Cucina Rustica, 24 Ludgate Hill, Birmingham. T: 0121 233 2277
All the omens were bad: it was Italian, it was in Birmingham and I was going there.
I can count on the fingers of one finger, at a push two, the number of Brum-talian restaurants to which I would happily return. Obviously, I haven’t “done” all of them but I’ve done, in percentage terms, most of the well-known ones and the experiences have been doubly memorable: for mediocre food and rubbish service.
Consistency has its virtues, but not when it’s consistently bad.
As I approached the newish Cucina Rustica in the Jewellery Quarter, I felt fairly confident about the way lunch was going to go.
I have a food critic’s sixth sense.
I’m like the pale-faced lad in the Bruce Willis film of the same name: he sees dead people, I see dead restaurants.
Jerry was waiting outside when I turned up.
“Is there anyone in there?” I said.
“Dead,” he said.
Blimey, he’s got the gift, too.
I decided to persevere, because that’s what I do, on your behalf.
Things got scarier inside the restaurant, not because there were waiters walking around with knives through their heads but because it felt, well, quite pleasant. I didn’t see that coming.
Sure, the place was deserted. During our lunch, only three other tables were occupied. But, by golly, I wonder how they ever fill this place. It’s got a huge dining room. Although the frontage is on Ludgate Hill, the restaurant stretches back to the borders of Aston.
It’s been done out very nicely – clean, simple table decorations, de rigeur chocolate-coloured banquettes, flowers on the tables, bright arty-farty stuff on the walls, a bit of exposed wood, a smattering of red tiling.
Despite its proportions, it’s a warm place, a place you feel you can eat in, which isn’t always the case in contemporary restaurants during this tiresome fad for S&M/bordello interior design. I want to eat in a restaurant, not be whipped by someone wearing a PVC face mask.
Jerry was in good form, having recently completed his list of his favourite top 1,000 albums.
Yes, 1,000. He is a child of the 70s so he has little else in his life except memories of The Beatles, prog rock, Bobby Sands and the Winter of Discontent.
As we only had an hour, I asked him for his all-time Top Ten.
It wasn’t the easiest of conversations due to 1. Jerry’s age; and 2. ironically, the volume of the restaurant’s speaker system, which was of young person’s volume proportions.