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It’s been a while, hasn’t it?! Not to worry. I’m still a fat girl, so food porn is back! I’ve eaten out loads, but few of those restaurants have had food worthy of photographing. Or, the lighting was a problem. Or, I was too busy stuffing my face (Storrs Hall). The Vaults, located on Newhall Hill in the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, represents a trifecta of goodness: food, service and atmosphere.

G and I had a romantic six-course dinner there last month. The Vaults is like a glamorous cave of sorts, but dry, warm and with great lighting. Divided into bar and restaurant sections, the Vaults offers fantastic clusters of compartmentalised seating areas that enable a sense of intimacy. It also cuts down on the din that is typical in large restaurants. Friends and I will be making a return visit for pre-dinner drinks on New Year’s Eve. Now, let’s not all have the same idea at once.

On to the food. Here’s a run down of what G and I had. First we started with Singapore slings. They were nice. Really, really nice. So nice, we had to have them twice.  The photos above depict our pre-starters, starters, amuse bouche (literally translated as mouth-teaser, or one-bite delight), and main dishes. The Shot of Roast Tomato Soup (pre-starter) and Courgette Pepperonata (amuse bouche)  were both lovely, but not that memorable. G and I both had the Devil Ham Hock Terrine with Spiced Apple Jelly and Black Sesame Brioche for our starter. I’m not usually a huge fan of terrines because of the jelly that bonds the meat together, but this one was long on ham hock and short  on the jelly bond. Disappointing, however, was the dryness of the brioche. The stand-out dish, however, was the Fish and Chips with Peas! Seriously. As simple as that dish sounds, I can’t tell you how many times I have been disapointed by the efforts of restaurants, chippies and specialty shops with regard to this British classic. The Vaults got it right. The fish was perfectly cooked: tender, well-seasoned, crispy, but not oily.  Others, take note. The only off note in an otherwise near-perfect dish, was the chips. They could have been firmer.  My vegetarian main, Pumpkin Risotto with Charred Chillies, Pumpkin and Goats Cheese was delightfully zesty, sweet and spicy. I would have it again.

On to the sweet stuff, almost always my favourite part. Our pre-dessert was a spoonful of tarte and sweet Raspberry Jelly. For me, it was more of a palette cleanser between the savoury and the sweet rather than a teaser for the pudding. Lactose-intolerance be damned, I cannot see “brownie” and “ice cream” in the same dish and refuse to order it. Sure, I end up hating myself hours later when I’m bowled over with stomach cramps, but damnit it’s worth it in the moment. I thoroughly enjoyed the Vault’s Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream Sundae. G went with something slightly more sophisticated and less predictable: Lemon Tarte Mascarpone and Lemon Thyme Ice Cream. The tarte was quite pale, but that was probably due to the mascarpone in it. The creamy cheese lent a perfect balance to the tart lemon flavours. The pastry was minimal and delicate. Thyme ice cream? Inspired, subtle and delicious.  I almost wish we could have ended the sweets on that note. However, all of that goodness was followed by Petit Fours of Brandy Snaps and Flapjack Bites served with Illy coffee (seriously the best coffee ever). G enjoyed the flavours, but I was already undone by my two large Singapore Slings (I’m a lightweight) and six courses before that.

Final thought: The Vaults is for grown folks (not oldies, but mature people) with taste and a penchant for nice cocktails. I definitely recommend it.

They needed more firmness

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