Elegant, vibrant food in an unpretentious and relaxed setting – what a joy Harborne Kitchen is.
I’ve started this post numerous times now, and still don’t really feeling like I’m doing this place justice. Suffice to say, a few weeks ago I possibly had the best lunch I’ve ever had; a meal packed with colour, freshness and happiness. Shamefully, this was my first visit to Harborne Kitchen, a place I’ve heard so many people say glowing things about. I’m nothing short of a fool for not going sooner, but I’m just glad that part of my life is over with.
The spacious bar leads to an open plan kitchen and dining room that allows you to feel part of the action. It’s clean, modern and not in the slightest bit fussy. Staff float around the room in vintage shirts that wouldn’t have looked out of place on Zac Morris in Saved by the Bell, and all of them look far cooler than I could ever hope to. They are all (literally all of them) incredibly friendly but totally on the ball – I have never been happier to leave a tip in my life.
We’d come for the five course tasting menu (£35), starting with a superb espresso martini from the bar and our snack plate delivered with home-baked breads. I don’t know what they put in that malt loaf but it’s basically like the crack cocaine of bread. A little sweet with good chew, it’s lovely on its own but sublime coated in a thick layer of the whipped salty butter, that arrived balanced precariously on a warm rock. I’ll eternally be grateful for the third portion of this loaf (and butter) one of the team smuggled over to our table, without a hint of judgement. “It’s good, isn’t it?” one server said confidently with a knowing smile. Amen sister, amen.
Possibly the world’s sexiest cloud, the Camembert mousse topping a coarse hazelnut chutney was a light, creamy dream. This all swims in a glorious Jerusalem artichoke veloute that’s perfectly savoury and something I’d happily bathe in. Following this, delicate Mi Cuit Salmon that managed to make me think of spring in the city despite it being a wet, freezing cold day in Harborne. The citrus yoghurt brings a clean acidic hit; the drops of creamed avocado add some richness. It’s so simple but dazzling – I haven’t got the big girl words to say what I felt while eating it, but it was honestly just glorious.
Onto the only course that required choice: pork belly or cod with leeks. We ordered both for the table, the fish being my pick. Perfectly cooked cod retained firmness, partnered with a silky smooth butter bean purée that I didn’t realise had been missing from my life until I ate it. Braised baby leeks and a sprinkle of crisp pancetta added further texture and flavour; I chose not to eat the foliage which I’m still not sure was right decision. My pal Mark’s pork was demolished in record time, so I’d assume he enjoyed it. He made some animal noises that would make me think he did. Moving on…
Dessert came twofold. First up a palette cleansing dish bursting with sharp lime. My favourite, however, was the final delivery of blood orange with peanut brittle and an anise ice cream. I always think I hate the aniseed flavour but good god it works so well with the orange and white chocolate mousse via this frozen treat. Textually, this pud was just a dream.
This is how I want to spend all my Saturday lunchtimes. It’s so refreshing to eat such high quality dishes without the fluff and pomp sometimes associated with fine dining. It’s also incredible value for money. Honest food and down to earth, friendly service – just perfect. I can’t wait to go back.
Harborne Kitchen, 175 High Street, Harborne, Birmingham, B17 9QE
Disclosure: We paid in full for all food and drinks. All words and photos are mine.