The Pickled Piglet, Birmingham, – 21 June 2013

The food day on this trip was also the day after a day full of Bruce Springsteen music, first in the small venue where Gazza where the starter and gave many Bruce songs his touch, and the main dish –  at the Ricoh Stadium where Bruce rocked the house – and the sweet dessert – where a crowd of 300 peeps enjoyed Mark Wright shacking his legs and singing the songs of Elvis and Bruce into the wee wee hours. Thank you Steve “Gazza”, Bruce Springsteen and Mark Wright for making it a day to remember.

So the game was up for The Pickled Piglet and later Turners to fill this day with food to remember.

The Pickled Piglet has only been open for a good 3 months and is already rising in the tripadvisor charts and elsewhere. It is situated just below the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where a channel and few other pubs and bars would make this little area something to focus on – on the next meetings in the City Planning Commision. Really – this area could be made into somthing quite special – “hell a little touch-up and a little paint”. Birmingham Mail recently made a review giving the restaurant a good 4 stars.

The period building hosting "The Pickled Piglet".

The period building hosting “The Pickled Piglet”.

Inside you will find a pretty light dining room on the first floor with original floors and a bar. Behind the bar smiling Chrissy with her spouse Mark taking care of the cooking.

On Monday evenings they are full, and one can understand why, an offer of dry aged beef with sides at 10 punds seems like an offer too good to refuse.

IMG_5671

Great light room

Chrissy serving the Sauvignon Blanc.

Chrissy serving the Sauvignon Blanc.

I loved the menu, first small tapas like plates to choose from – priced at 4-6 pounds per plate, and a large selection of starters and mains where some of the tapas variations could be found in larger versions it seemed. All this can be found on their homepage  also a description of the breed of pig they use etc.  http://www.thepickledpiglet.co.uk/

So having a dinner planned, we opted for a selection of the smaller tapas – tasting plates. The wine list is kept small and simple, but we were happy with our selected NZ Sauvignon Blanc. I think the bottles on offer ranges from 15-25 pounds and the wines list has a majority of new world wines.

So, with a good review, a perfect host, a great room – we were ready to see if they could live up to our expectations. Here is what we got.

1-2-3

1-2-3

Smoked Mackerel Pate, loved it. great crackers too, Crab and Celariac and Apple Pancakes – wonderful. Among the best of the day. The pancakes being done in the style of a tortilla almost. This was indeed the only complaint in the review of the newspaper, but we loved them, and understood they had adjusted the dish after the review. Third in this selection was Sweet peppers and Rosemary Cheese. Great cheese, but for me the peppers was a bit too watery and not sweet enough.  Nevertheless a great first selection of tapas.

4-5-6

4-5-6

Scallops, Apples and Smoked Bacon. This bacon and apples were done like my mom used to do them, and she would call it “Äblefläsk”. The bacon being a good partner always to the delicate scallop. The scallops were – in fact – damn – cooked a little too long. I am talking a little. But those 10-20 seconds that make them go from just right to just a little chewy. However, there may be a cultural cooking difference here, because at Simpsons last year and Turner later on today, I had the excact same experience and complaint.  And in compare to Simpsons and Turners, these scallops were halfed – making the “over-cooking” more understandable. Besides at Simpsons in 2011 I remember the scallops being a “signature dish”  and that just underlined/exposed the error in my eyes.

Second off, Spiced Lamb and Olive Meat Balls. Now this was probably the best dish. Try them. Soft, smooth, spicy with a lovely dip. Best meatballs ever.

Third one here was the Saffron and honey belly porc. Single complaint here was there were too few. No not really 😉 Great portion size, but I could eat that dish and nothing else the whole day. Every day. Again way up there.

7-8

7-8

Crispy Shredded Porc and Pickles…GREAT taste, great texture, but with the low fat meat used – it seemed a bit dry. All it need to make it perfect would be a small greek yoghurt dip, even a tzatziki without the garlic, maybe mint…;-) Just saying.

The bread selection was great but – the only real flaw of the day -being a little bit “tired” and thus not up to par with the rest of the meal.

Conclusion:

It is always nice when something exceeds your expectations, I had a few, my dining partner – good friend Jörgen had let planning of the whole trip in my hands had no prejudgements whatsoever. But – we were both impressed by the freshness of the produce and cooking. The simple dishes were tastefull and well crafted. Minor flaws did certainly not ruin our dining experience. And often when I do this, look for good things or bad things in food, I tend to forget what it is all about. It is like with a good Bruce concert. There will be ups and downs – favourite parts – more dull parts – but what matters is the feeling you go home with. We left with smiles on our faces, and wish both Chrissy and Mark the best of luck and success with their little piglet. I loved the way you were interested in hearing what we had to say about the food. An the way you both seems like genuine nice people. From the moment we walked in we felt at home. The food is not re-inventing any wheels, but it is well crafted and Mark can surely cook. If you are a tourist in Birmingham, or if you live here – be sure to check this little piglet out…It is worth it.

