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Menuwatch: 8, Birmingham

09 December 2020

After relocating from Cornwall last year to set up the Craft Dining Rooms in Birmingham, Andrew Sheridan has now opened a restaurant-within-a-restaurant. Tom Vaughan paid a visit.

"I know we've created something special," says Andrew Sheridan of his new 16-seat fine-dining restaurant 8. It might be a bit of Scouse swagger talking, or, if early feedback is anything to go by, he could well be right.

A passion project housed inside Craft Dining Rooms – where he has been executive chef since November 2019 – 8 is the former Great British Menu contestant's chance to let rip. The space is made up of 16 counter covers around a large open kitchen, with the action taking place in a moody room that, in Sheridan's own words "feels like you are sat in a nightclub". With an LED TV silently playing menu-themed imagery and a wall-to-wall installation of day-glo tubes, it's certainly light years away from your traditional fine-diner.

Andrew Sheridan
Andrew Sheridan

The menu is an eight-course tasting menu priced at £88, with each dish loosely themed around the number eight. For example, straight out to bat is a playful take on the V8 vitamin drink – a crisp broth made from carrots, celery, beetroot, lettuce, watercress, parsley, spinach and tomatoes, served with a delicate tart filled with beetroot chutney, paprika-roasted carrots, confit tomatoes, barbecued peppers and parsley oil.

8
8

To follow, a stunning 28-day-aged beef – the meat brined in red wine, sugar, salt, thyme and star anise for two days, diced and folded through with classic tartare ingredients – capers, gherkins, egg yolk – and served on a duck-fat toasted brioche and topped with grated Parmesan and truffle. "It's just a really, really good beef sandwich," says Sheridan.

Next up, the star of the show, the ‘Square Root of Eight'. Here, Sheridan elevates the humble celeriac into something resembling a root-vegetable masterpiece. "It's such an underrated vegetable I think people are scared of cooking with it because they don't know much about it and how much flavour it can absorb," he says.

He first ferments the celeriac in toasted barley water, then bakes it in a salt pastry for two hours at 200°C, "until it can cut with a spoon." The result is a thick, meaty slab that pulls apart like a piece of firm white fish. To serve alongside, Sheridan juices a celeriac, then infuses it with hay smoke to make a clear, scented broth. It comes with pickled celeriac, an oil made with celeriac leaves and grated roasted hazelnuts.

Lucky 8: pork/cheese/pickle
Lucky 8: pork/cheese/pickle

The other star of the show is 8's drinks menu. Priced at £64, it's perhaps the most original drinks flight out there at the moment. The celeriac pairing is a case in point: it comes with a cocktail marrying Woodford, Amontillado sherry and a dash of roasted-barley syrup, for a smooth, slightly sweet mixture that marries perfectly to the smokiness and earthiness of the dish. "When I wrote the drinks menu, I was adamant that I wanted people to step out of the mindset that you must have wine with food. I think this way is much more memorable," says Sheridan.

Arriving next, ‘Lucky 8' is a take on a bacon sandwich – a decadent stack of treacle bread, pigs' liver parfait, Cheddar cheese and homemade Branston pickle, topped with slithers of pork fat lardo and a dusting of sage powder. To drink, a sharp, almost vinegary kombucha.

‘Eight Days A Week' sees hand-dived scallops on a sauce of reduced cream infused with bonito flakes and cider, served with diced Granny Smith apple and smoked caviar.

Eight Days a Week apple/scallop
Eight Days a Week apple/scallop

The next dish, ‘Resurrection', is a slice of venison tartare, wrapped in Parma ham and mushroom duxelles, with an eye of wobbling foie gras lobe. It's a dish that, for all its earlier playfulness, lets the kitchen remind diners that it can also do classical cooking. "I wanted it to be a real skill-led course. Often I find at restaurants that the main is a let down. I want this to be proper classical cooking, and I don't intend that to change – next menu we're going to have quail stuffed with foie gras."

I want this to be proper classical cooking, and I don't intend that to change

Resurrection: venison
Resurrection: venison

For dessert, a rendition of an After Eight features chocolate custard, mint chocolate grappa, chocolate sorbet and chocolate mousse, served with another stunning pairing: a warm glass of Rubis chocolate wine infused with roasted hazelnuts, topped with coffee oil.

8-10-2006 carrot cake
8-10-2006 carrot cake

But it's the whole carrot cake that precedes it, fresh out of the oven, glazed in reduced carrot juice and served with a carrot jam and cream cheese, that stands out – a simple, humble but perfectly executed dish. It's one of the stars on a menu that draws both on Sheridan's career (carrot cake was the first thing he learned to cook as a chef) and his childhood memories to create a deeply personal and unique experience.

8 Centenary Square, Birmingham B1 2EA

www.about8.co.uk

From the menu

  • V8: drink/tart
  • Oxidised: beef/cep/truffle. Drink pairing: Whisky/Smoke
  • Square Root of 8: celeriac/pistachio. Drink pairing: Rioja 2008
  • Lucky 8: pork/cheese/pickle. Drink pairing: kombucha
  • Eight Days a Week: apple/scallop. Drink pairing: Nyetimber Sparkling Wine
  • Resurrection: venison. Drink pairing: Bordeaux 2006
  • 8-10-2006: carrot cake. Drink pairing: Vodka/carrot
  • 8.01: mint/chocolate. Drink pairing: Rubis chocolate wine

Tasting menu, £88. Drinks flight, £64

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