A British Diversion
Following our Venice experience, which I'll reminisce more about later, we decided to try another Italian restaurant in Birmingham. We already quite like Cucina Rustica but as it's nowhere near the Gold Standard we thought we'd try somewhere else.
So, to Piccolino.
This is a bar/restaurant in Birmingham's Brindley Place, which sports a few 'nicer' restaurants and bars. These include Thai Edge that is all show and no action, much like all of the Thai places I've been to in Birmingham including Kinnaree and Sabai Sabai.
If you want good Thai food, forget Birmingham. Go to Kaosarn in Clapham. Note the reviews on Tripadvisor; a lot of complaints about service. Now note the reviews from people comparing the food to food in Thailand. That's the ticket here - the food is amazing. If you try the Larb here and then go back to Birmingham and try it in any Thai restaurant you'll understand.
I digress. Piccolino. It's a large place with very good service (although that's not what we really care about), and is very busy. This is a little too busy for us but we were there for the food, and despite the noise this is one of the better places in the UK we've been to.
Z: Barbabietola. Beetroot, buffalo ricotta, chicory.
A: Caprino. Goats cheese, artichoke, mint, asparagus.
These starter salads were both of very good quality but not amazing. In my dish the asparagus was of higher than usual standard but everything else was just what you'd expect. Z's beetroot was, however, very good. There appeared to be more than one type of preparation used and it really was very delicate and quite expertly done. Of the whole meal this was the most surprising aspect and got four thumbs up.
A: Anatra. Crispy duck, honey glazed apples.
Z: Pollo ai funghi. Chicken breast, mushrooms, gnocchi.
My duck wasn't crispy and, disappointingly, had too much five spice on it. This dish was almost entirely redeemed because it only had just a touch too much five spice (and I think it didn't actually need it) and the apples were lovely; sweet, just tender enough and somehow complimented the Patate all’aglio (roast potatoes, garlic, rosemary) side very well.
The real surprise here though was the duck. Despite my misgivings about the five spice this was the best cooked duck I've had in the UK. It was succulent, tender and soft enough to pull of the bone with ease. So good was it that I didn't mind that it wasn't crispy. The spice choice here is a real shame as without it both the duck and the rather tasty sweet and savoury sauce it came with would have been far superior.
Z's gnocchi and sauce was close to Italian in Italy quality. If anything it was too rich but this kitchen really has potential. The chicken looked a little dry but that was an unfortunate illusion as it was much juicier than it's looks belied. If we go here again I'd be tempted to choose this dish, or one like it. They know mushroom sauce here, that's for sure.
The house white Z had was basically vinegar, so I ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio to replace it. Upon noticing that Z had hardly touched it they replaced it with the Pinot Grigio and we weren't charged for the house white, which was nice. My Montelpulciano d’Abruzzo was a pleasant if uninspiring fruity complement to the duck, but it cost much less than the wonderful reds I had in Venice so I'm not really criticising.
Feeling a little full we opted not to get dessert or coffee so I cannot comment on the sweets. Apart from the noise and the oddly paradoxical disappointment of that melt in the mouth duck, that was so close to being rather excellent, this was a superior meal experience for Birmingham.
Eater, taster, trier, explorer.