There are some meals that stop you in your tracks. The ones that leave you reaching for words yet struggling to find them, helplessly reduced to wide eyes and shrugged shoulders.
They’re the ones you tell people about while simultaneously not wanting to share them too much, for fear they’ll go down the inevitable route of becoming completely inaccessible in price and availability.
They’re the meals that have a visceral effect on you in the way journalist Kirsty Bosley described her dining experience in Adams, Birmingham – inspiring both tears and a giddy kind of high that’s as addictive as some of the best drugs out there, leaving you endlessly seeking a similar experience that will undoubtedly cost you a large amount of time, money, and inevitable disappointment in the future.
670 Grams is one of those meals.
For me, it’s a meal that I immediately wanted to write about, then froze in fear because I’m not quite sure I’ve got enough words, or the right words, to describe it.
On top of that, I enjoyed it so much, felt so relaxed, and was so over-excited at what was being served up to little old me – up at the chef’s table/counter, because yes, anyone can sit there and it doesn’t cost you a small mortgage – that I drank too much and perhaps didn’t pay as much attention to descriptions, ingredients and methods of the latter courses as I should have. Not out of disrespect or some kind of ignorance about the level of food I was having served up to me, but out of the sheer hedonistic joy of this kind of experience.
But what kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t tell you about one of the most impressive meals I’ve had so far this year? So, knowing that any words I write here will most likely not quite do justice to the food served up by Kray Treadwell and his team, I’m going to give it a go.
If you haven’t heard of it, you’ll find 670 Grams in Digbeth. It opened in August 2020 and very quickly became the must-visit place in the city, with Michelin themselves crowning Treadwell – whose experience includes time at Purnell’s and The Man Behind The Curtain in Leeds as well as reaching the finals of Great British Menu in 2019 – as their Young Chef of the Year 2021.
Named after the weight of Treadwell’s daughter when she was born premature, this is his own project, with all the hallmarks of someone who is uncompromisingly focused in their vision and how they do it.
The 12-seat restaurant is the kind of place that leaves me a bit nervous. As does Kray himself. Not because I’m not posh enough – but because I’m definitely not quite cool enough.
Even the font of the signage oozes cool. That kind of ‘I don’t give a sh*t what you think, this is what we do and if you don’t like it, go elsewhere’ cool. The kind of cool you see in people at the top of the their game who don’t appear to be dogged by any kind of ‘am I good enough?’ doubts or imposter syndrome-esque symptoms. Maybe they are, but you and I sure as hell don’t see it. All we see is the cool. And with that comes the quality.
The menu is a 15 course tasting menu. It’s prepaid, including service. When I query with my friend how service can be charged in advance, she ‘s quick to silence me with: “It’s the best service I’ve ever had. Don’t worry”. She wasn’t far wrong.
From the minute we walk in, any fears of being the uncool kid in the corner disappeare. The staff are efficient, warm and friendly, leading us to the counter that looks on to the miniscule kitchen. Before we know it, we’ve got drinks in hand and are embarking on a surprise tasting menu that exceeds all my expectations. More fool me for not realising quite what a gem this place is.
I’d love to go through each individual course, step by step, describing every ingredient and cooking method, but my notes from our night at 670 Grams are about as addled as my mind was when we left at the level of execution we watched going on right in front of us.
The start seems simple enough, with a single piece of pineapple coaxed into loveliness with the help of fire. But it’s a langoustine tartare topped with a tumble of caviar that prompts the first eyebrow raise and makes me realise I’m somewhere special.
Each dish is assembled painstakingly by a tiny team led by Treadwell. They seem serious – probably because they are when it comes to putting together what will inevitably Michelin-starred food very soon in the tiniest of spaces.
We maraud through courses featuring combinations like soya and honey, a play on aloe vera, and a scallop dish that’s about as far from the standard pan-fried version served with black pudding an predictable pea puree as you can get.
A salmon dish with chilli and ‘Bombay Mix’ is a nod to our beloved Midlands curry houses, yet obviously entirely different. It comes with curry cured salmon and a tiny croquette that genuinely renders me speechless. It’s perfect, in flavour and texture, and is tantalisingly small, leaving you wanting more in only the way you can want more of something that stimulates your senses in an overwhelming way. If you know what I’m saying…..
