Smultronställe the wild strawberry balm on everyone’s lips. What is this Smultronställe and what does it mean? The Swedish word loosely translates to “a place of wild strawberries”, a special place that is discovered, treasured and returned to for solace and relaxation. Stress does not exist in this happy place.
Smultronställe Bar in Birmingham is a hidden oasis, that only a cryptic clue can locate. I went undercover to try out their 4 course cocktail tasting menu. We arrive to our destination and provide a password for entrance, we are ushered to the 8 seater bar and greeted by owner Rob Wood.
A restaurant’s food tasting menu is something I’m used, cocktails provided in a tasting format is not something I’ve experienced, let alone heard of. Apparently there’s a place in Japan that does this and that’s about it. A cocktail tasting menu, just like a food tasting menu is to inspire all your senses. The creation needs to be tantalising visually, on the nose and on the palate.
We started off with Allotment Water. In theory it sounds odd, I’m expecting green swamp juice, in reality it’s an elixir of various herbs grown in Smultronställe’s allotment. The water can consist of lemon balm, sage, parcel wild celery, lovage, nettle, mint and elderflower.
As Rob pours us a a glass, he mentions that the water is consistently changing, depending on what they have picked and as the herbs are not measured into the liquid it evolves regularly. Through the duration of the evening one off the glasses has a distinctively wheat or yeasty flavour. I’d love to know what contributed to, it was a really refreshing glass of water!
We are presented with Rice and Noodles. The noodle element was provided by Granny Smith apples, whilst the rice was based on Honjozo Sake (a rice wine) with Summer pear juice, the greenest cucumber juice known to man and elderflower cordial. As I slurp, I frequently go in for some texture from the noodles. The liquid is refreshing and cooling, preparing our palate for the next three courses.
Did you know that the word punch is actually a loanword from Sankrit meaning five? Punch was originally made with five ingredients, alcohol, sugar, lemon, water and spices. Piccadilly Punch, our second course surrounds a giant cube of refined ice.
A shake of rum that has matured in Madeira casks in Shoreditch, a brandy cognac blend that has very briefly been aged in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks and some dry curacao. In this concoction, Rob add a sparkling wine and a lemon sherbert. Rob tells us the story of how he acquires the fresh lemons (I’m not telling you), I’m sat in awe and admiration. Total respect for his waste not policy with fruit and veg. Absolutely nothing is wasted.
Bananas Foster was number three. A tipple for the connoisseur with a sweet tooth. Giffard Trois’ Banane du Brésil – a liqueur made from real bananas soaked in cognac.
We press on, it’s almost 10pm and Rob serves us our fourth and final course of breakfast. The Breakfast Drink as it’s known is a bowl of cocoa pops soaked milk, the famous David Beckham whisky Haig Clubman, brandy and a coffee liqueur. Alongside, a spoon of Britain’s favourite cereal, Coco Pops (this is not a fact).
Apparently all the best bartenders are drinking at breakfast, if breakfast is at 11.55am after a long shift the previous night, then why not?
Rob Wood is so knowledgeable and charismatic, we need more of this in the hospitality. The passion for his craft is evidently clear and for this reason I will shout about it on the rooftops.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have shared Smultronställe with you as hidden spots often have a way of being found.
As always, my writing and my honest views.
-Wine Press Girl x