There were no such qualms with my main course of rack of spring lamb. There were really good strong flavours here with a gravy (jus, whatever) of finesse.
Strictly speaking, this was a chop from a rack rather than a rack itself, which some diners might find misleading. The other meat element of the dish derived from a well-cooked braised belly. I could happily have eaten several pieces of the belly in a gutsy dish and left the chop (and some of the expense) behind. It’s not that the glamour cut wasn’t good but the flavour of the treacley belly was immense. Serve with mash potatoes and I’ll never leave your side. The garnishes were all good, including a reprise for the sheep’s curd for a Greek-style feta echo, with onion purée and samphire. I didn’t like the warm cucumber because I’m English and stuck in my ways and believe God invented vegetables like cabbage for a good reason.
The dish I really wanted was the Boys’ Own crowd-pleaser of ribeye steak, for two to share, with “triple” cooked chips and béarnaise sauce. I watched several being carried to tables for other customers. Sally and I have different tastes in red meat cooking times, so it’s probably just as well. And I would have found it very difficult to share.
Sally had the Cornish skate, which had been filleted and rolled, with a slightly underdone slow-cooked egg, lovely Worcestershire asparagus, wild garlic and a parsley sauce. Skate is a hugely underrated fish. Carter’s was cooked sous vide, rather than in a pan. The technique retains moistness but sacrifices the flavour and colour you get from a flip in a pan.
I loved my dessert of peanut butter parfait, caramel sauce and chocolate sorbet. It should have been death by sweetness but the reworked Snickers bar rocked. Top marks on the choc.
Sally really enjoyed her cool vanilla custard with the sort of rhubarb that makes you think: why don’t we eat more rhubarb? Dobs of lemon curd gave the dish an added, not overdone, dimension. If you keep eating puds like this, the sun might finally come out.
There is an impressive wine list, including some £100-plus big guns in something called the Carters Collection (which I’d be inclined to kill off – not the wine, although I can’t afford it, but the creation of a rich man’s ghetto on the list, which seems to be at odds with the rest of the philosophy here). We drank a good red Burgundy from Maison Roche de Bellene 2007 (£35).
The total bill was £115.
By comparison, Richard Turner’s three-course à la carte in Harborne is £60 and the equivalent at Purnell’s is £50. If you pick the three most expensive dishes on Carter’s à la carte – which I think I may have done – the tab comes to £42. It’s food, and numbers, for thought.
Would I go back to Carters? Definitely. Would I recommend you to do likewise? Yes. Birmingham needs people like Brad Carter and Holly Jackson – and we need very promising restaurants like the one they have created.