Due to the day job, I end up at quite a few conference venues in the city centre and so if I were ever to do a Buzzfeed style listicle it would likely be on conference lunches in Brum. Most of them are fairly uninteresting to be honest, but one that is less bland sandwiches and more restaurant quality food is The Studio on Cannon St.
Rather than just roll out trays of beige, The Studio offer delegates a proper meal at lunch time; and they switch up their menu seasonally; and they invite regulars along to give them feedback on the menu. And so being as I’m there so often the staff seem to know me, and clearly liking my food, I went along to their spring menu tasting.
Moving into spring this is transitional menu which balances the heavier winter food with something a bit lighter for those few sunny days we get in Birmingham. As well as the meat and vegetarian options, there are puddings and a range of salads. Now personally I struggle a bit with salad because I usually get bored before I’ve eaten enough but these salads have been thought through enough that they keep you interested as well as sated, and can be added as a side dish to your main. I’ve since been back to The Studio for a conference and had the vegan Caesar salad alongside the Philly cheese ciabatta sandwich and worked really well as a tasty, nourishing meal in between a series of talks!
A lot of the dishes are proper main meals which are part of what makes The Studio an ace venue (the staff are also great and they have a colouring in wall, no seriously). Given that it’s spring, there’s a nice mix of fresh flavours and they’ve gone for a good range of cuisines from Chinese through to Cajun, Thai and something a bit more on the classic British. I really liked the Chinese belly pork with spinach and pak choi, a brave option for a conference venue when you need to serve thirty odd people at once. Belly pork can sometimes be hard to cook well, but this was delicious, a perfect balance of crisp and chewy. Another great dish was the pan-seared chicken on a bed of new potatoes, black olives and oven-roasted tomatoes, which sounds like a pretty simple dish but was executed well – one of the other testers on my table went back for seconds of that one!
But what really impresses me about The Studio menu tastings is that they’re genuinely looking for people’s opinions on what works and what doesn’t. I really liked the Thai green vegetable curry with basmati rice, but it was a little on the spicy side for me – it would certainly blast away any winter cobwebs! It’ll be interesting to see if it makes it onto the final menu…though I suspect not.
And just a note about the desserts, oh yeah every lunch has a dessert. The French apple tart with caramel sauce (the first photo on this post) was delicious, sweet, fresh and with the sauce was sweet without being too sickly. There were also delicious Victoria sponge sundaes, trifles, cheesecakes and a zingy lemon & lime eton mess with passionfruit. Frankly I think every meal should have a pudding, and if they’re as good as this then even better.
Sadly, The Studio isn’t a restaurant that you can book into, but it is an excellent event space for meetings and conferences and worth a look if you’re booking something – just invite me for lunch, yeah?
Disclosure: Oh god, this again? It was a menu tasting for a conference venue, of course it was complimentary. But given how often I seem to be there between work and conferences I think they just assume I live there and feed me anyway.