Cuisine hits high note; OPUS, 54 Cornwall Street, Birmingham, B3 2DE. (0121 200 2323) EATINGOUT.
CDry, yet soothingly delicious and served with a tantalising lemon twist, this is a vodka martini created by Opus.
The Michelin-recommended restaurant, which has been wowing diners for eight years, is due to open a bar next month in Snowhill.
And if my vodka martini is anything to go by, then the party people of Birmingham are in for a treat.
Made with Hereford's finest Chase vodka - voted the 'World's Best', no less, by those in the know at the San Fransisco Spirits Competition - is produced from potatoes.
And they're not just any potatoes either. They are from William Chase's family farm (the same guy who created Tyrrells crisps) right the way through from seed to bottle.
The team at Opus pride themselves in "celebrating beautiful market fresh British produce" and update their menu daily.
So upon finishing our predinner cocktails (PS10 each) in the sleek and chic restaurant bar we made our way to our table for the main event.
On perusing the luxurious menu it was clear that this was a dining experience to be played adagio.
The tempo had to be calm and smooth as we carefully selected starters and began a gradual crescendo to our main courses.
I chose warm goat's cheese custard with caramelised shallot puree, pickled vegetables and sauteed beetroot and granary croute (PS6.95).
The mousse-like custard cheese was a perfect temperature to ensure maximum impact by the gentle creamy dish, enriched by the vibrant colours of the salad and wholesome full-flavoured croute.
My dining partner chose the ballotine of rabbit stuffed with chicken and girolle mousseline, poached prune and radish salad (PS8.50).
The pleasantly pink and brown dish certainly looked as pretty as a picture, a tender reminder that autumn is setting in, and I was assured that it was as tasty as it looked.
Mezzo forte had been achieved con amore and we continued our crescendo to the main course. For my climax I selected roasted cornish monkfish, seared Lyme Bay scallops, saute baby leeks, salsify, scottish girolles, and baby watercress (PS24) And I'm so glad I did. The fish was superb, meaty yet delicate, juicy yet grease-free, roasted yet rich in flavour - this wasn't just any old climax, it was truly brilliante.
The accompanying south coast scallops were divine as were the accompanying vegetables, especially the girolles, ensuring a vibrant collection of textures and tastes. My friend selected roasted loin of Balmoral venison, Jerusalem artichoke, yellow chanterelle and Alsace bacon bourgignon, Yukon gold potato (PS24).
Her handsomely portioned plate was received with pleasure and was as impressive to taste as it was presented.
And so we began our diminuendo. But how to unwind from such highs? I picked the ginger scented poached pear, almond sponge, with glazed vanilla souffle (PS8.95).
Sweet, but not overpoweringly so. My friend plumped for the honey and vanilla creme brulee and sable biscuit (PS10).
She reliably informed me that this was a very fine example of the dish which she samples regularly.
To accompany our meals we ordered a bottle of French Sauvignon (Domaine de Bertier), a zestily fruity and refreshing treat (PS24). The scores were high with this Opus creating the magic of music with food, and good value for money. The bill came to PS126.40.
FIONNUALA BOURKE | The vodka martini and (left, from top) |goat's cheese custard, roasted loin of Balmoral venison, roasted cornish monkfish and poached pear