Bitters’n’Twisted, the people behind hipster hangouts The Rose Villa Tavern, The Jekyll & Hyde and several of Brum’s other best loved bars, have recently opened this brand new bistro based at The Rep, with a competitively priced pre-theatre menu (an à la carte menu is also available) offering three courses for a relatively wallet/purse pleasing £19.95.
There’s a decent four choices for each course with some truly mouthwatering combinations of ingredients. BBQ Pork Terrine, Orange and Carrot Marmalade and Toasted Sourdough Bread anyone? Yum and indeed yum. Happily it didn’t disappoint. Terrines can be bland, sad slabs of culinary detritus, but this was a triumph with the tastebud tingling zing of the homemade Marmalade (note to the proprietors – you really should start selling jars of this stuff) cutting right through the rich smokiness of the BBQ pork. My companion’s starter of Goat’s Cheese and Basil Parfait looked and tasted equally appealing with delicate drops of pear dressing packing a surprisingly fruity punch.
For mains, the Slow Braised Blade of Beef with Horseradish Mash, Red Wine Jus, Chantenay Carrots and Sweet Potato Crisps turned an inexpensive cut of meat into a meal fit for, well, if not a king then certainly a prince. Perhaps just a tad dry in places (especially as the dish cooled), this would have been overcome with a little more of the deliciously deep flavour of the Red Wine Jus which, in common with most restaurants, was relegated to a mere smear on the plate. Provide a small pot of the stuff and that would really do the dish jus-tice. And oh, Horseradish Mash is going straight in my repertoire by the way, who knew the humble mashed potato could taste so good?
On the opposite side of the table the gurgles of appreciation indicated that the Baked Sea Bass Fillet, Noodle Stir Fry, Pak Choi, Sesame and Coriander Butter were all going down a storm too. The moist, pearl white flesh and crisp, perfectly seasoned skin of the clearly fresh sea bass lay on top of noodles that were just the right side of al dente…or whatever the Japanese equivalent is.
The portions are decent but not gut-busting (which is a good job if you’re just about to sit down to a chunk of Chekhov or a slice of Shakespeare), so there was just enough room for pudding. With its crunchy ginger base, the White Chocolate Cheesecake was bliss. Pieces of fig added a little extra texture and a different dimension of sweetness to the dish and the Strawberry Coulis provided a burst of summer sunshine that was distinctly at odds with the gathering grey gloom outside (Marmalade’s a great spot for people watching by the way, especially if you get a table near the windows). The self-appointed Eton Mess expert reported that her particular pudding of choice could have done with more meringue, but other than that it was a creamy delight with a cherry on top. Literally.
Overall there’s a really nice atmosphere here with a homely feel to the place and the service was exceptional. All three courses were ordered, served and consumed in just over an hour which, when you’ve got to be in your seats by a certain time, is a major consideration. It all felt efficient rather than rushed though, which can be something of an issue with pre-theatre dining. Despite its location Marmalade is clearly not just for theatregoers though, the à la carte menu looks every bit as tempting, and on tonight’s experience it thoroughly deserves to develop a Rep-utation of its own over time.