Even if you are not on Twitter, even if you have never visited Birmingham, if you like food you'll almost certainly have come across Glynn on Great British Menu where in 2008 he was a winner with his dessert (strawberries with tarragon) going on to achieve a back to back win in 2009 with the fish course (Masala spiced monkfish with red lentils). Thereafter, he was a regular fixture as a judge. Purnell's restaurant meanwhile opened in 2007 and was awarded a Michelin star in January 2009. On the website, they describe the restaurant's style as 'chic, contemporary fine dining'.
The restaurant is spacious with a large bar area and a dining area where tables are nicely spaced. Staff are enthusiastic and represent the restaurant well and the wine list is fabulous in breadth and price. Menuwise, the's an Autumn Lunch Menu (£30, three courses), Autumn Menu (£60, five courses) or The Purnell's Tour (£80, nine courses). Well, we don't make it to Birmingham too often so it was the Purnell's Tour, a menu described as dishes that are important to Glynn from 'the past, present and future'.
Ahead of food, there's bread, and we have to say this is some of the nicest bread we have ever eaten in a restaurant. Made in house from a special French grain, it's light and airy with whipped butter and salt on the side, there's plenty of it too and it would be all to easy to eat the whole loaf but with a tasting menu coming, that would probably be a bad idea. Unusually for an amuse, salt baked potatoes are served which are lovely but the carbs are piling up and we haven't even reached the menu yet.
The first course is called 'emotions of cheese and pineapple on sticks' and is a take on the 1970's party snack. While this runs the risk of being, err, cheesy, they pull it off with goats cheese, candied and jelly pineapple and a gougere served separately on the side, this core and satellite approach appearing in many dishes served. Purnell's has a reputation for injecting humour into dishes which can be risky but as we would see throughout the menu, the cooking is very technically sound such that the humour is not getting in the way of the food.
Haddock and eggs, cornflakes and curry oil, a sort of breakfast mash up with a haddock lollipop on the side was nice enough, a perfectly done yolk, great haddock, but aside of its technical competence, it felt a little bit too ordinary to be a star on fine dining tasting menu. A deconstructed remoulade next was our least favourite of the menu with celeriac first, then a buttery mustard spoonful followed by a glass of pop to clean up. Here, pulling apart the flavours of a normally combined dish adds nothing to it in our view.
The next two dishes fare much better where great ingredients are nicely done. A carpaccio of beef with red wine octopus, home cured beef and salt beef together with an almost marmalade presentation of onions; the beef just shines. Likewise, native lobster and Devonshire crab mayonnaise is not overly fussy but benefits from that with the menu now hitting the brief (chic, contemporary fine dining) in our view.
Monkfish masala we already know is an award winning dish for Glynn and it's hard to fault; we doubt monkfish could ever be more precisely cooked than this. The main is Balmoral venison with creme fraiche potato and it offers up full flavoured venison (it was a very large deer by all accounts) that is again precise albeit a somewhat more mainstream dish.
The first dessert we absolutely loved, combining the classic flavours of mint and chocolate with the table side play of dry ice on dry mint to wash the table with minty aroma. Like cheese and pineapple, there's an appeal here to the inner child that does in fact work and not enjoying this dish seems an impossibility for any chocolate lover. The burnt English custard egg surprise is perhaps the only place where technical precision slips and the burnt sugar topping is so thick, requiring such force from the spoon to crack, we fear an incident and almost leave it uneaten our of appropriate caution. The custard itself when we do break through is excellent though we fail to remember what the surprise is.
Overall, the standard of cooking in Purnell's is excellent and there are some really enjoyable dishes here. Looking to other blog posts dating back a couple of years, we do note the tasting menu hasn't really changed that much though arguably, that's what purpose the Autumn menu serves. Even so, we wonder whether it best highlights his talents to so firmly anchor the flagship tasting menu to the past in a contemporary restaurant? But we very much enjoyed our time at Purnell's, the staff, the wine pairings and of course the food. If located in London, he would no doubt have a full restaurant here also. In short, this is without doubt worthy of its star and understandably a go to place in Birmingham.