Vittoria: not one of the Jewellery Quarter’s gems

Housed in a wonderful old factory in the heart of the increasingly vibrant Jewellery Quarter, this is a place that looks enticing.

But having eaten there, I’m not sure I’d hurry back for there is an air of confusion about the place.
An air that it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. That it’s striving to tick too many boxes.
In an area famous for producing wares with plenty of lustre, it’s a place that seemed to display a distinct lack of that quality.

The decor

Housed in a wonderful old factory, Vittoria looks from the outside like a welcoming, reliable old French brasserie rather than an Oriental restaurant.
The interior, with its stained glass light fittings and original features, doesn’t seem somehow right for Chinese food.
The ambience of a Continental brasserie is diminished somewhat by a large-screen television set that dominates a wall.
There’s a large raised table and chairs directly facing the telly, but otherwise guests are seated in booths.
It’s a comfortable and pleasant enough environment.
There’s an upstairs space kept, I imagine, for functions.

The food and drink

Vittoria seems to seek to be a bar as much as a restaurant, though most of the guests on the evening I visited were eating rather than just drinking.
The menu is a mighty document – stretching to nearly 300 dishes.
There are all the old high street favourites, a selection of Szechuan dishes and others described simply as ‘traditional’.
Here pigs’ ears rub shoulders with pigs’ intestines.
And there, I think, lies a problem.
The substantial section of esoteric – to Western palates – dishes is aimed at the large number of Chinese students at the BCU’s jewellery school just along the street, I suspect.
The rest are aimed at those more used to duck in plum sauce than frog’s legs with chilli, I guess.
It kind of falls between two stools by trying to appeal to too broad a cross-section of people.
The salt and chilli spare ribs that came first were short on salt and chilli and very dry, but meaty and flavoursome.
Butterfly king prawns in batter were good and juicy. Crisp won ton were dull.
The enormous pot of shredded pork in chilli oil to which I progressed was an interesting but not compelling dish.
All sorts of flavours came into play – sweet, peppery, fruity, bitter, salty and savoury – only to be battered into submission by huge quantities of dried red chilli.
A pork and cashew dish was fine, but unremarkable.
Szechuan spicy chicken was merely OK.
Much of the food remained uneaten – not only because servings were generous, but also because it lacked vibrancy.
The wine list is short, but adequate and well-priced. The Chinese beer we drank was fine.

The service

The young staff were pleasant and efficient, though some dishes were slow emerging from the kitchen.

Need to know

Expect to pay around £25 a head for dinner and drinks.
Choose carefully and it’s cheaper.
Take-aways are available.
There are plenty of veggie options.
On-street parking nearby.

Vittoria Chinese Restaurant & Bar
60 Vittoria St, Birmingham B1 3PB. 0121 439 8583.

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