Behind the almost opaque white drapes that separate the beating heart of Folium from the streets of the Jewellery Quarter, something rather beautiful is happening.
Food critics from national newspapers have raved about it, locals love it, and as of late 2018 the big boys at Michelin have recommended it. One could say that Folium is having a moment; at the very least it’s making quite the mark on Birmingham’s restaurant scene.
My first visit came to be one chilly Wednesday evening, after a walk through the peaceful grounds of St Paul’s church close by. I love this part of the Jewellery Quarter; an area full of independent businesses, a bundle of vibrant food and drink choices, and people who are more concerned with what you eat rather than what you wear. There’s numerous places to get your gastronomic fix here, from the eclecticness of The Wilderness to the pizza offerings of OTTO, so Folium is in decent company. But, as I now realise, this restaurant is way above such crude adjectives.
Alongside a glass of a dreamy South African Pinot Noir, some snacks arrived to get us started. Mini crab tarts filled with a luscious hollandaise made of the crustacean and topped with finely grated frozen duck liver make a tasty mouthful. The oyster cracker next is nothing short of genius when you consider it requires days to make and involves dehydrating 100 layers of scaled fish skin. That level of effort for an ‘eat in seconds’ nibble is admirable.. possibly even bordering on madness. Fair bloody play. This happy snacking was followed by a healthy slab of warm homemade sourdough and a hand whipped butter with a moreish sodium hit.
Smoky eel to start the main event, with pieces of tender fish below a creamy emulsion that’s all topped off with crispy nibbles of chicken skin. Pretty sure this should be the time for a vaguely witty Oliver Twist ‘Please Sir, can I have some more’ reference but I’m too hungover to come up with it. Next, a lighter dish of cured mackerel nestled below pearls of pickled cucumber. I didn’t get as much warmth from the dusting of wasabi as expected but overall I enjoyed the combination of clean flavours.
Back to the big flavours and what remained my favourite dish, with ribbons of just crisp turnip blanched and thickly coated in a ridiculously cheesy Parmesan sauce. Additional hen of the woods mushroom shavings top this off and it’s simply glorious. Imagine a creamy pasta dish that doesn’t bore you to tears and manages to make a boring turnip interesting. That. More fish next, this time a firm slice of turbot balanced on a creamed potato base. The gleaming flesh becomes its very own island once a liberal slosh of buttery broth gets poured into the bowl. It’s not going to make you thin but it will make you happy. The last of the savoury, if pink lamb two ways doesn’t make you happy I can’t help you. With a thin and perfectly crisped fat layer, the chunk of saddle got me all hot and bothered; a fork tender piece of neck meat fell apart, absorbing that was left of the seaweed sauce.
Christmas may be long gone, but the pine flavour coming through with the frozen sheep yoghurt made me wish I’d eaten my Christmas tree last December. Loved the addition of aerated white chocolate. Finally, a silky chocolate mousse and a scattering of crunchy cobnut crumb. With the burnt cream ice cream this was dreamy. On a really basic level this all collectively reminded me of how Ferrero Rochers taste, but a hundred times nicer.
Without a doubt one of the best meals I’ve ever had in the city. The full seven courses will set you back £70 – a five course option is also available but it negates the smoked eel dish, and that would be, quite honestly, a travesty. Folium is serving up some seriously artful, ingenious food presented beautifully – what a pure pleasure this meal was. Lucy and the team deserve all the praise and positivity they receive.
Folium, 8 Caroline Street, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, B3 1TR
Disclosure: I paid in full for all food and drink included in this post. All words and photos are mine. Thanks to my pal Mark for coming with me even though he’s eaten most of the dishes before. If you liked this post you may also like Harborne Kitchen.