Cielo, Birmingham

I spent my early twenties working above Cielo Restaurant. It was in the days when I sold my soul for a tiny stake in a Scottish bank that is now funded from the tax I pay. Oh The Irony. Cielo was the place the bank would take us to reward our deception. Mis-sold PPI? Great, have a lasagne on us before joining the queue for the gates of hell. I gladly enjoyed several lasagne here, which tells you all you need to know about my moral compass. I needed to – those pin stripe suits wasn’t going to pay for themselves.

A decade on and little had changed there, perhaps for the cliental. Gone, one would hope, is the culture of expenses that once dominated the Brindley Place area that Cielo sits in and in its place a new breed of customer, one focused on eating well in the pretty square adjacent to the bustle of Broad Street. Certainly little had changed to the decor; it’s the same smart thorn and beige composition built around a waterfall feature central to the back wall. Little too had changed about the menu, which is still a cluster of Italian dishes with the occasional nod to the rest of the Mediterranean.

I’m going to leave yesteryear alone now and concentrate on the Cielo of today. The food was consistent, if a little uninspiring at times. A duck starter had good confit duck at its core – the meat moist with properly crisped up skin. Sadly, that was all that was good about it. Alongside this was a bon bon that should have buttery from the ducks liver but was instead an underseasoned mush of more duck meat. The reduction of orange liqueur would have been great with a dessert. Not so much here. The idea was right, but the dish needed more fat and more sharpness to give it proper contrast.

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A starter of tiger prawn sat prettily in a bowl with a vivid garlic and chilli sauce. The same sauce appeared on a main course of monkfish tail with dauphinoise potatoes. Now I cant bemoan either dish, which were accurately cooked and nicely presented, but it did seem a little lazy. Maybe the sauce was the perfect foil for both dishes? I mean, what do I know? Maybe the same could be said about the calves liver and steak dishes that had identical thick red wine sauces, so glossy you could almost catch your reflection in them. Maybe I’m just being picky, but if I spent £12 on a prawn starter and £21 on the monkfish main I’d fully expect to see a different sauce on the dish.

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A large bowl of penne came with chorizo and a pomodoro sauce laden with heavy garlic and chilli flavour. The pasta, still retaining some bite, sat nicely in the background whilst its Mediterranean compatriots took over. It was a good, hearty bowl of food, which for £16 for a bowl of dried pasta and a sauce you knock up with one saucepan and an hour to kill, it bloody well should be.

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Maybe I’ve been a bit harsh on Cielo. It cooks food of a solid standard in a nice environment. Portions were large to the extent that no-one had room for dessert. It just doesn’t come cheap. With a decent bottle of wine and service, two courses apiece here comes in at around a ton and for that amount I shouldn’t be whining about the a starter being unbalanced, or the same sauce showing up on different plates. I used to really enjoy coming here on someone else’s wallet, now its my own the pleasure just isn’t the same

6/10

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