Last Thursday I joined Ahmed and Conrad for an evening of spectacular food, fantastic service and great company at Simpsons. It just so happened to also be my first experience of a Michelin star restaurant.
We started with a glass of champagne in the front bar area (well we were celebrating!) which was really nice, and definitely set the tone for a night of excellent drinks to come.
I had this image in my head that a Michelin star restaurant would be really formal, serious and quiet, but I was pleasantly proved wrong at Simpsons. The conservatory area where we dined had a fantastic atmosphere, created mostly by the background buzz of conversation and laughter and the feeling of collective enjoyment of the food and wine here. It was warm and welcoming too, and this all added to the experience for me and made for a really enjoyable evening. I also loved that they had an open front kitchen so that we could watch the chefs working their magic and creating some incredible looking dishes throughout the night.
Also adding to the ambiance was the flawless service. Every member of staff was attentive, professional yet friendly and conversational, and knowledgeable about all of the food and wine which we enjoyed. As we went for the Tasting Menu with Tasting Wines, which the team had put together for us, we were talked through each dish, including some background on the matching wine and why it had been chosen.
In all my excitement to dig into our first course, I completely forgot exactly what our Amuse Bouche was, but nethertheless it was delicious! The combination of different textures – with the chunks of tangy apple and the creamy, truffley foam – made for a really interesting first taste of the food at Simpsons.
Until this moment, I’d never understood the power that matching a wine with a dish has. By itself the Chicken and Duck Liver Parfait with Heritage Beetroot and Watercess was fantastic, but when paired and enjoyed with the wine it was just elevated onto a different level.
I’m a huge fan of scallops but rarely get the chance to eat them, so when the Scallop with Chicken Wing, Broccoli, Oyster Mushroom, Onion Powder, Sweet Potato Puree and Chicken Jus was placed in front of us I couldn’t wait to dig in. The contrasting textures of the succulent scallop and the crunchy, moreish fried chicken made it such an interesting, intricate dish to eat.
The Lobster with Coconut Basmati Rice, Cauliflower and Curry had to be the most delicious smelling dish to ever be put in front of me. And it tasted just as good as it smelt, with plenty of juicy lobster and the most authentic-tasting, flavoursome curry sauce.
As a special surprise, head chef Matt Cheal had created a burger for us to enjoy as part of the tasting menu too. His “Cheeky Burger” – ox cheek, steak tartare, foie gras, onion ring, pickle and onion chutney – was on a different level! It was the best burger I’ve ever had; a big statement, but a delicious, complex and just amazing burger worthy of that title.
If I see black pudding on a menu, 9/10 times I’ll order it. So the Pork with Aubergine, Apple, Black Pudding, Dandelion, Sage and Grapes was another winning dish for me, especially with how perfectly tender the pork was.
Our cheese course of Pomme Calva Cheese with Green Apple Sorbet and a Celery & Walnut Salad was matched with a wonderfully sweet pear cider which really complimented the dish. The combination of the tangy cheese with the refreshing, sharp apple sorbet worked perfectly together, whilst the walnuts added a new dimension to the dish.
Our final course of the night was the Mango Crumble with Coconut Sorbet. The mango was sweet and fresh, and topped with the most buttery, moreish crumble – I’ve never thought of having mango in a crumble before, but it really, really worked! Adding the coconut sorbet cut through the sweetness, making for a heavenly dessert and the perfect ending to a fantastic night of food.
Each dish was truly amazing – delicious and bursting with flavour, complex but well-balanced, and executed perfectly. If I had to pick a favourite dish (not an easy task as they were all outstanding in their own right!), I’d say it was between the Cheeky Burger or the Scallop dish. I enjoyed all of the wine matchings as well, and I definitely came away understanding the significance of a great food and wine pairing as it really did add to the enjoyment of each dish.
It was easily the best dining experience I’ve had in Birmingham, largely due to the phenomenal food, but also thanks to the great atmosphere and great service. I couldn’t recommend Simpsons enough for a special occasion or a treat, and I already can’t wait to return again soon! Thanks to Chris, Luke, Matt, Leo, and the rest of the team for a truly fantastic evening.