne Road, Edgbaston B15 3DH. 0121 272 5900.
http://www.brunningandprice.co.uk/physician/homepage/