Marmalade at The Birmingham REP review

Marmalade has set itself up as an easy choice for diners before events at the Rep, ICC and other surrounding venues. It delivers a satisfying pre-theatre experience that feels comfortable and not rushed, delivered in a timely manner in an airy, welcoming atmosphere. It is now very well located, overlooking the recently improved square and across to the new iconic buildings rising up in Birmingham. But it is also not a place that springs obviously to mind as a choice of where to eat. This is a shame as the experience was positive and enjoyable.

The menu has a good varied selection of starters and mains, supported by a wine list that, whilst not extensive, had some interesting wines by the glass. I chose a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, priced at around or just below expected prices. The wine was a good example of this, but not being as floral and zingy as some of these wines can be, felt a more mature example of this region’s wine variety.

As a pescatarian I often find myself with very limited and standard offerings to select from on the menu, but both starters and mains offered a good selection and competitive prices.

As a pescatarian I often find myself with very limited and standard offerings to select from on the menu, but both starters and mains offered a good selection and competitive prices. You were looking at around £6 for a starter and £14 for a main (extra for sides) plus around £8 for a 250 ml glass of wine.

Our waitress, Femi, was attentive without being intrusive, and was sharp enough to notice and remember what we were ordering and expecting, and check to make sure our additional requests were delivered. Service was not rushed, nor did you feel that you had to keep an eye on time as the waitress gave you confidence that your full meal was being presented in a timely manner.

My starter of artichokes and rocket salad with large parmesan shavings was fresh and well presented. The chef was easily able to accommodate my request of no dressing without fuss. My friend’s mackerel pate had hazelnuts which introduced an interesting flavour dynamic, a recurring feature throughout the meal.

There was a lot of flavour in this dish, some unexpected from a Thai meal, and very welcome flavours. The sauce was coconut based but light despite this, blending well with the nicely cooked vegetables.

Onto the main courses. I chose a butternut squash and pak choi Thai curry with fragrant rice. There was a lot of flavour in this dish, some unexpected from a Thai meal, and very welcome flavours. The sauce was coconut based but light despite this, blending well with the nicely cooked vegetables. All sides were extra but the dish didn’t need any extras to feel substantial enough in its own right. I had to request a spoon so I could consume all the tasty sauce but that was quickly provided.

The second main course dish was very attractively presented – chicken with elegant long thin carrots arranged artistically on top and the small potatoes and sauce carefully placed on the plate. My friend assured me the chicken was succulent, delicious and moreish with accompanying gravy and sauce, and he’s not easy to please.

A sweet wasn’t necessarily needed given the first two courses. I chose a crepe with fruit and an additional request of a scoop of ice cream. The crepe could have been slightly softer. That said, I have just returned from a month in Paris where crepes are a national treasure, so a hard act to follow. Again, a minor change request to the item was delivered with no issues. The other sweet, a chocolate moose, was a good example and creatively presented in a lidded pot. Both sweets were delivered at exactly the same time. This was also the case for all three courses, so there was no issue around waiting for food to arrive before diving in to eat.

My view was that the chef is enjoying experimenting with his menu choices and enjoying finding attractive and different ways to present their food. There seemed a clear pride in cooking coming out of the kitchen.

Overall Marmalade provide a very enjoyable early evening meal experience. The weekend before I had eaten with a small group of girl friends at an in-house pre-theatre meal in the city centre, which was much more expensive, felt very rushed, had issues with service and attitude, and made you feel like a cog in a wheel. The experience at Marmalade was completely different and a much more welcoming experience.

Review by Pam Wilde for Grapevine Birmingham

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