Afraid news is bad at Fleet St. BIGBITE.
FLEET STREET KITCHEN, Fleet Street, Islington Gates, Summerrow, Birmingham, B3 1JH. 0121 236 0100. http://fleetstreetkitchen.co.uk VERDICT: WHEN a restaurant includes the word 'kitchen' in its name, it invites the assumption that it will be a plain, no-nonsense sort of place.
And, certainly, the menu at the recently-opened Fleet Street Kitchen reads that way.
The dishes are familiar and based, apparently, on good quality ingredients that are as local as possible. Thus you'll find smoked salmon, fishcakes, steaks, cheese platters and the like, together with a few nods to the exotic.
The decor tries painfully to echo this riff - a slightly urban space decorated here and there with loaves and strings of dried peppers and the like. But it all feels a bit faux - a feeling that only increased when I picked up a bill edging towards PS80 for food of mediocre quality and modest proportions, washed down with a restrained quantity of booze.
This, it seemed to me, was a money-spinning venture cashing in on the culinary trend for simple, wholesome food. Service throughout was friendly, but there were delays in taking and delivering orders and a sense that no-one truly had their foot on the ball.
First for me came fish goujons - I'm not sure what fish, but I'd hazard a guess at pollock.
These were chunky things that came in a sort of throw-away basket constructed from a make-believe newspaper page and were awkward to eat. Most were accurately cooked so that the flesh was succulent and the batter crisp, but one was overcooked and thus dry. There was also a slight bitter after-taste that I imagine resulted from some problem with the cooking oil.
However, the tartare sauce was good and tangy stuff. My wife Lynn's prawn cocktail was an indifferent dish - a huge glass decorated with a tasty crevette and packed with shredded iceberg lettuce, dull and spongy prawns and a Marie Rose sauce that was heavy on the tomato ketchup.
We both hoped for better from our main courses, especially since we ordered meat cooked on the restaurant's barbacoa grill, a wood-fired barbecue popular in Northern Spain.
Alas, spirits were not raised.
The veal loin that I ate was an astonishing disappointment - a medium-rare chunk of calf that was so tough that it was difficult to cut.
I question the idea of cooking veal by this method for though the surface of the meat had a pleasant charred flavour, it destroyed the sweetness that veal possesses. And the texture.... oh the unyielding, untender and unattractive texture.
Half an undercooked red onion added no joy to the dish.
Pity the baby bovine whose life was sacrificed to end up vilified on my plate.
Lynn's rump seemed to provoke less outrage (now there's a phrase Frankie Howerd would applaud).
She saved her negativity for the cauliflower cheese she'd ordered as a side - a bowl of nicely crunchy florets that came in an insipid, creamy sauce with no taste of cheese and minus that browned, deeply savoury skin that makes the dish such a family favourite.
But let's also mention the good, crisp chips and the sweet, verdant combo of peas, leeks and cabbage that were also ordered as sides and which ensured that we ate a few things that didn't cause us to frown like aged grumps.
The dessert list included puddings that would have appealed had I enjoyed the food that had gone before - knickerbocker glory, sticky toffee pudding and the like.
However, temptation didn't raise its Siren's head and, instead, we got the bill, which apart from the food included a couple of glasses of wine and two beers.
FOR GOOD VALUE..
CHILACAS: Funky independent offering tasty Mexican food. Brindleyplace, The Waters Edge, Birmingham, B1 3HL. 0121 643 2707 ||MINMIN: Family-run pan noodle bar offering satisfying, well-crated food. Latitude Building Bromsgrove Street, Birmingham, B5 6AB. 0121 622 5955.
LOKI WINES: A place to sample and buy great wines and enjoy platers of meats and cheese etc. 36 Great Western Arcade, B'ham, B2 5HU. 0121 212 9440.
factfile| The bill came to...
| Veggies might like... borlotti bean boulangeres| Meat lovers might enjoy... 16oz Dexter beef T-bone| The bargain deal ... the deli boards| The cheapest wine... PS14.95| Or splash out on... Louis Roder Cristal, PS360|Disabled friendly
'' Pity the baby bovine whose life was sacrificed to end up vilified on my plate.PAUL FULFORD
A very average prawn cocktail.