Myself and a good mate were invited to check out the new Cook Haus Summer Menu and Baby Grand Slam Wednesdays at Albert’s Schloss in Birmingham city centre last week.
I attended the two launch nights of this new bar and eatery and have visited for drinks and to review breakfast since, so I knew what to expect. My old pal Ben, however was in for a treat and had no knowledge of the bar’s concept.
We had a lot to catch up on so this was a good opportunity to have a few drinks, take in the live music and fill up on some top grub. There was a busy hubbub as we entered, most the seats were taken and most, were drinkers or there for the entertainment.
It was a great mix of people, couples, families with kids, groups of gals n’ guys out for the evening, and a few people who looked like they just walked off the set of Hollyoaks.
The design team have done such a good job decorating this venue, it is such a huge open space, yet it feels cosy with great attention to detail – Interestingly, Ben couldn’t believe the size of copper pipes in the toilet and took pics to send to his plumber mate, bizarre?!
Our host for the evening was Jonathon, a fellow runner it turns out, and after a brief chat on events we are attending this year, we ordered our first drinks. Service was fast and very efficient, something that seemed lacking on the first two nights I attended last year.
Two pints of Erdinger Weissbrau allowed Ben and I to relax and take in the vibes, as we sat there chatting, we noted the DJ playing some cool tunes, it’s not too cheesy but far from alternative. We both thought it would work better if the DJ was down stairs as it’s not really obvious there is someone there curating a soundtrack, unless you really look around, and he was stood way up in the eves by the top bar.
Our seat, to the left of the stage, is perfect for people-watching. I sat there a good hour, chatting to Ben with the crowds passing back behind him, outside the huge feature windows. I commented that, of all the thousands of faces that passed by, not one did I recognise.. then suddenly an old tramp walked past who I have seen around Brum for donkeys years, we joked about that being the only face I knew, then lo and behold, moments later my cousin Helen walked past and I nearly broke my knuckles banging on the strengthened glass to get her attention. Literally moments later radio personality Gemma Hill walked past who I’ve met at others events, anyway.. bit random and amusing.
Imagine a huge crispy roasted pork knuckle seasoned with juniper, carraway, fennel, black pepper, a rich gravy, red cabbage and apple sauce. Sound ok?
For starters, we both opted for the same thing, Coquille Pretzel Pie. This is a small pastry pot with lid, filled with scallop, prawn, langoustine, parmesan cream and Frankfurt sauce. It was so delicious. The pastry and seafood tasted fresh. The sauce immediately agreed with my taste buds without being overpowering or too fishy. Just enough juice to wash it all down with and left an amazing aftertaste. I’d order this again easily.
For my main, it was the Pan-Fried Cordon Bleu Schnitzel that took my fancy. A chicken breast, gruere, prosciutto, wild mushroom, brandy sauce and truffle fries. To be honest, it looked a bit bland on the plate but don’t be deceived. The chicken was absolutely packed with taste, and the mushroom sauce transformed the chicken into something quite moreish and rich. There was a lot of it too.. however, I do think the fries let the side down a bit – too dry. Perhaps slightly over-priced for what it is too. I totally understand this location is prime, with high rent and rates but I’d personally bring the price down a tad on this dish to encourage more diners, as it really is a good honest main.
Ben went for the Schweinshaxe off the Klassics menu, basically because he had food envy seeing it delivered to another table. Imagine a huge crispy roasted pork knuckle seasoned with juniper, carraway, fennel, black pepper, a rich gravy, red cabbage and apple sauce. Sound ok? Well Ben was like a pig in muck eating that bloody thing. He certainly took his time, and was surprised to find so much succulent meat off the bone. It was a real eye-opener of a dish and I am told, by Ben, that it does not get any better. He was literally salivating and insisted I relay the comments that it is his idea of heaven and will be back with his partner asap to order the exact same thing again. I was lucky enough to sneak a few morsels off his plate and combined with the gravy, I must admit I was quite envious, packs a punch and if you like pork, you will simply love this dish. Go.. on Ben’s reccomendation.
For desert we shared a Black Forest Gateau of chocolate, coffee cake, sour cherry compote, vanilla cream, chocloate, kirsch sauce and a Banoffee Trifle with dulce de leche, savoiardi biscuits, banana custard, vanilla cream, dark chocolate and pistachio. These deserts are nice, but I don’t really feel they really had the same wow factor as the starters or main. Only my personal opinion and I did enjoy but perhaps just came across a little bland and old fashioned, do they really need to include the calories too? Better you don’t know ha!
Shortly after we finished our food, the live music began. Just brilliant, a live covers bad on stage who are all talented singers and musicians, both singers played their keyboards and took it in turn to sing each tune, it was funky and loud, with the audience suggesting requests. The dancers were professional and glamorous and, cheesy as it may sound, the cabaret style does fit this place. It’s just a bit of fun for the evening, and overall, I have to say, the food, the drinks, the service, music and environment, I can see why it’s always packed solid when I walk past after a day at the office.
We both finished with a a White Russian and a Daiquiri cocktail and by the end of the night, my stomach was churning, with all the different foods and drinks, but what a great night.
We both appreciated the opportunity to be wined and dined in such a VIP way, but that service is not just reserved for press and reviewers, it seems, from looking around, everyone is assured a fun, satisfying night at Albert’s Schloss.
As we left, people were dancing on the tables to Prince and stepping outside, we were greeted with purple skies, not rain thank god!
See you again Albert.
Words by Nick Byng for Grapevine Birmingham.