The Restaurant at Harvey Nichols

Not even my greatest enemy could accuse a dainty chap like me of having a big backside. Yet the seats we were given at this recently opened restaurant at a somewhat vulgar upmarket store where labels seem to matter more than common sense could barely accommodate my modest posterior.

It was a sort of narrow, purple-upholstered bench with an uncompromisingly upright back and proved an uncomfortable perch for a Saturday lunchtime scoff.
Also, I think, an example of how style (of sorts) outweighs substance at this place.

The decor

There’s an air of sterile modernity about this windowless space, with its greys and its beiges and table lamps that look like unpleasantly-shaped golden love toys that a demented Russian oligarchs might buy for his mistress. Imagine, if you can, a bunker designed by the crazed lovechild of Herman Goring and Gok Wan and you will begin to grasp the impression that I gained.

The service

Pleasant enough young girls scurried around, smiled sweetly and said mostly the right things, but were not exactly polished at the profession of table-tending.

Service wasn’t super-speedy and an inquiry after a dish I expected to arrive with my main course was greeted with the hardly reassuring reply: “It’ll probably come soon.”
It did. But that wasn’t a matter for rejoicing.

The food

The menu here is “curated” by the brilliant Glynn Purnell, whose Michelin-starred restaurant is a delight and who’s bistro is also a fantastic place to eat.

But the food I gloomily consumed didn’t begin to approach the quality at ether of those two gems – it was dull.

The menu reads well. There are brunch dishes, small plates and larger dishes, all of which appealed. And the two Wiltshire Downlands lamb cutlets that I ate had been skilfully French-trimmed so that the bone was exposed and perfectly clean.

The fat was sweet and the meat itself flavoursome. But they were dreadfully chewy.
Pea tartare was a kind of salad with a pleasant texture and enlivening sweetness, freshened with mint. Pea custard was a riff from a recipe in Glynn’s recent cookery book, with perhaps a touch too much vanilla and certainly too generous a drizzle of sesame oil.

My wife thought her spiced smoked haddock a little overcooked, but moderately pleased by the perfectly poached egg yolk and soured creme fraiche spuds that accompanied it.
Neither dish was especially large in size, so we tucked into the skinny fries I ordered as a side – the dish that was late arriving. They had the taste and texture of superior oven chips.

Here, I thought, was food that was over-priced and under-performing.

We finished our glasses of wine from a sensibly-priced and extensive list but didn’t dally for deserts for, by now, the joyless, soulless and claustrophobic nature of this designer-led dungeon was making me crave freedom. Plus my bum was numb from my awkward perch.

You need to know

It ain’t cheap – we racked up a bill of over £60 for little food and three glasses of wine.
It’s child-friendly.
Vegetarians are catered for.
It’s accessible for the disabled.

Harvey Nichols
The Mailbox
65 Wharfside Street
Birmingham
B1 1RE
0121 616 6028
www.harveynichols.com/restaurant/birmingham-dining/