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Piccolino, Oozells Square, Birmingham - food review

After battling our way through crowds on a busy, sunny Saturday afternoon in Birmingham city centre, we ventured down a side street and found ourselves in a quiet, idyllic square filled with stunning pink cherry blossom trees.

Minestrone alla genovese
Minestrone alla genovese

We’d reached Oozells Square: a tranquil destination just close enough to Brindleyplace to be lively, but far enough away from the hustle and bustle to be relaxing.

On the left of the square, the immediately impressive Piccolino, complete with glass frontages and black sofas which allowed diners and drinkers to enjoy the view.

As we entered the restaurant, we noted the attractive interior, with red leather seats and banquettes, black marble-topped tables and a large, contemporary bar. A mirror placed at one end of the restaurant also lit up the room, making it all the more appealing upon entry.

Piccolino in Birmingham

It was beneath this mirror that we were seated; the two of us choosing to face the spacious eatery as we perused the extensive menu. It must be said, however, that my initially enamoured vision of the restaurant was dimmed a little by a menu so sticky I couldn’t separate the pages – but it was soon replaced with a new one when I pointed it out.

When browsing the selection of dishes, we spotted a ‘lunch and early evening menu’ towards the back of the main menu and, after requesting a copy from one of the waiters – when we could get their attention, –we were delighted to find a series of surprisingly reasonable deals.

It offers one course for £12.75, two courses for £17.75, and three courses for £22.75, and is available from 12pm to 6pm from Monday to Saturday.

The selection on this menu was great too; offering vegetarian, meat and fish options for starters and mains, as well as a selection of four desserts.

Before tucking into our starters, we looked over the wine list and were surprised by the impressive selection. At the start of the wine menu, it even went as far as to set out where the different wines came from, pointing out the various wine regions of Italy and Sicily, as well as the origin of the selection and grapes.

The wine was pricey, however, with glasses of white ranging from £5.25 for a 175ml glass of Catarratto Terre Siciliane 2016, to £11.75 for a 250ml glass of Gavi Del Comune Di Gavi DOGC 2016. But the selection and information, nonetheless, was lovely. For starters, my partner’s mum chose the minestrone alla Genovese (minestrone soup), while I opted for the calamari fritti – which, by the way, was perhaps the best deep-fried squid I’ve ever tasted.

The soup was outstanding too, with a savoury yet fresh, vibrant flavour, packed to the brim with pasta and vegetables. Not only was it seasoned to perfection, complete with a swirl of sensational basil pesto, but very generous in size.

The calamari portion, meanwhile, was huge; genuinely almost the size one would expect for a main – very much to my delight. Despite the fact we had ordered from the set menu, they most certainly didn’t scrimp on the amount of food they served.

For mains, meanwhile, my other half’s mum chose the pollo Milanese, which was a flattened chicken breast, coated with Grana Padano and rosemary breadcrumbs, with a hearty chunk of buffalo mozzarella on top, and a heap of spaghetti pomodoro on the side.

The chicken, while very tasty – and again, huge in size; more or less covering the plate – was very oily, which was a little off-putting. However, the spaghetti was absolutely delicious, phenomenal, in fact, with a vibrant tomato sauce bursting with a strong herby flavour and the pasta cooked to perfection.

I had the risotto funghi (mushroom risotto), which was beautiful. Served with a hearty drizzle of truffle oil, this dish was indulgent, creamy and delicious. Its flavours were perfectly balanced and completed with a generous helping of parmesan on top (which is optional), a crispy cheese wafer, and flecks of green herbs.

Risotto funghi

The rice was cooked excellently and the mushrooms were plentiful – again, cooked well – not left too firm or, even worse, too soft.

Before ordering desserts, I popped to the toilets. The facilities, though stunning at first glance were very dark once inside the cubicles, with just one spotlight in each. My dinner partner also later returned with a funny story about the tough-to-open doors, which had left one woman waiting for a considerable amount of time, thinking the toilets were all in use when, in fact, they all lay empty.

Returning to the table, my partner’s mum and I decided we’d go the extra mile (troopers as we are) and stretch to a pudding. How we quite managed it, I’m unsure, but we battled on.

She decided on the tiramisu, while I selected the ‘tortino al cioccolato’, otherwise known as a chocolate fondant.

My chocolatey dome-shaped cake arrived served with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream, which was very nice indeed – and an addition I was glad for, as the chocolate cake itself was rather dry and the sauce inside a little too sharp for my taste.

It must be said, however, that had the cake been a little more moist, the flavours balanced well – and it would have been a very enjoyable, unusual dessert.

The tiramisu, meanwhile, was to die for. Light, moist, sweet and absolutely divine – this was the winning sweet, for sure. Had it have not been for the incredible squid, it would have been the dish of the night. I’ve tried tiramisu from supermarkets in the past and these experiences had me believing I did not like the traditional Italian dessert . . . How very wrong I was. I could have easily eaten my weight in food and still managed to find space for this little slice of heaven. Era bellissimo”

As we settled up, the bill was brought over to us – and was a fair bit more than we had expected, as a 10 per cent service charge had been added.

Upon later inspection, I discovered this had been written in small print on the bottom of the menu, but it was so tiny we hadn’t noticed. It does say it is a discretionary charge, but as it had already been factored into the bill we felt unable to refuse. In hindsight, I would have argued the case as I did not feel the service warranted the extra money. I understand this is now common practice among many restaurants, but I for one would much rather tip the waiters the amount I feel is deserved, rather than having it simply factored in.

Overall a very nice experience in a generally aesthetically pleasing restaurant located in a stunning area, with some outstanding dishes.

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