A stone’s throw from Brindley Place, Birmingham’s latest arrival Craft is found at the rear of the ICC. Inside it is plush and comfortable; the light grey tones that make up the décor cut with the occasional mustard-painted column. It feels luxurious, spacious and light, whether that’s sat at the bar enjoying one of the excellent cocktails - the Bread and Peanut Butter (£10.50) is my choice - inside the restaurant, or outside on the terrace overlooking the canal at one of Birmingham's prettier spots, without the crowds from the other side of the bridge.
The ethos here is built around the best growers in the country. The extensive wine list is almost entirely British, while cocktails like their English Negroni (£10) offer the classics rebuilt using British spirits. That concept is continued in the dining room, where dishes riff on the old favourites and the cheese board is drawn wholly from within our shores.
The atmosphere midweek was quiet, which may have had something to do with the lack of events on at the ICC, or the pricing, which is presently a little keen. Those who were there, however, were having a great time. The service is slick and the playlist drifts from Ed Sheeran to 90's garage. The experience is a tad unconventional, but it works, mostly due to the front-of-house who know when to spend time at the table and when to leave the diners alone.
The hand of executive chef Tom Wells, formerly of Tom’s Kitchen, is clear to see on the menu and the results are fantastic: Brummie bacon cakes (£3.50) are scone-like in texture and best smeared inch-thick with butter, whilst fat scallops (£9.50) are expertly cooked and treated to the most sensible of garnishes in bacon, peas, and charred baby gem lettuce. From the mains we got all excited by the beef wellington (£29.95) which came with the creamiest of mashed potato and a healthy dusting of truffle, but found even more love for the slow-cooked pork belly (£22) with its delicate and crispy skin, black pudding, apple, and a dreamy sauce. The portions are ever so generous, but the chips here are too good to be missed, so go double carb and order them as a side.
Whatever happens make sure you save room for the desserts, which must be the strongest in the city right now. We ordered more than we should and I would absolutely reccomend the ethereally light Bakewell Tart souffle (£9.95) and the Wye Valley strawberry trifle (£8.95), which takes a nostalgic dish and turns it up to 11. Then there's the sticky toffee pudding (£7.95), which has caramel sauce soaked into the sponge during the cooking process making every mouthful a pure indulgence. Sticky toffee pudding has been my favourite dessert for as long as I can remember, and I would honestly say that this is the best iteration I have ever tried.
Craft is impressive from start to finish. The cooking is accomplished, the drinks brilliantly curated, and the concept unique to anywhere else I've been. This newbie also has some exciting plans in the works, with chef nights designed by Kray Treadwell of recent Great British Menu success. Save up and treat yourself; it's worth it. And whatever happens, don't forget to order that sticky toffee pudding.