For years I’ve chuntered on about the lack of truly great Italian restaurants in Birmingham.
There are a few small family-run places that offer good basic food at a fair price.
But most in Birmingham have identikit menus rooted in the 1960s.
And a few have elevated opinions of what they’re producing, which is distinctly average.
Why none that reflect the rich regional diversity of Italian food?
Why none that have given a contemporary twist to cuisine of the country?
The relentless tedium of eating Italian food in Birmingham was brought home sharp during a visit to Anstey, a well-heeled village on the outskirts of Leicester.
Here a restaurant and bar called Sapori has won a string of awards for its ambitious, well-crafted food and above all flavoursome food.
Apparently Claudio Ranieri, is a fan.
Small wonder, though, because the food I ate there was superb – from the basket of various freshly-baked home-made breads to an extravagant dessert.
Chef Andrea Scarpati uses great ingredients treated with respect and skill to create modern but utterly coherent dishes that deliver vibrant, satisfying flavours.
A cube of beetroot-marinated cod, cooked sous vide, served with salsify and basil looked elegant but ate big.
More huge yet balanced flavours from plate of ravioli stuffed with porcini mushrooms and taleggio cheese that had been cooked in butter, sage and parmesan and came on a butternut squash purée that was silky, slinky and sexy.
I who have no great passion for ice cream swooned over a hazelnut gelato of perfect consistency served with hazelnut praline.
Then swooned once more over a drop-dead gorgeous white chocolate and sour cherry sphere coated in caramel, black pepper crumble, lemon and olive oil dust that delivered explosions of taste and texture.
The home-made chocolates and macaroons that followed tempted a snake-waisted chap who was replete to carry on eating regardless.
“But would you go there again to eat?” someone asked on my return, puzzled that I had travelled to Leicester at all.
Too damn right I would. Birmingham really doesn’t have anywhere to compare.
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