From there we romp through a delicious course of turbot topped with more of that caviar to one of 670’s tradesmarks – the lobster bread that my friend had raved so much about I was sure her carb obsession may have just got too much for her. How wrong I was.
A simple hunk of bread to the unknowing, once you’ve had this you will wonder why nobody else has incorporated the heady joy of lobster into soft, perfectly baked bread before. If Treadwell ever wants to quit evening service I reckon he can open a bakery selling just this and probably do pretty well. As long as it’s served with their own special cheese spread that takes me back to the time I made myself ill by eating a whole tube of Primula straight out of the tube. Yes, of course this is a thousand times better, but I’d willingly make myself that ill again if I had the chance to get my hands on enough of it to give it a try.
There’s a crispy homage to cauliflower cheese piled high with truffle that makes me moan in pleasure – the noise is luckily hidden amid the decent music that’s now obligatory in any decent restaurant trying to remind us that top-notch food is not about over-starched tablecloths and Muzak, but about an experience you can relax into and enjoy. Safe to say I have got that bit down to a tee.
Another single-mouthful course looks unassuming but is anything but, inspiring the most eloquently worded description I’ve ever found in my notes the next day. Simply: ‘A F***ING DELI SANDWICH’. I guess that says it all about my enthusiasm for this one.
The pleasure just keeps coming. A lamb neck dish that is as rich and comforting as it is delicate and refined. A pastry inspired by Birmingham’s own gorgeous Early Bird Bakery, topped with blackberries and grated foie gras. There’s a dessert that feels like it shouldn’t be a dessert, teaming yoghurt ice cream with 670’s own version of popadom/prawn cracker, playing with your tastebuds as much as your head.
Heartbreakingly, the inability of London Midland to run a train service means we have to gallop through the final few courses so I can get home. It’s an embarrassing sacrilege that still makes me angry a few weeks on, but is maybe a good thing given I’m far too carried away by this point. Plus, it’s an excuse to go back and do it all again – but properly this time (if I’m allowed).
Each dish is plated perfectly. Precision is the name of the game, right down to the crockery that is as much a part of the dish as the food it carries. It’s clear hours, maybe days, of prep has gone into each one – not just from the thought behind them to the elements on the plate and the descriptions from Treadwell himself, but the skyscrapers of prepped ingredients piled high on the back wall above the kitchen showing the minute detail behind each and every course.
This blog may not give you a rundown of each individual dish, or every ingredient and how they were cooked. But that’s not really the point. Those dishes will change – some probably already have – because the whole premise of 670 grams is growth, progress, pushing the boundaries and never really being happy standing still. It’s an uncompromising place, as all the best restaurants are, and probably one of the most exciting places I’ve been to in a while.
On top of that, it’s highly unlikely that any words I write here will quite convey the experience of eating at 670 grams. But I’ll settle for them being enough to tempt you into booking to experience it yourself.
Sitting up at the counter adds a dimension. Not only can you inflict yourself on Kray and his poor team while they’re trying to work – as this idiot did (to all three of you, again I’m sorry) – but you can see them in action. From the careful way they move around each other to the surgeon-like precision involved in cooking and assembling the dishes. There’s a calmness that is almost unnerving. At least to someone like me.
I could go on. I won’t. It’s obvious how I feel about this place. And as comfortable as I felt in the moment, there’s still a bit of me that feels like I was a very uncool kid who briefly, just briefly, got to hang out with the cool gang. To see another side of things, and a side that you can’t help but want to experience again, even if it is daunting.
670 grams is quite clearly one of the ones to watch. You don’t have to trust me on that. Plenty of other people have said it. It’s one to be experienced to understand – and even I’m not sure I’ve quite wrapped my head around it. But I’m more than happy to go again and give it another go. When somewhere is this good, why wouldn’t you?
[We paid in full at 670 Grams. Apologies again to Kray and his team for me being less than the ideal diner.]