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Menuwatch: Adams, Birmingham

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Menuwatch: Adams, Birmingham
Written by:

In a now-permanent location in Birmingham, Adam Stokes may be settling down, but his menu continues to innovate, keeping his customers on their toes. Lisa Jenkins reports

Adam Stokes and his wife Natasha played slowly, slowly catchy monkey when it came to developing Adams restaurant on Waterloo Street in Birmingham.

The purpose-built kitchen and chef’s table on the ground floor is impressive in its size and the planning that went into it. Upstairs, Natasha Stokes was the design manager for the 36-cover space. She worked with Faber Design, who pulled her ideas together using interiors by Tony Matters at Heterarchy.

But the work started long before the two found the site. Adam Stokes first earned his chef stripes at Hambleton Hall with Aaron Patterson, and then as head chef at Glenapp Castle for four years. Two years followed at the helm of the Michelin-starred Adam’s pop-up before moving to the new, permanent site.

Stokes describes the new Adams as a fine-dining restaurant that prides itself on attention to detail. His vision is “to serve high-quality food in a modern, relaxed environment”.

“My cooking style is about the marriage of flavours and all the senses,” he says.

His current favourite example is the lamb, miso, caramelised onions and fennel dish. “It incorporates the loin and neck and touches all the senses with subtle hints of garlic and lemon purée,” Stokes adds.

And two other tasting dishes – the veal sweetbread, cauliflower and hen of the woods and the hare with Minus 8 vinegar (vinegar made with grapes harvested for ice wine), watercress and chocolate – sum up the intricate skills of the talented chef.

Adams offers a lunch menu for £35, a three-course à la carte menu for £60 and an eight-course tasting menu for £85, all excluding wine. The tasting menu is just as popular at lunchtime as it is in the evenings and Stokes says he serves a diverse range of guests.

Halibut, brown shrimp, miso shiitake, oregano

Girolles, chicken skin, soft leeks, tarragon

“We see everyone here – we had a homeless chap pop in once who we seated and he ordered and paid for lunch. We get a lot of students, older couples, business lunches and tourists in shorts – we don’t have a dress code. We have an interesting and fun clientele, hence the relaxed, non-stuffy atmosphere.”

The diverse range of diners also come for the impressive wine list, chosen by sommelier Florent Jonquille, previously of Daniel Clifford’s Midsummer House. “He has excellent taste and good, strong opinions,” says Stokes. “That’s his expertise – it’s a big part of the restaurant and our guests have high expectations.”

The chef explains that he and his brigade like to take their guests on a tasting journey: “The flavours start strong, then lighter, then a bit stronger again. Desserts follow the same pattern.”

Stokes changes one dish on the menu every week, meaning there’s a full menu rotation every three months. Diners that frequented the previous pop-up on Bennett’s Hill make the trip just around the corner to support them. The restaurant is regularly fully booked, and the average spend (including wine) for lunch is £100 per head and dinner is £175.

Duck, charred baby turnips, nasturtium, ginger

The chef’s table with bar stools will seat 10, with Stokes adding value by serving guests himself and tempting diners with new dishes still in development while they enjoy a full view of the kitchen.

The Stokes’ two sons were born in Birmingham, and the family have made the city their home – Adams has been designed and built for the future. “This is the proper restaurant we always promised ourselves,” he says. “We wanted to sustain a business, and I want to be a successful industry chef and support my wife and kids. I am very happy with the finished look and feel.”

With regards to the question “Do Michelin stars travel?” Stokes replies: “Let’s see. Everything is the same here except the location and we’ve also developed the dishes; they are more refined, with a more accurate presentation and we are in better surroundings.

“Who knows. But whatever the result, we have the potential to deliver a high level of food for a long, long time to come.”

Lime and chive tempura king prawns

Wood pigeon, watercress, mushroom ketchup, broad beans

From the menu

  • Minestrone, garlic, sausage, Dublin bay prawn
  • Veal sweetbread, cauliflower, hen of the woods
  • Sea trout, cucumber, dashi, cashew
  • Fallow venison, beetroot, cocoa, radish
  • Scallops, white onion, baby leeks
  • Beef, turnip, carrot, shiitake
  • Rhubarb and custard
  • Chocolate, Earl Grey, ginger, orange

Tasting menu: £85; matching wines: £55


New Oxford House, 16 Waterloo Street, Birmingham B2 5UG

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