Cities are great, they’re great because there is always something happening, a sort of slow hum, the soundtrack of living. And I like nothing more than to find somewhere to sit and appreciate this; I’d call it an abstract people watching if it didn’t sound so bloody pretentious. It is, for me, one of the many reasons I like going out for dinner, because you can watch the action of the staff moving like they’re in a choreographed dance between tables, the clinking of cutlery and glasses, and the people watching, oh that’s always the best bit. Everyone plays the guessing who’s on a first date game, right?
And way up high in the skies of Selfridges in the Bullring is The Balcony, not an inventive name, I’ll give you that, but it does give you an indication of where it is. I love that floor, because as my mum puts it I “have a thing for bags” and I like to covet them and daydream over a time I can justify buying a Mulberry Bayswater. It is, at times, a floor that feels a bit like a museum but the restaurant itself is neatly tucked away in a corner and stretches out into the belly of the Bullring – but the view is not intrusive, it just adds a bit more life whilst giving a relaxed vibe.
We start with a cocktail, because we’re on a floor of shoes and handbags and it’s probably the done thing here. The cocktail menu is compact, nine alcoholic and two without, and the theme seems to be British summer time – lots of berries, fruits alongside gin and fizz. The Goji Blush is made with organic goji berry liqueur, organic Virtuous vodka, lemon juice, honey, raspberries and Selfridges Prosecco; it’s a light, delicate drink, made well by the bartender and simple enough that most people should enjoy it.
I honestly worried that the menu at The Balcony would be miniature bites aimed at ‘ladies what lunch’ but don’t actually seem to be interested in eating. But thankfully they’re well thought out dishes that allow you to be as gluttonous or restrictive as you like. Mains are classic dishes: braised shoulder of lamb, fish and chips, salmon fish cakes and the like. There’s also a burger – we’ll get to that later though. For starters my friend Jo-ann had the pea and ham terrine, which she enjoyed but said would’ve preferred less pea and more ham, though not ungenerous with the meat. I had pesto gnocchi mainly because it has been a very long time since I’ve had it and I was surprised to see it on the menu, but it was a nice light version.
For mains, Jo-ann had the braised shoulder of lamb, fondant potato and butternut squash purée and unsurprisingly I went for the Lake District beef and Applewood cheese burger with fries. Jo’s lamb was a good-sized portion and she said the lamb had been cooked well, the butternut squash puree added a nice summery look to what could’ve been a more wintery dish. My burger was delicious, the smokey applewood cheese gave it a lovely flavour and the bun was toasted but still pliable…all in all a very decent burger and one I’d be happy to go back for. The miniature mayo and ketchup pots were a nice touch and the fries were of a good standard.
The Oreo cheesecake that Jo-ann had looked lovely, but also seemingly a little tough to crack through the base – I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. I went for the stick toffee pudding, another classic dish on the menu, which had a lovely caramel flavour and the toffee sauce had a perfect touch of saltiness to cut through the sugar. Delightful.
For a menu that I expected to be all a bit ‘ladies what lunch’ this was a surprise. Sure, you’re paying more because of the location and associated exclusivity, but the portions are a reasonable size and the menu is largely fairly classic, well-known dishes done well using nice ingredients. For those people who want to eat well but dislike the hectic crowds that can sometimes descend on the Bullring, the Balcony is a good place to seek refuge, if you don’t mind paying a little for it.
The Balcony at Selfridges, Bullring, Moor Street Queensway, Birmingham B5 4BU
Disclaimer: I was invited down, or should that be up, to the Balcony for a complimentary meal. As ever views remain my own, because lying is too much effort to remember.