When I was a student living up in Manchester I remember reading a restaurant review in the Guardian which started “it’s hard to imagine a good restaurant outside of London…” I was appalled at the author’s (fortunately I cannot remember his/her name) flagrant London-centric and rather ignorant viewpoint. However, I have been living in London now for seven years and I feel that occasionally I can fall into a similarly stilted viewpoint. With this in mind I was excited when I heard about a restaurant of very good reputation in Moseley, the small area of South Birmingham where I grew up, called Carters of Moseley. In fact, its reputation was so good that it is being talked about as a candidate for a Michelin star. I simply had to take the opportunity to check this restaurant the last time I was up visiting my parents.
The restaurant itself was tastefully decorated and had large, stylish tables for us to sit on. We were the first guests to arrive for the lunchtime sitting and were greeted by friendly staff, led admirably by Holly Jackson; we were shown to a table at the back of the restaurant from where we could peek in and see a small section of the kitchen – something I always like doing!
Carters (the name derives from Head Chef, Brad Carter) focuses on using the best of British ingredients and demonstrating how they can justifiably be thought of as some of the best in the world. Whilst we were deciding what to choose from the menu we were given some rather charming bread made from flour milled at Sarehole Mill (a local mill that is rumoured to have been J. R. R. Tolkien’s inspiration for the mill at Hobbiton) and accompanied by a “pig butter” made from local Tamworth pig fat and onions (not the healthiest spread that I’ve ever had). We were then told by the waiting staff that we had to try their Tamworth pork salami as it was as good as the very best Italian salami – a bold claim, if I had ever heard one. We duly ordered a portion each and I must say that I was very glad that we did, it was deliciously flavoursome, juicy and moist and certainly got the mouth salivating!
I shocked my gastronomic comrades by electing to have the vegetarian starter, Heritage Tomatoes, Smoked Ricotta and Black Sesame. The waitress had persuaded me that the tomatoes were worth having and following my recent trip to the Amalfi Coast I wanted to see how British tomatoes measured up. The tomatoes, as you will be able to see from the photograph, were a mixture of red, yellow and green, which gave the dish plenty of vibrancy. The smokiness of the ricotta was something that I had not been expecting to be so strong, but really added an interesting complexity to the dish, balancing the creaminess of the the ricotta very well. The black sesame added some textural variety, but I didn’t feel that it added much more in terms of flavour. However, this was an exceedingly impressive dish, presented beautifully and showcasing the tomatoes wonderfully.
When it came to the main course I decided that I needed to have something with a bit of meat to it, so I went for the Roast Cod, Green Tomatoes, Dill and Brown Butter. Once more I was keen to have some of those delicious and juicy tomatoes in my dish but the real star was, of course, the fish. Cod, to my mind, is one of the finest fishes in the world, although I try not to eat it too often as it needs to be carefully managed due to the risk of it being over-fished. The Brown Butter sauce was used to crispy up the top of the fillet which gave it a rather delightful texture when compared to its juicy, succulent underneath. The sprinkling of dill really lifted the whole dish and helped bring together all of the flavours along with some little crispy shallot rings.
In terms of wine to accompany the meal we went for the rather smashing 2012 Viognier from The Crusher, Clarksburg, California. I’d read about their Pinot Noir in this article on Vinspire and thought that the Viognier must be worth a try. It was bright and fruity with aromas of green apples, very aromatic. On tasting it was clean and fresh, a vibrant drive of acidity with a nice and tidy finish. This was an excellent wine and went well with the dishes that I’d had, particularly with the Cod.
For pudding I decided to go for the British Isles Cheese and Onion Chutney. I was given three cheeses, a single Gloucester, a blue cheese from (if I remember correctly) Cornwall and a goats’ cheese (I can’t remember where from!). There was a pretty quenelle of chutney, plenty of nice biscuits and some sticks of celery to accompany the cheeses. A nice glass of tawny port with the cheeses went down a treat too…
The lunch menu that we had to choose from was three courses for £20 (the cheeses admittedly did come with a £6 supplement) – another reason why leaving London can be a good idea. I must compliment Brad, Holly and the team on an excellent restaurant, the service was very good and attentive and the food was excellent; I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if that Michelin star didn’t make its way to Moseley and Carters very soon!