Had Giles Coren tried the pork butter at Carters of Moseley I am confident that the recent palava over Birmingham restaurants would never have had happened. No doubt he could have found a similar blend of animal fat and skin within his intellectual confides of the M25 at the likes of Fera or The Dairy. I am sure that he could point you in the direction of somewhere in his beloved Kentish Town that also makes bread using a local flour that has a both a chewy crust and palatable interior. None though would have the same effect on the soul as the lightly whipped lard embedding with shards of scratching that I was smearing an inch thick on to this loaf. Ten minutes into an evening that would take nearly two and a half hours, it was clear that the attention seeking publicity stunt that made me seethe just a week prior would not have seen the light of day had Coren been to Carters.
But enough about him. The small restaurant at the end of a row of shops on St Mary’s Row is making its own tidal waves since it was judged to be The Good Food Guides Restaurant of The Year. Inside its all dark wood with a window it in to the kitchen dominating back of the space, whilst a glass wine wall to the side stokes conversation and envy amongst us. Bread arrives with that butter and we’re off: A chestnut broth enhanced by truffles reinforces that we’re in safe hands. It also sets the tone for the evening with Brad Carters style of cooking: Most chefs go looking for that extra ingredient; here he takes away until it’s an uncluttered and concise plate, often with just two or three elements. Nothing jars. Everything is there for a reason.
A play on risotto tastes better than it looks. Underneath the powdered black trumpet mushrooms is a loose mound of grains, seeds and diced cauliflower. Its all textures until slivers of more trumpet release a little of the pickling juice and the whole dish lights up as intended. Roe deer loin relies on just two purées; one of quince for acidity, another of squash for earthiness. A sprinkling of seeds add bite and a deftly judged red wine sauce finishes it off. Its as brave a piece of cooking as you are likely to encounter. See, I told you the boy could cook.
Desserts continued to impress. Aerated sheep milk was the perfect foil for the juice and segment of blood orange that seemed more intense due to the sweet pop of fennel pollen. We save the best for last: A salted caramel mousse with poached pear and gingerbread works on every level as both the spice and salt elevate the dish, for the pear to cut through and give balance. Little chocolate bars flavoured with cardamom were gladly eaten at home once the fullness waned.
Service from Brad’s partner Holly was personal and attentive in a way that put shame on any other restaurant manager in Birmingham. We leave a fair tip because they deserve it, if only for having the balls to not put on a service charge after treating us so well. Carters is that kind of place; for a couple so relatively young they have nailed what it takes to be the ideal neighbourhood restaurant. There are people in Moseley, in Birmingham and even further afield that say Carters is the future of modern British cuisine. Those people are wrong. What they have is very much the present.