1847 – A Good Year
As a devotee of meat I stepped into 1847 Bistro in a lacklustre mood - usually if meat does not play a major role on my plate (covering at least 40% of its surface) - a meal it does not maketh. My negative frame of mind was quickly dispelled, firstly by the very hospitable waitress, secondly by the relaxing ambience and thirdly by the fantastic food.
Located in the grandiose Great Western Arcade, 1847 occupies two floors - it is a small intimate space. The decor is very Apple – by this I mean clean lines, greys and whites, minimalist with the odd splash of colour - I could imagine this is the sort of place Steve Jobs would have dined. It is not devoid of atmosphere though - splashes of indulgence such as these trees hanging from the ceiling add charisma.
It’s very earthen – lots of wood – there’s even a large print of a woodland scene basked in autumnal light. All in all it’s extremely relaxing, like dining in the open air.
We are here for the full works - a three courser. Neither myself nor my dining companion Katie are vegetarian but we were about to be have our minds opened to the possibility of a plate of food sans animal protein.
The Bistro is called 1847 as that is the year that the Vegetarian Society formed and judging by the food on offer here they have come a long way... innovative in both flavours, ingredients and presentation this is fine stuff. This is one of four Bistros located in the UK the others being in Manchester, Bristol & Brighton - Damien the proprietor and a vegetarian himself since the age of 11 launched the brand starting with an initial team of three – hard work, great reviews and an injection of inventiveness in a limited marketplace have seen his team grow to 25 including 5 apprentices.
Anyway to the fare…
The menu is small but perfectly formed, and I spend quite some time choosing, primarily because a lot of the ingredients are unfamiliar to me. I think they are also foreign to Microsoft Word’s dictionary, as this blog I am currently typing is littered with red squiggly lines beneath them. Bulgar wheat? Thankfully our waitress Candice (also a vegetarian) is very knowledgeable about the food, the ingredients and the preparation and is on hand for translation and recommendation. The menu also has gluten free dishes – which is especially handy to know, as my daughter is Coeliac.
To start I choose the Falafel with quinoa, burnt baby ghanoush, yoghurt and watercress. It is a revelation - lovely stuff – I can confirm that nothing tastes burnt. Katie’s option - Ricotta, black olive tapenade, courgette and cherry tomato is also a winning choice – it reminds me of one of those cakes – a vanilla slice, I am told it is delicious.
Time for a drink and a vegan wine – we wonder what makes it vegan, luckily clued up Candice informs us it’s to do with preparation and the materials used when fermenting - no fish netting – I also read on the bottle that natural predators take care of pest control! We choose a red Cabernet Sauvignon called Natural Star from Africa and for a second I imagine lions prowling the vineyards to protect the grapes from pests.
Anyway back to the real world and time for the main - For myself, battered halloumi with chips, pea emulsion and lemon curd - a popular dish I am told and I can quickly surmise why. A plentiful amount of sumptuous halloumi in a crisp batter.
The pea and lemon curd are a great combination and just look at that presentation – gorgeous – sadly it wasn’t there long!
And here, look inside at that lovely cheese m m mmmmm
Katie has the spicy potato cake, wilted spinach and walnut pesto – she proclaims ‘it’s the best vegetarian meal I have ever tasted’ – strong words from a lady who gets around the restaurants of Birmingham.
Clean plates and smiles all round.
To finish I stick with the cheese theme and go for the cheese board/plate - three sizeable portions of cheese a blue a brie and the other one are complemented by hazelnut short bread and pickled raisins – raisins are not my favourite foodstuff but these are surprisingly good – plump and juicy.
Katie then gives me food envy by ordering the Triple chocolate brownie (how could she?) – blackcurrant coulis, ginger gel, blackberries and crème fresh – like everything here it is a work of art – luckily for me Katie can’t manage the entire thing and I get a taste myself – I can confirm it is bon.
Genuinely surprised by what has just passed I feel very naïve and Katie and myself conclude that what sets the dishes apart at 1847 is that they are created with a vegetarian mindset. Care and attention is evident in every dish we have received – rather than an afterthought a ‘oh we need to cobble together some tofu concoction for the vegetarians'. Our chef Mate (we are not friends with him, that is his name) comes out at the end of the meal to see if we are happy with what he has just created - we are, very much so and its high fives all round.
Convinced I would be standing in line for a cheeseburger at the nights end, I instead left feeling full, content and compelled to return. And whilst it didn’t open me up to the possibility of a world without meat, it certainly opened up my mind to the possibility of a great dining experience without meat. Go forth and try it now, it’s a unique offering in a rather limited marketplace -you won’t be disappointed – promise.
Two courses at 1847 Bistro costs £19 whilst three cost £25 - the menu is seasonal and also comprises of a la carte, Sunday lunch, taster and express lunch options.
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