High in the sky French fine dining at Orelle gave us a food experience to savour
Above the streets of Birmingham, in the sky, is the Midlands's highest restaurant.
Southwards the next highest restaurant resides in the Shard, London, and the other way is at the top of Toronto's CN Tower in Canada.
I think, it's the kind of fact that sounds good on a first date, or a special date - I was on an anniversary. Orelle is the kind of place you go when you've got something to celebrate, and we were celebrating every day of the last four years.
A Harden’s listed D&D restaurant, Orelle provides the Birmingham food scene with fine French dining.
The restaurant, which is on the 24th floor of The Mercian, has one of the most impressive spaces in the city. The toilets are on the 23rd floor and have a better ambience and music than some Broad Street clubs.
The panoramic views provides a live, moving artwork which always has something in the teeming metropolis below which catches the eye.
However, high ceilings, with floor to ceiling windows, due to the rain and wind outside, probably made the place feel colder than it actually was. However, that's always going to be the case with English weather, no matter how sunny French cuisine is.
Birmingham has tried restaurants in the sky before, legend has it the city's iconic Rotunda was meant to have a revolving restaurant at the top. However, due to a millimetre's mistake in the foundations it had to be axed as 1960s diners would have been drinking mild and eating pies feeling like they were on the Waltzers.
But Orelle at The Mercian is a destination restaurant we can all be proud of, and if you can see it from where you live, its yours.
And its new August Sunday lunch menu means it is accessible to not just the rich and famous.
What's brilliant about the Sunday menu is it includes a Sunday roast option, so even those diners who don't know their gazpacho from gooseberry can have get a classic dinner which does what it says on the tin, or should that be 'le tin'.
The starters, however, were the domain of the fine French dining which has been hundreds of years in the making across the channel but with a few additions from local fields to fork.
The lady went for Pate en Croute, rare breed pork Terrine, black pudding and pickled vegetables.
Having checked a menu earlier in the month, I'd had my mouth right round the Crabe, dressed Brixham crab, avocado, pink lady apple, sourdough and sunflower seeds. However, my designs on crab went sideways as it was not the menu the day I was there.
So I plumped for Maquereau, charred Cornish mackerel, tartare, cucumber, apple gazpacho.
My bright green creation had simple flavours all complimented each other, I'd have never put them all together but the culinary mind in the kitchen got it pitch perfect.
My tip, when eating at these kinds of establishments, is to ask to keep a menu after you've ordered, because unless you've done a crash culinary course in lift, some of the brilliance on the plate could go over your head.
Whereas my starter was light and delicate, the lady's was of more substance and bigger than your average a la carte offering. Her layered pork and black pudding terrine was the best English French concoction since Concord.
Then to the mains, included the vegetarian option Riz, Cep risotto, shaved mushroom, maitake and wild rice. And for our pescatarian friends Cabillaud, roasted cod, romanesco, toasted spelt, broccoli, confit pepper and saffron velouté.
The choice of Sunday roasts were Surlonge rôtie, a 35 day aged Cumbrian sirloin with Yorkshire pudding or Porc, 65-day aged pork belly and caramelised apple.
Both came with family style roast potato, buttered cabbage, cauliflower cheese, confit carrot and broccoli.
Or for those who like to share their meat, Couronne de poulet rôti for two, roasted chicken crown, braised leg cabbage, roast potato and jus gras. The couple next to us went for this, so we got to see the trolley theatre of the waitress carving the crown.
We both went for the beef sirloin roast main, the choice was either well done or pink. The waitress explained as it was joint not a steak, there was not the option of medium rare, just well done or pink.
I went for pink, the lady, well done.
When the plates arrived, and the sides placed between us. I knew. This was a meal I was determined to savour every single mouthful. I was not going to let an obvious growing traffic jam on the Aston Expressway or what looked like a police chase on the ring road put me off just how special this Sunday lunch was.
My beef was the kind of cliche you love, it melted in my mouth, its full flavour giving my tongue a treat it will not forget in a hurry.
It was not the kind of plate bending piled high Sunday roast your nan made, but another slant on what our French friends call us - "Rosbifs". And mouthful for mouthful it was the best Sunday roast I can remember eating in Birmingham, and I've been to every Toby Carvery in town.
The wine list included the kind of prices which threatens the month's rent, mortgage or any other kind of direct debit which ensures modern life continues without falling apart.
However, thankfully, you can buy wine by the glass. This isn't the kind of place where you say "house" that would be an insult to the sommelier who was there to tell us exactly what wine would compliment our dish.
Again the wine was a cut above your average plonk. My South African Merlot went down like liquid velvet, and the lady's Pinot Noir didn't last long either. She ordered a bottle of the Cave de Turckheim, Pinot Noir for £40, it made financial
Then for the desserts. If I had dreamt up a combination I wanted, it would have been banana and dark chocolate. And there on the menu was Chocolat et banane, dark chocolate mousse, banana cream, sable and miso ice cream.
The lady went for the classic staring back from the menu. Tiramisu. The staff, always attentive assured her almond allergy would not be a problem.
They arrived quickly, and I'd kept the menu so I knew which dollop was banana and diagonal squirt was sable.
Both desserts were finished off in satisfying silence, even the trying of each other's choices.
A wonderful Sunday, and thanks to the introduction of set menus, there might be another celebration before our fifth anniversary.
For more information about Orelle, visit https://orelle.co.uk/.