We all love a new opening, so when a smart-looking deli and kitchen opened in lovely Lichfield, I made it my mission to get there at some point. Just a few doors down from the fab Damn Fine Cafe, I wondered if Pom’s Kitchen & Deli would easily wipe the floor with its rivals. After all, it has all the swagger of the new kid on the block. Beautiful decor, a great looking menu, and plenty of funky quirkiness that is sweeping across the Midlands at the moment. You know what I mean, rustic-yet-trendy dishes and presentation, stuff served in jam jars, and all that jazz.
Add to the trendy appearance a focus on local produce and provenance, something that is fast becoming a ‘must’ in the foodie world, and it should be a winner. I’d love to say my tardiness in getting there (it’s only been open a month or so but as a foodie, and a blogger, and both, I should probably have made it there sooner) was by design, that I was waiting to say what other people said and let the fuss die down, but actually it’s just more about me being a bit chaotic recently.
I’d heard mixed reports. Some colleagues had a few criticisms after they tried Pom’s for lunch. Salad in jam jars was a no-no. Sandwiches made with what appeared to them to be cheap, poor quality bread encasing otherwise great ingredients. Hmmm. Then Mummy Branagh went a few weeks later and raved about a fabulous crayfish sandwich on great, fresh bread. Hmmm again. Only one thing for it – try it yerself Manning.
The waiting over, I finally made it to Pom’s with a colleague for a bit of an impromptu lunch. The opening rush clearly hasn’t finished, because the only place left for those of us who hadn’t been organised enough to book was to sit at the ‘bar’ that looks onto the open kitchen. No bad thing, I guess, to see what’s going on behind the scenes, and it gave it quite a cosmopolitan feel. From there we could look into the kitchen as well as watch some of the action in what was a nicely bustling, warm eaterie.
There’s a deli in the corner selling all sorts of local produce and a bar on one side stocking an array of gins and other alcoholic treats. I’ve heard it’s quite a nice place for a few Friday night glasses of fizz. A large board on the wall shows off all of Pom’s’ local suppliers and there are other funky little touches like a dog bowl at the entrance if you want to bring your furry friend with you.
Despite being curious to see where ‘bread-gate’ had got to, we were tempted by one of the sharing platters, the Fishmongers’ platter. It sounded like a nice mix: salmon, mackerel pate, a mini crayfish cocktail, crispy squid, and lawless battered hake, all served on a large board with tartare sauce and chilli and lime mayo. We ordered some fries and aioli on the side and a soft drink each and waited for what was in store.
Despite watching it being assembled (the occupational hazard of sitting looking into the kitchen), which can slightly take the shine off things, it looked pretty good, resplendent on its big wooden board. There was plenty for two to share, especially with fries, so we dug in.
It was fine. I’m going to stick with that description, because it was. The salmon was tasty, the crayfish big and juicy and in a pleasant cocktail sauce. We had a large chunk of hake in crispy batter, and the squid rings were light, crispy, and definitely not the worst I’ve had.
Slightly disappointingly, instead of mackerel pate, we had flakes of smoked mackerel, which while fairly basic and not too far off what I sometimes have in my packed lunch, was tasty enough. The sauces were nice to dip into, but the bread that came with it was , I’m afraid, pretty crunchy. I’m not sure if this was the planned style, but in my view it didn’t really work.
The fries were good, served in a metal mug (a bit or quirkiness, of course), although I wasn’t a big fan of the aioli they came with.
Everything was cooked perfectly adequately, and nothing was horrible, but I was left feeling that a place that promises so much could probably have delivered a lot ‘more’ – not in quantity, but more in living up to its own claims. After all, if you’re going to call your establishment a ‘dining experience’, and introduce your sharing board section of your menu with the words: “As we are a deli of taste, we feel it’s important to show off our region’s finest produce”, then in my view you’ve got to do that. You’ve got to give your diners that little bit ‘more’.
Perhaps if we’d had the mackerel pate or something else that was clearly homemade, it would have lent the element of artisan produce and quirkiness that we were looking for, but instead it wasn’t too far off a sharing platter you could get at any half-respectable chain pub. That’s fine, but you also can’t charge higher prices without backing them up with great food. To be clear, there was nothing ‘wrong’ with the food we ate. It was perfectly pleasant. But for somewhere that’s clearly got lofty ambitions and ticks the boxes in so many ways, I just felt slightly deflated.
The service was great, despite a few mishaps from a nervous waitress, and the atmosphere, full of typical lunchtime Lichfield trade of yummy mummies, friends celebrating a birthday, and a few work colleagues like us, made for a relaxing, fun lunchtime. Maybe we chose the wrong thing to eat, but I just felt the food wasn’t quite up to the rest of the picture. I’m willing to be proved wrong though, so watch this space!
We paid for our meal at Pom’s. They didn’t know I was a blogger.