I really, really wanted to fall in love with 1847 in Birmingham. A vegetarian restaurant that offers “contemporary vegetarian cuisine” and is located in one of my favourite buildings in central Birmingham – the gorgeous Great Western arcade? Hollah! We walk by it often on our trips into the city because we park nearby, and I often check out the menu as we go so I knew they had Vegan ‘options’.
When Adam asked where I wanted to go for a posh lunch in the city, 1847 was top of my list – especially when I saw that for a perceivably ‘fancy’ place it wasn’t too unreasonably priced, with two courses for just over £20.
On paper, it should of been a perfect match, like when you have all the same interests with a match on Tinder or something.
In reality… well. Sad faces (And hungry bellies). Read on, dear reader, read on.
They recommend booking but…
Whenever we pass by, it’s been empty. For some reason, the the website recommends booking so we called a few days ahead and reserved a table for two. Upon entering, it was empty and we quickly learned that they do take walk-ins so not sure what the fuss is about with that. If you’re in the area, don’t worry about booking basically!
So.. going by my rule of thumb of empty vs. not-empty places, it had failed the first test. It was 1pm on a Saturday and should be therefore a prime eating time, but it was devoid of customers. I let it off a bit because the area isn’t really one for foot traffic into what looks like quite a modern, upper-end restaraunt (most people have just jumped off the train or metro/out of the car, or heading to it, and are on their way someplace).
But still – a specialist restaurant you would think would drive traffic itself? So.. apprehension started like a wary friend in the back of my mind.
Our waitress was… efficient. That’s the best word. No chatter, she didn’t hang around and make us uncomfortable in the small, empty restaurant. She let us pick any table of two (you are not, it seems, allowed to dare to sit at a bigger table. Lest there is a rush, perhaps?! I know this because they had a walk-in of two come in, try to sit at a table of 4, get told otherwise… they left a few minutes after looking at the menu though). We chose one sort of… in the middle. Not quite by the door, or the bar, or the window.
She poured us some table water and presented us will some paper menus. Now, can I just take a moment with the paper menus. I don’t mind paper menus but to me that implies a fresh, daily changing menu. Or at least weekly. I’m not sure if this menu is updated that frequently, I think it’s a seasonal thing, but I could very well be wrong. These were a little dog-eared though, so clearly not hot off the press for the day’s food.
Let’s get down to the food
I mean, it’s why you’re here, reading this? Not for my random comments on walls and paper menus? Or my wit? I’d love it if you were here for my humour though…
For starters, I was still feeling the chill from outside (and it’s not the warmest of restaurants) so I opted for the ‘winter warmer’ soup. My original first choice of a mushroom paté (I’ve been dying to try some for ages) was out of the question because it contains walnuts and, unfortunately, I’m allergic. I’m finding that being a ‘vegan’ and allergic to both walnuts and pecans to be very annoying!
Both dishes looked delicious on arrival and were presented in a very nice fashion. Not too fancy, but quite understated and cool – I think this is the look the entire brand is going for, with its simple white chairs and tables, line-drawn logo and grey washboard walls.
‘Mushroom pâté: Mushroom and walnut paté, pickled quince,
smoked butter toast
I couldn’t sample the paté obviously, but it disappeared off my fiancé’s plate at an impressive speed in between sounds of enjoyment so… I inferred from that that it was good, and he confirmed.
‘Winter warmer:‘ Roasted parsnip soup, rosemary persillade, black sesame, sesame oil
My soup was really, really good. The black sesame seeds and the sesame oil really bought the flavours together and uplifted what could’ve been quite a plain, parsnip soup. The bit green didn’t really do much, but it didn’t hurt it either.
With such yummy starters, I was really looking forward to our mains! Perhaps I got too excited and overhyped it in my head, but I think I had good grounds at this point, having devoured the first course.
Adam ordered the ‘fish’ and chips and I got the beet bourguignon – Adam’s not a massive fan of beetroot so it’s not something I get to eat very often at home! When they arrived, we eagerly dug in, and I also eagerly pinched a bit of the battered ‘fish’.
Beet bourguignon: Beetroot stew, sautéed potatoes,
crumbled goat cheese
Let’s sigh now, shall we?
We were both kind of… disappointed. They were both nice dishes but… a bit bland. The lacked any particular flavour. My beet bourguignon was just… a lot of beets, to be honest, with a few slices of mushroom, some roasted carrots and potato slices. All the textures were very similar and there seemed to be no additional herbs that I could taste. I had to add a fair amount of salt and pepper.
Given that there had originally been crumbled goat cheese, perhaps some cashew cheese, or cream would of added to it?
‘Fish’ & chips: Ginger ale battered
halloumi tofu, triple cooked chips, savoury lemon curd, green pea & basil
The chips to Adam’s ‘fish’ were better – clearly freshly fried and very hot, they were lovely. There was no more than 10 of them in a very small pot. The tofu ‘fish’ hadn’t been marinated (well, we couldn’t taste anything) and the batter didn’t have any sense of ginger ale about it. The best bit was the pea & basil sauce. Again – maybe the missing “savoury lemon curd” would of bought out the flavours better? Why there wasn’t even a wedge of lemon, I don’t know.
We both agreed to not bother ordering dessert. Despite both being still hungry, we were so disheartened we didn’t want to bother even asking for the menu. We knew there was a vegan health food shop not too far (it was awesome) so we figured we could check that out and buy chocolate instead (which we did, and I got some chocolate-orange mylk, so, day = fixed).
The gripes, basically
Ok forgive me in advance? I’m going to have a little rant.
If you’re providing a ‘vegan option’ for items on your menu… don’t just remove stuff! This really annoys me because presumably the head chef spent a lot of time, thought and effort to bring together that specific combination for a reason: replace that flavour or texture with something else! Vegan does not equal bland, but it seems that’s the solution at so many restaurants we eat at.
To put this in perspective… you have a friend you know is allergic to peanuts. Do you buy some cookies with peanuts in, pick them out of the cookie, and offer that to them? Of course you don’t! That would be a considered rude and/or stupid in most circles. So, why do restaurants just remove stuff for the ‘vegan option’?
More specifically at this restaurant – at £20 a head we should not of left hungry, but we did. Four pieces of tofu and a few chips? Was there a shortage with all those other customers? I don’t mind the price in and of itself (especially as I wasn’t the one paying today!), but I still felt a little short-changed.
I think the problem is I thought a specialist Vegetarian restaurant would be better. That’s what it boils down to.
It was so good to have a bit of choice for what we wanted – it seems to be there’s often a single, solitary option on a menu and if you don’t like it/don’t fancy it well… tough. I think Vegetarians would really like the choices too, as there were a range of palettes catered for if you ate dairy.
Overall…. it was really was nice. That’s the best word I can think of. Our waitress was pleasant, the decor was nice, the food was nice. There was nothing to complain about per se (otherwise we would of raised it)… but there was nothing to shout about either. Not eating there as a vegan, anyway. We both left still hungry but not eager to fork out more money on bland food that had elements removed, you know?
Would I return? I’m honestly not sure. I think I’d consider taking a Vegetarian there as a posh meal because I think they’d really like it, but I don’t think I’d be fussed about returning personally, as a plant-based eater.