Will this be the best dessert of 2017?


This early in the year it’s probably foolish to make predictions or grand claims.

But I’m no stranger to foolishness and it’s hard to imagine that I’ll eat a dessert during 2017 as deeply satisfying as the warm cherry clafoutis I ordered at Purnell’s Bistro.
Served in its own small skillet, it was a perfect example of how ingredients as simple as eggs, cherries and sugar can be transformed into something special.

The batter was just the right side of cooked – by which I mean that its surface was crisp but its interior was still slightly squidgy.
Booze-steeped cherries lay on top along with a scoop of perfectly-soft (and visually stunning) sour cherry sorbet to counteract the sugariness of the rest of the serving.
The rest of the meal wasn’t bad, either.
Glynn Purnell’s second string restaurant is a star in its own right.

The rest of the meal

A starter of celeriac velouté was another dish that celebrated simplicity.
The suitably velvet-textured soup boasted a depth of celeriac flavour that was complemented by batons of sharp apple and dollop crème fraîche.

Opposite came words of praise for a rich and savoury bowl of slow-poached egg with hollandaise, diced spuds, wild mushrooms and spinach.
The marinated salmon to which I progressed was a pretty dish with plenty of oriental influences – rice noodles, black beans and thin ribbons of vegetables.

This was a dish that packed plenty of umami punch and a pleasant array of textures.
A side order of season vegetables – kale and beetroot – was enjoyable.
My wife’s herb-crusted cod was beautifully cooked and came with braised celeriac, braised celery and a whack of horseradish to enliven proceedings.

This was perfect bistro food – well-priced, unfussy in construction but crafted with skill and care.
The sort of food, in short, that a chap craves to eat.


The separate bar’s a delight – with a great range of spirits (especially gins), beers and cocktails.
The wine list is thoughtful, well-chosen and kicks in at £18 a bottle. There’s plenty available by the glass.
The South African chenin blanc that we drank with dinner was well-balanced, flavoursome and good value at £28.
A Spanish dessert wine – a late-harvest chardonnay – that I drank with my clafoutis had notes of fresh acidity balancing its sweetness and was a good match.

The service and ambience

Staff were friendly, informed and generally efficient.
There’s an overwhelming sense of generosity about the place – so different to the approach of chain restaurants I’ve visited recently.
The rooms are modern and stylish and it’s a pleasant place to enjoy drinks, snacks or a proper meal.

Need to know

We paid £110 for food, service and a generous amount of booze.
You could cut costs by eating bar snacks or choosing from the set-price menu.
There are vegetarian options.
It’s accessible for the disabled.

Purnell’s Bistro
11 Newhall Street, Birmingham B3 3NY. 0121 200 1588.