The Epicurean takes over the site that was previously Waters on the Square – a restaurant which I have previously written about. Its a difficult site, tucked away in a small shopping parade in Edgbaston, close to a affluent residential area not known for its younger personal. Its a tasteful and bijou space, with expensive contemporary wallpaper and heavy wooden tables. It is an improvement on the staid décor of the previous residence.
The food is simply described on the menus and leans more heavily on the cuisine of Spain than the rest of its Mediterranean compatriots’. There are big flavours with some equally large errors, which is a shame, as they detract from cooking which is punchy and mostly enjoyable. A starter see’s plump scallops, accurately cooked, with a silky puree of potatoes. There is a poached egg which has been pre-cooked but not brought back up to temperature correctly – its as cold as the plate it arrives on. What could have been a luscious starter is sadly some shellfish and mash coated in cold egg yolk. Not my idea of fun. It would sadly be a constant over the lunch we had.
There is a soup poured tableside into a bowl with julienned vegetables. It is supposedly butternut squash, but all I can taste is an overdose of vinegar. Better is a cannelloni of long braised oxtail. The pasta may be overcooked but the meat has a strong bovine flavour and the toasted pine nuts provide a much needed additional texture. The puddle of cooking liqueur has been slightly sharpened and is a delight.
Tenderloin of pork is correctly pink and benefits from a well judged apple puree and glazed baby onions which cuts through a meaty sauce. Poussin has been roasted on the bone and then doused in more of that meaty sauce, this time with a dice of sweet potato and bacon which offers little respite from the protein. And then we are back to the same temperature issues. A perfectly cooked tranche of cod, on cold hummus, a tepid chorizo sauce and a unheated plate. We send it back. It arrives slightly better than before, though now the cod has lost heat. I am starting to feel sorry for them; the schoolboy errors are getting in the way of some decent cooking. Unforgivable they are all the same.
Dessert thankfully arrives on cold plates. It is an aerated catalan mousse hiding some boozy soaked sultanas at the bottom. Its a simple, yet effective way to finish a meal. Light, but big on flavour and carefully handled. I only wish I could say the same about the rest of the meal. Twenty pound a head for three courses would be a bargain if the food was executed to the standard it deserves. The Epicurean should have been a local restaurant that I would return to time and time again. Sadly it left me feeling as cold as the plates some of the dishes arrived on.