Loves vs Ju-Ju's
We had the good fortune to visit two restaurants in Birmingham that are well regarded if you believe the cumulative reviews on Trip Advisor, which, based on previous experiences, we do. This was a back-to-back experience, Loves on Friday and then Ju-Ju's Cafe on Saturday and the contrast between them was pretty interesting.
Loves and Michelin Stars have been mentioned together a few times at least so we were both looking forward to it and unsurprised when it proved hard to get a table. Admittedly we left it late to book the table (and it was for 8!) and thankfully got a late Friday table at 9.30pm.
This was the first issue with Loves - the booking rules. You have to give your credit card details and there is a £45 penalty, per person(!), if you cancel without giving 24hrs notice. I understand that a late cancellation cost them but they have another rule - if you're more than 15 minutes late you lose your booking altogether.
This is all fine actually. It's a high end place, it's in high demand and they have seats to fill. What isn't fine is having all these rules and then making us wait 30 minutes before seating us.
Z: Loch Duart Salmon
A: I can't remember!
Z's salmon was tasty but under seasoned in her opinion. I found it to be well done with a nice firmness. It was strong in flavour and really for someone who likes salmon more than I do.
I can't remember what I had, despite looking at the menu online (I'm convinced it's not on there, whatever it was), though I can say that I enjoyed my starter. But the real reason for this lapse of memory, I think, is the overwhelming memory of my main.
A: Pig's Head and Tiger Prawns
Z: Cornish Hake
I was the only person at the table who chose the Pig's Head and I admit I was just diving in without really knowing whether what I'd get or whether I'd like it. I had couple of congratulations for being brave and adventurous from around the table but there was nothing to have any trepidation about - this was a great choice.
This dish is a selection of pig parts, as detailed on the menu. Each part was better than the last and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so much so that I think the prawn was an unnecessary afterthought. This isn't for the fainthearted, I'll admit, but it most certainly is different. The different components have vastly different textures as well as tastes. You should try this at least once in your life.
Z's Hake was not for me. Z though it wasn't much better than good home cooking, but you can't really complain about good home cooking.
Z: Coffee Panacotta
A: Apple Cheesecake
The Coffee Panacotta wasn't lacking in flavour and both Z and I really liked it. It's flavour was delicate but just right; where it fell down was the texture. The panacotta was just a bit... watery. If it had been firmer it would have been very good, but it was little bit too soft.
My cheesecake was less apple-y than I'd have liked, but at this point I wasn't sure if this is Loves' desert MO because the rosemary ice cream was very lightly flavoured, to it's benefit. I can't really complain because I think it was made exactly as intended but for me a little bit more oomph in my desserts would be welcome.
I should mention the pre-course courses. Loves provides an amuse bouche that was fabulous. Similarly there is a pre-dessert which was also great, especially as both of these pre-courses were unexpected. And for that reason I won't say what they were. Suffice to say that the amuse bouche was good enough that Z still mentions it from time to time and I far preferred it to the amuse bouche I had at Simpsons some time ago (pumpkin soup with bacon froth).
We'll be going back to Loves soon. It may seem that we weren't overly impressed and being totally honest we weren't because of an number of small issues. But my main was so interesting that it erased any memory of my starter and that's what I've taken away from the experience.
So, to Saturday...
I'll be honest; we wanted to go to Fiesta Del Asado but due to some unforeseen circumstances it was closed. We've bee to Ju-Ju's before and had nice memories of it so it was an easy choice, especially considering we'd seen it the night before - it's opposite Loves.
Ju-Ju's in an odd place. It's called a cafe yet it's ranked in the top 10 Birmingham restaurants on Trip Advisor. It is a bit cafe like in it's set up but the food is anything but standard cafe fare.
As Z has pointed out, a number of times since I started typing this, it's not really fair to compare Loves and Ju-Ju's as they are, theoretically, completely different types of restaurant. Nevertheless, we had the chance and I think it's an interesting comparison to make.
A: Chicken and pork terrine
Z: Goat's cheese fritters
The terrine is essentially a pate with bread and chutney. Don't let this fool you - it's a rich and tasty delight of a starter. Z's goat's cheese fritters were delicious too, soft and light - a "yummy" crust with a lovely warm centre.
A: Ale battered fillet of British Cod
Z: Winter Risotto
Z had the cod the last time we went and I got a taste for it then. This is simply high-end fish and chips, done right and done well. The bread and butter is a bit over the top but it's a fun addition if you do indeed turn it into a chip butty. I don't like fish and chips from anywhere south of The Humber if I'm honest. Even Hull's fish'n'chips offerings have declined in recent years and you have to go north to the coast for a good set. Ju-Ju's cod isn't in competition with chip shop fish'n'chips, I know that. But if I want fish'n'chips in Birmingham this is where I'd go.
I didn't have any of Z's risotto because my main was so big but I'm told was a little bit heavy despite being less creamy than Z would have liked. Otherwise it was good, which is more than Z can say for the risotto at Jamies (which we both tried and were so disappointed with we shan't be going back).
Okay, Z and I shared one of the complementary mini-mince pies. It was nice. The pancake is a serious size and I couldn't finish it. It's a thick American style pancake smothered in syrup, ice cream and berries; if you weren't full before it you will be after. I really enjoyed what I could manage of this dessert but really the cod shouldn't be paired with it simply because of the size.
The service is friendly and personal here. We'll be back because of it and the quality of the food.
I can't say that Ju-Ju's is better than Loves and we'll be making a return trip to both. But service is a funny thing and I can say that we enjoyed Ju-Ju's a lot more. Thank goodness it's only around the corner.
Eater, taster, trier, explorer.