Jörgen, I thank you for your friendship and both as a friend and dining partner I treasure your opinion. Being in Birmingham I should of course leave you with a Jeff Lynne song – my scores first…

My rating for this visit: Food 7p (10), service 4p (5), ambience 4p (5), Total Score  15p (20)

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Schloss Berg, Nennig, Germany – 31 May 2013

“Lost in thought and lost in time
While the seeds of life and the seeds of change were planted
Outside the rain fell dark and slow
While I pondered on this dangerous but irresistible pastime

I took a heavenly ride through our silence
I knew the moment had arrived
For killing the past and coming back to life”

Coming Back to life – David Gilmour 1993

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Coming back to Schloss Berg is ALWAYS a pleasure. A pleasure because you know what to expect. Outstanding food, – a momentary lapse of time. I was so excited to go here with Gijs a while ago. Unfortunately a flu stopped Gijs from participating. So much more was the excitement of finally being able to show him my favourite restaurant in this world. Gijs like classic food. Classic French, given the choice, but classic as such, being a classic German Sauerkraut, or an Italian dish. As you will know by now Gijs knows his trade. He is a fab amateur chef, with a basic knowledge of food I could only dream to have. In a kitchen we each work differently, but in a restaurant – after 18 months of friendship and many good dinners behind us – we know excactly what the dining partner will highligt, like…not like.

So when this is said – Schloss Berg and Christian Bau is pretty pretty far from classic – but what I knew Gijs would enjoy was the explosion of tastes and respect for the produce Bau most certainly has.

But but but…having wrote so many times about this little “Pearl” in Nennig 😉 – I will highlight something else today. I have also mentioned this before – but it becomes more and more evident. Bau has the best f…….. sommelier I have ever met in my life. There might be better ones around – but I have never met them. The ones that comes close would be the ones from my dinners in Le Cinq.

Daniel Kiowski, – you are a dream of a sommelier and yet you are still so young. It is not only your knowledge and choice of wines that impresses me, but the way you treat your customers with such confidence and laid back charm. You are a monument, and that at the age of 26….(I think).  That calls for a Carlsberg. I mean – I have NEVER seen anything like it. You are at peace. This is your profession and passion for sure.

Gastro, the German equivalent to the Michelin guide says in its 2013 issue something like – “Would we have a price for the best sommelier in Germany, the price would easily go to Daniel Kiowski. Of course it would. Damn you are good Daniel.

This´s ones for you.

King of the world

King of the world

I will of course show you a few shots of the food tonight…but not all – because I decided this post should highlight the wines of Daniel.

1st wine.

1st wine.

This perfect light, crispy Riesling was to accompany our first amuses… here are a few of those…..

Italy revisited...

Italy revisited…

Tuna

Tuna – Germany 10 points.

Bio Egg

Bio Egg

2nd wine

2nd wine

Markus Molitor

Markus Molitor

What a wine – I think Daniel has a weakness for Molitor, and one can understand why.

Japanese Hamachi

Japanese Hamachi

What a dish. The Lightness, the freshness. A pure 10.

With this dish I think we got both the wine above, but also another blinder – and no we could not guess it.

Nanbu Bijin

Nanbu Bijin

One way to describe this wine in 4 words. Go there, try it.

Fois Gras, from Landes

Fois Gras, from Landes

I LOVE fois gras, and  LOVE what Christian Bau do with his Fois Gras dishes. I could eat this every day of the week. To go with it another Riesling- we got that much, but we were far off with the vintage, well Gijs said something like 2007 or 2002, and I said guess older, even before I heard his guess. It was a fresh 1995

2 words. Wauw.

2 words. Wauw.

Turbot...

Turbot…

A simple dish, but nothing is really simple here. Everything in perfect balance, the fish cooked to perfection. But in compare to many of the dishes before a much more classic presentation. And today, inside this menu, I think it was the weakest dish.

Back to life...

Back to life…

And back to Molitor. Let me just say I was far off on this one 😉 Was this wine full-bodied, rich and a feast for your pallette. Hell yeah.

Dear deer...

Dear deer…

An aroma arose from the plate. The reduction done with a twist. Curry. Apart from that, classic German ingredients here, Knödel, cabbage, pear…but with a twist of Asia.

To go with this one…we were both fooled big time, guessing Pinot Noir, I was put back to recent memories where I guessed Bonnes Mares in Lameloise and in the end I was a few miles away, the wine being a Clos de la Roche. Today we were both as it turned out roughly 1000 kilometers away. What struck us most was the freshness of this wine.

Did you like this one Gijs? Hell yeah.

Did you like this one Gijs? Hell yeah.

Gijs claimed afterwards – I will never forget this wine. And I know he won´t. He had never been as surpriced anywhere, anytime, anyhow…;-) He loved it.

Black Forest Cherry

Black Forest Cherry

– and to go with that the final wine of the day – oops…no picture but it was another perfect Riesling, a 1999 Auslese, Von Hövel.

and sweets –

Cheese cake

Cheese cake

Last man standing

Last man standing

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Conclusion:

Of course the judgement of Gijs was more or less decided after the first amuse. This is as good as it gets. The chairs, the ambience, even the new young waiter – when he opened his mouth to present a dish the first time – nothing is left to coincidences here. Everything is in balance, the service the food, the wine. The food – the wine – well of course that is why we are here. And it is – stunning. So, Gijs happy. Me happy. Some dishes always get to you more than others. That was also the case today. But as I said in my long intro. Daniel. Today you outshone it all. You are a fucking rock star. Or you are Picasso. Or Beethoven. You certainly are on the top of your game. I have two words for you. Rock on.

Gijs, I am glad you like Schloss Berg as much as I do. Your opinion is weighting a lot in my book and you know that. And I am glad you now know why the missus and I keep coming back to this one. Even if its not classic 😉

We adored the food, the wine – the service. Thanks for having us. Be sure to find us back. As for Gijs, I know he will pass on my recommendation to his family and friends, and they will all be there at Schloss Berg before you can say Blueberry Pie.

My rating of this visit: Hell yeah….

“I took a heavenly ride through our silence
I knew the waiting had begun
And headed straight..into the shining sun”

Coming Back to life – David Gilmour 1993