Classic flavour pairings predominate, but with thoughtful modern touches at this Michelin-starred Birmingham restaurant. Katherine Alano reports
In recent years Birmingham has seen a real boost in its dining scene. The UK's second city now boasts four Michelin-starred restaurants, including Simpsons, which has held a Michelin star since 1999, when it was based 20 miles away in Kenilworth.
Opened 20 years ago by chef-patron Andreas Antona, Simpsons has been at its existing site in the leafy Birmingham suburb of Edgbaston for 10 years. The white, Georgian-styled 70-cover restaurant with rooms offers four individually styled bedrooms for those wishing to have dinner, bed and breakfast.
Chef director Luke Tipping has been at the helm of the kitchen since the three-AA-rosette restaurant opened its doors in 1993, and he adopts the role of Antona's lieutenant. Tipping runs the dayto- day operation alongside a team of 11 chefs and newly-promoted head chef Matt Cheal.
Keeping the dishes fresh and up-to-date isn't all about using new pieces of kit or cooking methods for Tipping, but about looking back at the dishes they created many years ago and offering a more modern interpretation.
"You can go to places to enjoy molecular gastronomy, but Simpsons is not one of those places," explains Tipping. "Food goes through fashions, but it's not
about being a slave to new techniques, but trying to remain true to the product."
Simpsons offers a number of menus to suit all budgets: a set lunch menu (three courses at £40 per head, including half a bottle of wine); five- and eight-course tasting menus (£65 and £90 per person respectively); and an à la carte and a vegetarian option.
Starters include sea trout, slowcooked and tartare, samphire, cucumber and seaweed butter (£12); duck egg, potato espuma, leeks and black pudding (£12); and pigeon, rhubarb, sesame seeds, mouli and Szechuan pepper (£13).
Main courses feature Tipping's tried-and-tested combinations, including lamb shank, yellow lentil dhal, cauliflower, burnt aubergine, yogurt and curry (£23).
Other popular dishes include cod, pine nut crust, potato terrine, cabbage and vanilla (£21); beef, blade and fillet, bone marrow, pickled walnuts, celeriac and
Moving onto dessert, diners can choose from dishes including a refreshing lemon meringue, basil and lemon sherbert (£10) or a rich chocolate tart with Valrhona Kalingo chocolate and popcorn ice-cream (£10).
Guests will not find the menu intimidating and it's easy to navigate, says Tipping. "I'd like people to come to the restaurant and look at the menu and think, 'I don't know what to choose - I'd like to choose all of it!'"
Simpsons has had a long-standing relationship with butcher Aubrey Allen. "The quality of the produce never falters. They are out there in the market and they give us tips on the best cuts," says Tipping. "We also send our chefs to them to learn more about butchery, which is essential in the kitchen and helps us get the best out of the ingredients."
Despite holding a Michelin star, Tipping describes Simpsons as a casual-dining restaurant offering top-end food. "Yes, we do have a Michelin star, but we are not all about pomp and ceremony. We want to break down the culinary barriers so everyone can enjoy good food."
SAMPLE DISHES FROM THE MENU
Starters Crab scallop ravioli, fennel, baby artichoke £15
Duck egg, salsify, white asparagus, peas, truffle, Parmesan velouté £14
Salad of spring vegetables, horseradish, ricotta, shoots and flowers £12
Main courses Beef cheek and fillet, celeriac, bone marrow, truffle £27
Turbot, chicken, leeks, oyster mushrooms, Jersey Royals £25
Duck, Chinese greens, apricot, mouli, five spice sauce £24
Desserts Passion fruit soufflé, coconut sorbet £12.50
Blueberry, jelly, granola, yogurt £10
Chocolate, banana, lime ice-cream £10
Simpsons Restaurant with Rooms
20 Highfield Road
Birmingham B15 3DU