WITHIN a week of opening, an AA inspector had already walked through the doors of Adam's Restaurant in Bennett's Hill. But the man behind the brand tells Mary Griffin his new Birmingham business is about more than Michelin stars and AA rosettes.
YOU wouldn’t know it used to be a Trenchers sandwich shop.
The little building, at the foot of Bennett’s Hill, has been totally transformed into an intimate restaurant of muted colours and convex mirrors that says “fine dining”.
“We thought this was just a prime location for a restaurant, being so close to New Street,” says Adam.
“But the property really didn’t lend itself to what we’re using it for.”
A five-week refurb has seen the building completely refitted using a style that Adam calls “less is more”.
The focal point of the dining room is a large trompe l’oeil print on one wall, showing a glimpse of a grand building with vaulted ceilings and classic black and white tiled floors.
“It’s a clue as to what we’re planning for the future,” says Adam, and then remains tight-lipped as I ask for more clues.
He and his wife, Natasha (who is six months pregnant), have come to Birmingham from Scotland where Adam won a Michelin star and four AA rosettes during his time as head chef at Glennap Castle.
Their plan is to open a much larger city centre restaurant, but the Bennett’s Hill “pop-up” venue is an 18-month stop gap until the new venue is ready.
He says: “We had to decide whether to stay in Scotland for a couple of years or come down to Birmingham, start cooking and start showing Birmingham what we’re about and getting the city to know us.
So why the secrecy about the future venue and what will happen to the Bennett’s Hill venue once the prime location is ready?
“It creates excitement,” says Adam, “it creates a bit of a buzz and some intrigue.”
“If we took the fine dining product out of this specific location we could utilise this space again, as something else.
“It’s about the product of Adam’s – a high quality, relaxed food offering, whether that’s fine dining or fish and chips.
“My whole ethos is of good, quality, honest food. And my plan is to diversify into other areas of the industry too.”
Adam’s biggest hope seems to be breaking down the barrier between the kitchen and the restaurant.
He says: “Some of the chefs come out and serve the dishes.
“We talk about the quality of the ingredients and where we’ve sourced them, a little about what’s happened to these ingredients and the flavour marriages in the dish. And so far that’s being received very well.”
He adds: “Chefs used to be those people that stayed in that room in the back behind a closed door, and shouted a lot.
“That’s not the case anymore.
“Now we’re open. We come out and converse with the guests.”
While Adam takes care of the restaurant, wife Natasha is taking charge of the business.
And in moving to the Midlands the couple are returning home.
Adam was Peterborough born and Northampton bred, while Natasha is originally from Leicester. They met when Adam spent seven years working at Hambleton Hall in Rutland.
Before moving to the city they came down on several reconnaissance missions, dining in Birmingham’s best restaurants and finding out what the city had to offer.
Now, living in Acocks Green, they are exploring the city as residents, enjoying Moseley farmers’ market, Rossiters organic butchers in Bournville as well as Leverton and Halls delicatessen opposite, and Chamberlain’s fish and chips off Hagley Road.
Adam says: “It seems like there’s a lot of council support for good food. I think the people behind the city have the right attitude as to what they want to produce and where they want Birmingham to progress to.”
He’s also full of praise for the fine dining scene, name checking Birmingham’s Michelin star winners Simpsons, Turners and Purnells, as well as Opus and Lasan, and making the city’s restaurant industry sound like one big happy family.
On his opening night he even received a bouquet of flowers from Glynn Purnell.
“It’s fantastic,” he says, “such a nice welcome”.
“It’s the same with Opus. David [Colcombe] is always on the phone.”
And to match his previous Michelin star and four rosettes?
“They are fantastic accolades,” he says, “and I’m very proud of them, but we’ve got to get a restaurant up and running which we are doing now.
“It will come if it comes.
“As far as I’m concerned we’ll keep cooking as long as we are pleasing our guests and make sure every person walks out happy.”