Growing up in Solihull, I never took full advantage of sampling the variety of restaurants that Britain’s second city has to offer. My traditional preference was to travel in the opposite direction of Birmingham and dine in country gastropubs in areas such as Barston, Hatton or Lapworth. So the opportunity to dine at one of Birmingham’s most acclaimed restaurants, Opus, was welcomed with open arms.
Opus is located in the heart of Birmingham city centre’s business district and the ambience is perhaps slightly more suited to corporate hospitality rather than intimate romantic liaisons. Nevertheless, the powerful combination of excellent food and fine wine should be enough to satisfy those who are dining as a twosome. The most important reason for choosing Opus is the quality of the food.
An amuse-bouche of squid, lime and tomato salad whetted the appetite and highlighted the restaurant’s commitment to using fresh produce. The menu changes twice daily to allow flexibility and the potential to incorporate the freshest ingredients on the day. On this occasion squid was one of the ingredients bought that morning and was cooked beautifully, remaining soft, not rubbery, accompanied by tomato that was rich but not acidic and a subtle, not overwhelming lime dressing.
My starter of pork terrine, meaty and smooth and not too sickly, with home made apple sauce was arguably one of the best I have experienced and was matched perfectly by a crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. My friend, J, chose to start with a leek and haddock fishcake served with a free range poached egg that looked as good as it must have tasted, as it was devoured within seconds of arrival.
We both decided on the Veal for main course, which was perhaps ever so slightly more cooked than the ‘pink’ we were expecting, but nonetheless the sweet flavour was excellent, so much so that I had to discourage J from picking the bone up and gnawing at it. The meat was by no means spoiled or tough, our knives glided through with ease whilst our forks pierced the crisp outershell of the duck fat chips that accompanied the gigantic chop. A side order of green beans with shallots and a Beaujolais, very pleasantly recommended by the house, rounded off what was an excellent main course.
Dessert was a triumph. J, in his usual vacuum-style eating, demolished a chocolate fondant that oozed out its runny centre as well as fantastic aromas. I, on the other hand, chose to spoil myself with a rather wonderful crème brulee and took even more pleasure in refusing to share.
To enjoy fantastic food in Birmingham, Opus is definitely a place to visit. It is not quite Michelin Star standard and I don’t expect the establishment will bear a grudge against me for stating my opinion, many in the industry acknowledge that achieving one is not necessarily a positive trait. Opus strikes me as mirroring the current situation of my football team, Aston Villa, which incidentally shares the city of Birmingham as its home. Yes they can lock horns with the very best of their peers, yes you will fall in love with it easily and yes it might finish just outside of the ‘Champions League’ position, but only by the tiniest of margins. However, with the team and management that it has in place, it is not a question of ‘if’ Opus becomes one of the very best, it is a question of ‘when’.