Being brave, dinner date with a stranger in a restaurant that forms part of a rather fancy ‘retirement’ campus.
When the offer came in to go for dinner at a location walking distance from my house I felt it would be silly of me to pass up the opportunity. The caveat being that I would be going to dinner with another blogger, someone I hadn’t met before. I blog mainly for my own enjoyment and to prompt my memory so I’ve not really got into the whole blogging ‘scene’ so I don’t really know anyone and tend to just review things I’ve found myself.
Figuring it was about time I tried to be marginally more sociable I tentatively ventured out for my blogging blind date to Three Church Road, oddly I’d only noticed it a few days before whilst trying to navigate myself around Edgbaston.
Hanging around like an awkward teenager and panicking about being late/getting lost/being weird I eventually arrived and found a table. For a fleeting moment it occurred to me I could easily end up having dinner on my own which was actually an oddly comforting thought, I don’t mind eating alone- I’ve done enough weird work trips to know it’s actually quite enjoyable. Anyway, my companion for the evening arrived and we set about getting to know each other whilst also going through the menu and deciding what we wanted.
The venue itself feels luxurious and peeking around gave me some serious home décor ideas, that said it is part of a retirement complex which is oddly jarring, even though it’s a fancy one with all the facilities of a good hotel and its own library… The dining room is a small area and there were 2 other tables in use, one turned out to be another blogger and the other a pair that seemed to be acquainted with the staff.
At this point it’s only right I talk about the people who served us because arguably they made the night for me. Our waitress Alice is possibly the most cheerful, hospitable person I’ve ever met. We chatted with her a lot and she certainly put my ‘first date’ nerves at ease. I didn’t catch the name of the man who served us drinks but he was equally good. Whether it’s the clientele or the muted atmosphere I’m not sure but the staff seemed genuinely keen to interact with us and I found myself wanting to please them.
The menu has an A la carte and a fixed price section with both being well priced, we also learnt about their afternoon tea offering which sounds pretty good. I ordered from the main menu and started with scallops wrapped in Parma ham, parsnip puree and vanilla butter. The scallops were a good size and the plate beautifully presented. They retained that oh-so-desirable hint of translucency and the parsnip puree served as a suitable accompaniment. Personally the vanilla butter didn’t do it for me as the meat itself is sweet enough. I have a bit of a love hate relationship with vanilla so it’s a tricky one to get right in my book. I would have been happier with a bit of plain salted butter instead.
Dinner with another blogger is actually an unusually comforting experience, nobody is judging you for taking and setting up a host of photos and you are much more likely to get to try the dishes ordered by the other person. I’d originally planned to write about those dishes too but on reflection it’s not entirely fair to judge a dish on just a sample so I will instead just say that presentation was equally good and what I tasted was enjoyable.
As a main course, I ordered roasted hake with heritage tomatoes, broad beans and samphire served with crab and caviar tortellini. It sounded like a lot of ingredients when I read it through in my head but they are all things I enjoy and I often think fish is always a good way of testing out a kitchen as it is very easy to get wrong. The plate that arrived was larger than I expected but again well-presented and full of colour. I was excited by the addition of a balsamic glaze to accompany the tomatoes and the tortellini was dainty enough that I didn’t feel overpowered by carbs (not that I ever feel like this, but I am sure some people do) the fillet of Hake had a crisp skin and was cooked through. I don’t mind my fish being slightly opaque but can see why this wouldn’t be the go to method of serving it. I ate my way around the plate but mostly avoided the tortellini. The filling itself had good flavour but unfortunately, it wasn’t cooked through. The top was a little dry but the bottom raw, I can only assume that they had been made fresh but left to sit for some time so that the liquid filling had been allowed to soak through into the dough. To the eye, it looked fine but it wasn’t edible and made me hesitant to test the sauce filling again after wondering what sort of consistency it was intended to be.
This is where I should both confess and apologise, on any other occasion I would have queried this, sent my plate back and asked for it to be corrected but in instead I was struck with indecision. What is the etiquette in this situation? What would other bloggers do? Am I just supposed to eat and then mull it over later? So instead of highlighting the error and giving them a chance to correct it I just stayed quiet and nodded whilst allowing my own internal disapproval of my actions to gnaw away at me. I don’t often get involved in ‘free events’ and as such this threw me a little. (Makes mental note to ask other bloggers for tips on what they do in such situations) In future, I think sticking with my normal approach is a much better way of dealing with such things. This mental limbo meant it took what seemed like an age for me to finish eating to the point where even I was impatient with myself. Lesson learned I suppose.
Any hint of uncertainly I had quickly dissipated when dessert arrived, I opted for dark chocolate mousse, mango marshmallow and honeycomb. Again, it looked fantastic and I found myself spamming my friends with pictures of my beautiful treat. Delivering on taste as well as instapoints I had no shame in running my finger around the bowl to make sure I’d not missed anything. With an accompanying Cherry Bakewell cocktail (my go to drink if ever it’s on a menu) to round off the evening I headed back home feeling content and a little smug for venturing out of my comfort zone.
I find myself having mixed feelings about returning, the peculiarity of the setting means it’s quiet which doesn’t make for a rousing evening but on the same hand, the set menu is great value for money and I certainly think it’s worth another try. I can imagine going for a Sunday lunch or an early dinner on a Saturday before going out to the cinema or something like that but I’d be considering a parent as a guest rather than a group of friends. There are some lovely flourishes, good menu options and staff so lovely that I found myself wanting to hug them goodbye but the pasta combined with my own inaction on the subject leave me feeling a little flat about the experience.
3 Church Rd, Birmingham B15 3SH
My dinner guest for the evening was the lovely Alev of Bella and Robot who listened to my nervous ramblings and also let me eat most of her cheese. Have a look at her blog for some proper writing