If I spent much of last year eating in and around Edgbaston, I did it because it is the most exciting place in Birmingham right now. The leafy suburb has flourished in to an eating and drinking hub, all in and around the bottom part of Calthorpe Road which has housed Simpsons for the last decade and a half. Over the last month or so I’ve popped in to Blue Piano for that carrot cake, had lovely cocktails at both Rofuto and The Edgbaston, beers at The Highfield, and a spankingly good boozy luncheon at El Borracho De Oro. Oh, and I also went to The Physician on Boxing Day, though I’m trying desperately to forget about that.
No one can fault The Physician for trying to fit in. They have the white Georgian building, itself a maze of rooms, hard wooden floors, paintings and soft furnishings. They have a focus on ales, wines, and game. So far, so very Edgbaston. It just happens that whilst all around have their individual niche polished to a mirrored sheen, The Physician are far murkier in their delivery. To use the name of the establishment cheaply, they are in need a heart operation, not a boob job.
I enjoyed the first thing we ate, even if it was an exercise in shopping over cookery. A sharing board features some very good salami amongst the cured meats, a slightly grainy pate, good quality olives, with bits of veg, pickled, stuffed, blended and deep fried. As far as grazing goes, it works, and is fair value too at £17.00. The only other starter was a wedge of brie, coated in a breadcrumb mixture devoid of seasoning and fried until the innards have given up. The pickled cranberries are not sharp enough to balance out the cheese, whilst pecans are superfluous additions that add nothing other than taking up a third of the plate.
And then the bit that I’ve thought long and hard about including, now deciding that if its served to me, it should be mentioned. Two hairs, long, dark, and way too thick to have ever resided on my bonce, nestled nicely in amongst the horseradish mash that came with an ox cheek Bourguignon. It matters not that the cheek was meltingly tender, nor that the sauce was short of the depth of the flavour I would expect, they are hairs that are not mine. The plate is taken away with an apology, an replacement is offered. I am struck with a sudden loss of appetite and decline. Instead I poke away at my girlfriends decent deep fried haddock and plunge limp chips into a well made tartare. I try a bit of a game pie where the suet crust is lighter than expected and filling is full of bits of long braised rabbit and venison. The long wedge of carrot is practically raw. It sums up my day in one failed bit of detail.
They take the hair and other contents of the plate off the bill and offer a complimentary dessert that transpires to be one of the better things we would eat. A cheesecake with a delicate base, a punchy caramel mouse, topped with a layer of chocolate. A raspberry sorbet has real depth and cuts through the richness. There is hope here and it is to be found in the pastry department.
We settle a bill that feels too high for what was served and head to 60 metres down the road to the Highfield. Inside we enjoy well kept beers and, later on, a couple of snacks. For once, I stop being such a self-opinionated bastard and seek the views of those in our party. Was I letting the kitchen mishap ruin a potentially good meal? No. All agree that it was lack lustre and disappointing. The Physician has all of the right ingredient’s to succeed and the wrong recipe to work with. I simply cant see a reason why I would go back when there is so much more to found locally.