Ah love, l’amour.. No, I’m not about to get all mushy and sentimental or fully loaded with saccharine, but rather I wanted to write about what could be my favourite restaurant in Birmingham – Loves Restaurant. Having been a few times in recent years (and still not as often as I would like), I’ve only experienced one average meal (say 7/10), all other times have been absolutely wonderful and it keeps me going back for more. It may not have the prestige associated with a Michelin star, but I would have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone (even before those restaurants in Birmingham with a Michelin star).
Steve and Claire Love both opened their first restaurant (also called Loves) in 2001 and since then have won a whole slew of awards – Steve is a Roux Scholar and also won National Chef of the Year for Great Britain. Upping their sticks from the rural College Arms, they moved to their current location in Birmingham in 2009 where I’ve been going as often as possible. The location of the restaurant is slightly away from the main part of the City Centre, but the setting canalside means it’s quite tranquil and with all the canalside apartments surrounding, it’s quite cosmopolitan. It would be brilliant to be able to say that my local restaurant is Loves so to those of you who can, you’re very, very lucky people.
Front of House is run with great efficiency by Claire and her team. I have read people commenting on how Claire can come across as being quite cold but from getting to know her over the years, I have never found her to be anything but absolutely friendly and utterly charming. Claire is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about wines so if you are ever overwhelmed by the wine list, she will very happily select something to pair with your food. When she tells you about the chosen wine and a little background and history into it, you can’t help but pick up on her enthusiasm and at no point do I feel like she’s talking gibberish. I’ve yet to see her make a bad pairing to any dish upon request. Service otherwise is never intrusive and the staff are friendly but remain professional at all times. I love the care and attention Claire takes in noting any possible dietary requirements before you go there, nothing new here from any other restaurant worth it’s salt I hear you say – But the difference is that here, they don’t make you feel like you’re inconveniencing the Chef or that you’re a nuisance/side thought to the main menu. Sadly, there are still some restaurants where you can feel the disdain when you ask for a vegetarian menu, never mind looking at the menu and feeling that it’s pretty much whatever non-meat concoction they could be bothered to think of. One of my Pescetarian friends was very impressed with Claire’s approach at Loves when she went and duly looks for every opportunity to go back as much as I do. Little touches like this go a long way..
And the food? Well, it’s obviously good for me to keep returning. Steve treats his well-sourced ingredients with great care and respect and the results are not only delicious, but demonstrate his very great technical ability with dishes which are pretty as a picture too. They try to source as local ingredients as possible, but sometimes they go a bit further if it means better quality produce (Salmon from Loch Duart or Hereford beef for example). Steve’s cooking can be credited with getting some of my friends not only trying for the first time, but also liking ingredients that they probably wouldn’t normally try – Wood Pigeon, (crispy) lamb’s tongue. It made my heart sing when I heard BT looking at a menu elsewhere and upon seeing pigeon on the menu, wondered “if it will be as good as at Loves”. For that reason, I like selecting dishes which are outside of my comfort zone in the knowledge that the results will be delicious and if there’s any chef whom can make me like something I previously wasn’t keen on, it would be Steve Love. Yes, I’m *that* confident in his cooking skills.
I mentioned before that Loves Restaurant doesn’t get quite as much attention as other Birmingham restaurants (particularly those with Michelin stars) which is a travesty because they are every bit as good (if not better). The food is absolutely first class and superb value too (3 course lunch will set you back £25 and 3 course A La Carte is £39.50). In fact, I ended up spending less at Loves for a 3 course ALC dinner + Champagne aperitif + glass of wine + tea for afters + service, than a 3 course lunch + G & T + glass of wine at one of the starred restaurants. Chatting to Claire last time I was there, she was telling me of what big plans they have for the coming year and it certainly got me (and everyone else around the table) pretty excited and I sincerely hope that Loves continue to do well and gain more recognition.
So what are you waiting for? Why haven’t you booked a table to go yet? I’m already plotting (and looking forward to) my next visit..