We can’t be the only foodists who raise a cheer when the London mob hold their noses and get out into the provinces to eat and review. Marina O’Loughlin raved about Birch in Bristol last week, apologising for being a ‘Pollyanna girlie delivering another rave’ and gushing ‘I’d give my eye teeth to have this as my local.’ I actually felt a bit sorry for her – I know, it’s a tough job, being paid to eat – but I think the review said more about her than Birch.
It was okay. No, it was more than okay, it was good if I take a couple of steps back and look at it a bit more objectively. It’s an old offie in an unfashionable part of town, run by a couple of ardent types who’ve earned their stripes in established London eateries.
The menu, like the room, is pared down; three starters, three mains, two puds. Beetroots baked in cream, rosemary and fried crumbs is colourful but forgettable, unlike the pickled mackerel with rhubarb sauce which I’ll remember for all the right reasons. A plate of grey mullet with parsnip, mussels and a January King potato pleases inordinately, but confit pork just doesn’t work; it’s a dry, papery, fibrous mess – the wafer-thin slices of pickled turnip just about saving it from un-eatability.
Puds are great; the sponge in the rhubarb Eve’s pudding is lemony perfection, and prune whip with salty chocolate looks, well, beige – and is, but tastes great. Service is sweet but I was told one too many times that I’d made the right choice.
It was a good night, but couldn’t help thinking how fortunate we are. We’ve got any number of restaurants and pubs who have been producing food just as good – and better, for longer. Birch just wouldn’t stand out in Yorkshire – let alone Sowerby Bridge. 'What do you reckon?' asks The Boyfriend, clocking my raised eyebrow. 'S’alright', I say, but they’re a bit too pleased with themselves. And it’s not Gimbals. Or Le Langhe. Or the Fox & Hounds. Or Skosh.
Put another layer on Marina, get your passport stamped and get North.
Review by Mandy, 9 February 2015blog comments powered by Disqus