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Watering hole with attitude; At night young executives line the walls, by day it's the haunt of welo -do ladies. Finola Lynch samples the Metro atmosphere.

During the day the Metro Bar & Grill is the kind of joint where kisses from PR reps float on the air and Ladies who Lunch address their conversation to the entire restaurant.

The Metro offers its regulars an unashamed slice of London life with a restaurant which reminds you of every trendy Capital eaterie you have ever been in. You will not recall a precise location because the detail is far too unremarkable for strikingcomp arisons.

But London is stamped on every aspect of the Metro. From the pine floors, white walls and fresh flowers on every table to the witty Punch-esque cartoons that line the walls and the good-looking international bar staff who have been recruited and shipped up from the capital.

Strangers will eye your attitude as you walk in but after that you are left alone. This is not really London after all and Birmingham is essentially far too friendly a place to be cruel as well as cool.

I try to imagine if Terence Conran or Marco Pierre White would look out of place here. On the face of it the answer is no but there is something very bland about the place. It reminds me of one of those replica ships which look great out at sea in silhou ette but close up you realise the wood is coated in plastic.

Not being situated in Brindleyplace was intentional its owner Paul Salisbury tells me over coffee in Cornwall Street where the Metro blends without trace into the rest of the renovated gothic red brick on the street.

"We wanted to offer the kind of place you won't find in Birmingham, even in Brindleyplace. The problem with that area is there are no private owners and the quality has gone down hill as a result.

"It attracts the young but it puts off the professionals with money to spend. We thought there was a niche in the market and we thought the London touch would work."

Paul used to run a similar bar and restaurant called Mortons upstairs but sold it to a brewery. He moved back in and set up the Metro six months ago and so far trade has been brisk.

With no advertising the Metro has quickly established itself as an upmarket eaterie and meeting point for Birmingham's loaded professionals and those with patrician pretensions.

During the day it attracts wives in MaxMara suits with the whole day at their disposal to play with salad. It is also convenient for business lunches because the food is expensive but not too expensive.

By night it is overtaken by professionals from nearby business blocks who are determined to drink off their boring, paid-by-the-hour day. Even on a Friday night the place is packed with men in suits propping up the bar. Here you can pick out some very gl amorous-looking women by their kissed-by-an-orange suntan look which has still not had its day in Birmingham's upper circles, despite the O-zone scare.

Haloon blue couches are attached to the bar wall where you can have your own intimate party around a table. This is a very nice touch and great for a group of friends. But if you are female make sure you fill the couch otherwise you may encounter some un wanted male attention. Despite the fact the Metro is selonsciously cool, your conversation with the pest in question will be no more grandiose.

The only problem with the bar area is its size. It fills up very quickly and if you do not grab a table or bar stool you can be faced with the prospect of standing for the entire evening. Perhaps this is intentional, since the people who want to stand te nd to be the ones who are the best-dressed in the place. To be seen is to be.

A myriad of mirrors leads you into the restaurant whose best feature is a huge, circular skylight in the middle of the room. I have not tried the food but I have yet to hear a bad review. The menu has headings such as Crustacea which includes half adoze n oysters with shallot vinegar and tabasco and Rotisserie which includes spit-roast quail. The prices look very reasonable and the point seems to be low-key luxury.

From the restaurant you can see into the kitchen where activity is frenetic but not panicked. Paul points to some quaint, attractive silver touches. I cannot remember what they were but they were bought in London.

"It's all in the detail," he tells me.

The Metro Bar & Grill is open Monday to Friday from 12pm until 11pm and between 6pm and 11pm on Saturdays. It is closed Sundays.
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Author:Lynch, Finola
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Jun 27, 1998
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