When you blog about food, you quite often get asked, ‘yeah but do you really tell the truth?’ I’d like to think I do, but then that’s easy when somewhere gives you a great experience. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s a bit difficult to knock somewhere that’s kindly hosted you, and I’m not one for doling out nasty vitriol through some jumped-up idea of my own importance. But I wouldn’t be treating the people who actually take the time to read my ramblings with any respect if I wasn’t actually saying what I think. And that means that even when it’s hard I think it’s important to tell the truth. So here goes.
Not long ago I was rather pleasantly surprised by the quality of a meal at the White Horse at Balsall Common. So when I was invited to another place with the same guys behind it, I had high hopes. Met Bar and Kitchen is right in the middle of Solihull – not in, but near, Touchwood so great for a post-shopping bite to eat.
It describes itself as a “buzzy venue” ideal for drinking and eating whether for business or pleasure and promises a “warm welcome”. We definitely got that – cheery, uber-helpful staff who instantly dealt with my need for prosecco after a long day (no glitter this time but good all the same) and brought drinks to our table as we had a little peep at the menu rather than making us wait at the bar. It was fairly busy on the weeknight we went with some friends, with a mixture of post-work drinkers and diners including one big table on a celebratory meal out.
The venue itself quite modern and a somewhat different setting to the White Horse. Less country pub and more town centre bar. And it wasn’t just the setting that was different. I’m sad to say, rather than being the sophisticated relative, I found the food at Met Bar and Kitchen less, rather than more, raveworthy than its country bumpkin cousin.
I have to say, I realise these aren’t some of the best pictures I’ve ever taken on this blog. My fault entirely, I know, though I do wonder whether that a bit of a subconscious reflection of the fact I wasn’t particularly blown away by what we were eating.
The menu offers a similar range to the White Horse, from light bites to sharing plates and a self-confessed “central theme” of grills, steaks & seafood along with daily specials. There were enough dishes to tempt us, from Mr M’s usual choice of steak to a few fish dishes that caught my eye.
For starter, we opted to share a seafood platter consisting of smoked salmon, kings prawns, squid, crab and basil salad, and breads and dips. Served on a huge board much like the one we’d had our baked camembert on at the White Horse, it was quite a nice spread and a good mix of fried and not-fried fish. A pleasant way to start the meal, though nothing to write home about. The smoked salmon was my fave, as it was hot smoked rather than traditional smoked salmon which I just find a bit more enjoyable.
We also opted for a portion of pork spare ribs with sweet chipotle bbq glaze, spring onions between us. These were pretty good actually, quite meaty and tender rather than too fatty, with a sweet barbecuey glaze and crunch of spring onions.
For main course, my pal pipped me to the post with her choice of caribbean jerk spiced cod, coconut rice, mango and cucumber salsa. This was one of the more unusual dishes on the menu and definitely what I’d have chosen if she hadn’t picked it first. It was clearly popular too as we were warned there was only one portion left by the time it came to us making our choices.
Again, it was described as quite nice, though not particularly ‘wow’. The cod was well cooked, as was the coconut rice, though my friend reckoned the jerk could have packed a bit more of a punch.
Mr M went for his usual choice of steak. Met Bar uses 28-day dry aged West Country Beef and Jamie opted for the 10oz ribeye which came with triple cooked chips, grilled mushroom and tomato and he chose a blue cheese sauce. Of all of us, he was probably the happiest with his meal. He thought the quality of the meat was good, it was well cooked and his chips were truly triple-cooked (I know cuz I tried one) – especially good when dipped in the rich gooey blue cheese sauce.
With the jerk spiced cod already taken, I opted for a fish course from the specials menu – whole grilled plaice stuffed with prawns, lemon and parsley and served with buttered new potatoes. Of course, I can’t hold anyone except Mother Nature responsible for the bone-ridden nature of plaice. But if it’s deliciously cooked you can somehow get past the effort of picking a bone out of every mouthful, seeng it as a worthwhile task for the ultimate prize of a great dinner.
Not quite on this occasion, I’m afraid. The prawn lemon and parsley stuffing didn’t have the zing I had hoped for, leaving me with a pleasant, but somewhat Sisyphean, dinner that I don’t think I bothered to finish. Again, there was nothing particularly wrong with it. It was nice enough, but lacked the big flavours and imaginative twist that had won me over at the White Horse.
Our friend had gone for herb crusted lamb served with sweet potato puree, sunblush tomato and goat’s cheese. On paper, it probably sounded like one of the most appealing dishes on the menu and of all of our choices was one of the better looking plates of food, but just didn’t live up to its promise.
Perhaps we’re all idiots, but we had just assumed that it would be herb-crusted lamb cutlets, when in fact they were discs of what seemed to be slow-cooked lamb formed into patties then coated in a herb crust. An interesting idea, but in our friend’s view it didn’t quite work. Perhaps one of those times that sticking to tried and tested tradition might work best? He enjoyed the combination of sweet potato, tomato and goat’s cheese but was left as underwhelmed as I had been.
We may not have been blown away, but we were all still fairly full, so for dessert opted to share a portion of chocolate brownie bites to go with our coffee. A nice little nibble at the end of the meal, they were everything a little brownie should be – moist, sticky, rich and sweet and a good accompaniment to an end-of-dinner coffee.
Again, I’ve got to emphasise, I can’t fault the service at Met Bar & Kitchen. The way the staff treat customers is definitely a cut above your average chain pub or bar and this is clearly the audience they’re aiming for. But unfortunately, I don’t think the food quite reached that level.
Maybe I expected too much, but given I’d been so pleasantly surprised at The White Horse, I thought its more cosmopolitan relative would have knocked my socks off with its food and this just didn’t quite happen. There was nothing really wrong with it, and definitely nothing to complain about, but I guess I just wanted something a bit more impressive.
Maybe we went on an off night, because I know the guys behind both Met Bar and the White Horse really do value decent food, locally-sourced ingredients and imaginative menus. But for whatever reason, Met Bar just didn’t quite hit the mark. I’d try it again, because I know everywhere and everyone can have their off days but it’s not top of my list I’m afraid.
I was invited for a complimentary meal at Met Bar & Kitchen for the purposes of this blog.