Tuesday 3 May 2016

Food Review: Five Rivers A La Carte

How far will you go to get to a restaurant? Is yours around the corner? Maybe you have to travel to the nearest city to get to it?

Either way, you probably wouldn't expect to travel just under 15 miles to get to dinner. However, there are some restaurants that are worth travelling to.

Five Rivers A La Carte has an excellent reputation in Birmingham and beyond, forged mainly on the wedding scene as caterers extraordinaire. As well as providing catering for parties, corporates and events, guests can also dine at the restaurant in Walsall.

Taking a cab to the restaurant from Birmingham city centre took not long at all, and before we knew it we were at the door of one if the most hallowed Indian restaurants in the area.

Spread out over two floors, we gathered by the bar downstairs before being taken up the spiral staircase to the room above. A cavernous, wooden beamed space, the table dominated the room, set out for our large party complete with fresh flowers, champagne flutes, and a separate table overflowing with bottles of champagne.

Mingling with the assembled guests, sipping on Laurent Perrier and tasting a few bites (Manchurian, sheekh kebab) before dinner, we settled into the evening before taking our seats.

Following a welcome from our hosts, Fiver Rivers, and our Laurent Perrier guide, we were soon served by a team of smartly dressed, professional waiters and waitresses. 

Onto the menu, there was an astonishing eight-courses to get through, all accompanied by either Laurent Perrier champagne or a matched wine.

Mitha Aloo Tikki, Lobster Broth, Tandoori Monkfish, Tandoori Duck, Lemon and Lime Sorbet, Chicken Saag Wala, Mango Finni and Spiced Ginger Creme Glace were presented to us within a three hour window. My dinner was slightly different as it was tailored to be gluten free, so I had alternative dishes in place of the Aloo Tikki, Mango Finni and Iced Ginger Creme Glace. Pleasingly, the menu was already helpfully marked to indicate which dishes contained Dairy, Gluten or were suitable for Vegetarians.

In the place of Aloo Tikki, I was served Chilli Paneer with pineapple and raita. A healthy portion, others were jealous of my dish, which was generous indeed. The addition of pineapple was unexpected, but welcome as an alternative method of livening up paneer. The Laurent Perrier Vintage 2006 that was served alongside this was incredible, and turned out to be my favourite. Smooth and subtle, this glided down like liquid gold.

Next came the Lobster Broth. Served on dry ice, our waiters poured not just the broth over the solid elements, but also liquid onto the dry ice, creating clouds of smoke at the table. A delightful touch, this has to be the first time I've ever seen such theatre at an Indian restaurant. The broth itself was spicy, and served with a beautiful Cuvee Rose.

Onto the monkfish, this was charred at the edges and came with mango chutney. Although lovely and chargrilled at the edges, this was a touch dry to my taste and could have used a little more sauce.

Have no fear, my favourite meal came next; the Tandoori Duck. Never have I tried duck in this way, but it's a shame that more restaurants don't serve such a dish. Incredibly soft with a melt in the mouth texture, it's difficult to believe that the chefs managed to create something so smooth from a meat that can often be tough to digest. The flavours too were warm and spicy.

A little palate cleanser of Lemon and Lime sorbet was just what was needed and I could have eaten a huge portion of this for dessert. This paved the way for what was essentially our main meal, Chicken Saag Wala. Those of you who frequent many Indian restaurants will know that we were in for chicken and spinach, stuffed into the breast Western style. Although I'm not sure where the goats cheese was, this was again, a tasty East meets West dish, with plenty of sauce to accompany the breast. This was served with a spicy Pouilly-fume 2014, Foucher-Lebrun from the Loire.

Gluten Free

Not gluten free

By now, we were all stuffed to the rafters, but it was time to deploy the second, dessert stomach. I had the Mango Finni, minus the sauce shot glass beside it. Fruity, light and exactly what we needed by this point, this was a pre dessert before the heavier dessert arrived. The other diners were treated to Spiced Ginger Creme Glace, but I had something even better. Something akin to a beetroot version of the carrot based Gajar Halwa, my purple beetroot cake (Chukandar Ka Halwa) was moist, sweet and kind of healthy (haha!). Pleasingly, this is available on the menu.

So what did I think of the experience? What stood out for my first and foremost was actually the service and setting. The venue, the table setting and even the way that the champagne glasses were laid out on a separate table all contributed to a feeling that the utmost care had been taken to create a perfect setting for dinner.  Dining is about so much more than just food; it's about the environment in which it's eaten and the people who serve it for you. At Five Rivers, it was clear from the minute we walked into the restaurant and made crystal clear from the moment we entered the room upstairs that everything had been taken care of. From simultaneously serving each course to quietly topping up our drinks, the service was absolutely faultless throughout the evening.

As for the food, it was inventive, flavoursome and delicate as opposed to heavy handed. Award-winning chef Rashpal Sunner deserves every accolade for creating a menu that retains the flavours of India yet presents them in an unexpected way.

Sadly, many of the dishes we tried are not available on the menu, but it was interesting to see the chefs push the boundaries.

Most surprising of all? Did you notice that there wasn't a plate of pilau or piece of naan in sight?

No comments:

Post a Comment