Credit where credit’s due – it’s no mean feat to tempt people to a restaurant in a retirement village. One way is to be a bit clever about it, maybe by skirting over exactly where it is and focusing on the food, the decor and its “quintessential English charm”. Of course, it’s incumbent on the customer to research where they’re going, and I’ll confess to having been blissfully ignorant of the fact that Three Church Road in Edgbaston is slap bang in the middle of the rather swanky Audley St George’s Place retirement village.
It wasn’t just me – when I invited my mum with me she had a good old gander at the menu and managed to miss the little tab at the bottom of the website that tells you more about exactly where you’re going. An oversight on our part, or a clever move by the people behind Three Church Road to get people through the door? It’s actually just celebrated its first birthday so I’m guessing perhaps the blame falls on me for not having my finger on the pulse a bit more, though I maintain that if my eagle-eyed mother didn’t notice anything either, then my ignorance isn’t entirely to blame.
There’s no denying it’s a beautiful building. Housed in an impressive Georgian building, it’s been done out with elegant, glamorous decor that is about as far away from resembling a stereotypical old people’s home as Boris Johnson is from appearing like an honourable chap. Through a slightly confusing entrance, past a dining room, you come to a chic bar area divided into several rooms, including doors out onto the terrace (where a quick glance at the clientele enjoying drinks on the terrace finally gave away our surroundings).
We opted to sit in the first dining room we’d walked past, and I’ll confess to having a slight bit of trepidation once we’d realised exactly where we were. You see, I’d tried (deliberately that time) afternoon tea at another of the same big retirement company’s venues, Audley Binswood, in Leamington Spa for afternoon tea at their Whittles restaurant and sadly been a bit disappointed. But given that I’ve warbled on here about second chances before, we started in earnest.
Cocktails in hand (yes, everything seems to be designed to keep up the image of glamour and class, rather than any semblance of snowballs or sherry), we found ourselves pretty impressed by the menu. Yes there ‘classics’ like sausage and mash and fish and chips, but there’s a clear attempt at something a bit more special too. Classic flavours and dishes but with a bit of effort to elevate them beyond your average restaurant (and, indeed, retirement village).
I started with pigeon kiev which came on top of a soft squishy bed of asparagus and pancetta risotto. It was adorned with summery garnishes of asparagus as well as a hazelnut crumb and a sweet, tangy raspberry glaze. The kiev was nice enough though not hugely write-home-about, but the risotto was delicious. The right texture and a rich, creamy flavour that balanced salty pancetta with sweet asparagus.
Mum’s was the winner I think. Big soft pillows of gnocchi in creamy sauce laced with the distinctive taste of truffle oil, with the whole dish running deep with the earthy taste of mushrooms and a mixture of textures that so often marks good restaurant food from its less impressive relatives. It looked good and it tasted good and we both agreed, boded well for the rest of the meal.
For my main course, I decided to go for roasted lamb rump, a pretty but hearty stack of meat served alongside what was described as dauphinoise potato as well as spring greens, carrot puree and mint jus. The lamb was good – tasty and well cooked though personally I may have had it a tiny bit more pink, but that’s just me. The asparagus and tenderstem was a good choice of veg and I’m pleased to say had absolutely no resemblance to stereotypical care home food – no overcooked cabbagey veg smell here.
What did leave me slightly baffled was the dauphinoise potato. In my (limited, since I’m only an amateur, after all) experience, dauphinoise potato is a creamy, rich delight thanks to it being doused in both cream AND milk. Even the takeaway portion that we bought chilled from a shop in France on our roadtrip had that sexy, indulgent creaminess. My Three Church Road version didn’t have that. I’m inclined to think that it would have been more appropriate to call it Boulangere potato, which is similar yet without the naughty stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, the potato was finely sliced, expertly stacked, and well cooked so it was soft and yielding. But if you say Dauphinoise to me I want French naughtiness, and sadly this was lacking here.
Mum had basically filled Jamie’s spot on our blogging experience, ordering the ribeye steak, which came served simply with chips, slow roasted tomato and a peppercorn sauce. As usual, what can I say about steak and chips? I’m told it was decent quality meat and cooked how she asked, while she declared the chips were rather good. The peppercorn sauce wasn’t the best that I’ve had (yes, I may have stolen chips and dunked them in) but she seemed pretty happy with her choice.
We washed our mains down with a couple of glasses of wine that were recommended and brought by possibly the most happy waitress I’ve ever met in my life. Almost to the point of being slightly unnerving but hey, I am absolutely not going to criticise someone in hospitality for being cheerful, friendly and ebullient. Perhaps she could lend some of her loveliness to some other people in the industry who seem to forget what hospitality actually means.
As usual, we couldn’t decide between sweet or cheese, so did both. For the ‘artisan cheese selection’ you can choose from five different cheeses and opt for one, three or five. We took the middle ground, choosing Black Bomber, Rosart goats cheese and Le Maubert petit brie which came with some chutney and crackers. They were all nice, though the brie could have done with being a bit less chilled, but the goats cheese was definitely the winner.
The final flourish was a lemon posset which came in a little earthenware-style pot and was adorned with tiny bobbles of tangy meringue, chunks of sweet white chocolate, fresh raspberries and flowers. One of the prettier desserts I’ve had of late and, I’m pleased to say, not just style over substance. Creamy, tangy, smooth – all the things it should be and a great finale to the meal.
In terms of a final verdict, it’s hard to know where to go with this. I have to confess, if I’d have known the setting for Three Church Road, I may have thought twice about going. That may say more about me than the restaurant, though I suspect I’m not alone which is why that setting isn’t necessarily advertised to potential restaurant customers.
However, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy our dinner. It really is a gorgeous setting, the food is pretty good and the service was second-to-none. With starters priced at between £6 and £10 and mains anything from £8 up to £16.50, I think for what you get it’s pretty reasonable and adds another possible place to the list of restaurants on offer in that area of Birmingham which just can’t be a bad thing. It’s competition that keeps areas alive. Only time will tell how Three Church Road fares in that contest.
We dined as guests of Three Church Road. I wasn’t asked to write a positive review.