I’ve been to Birmingham’s Jailbird twice in two weeks: it must be a good sign. Opened just a few weeks ago, it presents itself as a ‘New York seafood & steak restaurant and cocktail lounge’. Replacing Nosh and Quaff, it’s ideally located in the city centre on Colmore Row, and on my walk home from work, so I was keen to:
1. Sample after-work cocktails (a priority)
2. Try out the dinner menu. As part of the Lasan Group, I had pretty high expectations…
Luckily for me, I was invited me to a mid-week cocktail masterclass at Jailbird. A group of us gathered around a marble-topped table, beneath low-hanging lights. The setting is stylish without being stuffy, echoing an elegant hotel cocktail lounge. We were introduced to the charming bartender, Mario, who prepared three cocktails for us: a Negroni (Gin, Vermouth, Campari), followed by an Old Fashioned (Bourbon, Angostura Bitters,
sugar syrup), and topped off by an Espresso Martini (vanilla Vodka, Tosolini Espresso Liqueur, vanilla syrup, coffee) for dessert.
I struggle to find great cocktails in Birmingham. You see, I like them simple and suitably strong, with substance equalling style. I don’t need dry ice or flames. So, I was delighted by Mario’s clean, classic creations. There were some clever accompaniments, like the large slice of grapefruit in the Negroni, and pretty cherries in the Old Fashioned.
Then, last night I joined Paul for dinner upstairs in the light-filled, New York loft-style restaurant which overlooks Birmingham’s Victoria Square. I’d been looking at the menu over lunch, whilst starving myself in anticipation: steak, lobster, crab, risotto, scallops. My kind of menu: easy-to-read, hard to decide.
For a starter, Paul and I shared the Giant Cous Cous & Asparagus Salad (£6.50). Giant Israeli cous cous was combined with sweet pan-fried squash and fresh green peas topped with large, flame-grilled asparagus. Dressed with chilli, parsley & garlic dressing, it packed a slight punch. The colours, and taste, were exquisite. Refreshing, summery, uplifting. I’d also order this as a lunchtime main.
For mains, after being tempted by the selection of steaks, I decided on Jailbird’s bestseller: Black Risotto with Prawns (£15.50). I wasn’t disappointed. I knew it was going to be great when our waiter placed it on the table: 5 large King Prawns proudly topped an elegant bowl of striking, sticky black rice. The prawns were tender and delicious, the rice beautifully rich and creamy.
Opposite me, Paul enjoyed a Sirloin steak, accompanied by hand-cut chips. If I wasn’t enjoying my own choice so much I would have been jealous; cooked to perfection – medium-rare – it looked simple and spectacular.
Paul was recommended a glass of Malbec to pair with his main, while I enjoyed a fresh Sauvignon Blanc. The wine list is thoughtfully chosen and extensive, allowing choice by glass as well as bottle. This is something I appreciate.
I wasn’t sure if I would have room for dessert (given the generous portions) but I couldn’t resist ordering the Banana Mess (£6.75). It was sweet – perhaps a touch too sweet – but with various textures of meringue, creamy homemade ice cream and crackly, caramelised banana, Jailbird pulled it off. Paul remarked that I had finally gone quiet – always a good sign – and probably to his relief too.
Birmingham’s Jailbird is best for: classy cocktail dates and post-work drinks, stylish American-style dinners and business lunches. It’s a menu which will keep you coming back; just arrive hungry!
With thanks to Paul Fulford for the company, food and drinks. Paul invited me on both occasions in exchange for my honest review of Jailbird.