Anyone that knows me, whether that be personally or via my potty-mouthed Twitter account, will know that I spend a lot of time in Cheval Blanc. I live 192 steps away and have the added bonus of not having to cross a road (something which if you also know me has proved problematic in the past). There are other options in Moseley – lots of them, in fact – but for me Cheval Blanc is the best bar in Birmingham. It is the wine bar of your dreams. Knowledgeable, affordable, with a casual air to it. A space where people go to imbibe in a relaxed environment. It is knobhead free. Apart from the occasions when I’m perched at the bar, when there is a singular knobhead with an ego problem. Do not approach him. He will break your heart.
And they do food. Very good food as it turns out. Food that keeps on getting better and better. Cyd the chef may look he could be a bad guy in Ratatouille, but he has adapted his style to fit the small kitchen out back, turning out dishes that are rooted in classic French training. Over the last 9 months the cooking has become more at ease, more an expression of Cyd’s style. It is food driven by the seasons that punches with distinct flavours.
The spring menu was launched two weeks back. It is easily their best work yet. The first course of Earl Grey cured salmon with remoulade and grain mustard dressing that danced with acidity. There were subtle notes of tea in the fish and brightness from the addition of apple in the remoulade. We get a South African Sauvignon Blanc called Two Dogs, A Peacock and a Horse with this. I laugh at the name because I am an imbecile. Wine this good is not to be laughed at.
Smoked mutton leg is everything you hoped it would be. The thin slices of cold meat are rich and slightly gamey, the rustic salad of rocket dressed sharp with shallots and Jerez vinegar. It is the perfect food for its surroundings, more so if you take it with the suggested complex Amontillado sherry. I’ve waxed on about Abigail’s ability to match food to wine before, but if any pairing shows off those badges she’s earned, it’s this.
If Cyd really was the bad guy in Ratatouille, he’s learned how to make a mean one. The veg that the red mullet is on has been roasted to a sweet pulp, with just a hint of vinegar acidity. It’s a classic combination that works with the well timed fish. But its the crab Arancini that steals the show. Packed full of crab meat and robustly seasoned, this could sit on the menu on it’s own. The wine pairing this time was a classy unoaked Chardonnay that more than held its own.
By now night was settling in and I was enjoying the evenings company a little too much. So much so that my memory of this particular wine eludes me. What doesn’t allude me is the depth of the morel and cognac sauce that coats the chicken leg. Divine stuff, straight up my alleyway. This was my favourite course and one that I will be returning to eat regularly.
We finish the night with a rhubarb and blossom tart. It’s everything you need after all this food; light and refreshing, the pastry short and baked through. A German Riesling full of sweetness and acidity is remarkable and worth hunting out by itself.
And with that I
saunter stumble my way back up the 192 steps and fall into a happy place. A happy place where the staff know the names of its locals. Where wine is expertly sourced, great cocktails are to be had, and food is way too affordable to be that good. Cheval Blanc is that place. And the good news for everyone is that it keeps on getting better and better.
Right, plug time. I am up for Best Food Blog at the forthcoming MFDH Awards and Abigail is up for Best Sommelier. Please give us both a vote here http://www.mfdhawards.co.uk/vote-now/