Fumo by San Carlo at Selfridges, Birmingham
Go from the West Midlands to Milan in the blink of an eye by taking a trip to Fumo by San Carlo. Emily Bridgewater enjoys La Dolce Vita. . .
Raa Raa! You are! A noisy little lion! Raa Raa! You are! Louder than, them all! In the cubby-buggy – cubby-buggy hear me call!’
This is the song that perpetually goes round and round in my head. It’s that or the theme tune to Baby Jake which, if that’s the case, means I’ve been up since before dawn watching the test cards and waiting for CBeebies to start.
Any parent of young kids will understand these are life’s truly dark moments. What’s worse is that the punishment doesn’t end there because for the rest of the day the theme tune to some daft children’s programme will do consecutive cartwheels in your head.
While my work colleages hum The Weeknd’s latest track, or an Oasis classic they’ve heard on their car radio on the way in, I’m stuck singing Raa Raa, Baby Jake or – even worse – Show Me (those who know, know).
And while I love having my little girl, sometimes I just want to be an adult again. One who doesn’t have spaghetti hoops hanging from an ear and find Lego bricks at the bottom of my tights (ouch!).
I see those T-shirts and greetings cards that say ‘I Can’t Adult Today’ and I feel a pang of envy. How about ‘I Can’t Parent Today’?
If you feel you really can’t parent today then ditch the kids (i.e find a responsible adult to look after them for at least a few hours) and take yourself off to Fumo by San Carlo at Selfridges.
Here, with its lavish interior and exclusive Champagne bar, playing adult is as easy as ABC. That’s not to say children aren’t allowed; it’s an Italian restaurant where little ones are welcome with open arms and, on this occasion, there were a number of tables occupied by families with youngsters.
Fumo opened in Selfridges last September following a £1 million overhaul. It follows a successful branch of Fumo in Waterloo Street, off St Philips Square, on the other side of the city, while its parent restaurant San Carlo has long been a Brum dining scene stalwart. The space on the top floor of Selfridges used to be The Balcony Bar by Searcys, serving up tasty bites like gourmet burgers and afternoon tea, cocktails and exclusive wines.
However, while The Balcony Bar was very nice, I feel Fumo is a more suitable use of the space, perfect for this high-end department store.
Step through the entrance and arrive in Milan; everything about Fumo feels Italian from the pin-thin sharply-dressed (predominantly Italian) waiters to the ravishing interior resplendent with marble surfaces, dark wood parquet flooring, soft fawn leather chairs and gold accessories.
The menu is centered around Venetian cicchetti – which are medium size dishes, usually shared between friends. Staff recommended we share five or six dishes between two, the only problem being which ones to chose from the extensive menu. As with many places serving little dishes, food arrives from the kitchen when it’s ready rather than altogether.
Choices range from pasta dishes to salads and smallish pizzas. There’s fish dishes and meat, nibbles and breads. All bases of Italian cuisine are covered, street food, soul food, light bites and more.
Dishes are priced reasonably with most between the £5 to £8 mark, although there are a few featuring prime seafood such as king prawns and scallops are up to £13.
Being adults and all that, and not in charge of a small child, we started with wine – Italian, obviously. For him a glass the Gavi di Gavi from Piemont, a tangy dry white with a hint of lime. I opted for Venician Sauvignon Bianco, an elegant wine. Small glasses of wine start at around the £5 mark and there’s a large selection from Piedmont in the north to Puglia in the south.
Top of my ‘to eat list’ was the burrata, that type of mozzarella filled with cream, which here came served with Parma ham and black truffle. As long as we ordered that I really didn’t mind what else so we went for a little bit of (almost) everything.
The burrata was one of first dishes to arrive and did not disappoint; the ingredients were of the highest quality especially the luscious Parma ham. If I could make one criticism it’s that the deep, rich crumbled black truffle slightly overpowered the most delicate of cheeses. Next came the calamari, tender squid pieces in almost-not-there batter with deep-fried rosemary and a creamy yet piquant dip.
Our table soon filled with exquisite bites including the fresh tuna tartare mixed with olive oil, French mustard, lemon juice and wild rocket (vibrant and fresh) and the beef meatballs in a rich tomato sauce (homely and satiifying). This was Italian food of the highest order, superb ingredients cooked exceptionally well and presented beautifully.
Next a hand-stretched Margherita pizza arrived topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella. It was outstanding, I could have eaten a far larger one. The base was thin and crisp, with just the right amount of charring, and the toppings full of flavour. I very rarely say this but it was pizza perfection. You could quite easily enjoy a simple lunch here of pizza and side salad for under a tenner. We tried to eat slowly as to savour the food and our precious adult time but resistance was futile. It was just too tasty! Unfortunately, our side order of rocket and Parmesan salad did not arrive until near the end of the meal so it wasn’t really an accompaniment to anything. However, it was very delicious; the cheese was of fine providence and the balsamic dressing was sharp and sweet.
Due to very full tummies, we did not order dessert so in order to extend ‘adult time’ and stave off the return to CBeebies hell, we ordered two white coffees to round off our meal. And very good they were too; Italians know their beans and how to roast them.
The bill came to £68 including a large bottle of sparkling water and a 10 per cent service charge – a lavish lunch but undoubtedly worth every penny for sublime food and some much-needed adult time.
And as we left we glanced at watches, 3pm. At this rate we’d be home in time for the repeat of Ra Ra The Noisy Lion . . .