Christmas time; a period when many bloggers PR invites dry up and they revert to an endless list of top ten meals and/or dishes. Not I. I am too new to this game to sit around watching Frozen and simply too unimportant to blag a free meal in return for a positive review.
It also helped that I’ve been wanting to try Waters on the Square for a while. I’d eaten Andy Waters food before; twice at his previous stint at Edmunds in Brindley Place and again more recently at The Queens at Belbroughton where he still controls the kitchen. It seemed logical to try his new Birmingham outpost on Boxing Day. It’s a day of celebration and consumption and I’m yet to have a bad meal cooked by Waters.
When we sat down for lunch we were the youngest in the room by at least 30 years, which made perfect sense when the menu’s appeared. The area between keeping it classical and playing it too safe is as grey as the walls in this staid dining room. It’s hard to get excited about soup; it’s so often a leftover dish, blitzed up with some stock and finished with cream for a little indulgence. Here was no such afterthought. It was a thick, rich and intense tomato soup, with just a little heat in the background. It was as good a bowl of soup as you will find. Another starter, a salad of artichokes, tomatoes and olives cleverly used glazed goats as a dressing alongside pesto to offset the richness.
Mains saw a perfectly cooked tranch of cod with braised peas, baby onions and bacon. The fish with its crisped skin and opaque centre showed a deft touch. Equal amount of care was shown to treatment of the pork belly, which had been properly braised and browned off. It was served simply with three pigs in blankets, a chiffonade of greens and a jus, presumably made with the cooking juices from the belly. Both mains came with communal servings of roast potatoes, new potatoes, cauliflower cheese, and wilted greens. As nice as these were, it was overkil: Each dish would have benefitted from its own portioned carbohydrate – mash for the pork, boiled spuds for the fish. I’m sure the grey brigade in the restaurant loved the choice, but I don’t want cauliflower cheese going anywhere near my cod.
Dessert was a collection of cold desserts; a slightly dry brownie, a raspberry smoothie, a remarkable passion fruit and mango sorbet, a mini Christmas pudding, and a stunning toffee cheesecake of sorts in a glass. There were moments of brilliance here, nestled in amongst some pieces that required polishing up. A metaphor, perhaps, for the lunch at Waters itself.
There was an elderly chap, early eighties I’d guess, sat behind me throughout the meal, who booked up for his Boxing Day lunch the same time in 2015. He had the waistline and claret nose to suggest that he’d been eating good food and wine all of his life. It’s his endorsement of classical cooking that stands head and shoulders over anything that I could tell you about the virtues of modern cooking. Something’s don’t need changing, tweaking maybe, but not a complete overhaul. Andy Waters knows his style of cooking and Birmingham is a better place for having him back