Food review: The Green Room, The Arcadian, Birmingham
If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the Second City, then The Green Room is the place. James Driver-Fisher pays a visit. . .
It can be a real struggle sometimes to find a place to unwind and relax when out and about in a busy city centre on a Saturday afternoon.
Birmingham always has plenty going with its abundance of shops, restaurants and bars.
So when you stumble across a lovely little venue that helps to remove all the stresses and strains of city life, it’s worth pointing out.
The Green Room café is the closest bar and restaurant to the Birmingham Hippodrome, which is home to Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Patrick Centre, the Welsh National Opera and the DanceXchange.
Sitting practically on the doorstep of the second city’s top theatre, in The Arcadian, it prides itself on being the perfect place to grab a pre-theatre meal, relax with some interval or post-theatre drinks – or, for people like us, it caters for those who simply fancy a break and something nice to eat.
It was my brother Tom’s pre-birthday treat so along with his fiancée, Claire, and my two-year-old daughter, Annabelle, we decided to try somewhere that looked welcoming and not overly fancy.
There was just something very friendly about the atmosphere when we arrived.
Football was being shown on a large TV but there were also plenty of tables inside and out if you wanted some quiet time as a family.
We decided to sit outside in the lovely courtyard-style area, which is just off the pavement, meaning you can take in the hustle and bustle of the streets while settling down for a relaxing meal and something to drink. However, in good old British style, the heavens soon opened so we were forced to move indoors.
The layout is open plan, with tables and chairs set out for couples, families and large groups.
We were sat around the corner, away from the televisions – not my choice – and once drinks were ordered settled down to look at the menus.
The food is pretty standard fare but as we found out it’s also very tasty – and there’s plenty of it.
For instance, there was soup of the day, served with toasted bread and butter, or mushroom alfredo, which was garlic mushrooms in a creamy sauce topped with cheese and served with dipping bread.
As we were all sharing two starters, we decided on the marinated olives, homemade hummus and selection of breads, and deep-fried squid with a crispy chilli coating served with alioli dip.
The platter came with plenty of warm pittas, and a tomato-based hummus, which contained just enough garlic but was not over-bearing, which can sometimes be the case.
The dish was plenty for us to all share and, when mixed with the tangy olives, the combined flavours were a delight.
The showstopper, however, for the whole meal was the calamari.
Claire and Tom had just returned from a holiday in Portugal – and being lovers of fried squid, both agreed what was served up in The Green Room was better than anything they’d eaten aboard. Quite a compliment seeing as they’d been staying in a fishing village by the sea.
The squid was really tender and had been deep-fried in a lovely thin batter, which staff pointed out had all been made to order.
Again, there was a decent portion, probably about eight or nine pieces of squid, and when the hot fish was dunked in the alioli, the only problem we faced was wishing there was more.
We must’ve been helped in some way or another by four different waitresses while we were dining. It was just one aspect that helped make the meal a really friendly, family occasion – nothing was too much for the staff.
For instance, after trying to negotiate with my daughter whether she wanted pasta or sausage – and pasta and sausage was the only response I was getting – I asked for single sausage as an extra to go with the meal.
After paying a little later, not only did the waitress come over and explain she had charged for two children’s meals instead of one (I hadn’t even noticed), she also explained she hadn’t charged for the extra sausage either.
Paying wouldn’t have broken the bank but it was just a nice gesture and showed how well we were treated.
Anyway, back to the food and, after Annabelle’s homemade macaroni cheese (and extra sausage) had been agreed on, we ordered our own.
I opted for the quiche. It was simply labelled ‘quiche of the day’, which turned out to be broccoli and stilton and was served with a salad and rustic chips.
Sometimes there is nothing better than homemade chips when they are cooked correctly – and these had been cooked correctly.
Chunky, soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, they were delicious, and went really well with the light and fluffy quiche, which also had a delightfully crumbly base.
My brother, after looking at the specials board, fancied the falafel burger, and Claire chose the homemade vegetarian burger, which came with lettuce, beef tomato and relish – as well as chips, of course.
Both said their burgers were very tasty but particularly praised the relish, which just had a really nice tangy taste to it. The brioche buns the burgers came served in also received a unanimous thumbs up, while the filling itself was a lovely, chunky pattie crammed full of tasty vegetables.
Tom thought there was perhaps too much mint in his burger but the plates were empty at the end – and even Annabelle enjoyed trying some of it.
As for her children’s dish, it was a very large portion for her, so we all dug in.
The mac and cheese was simplicity itself, but again very nice, especially as it was cooked to order and not microwaved like a lot of children’s meals. It also came with a soft drink.
It was also refreshing to see a simple menu for change, advertising classics such as sausage and mash, spicy cajun chicken breast, traditional beer battered cod and chips, pie of the day, steaks and pasta.
There was also an extensive sandwich menu for those after a decent snack.
We had all arrived at restaurant hungry, so the fact we could not manage a dessert perhaps tells you just how generous the meals there are.
But, for those with a sweet tooth, there were plenty of the classics to choose from, including banoffee pie, summer fruit trifle and artisan ice cream.
For something a bit more fancy, a cream tea of two homemade scones, jam and fresh Cornish clotted cream with either a cup of tea or filter coffee was also available.
The Green Room has been serving the theatre-going public, actors and dancers for 18 years, as popular café/bar, a place to grab a quick bite to eat, all the way up to dining on a three-course meal.
Which ever one takes your fancy, it’s definitely worth dropping by before catching a show or simply to take the load off.
So next time you are in the second city, why not go Green?