Drifting away from our usual surroundings of the East Midlands, we took a detour down the A42 to Sutton Coldfield, around half an hours drive away. The reason? We had been hearing good things about a certain place famous for golf, it even has hosted The Ryder Cup. Now, it has a restaurant named after the famous competition – The Ryder Grill at The Belfry.
The Belfry, sitting on the outskirts of Birmingham in the wealthy suburbs, has always been a place that I’ve nearly made it to but never actually got through the door. My golfing skills so far haven’t landed me a chance to try out their lush greens and legendary fairways but their hospitality instead gave me a reason to visit.
Staying at The Belfry allows for a whole host of dining options. As we entered the main hotel building, there were signs up for various different restaurants and gardens plus an outdoor bar and barbecue allowing golfers to refresh and enjoy meat flamed over charcoal while sitting on the terrace.
Inside the main building sits a large oval bar, a stunning space which catches the eye and also serves afternoon tea. The building itself is clean, smart and every bit the world class golf retreat.
The Ryder Grill also falls into the smart category. First impressions of the dining space were positive as the friendly host showed us to our table. Entry takes you through the breakfast and buffet area of the hotel with a smart open kitchen for fresh orders.
Our table couldn’t have been better placed. Right beside the air conditioning unit on a searingly hot day looking out onto the terrace – you could even see where the golf course began as players took a chance to catch the last action of the day.
We had been invited to try a taster evening. What that means is that once a month, there is a chef’s tasting menu of six courses for £45 ($59.56 US) which, on the face of it, seems to be very good value.
The chef’s description of the courses is more on the cryptic side so it’s anyone’s guess how the listed ingredients will be prepared, but that’s half the fun – the element of surprise. We also were generously given matching wines to our food on the recommendation of our waiter, Carlos.
Our first course arrived along with our first wine, a dry rose blush from Italy. The dish, much like its pairing, was Italian in concept. A plump tortellini of ricotta with a hint of garlic sitting in a small pool of watercress coulis. The plate, or rather bowl, looked smart in appearance. The taste was both light and well balanced. The pasta in particular was very fresh and well made.
The wine matched the tortellini very well indeed and expectations for the evening were rising all the time, along with the heat outside. Course number two arrived soon after, a salmon confit with beetroot and horseradish but sadly a large order from the bar had slightly delayed the wine – a glass of Lanson rose champagne.
Credit to Carlos for keeping us informed of the situation, there’s nothing more frustrating than being kept in the dark. When we did receive the champagne, it was a perfect match for the flaking, sweet salmon. There was a touch of beetroot overkill on this one but beetroot is something that I keep stumbling across in restaurants lately – and I’m beginning to rather like it.
The horseradish cream was exceptional and the little drops of dill oil complimented the dish to a tee (first golfing gag). This is a dish perfect for the time of year, refreshing and light – add a glass of cold fizz into the deal and that’s all you need, nothing more. We were starting to really enjoy the chef’s ideas.
Skate wing was next up paired with sweetcorn and capers. Classically, skate is served along with beurre noisette and capers so the sweetcorn, we imagined, would replace that kind of nutty, sweetness that a brown butter sauce would give. As it turned out, this plate was a beauty.
Sweetcorn isn’t my favourite, i’ll be honest, but in this dish it was an absolute pleasure. The sweetcorn cream could have been an imitation beurre blanc, it was that good. The fish was cooked to absolute perfection, the threads of white flesh just glided off the bone. Add bacon to anything, as a rule of thumb, and it’ll improve it. This was no different. A fantastic dish.
The wine choice, a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, was another cracker from Carlos’ celler. A crisp, fruity white that paired perfectly with the skate. In fact, this wine would go with pretty much any fish dish it was that good.
Last in the line of savoury offerings was a lamb dish. A hearty yet elegant plate of best end, cooked beautifully pink, slow braised and pressed shoulder, fresh peas and pea puree plus courgette and feta all dressed in a rich lamb sauce.
A nod to Greece on this dish was notable as the flavours came together. I was a bit dubious about the addition of feta but the more that I ate, the more it made sense. The cooking up to now had been flawless and the flavours both fresh and intense. To accompany the lamb, we enjoyed a glass of Beaujolais.
Onto dessert and the tempting promise of Cherry, Kirsch and Vanilla. I guessed at something Black Forest related but the chef had other ideas. A quenelle of vanilla ice cream with cherries, a kirsch-infused cherry soup and a scattering of micro sorrel. The standout element, undoubtedly, was the smooth, intense vanilla ice cream. A sweet, generous dessert wine was all that was needed to complete the course.
The cherry dish was good, but better was about to arrive. The grand finale, a lemon sponge cake with blueberries, blueberry compote and an earl grey tea ice cream. I had only ever seen Heston Blumenthal turn out a tea flavoured ice cream before but my god this was good. Up there with the best ice creams that I have ever had the opportunity to try in a restaurant.
Blueberries, in all honesty, are quite uninteresting. On this dish however, my mind did a complete 180. The sweet compote paired perfectly with the ice cream but the addition of the fresh blueberries on top of the cake gave a quality contrast. It was clear to see that real thought had gone into this plate. A Bellini along with Pimm’s and Lemonade on the side rounded off the dessert beautifully.
It seemed a shame that both the experience was coming to an end and that the restaurant was pretty much empty. The food here is sensational, as is the service. We had regular conversations with Carlos throughout the evening as he informed us that this was his last shift before starting a new job.
We spent the remainder of the evening discussing Portuguese food with Carlos and enjoying an espresso. It was a pleasure to connect with someone so passionate about food with such pride for Portuguese food heritage, we learned a lot and started planning a future visit to Portugal – a place that we have yet to reach.
Let’s talk about The Ryder Grill experience. This is a smart, accessible place to come and enjoy top quality food, there’s no doubt in my mind on that one. Situated perfectly between the M6,M42 and not too much of a trek from the M1. There’s no excuse not to come and enjoy some of the best food that you’re ever likely to come across from a hotel environment in the Midlands.
Service is a key part of any restaurant experience. Tonights service had the potential to go catastrophically wrong with major events taking place in the surrounding areas of the hotel. Luckily, the team here know what they are doing. We had a great night, thanks in large part to Carlos.
We wish you well on your new journey in life, Carlos. As we made our own journey back home thinking back over that incredible menu our thoughts were predictable, “when can we go again?”
Opening Times: Monday – Friday 0700-1000, 1800-2200
Saturday and Sunday 0700-1100, 1200-1600 (hotel guests only), 1800-2200
Nearest Train Station: Sutton Coldfield
*The Taster Evening was provided complimentary by The Belfry