Ryder Grill, The Belfry, Sutton Coldfield

I was going to start this piece waxing on about The Belfry’s history, building up the grandeur of the golf course before gradually moving on to food. But what is the point? We all know about the course and its history, and I genuinely believe that there is a more pressing issue which I want to straight dive into. What I want to talk about is captive audiences. If you’re at The Belfry it’s likely that you are either a member, or you are there in some form of corporate capacity, and in both instances money, whether that be yours or the businesses, is not going to be an issue. I’ve been to places like this up and down the country, I know that too often the temptation is there to trouser the money of those whose money it is not. They are always remote in location. It nearly always features expensive mediocre food and an overpriced wine list. They take the money because they can. So it impresses me greatly when these places do show ambition and a desire to feed those as they should. And more so when it’s a price point that doesn’t alienate those paying from their own pockets.

So let’s start this piece properly. The Belfry have launched a tasting menu that veers from good to very good, and they are charging the ludicrously cheap amount of £40 for 6 courses for it. £65 if you take the matching wine flight. I can sleep comfortably telling you that pound-for-pound it’s the best value tasting menu I have tried on these shores. We start with pig cheek croquettes, dense and meaty, with a burnt apple puree. It’s a combination I’ve eaten three times in the last two months and whilst they don’t pack the same pronounced flavour as the version at Simpsons, they are very moreish. Bread follows with chicken fat butter, before we arrive at the first proper course. Asparagus is served cold, with duck yolk hollandaise, burnt onion powder, brioche crumb and a little lemon dressing. It works, like properly works. Technically sound, balanced and complex, that still shows off the asparagus as the star of the show.

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The liver parfait may not win any awards for the presentation, but the offal flavour is strong.  The accompaniments of savoury granola and sweet pineapple are unconventional but work in unison.  I stray off menu and get stone bass because I don’t like big and pink things with fins.  The fish is well timed with crisp skin, nestling on a courgette puree that has been seasoned strongly.  Only a beurre blanc detracts from the green elements of broad beans, purslane, and more courgette.  It’s a fresh dish, breezy with the whiff of coastal air.

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Lamb would be the weakest course of the evening, the only one not technically competent and a little overthought.  The ribbon of fat on the rack had been correctly rendered down, the meat cooked to an accurate medium.  The charred baby gem lettuce was lovely, as was an artichoke hummus, and punchy crumbling’s of feta.  But the rack needed more resting, the caramel was bitter, and it really doesn’t need the pressed shoulder.  If it sounds overcritical, you’re probably correct, but when you eat a meal that is comfortably two AA rosette standard and this is the one dish that sits at its present level of one rosette, it is worth pointing out.

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Desserts would transpire to be a highlight.  A little brulee’d flan was a playful ode to strawberries and cream that disappeared before those around me had finished taking photos.  It is up there with the better desserts I have eaten thus far this year.  We finish with a passion fruit tart under a spiral of torched meringue.  It’s bloody lovely, even more so when taken with a mango puree and bitter chocolate.  They should lose the coconut sorbet or ramp its flavour up.

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The wines were well matched and plentiful, served by a team not afraid to show personality.  It all made for a rather lovely evening in a pretty dining overlooking the course.  Based on this meal it would be impossible not to recommend The Belfry as somewhere to go for dinner – a sentence I genuinely never thought I would write in my life.  It’s worth forty pounds of anyone’s money for ambitious cooking way too affordable for its location and price point.

I was invited to try the tasting menu

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