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This Scandi-inspired restaurant is now the hottest restaurant in town

Birmingham is blessed with a fabulous fine dining scene - full of cool new restaurants alongside more established eateries.

One of the new kids on the block is Folium, which opened last November.

Headed up by Yorkshire-born chef Ben Tesh and his partner Lucy Hanlon, from Solihull, the 28-cover eatery is housed in a former printworks of the same name on Caroline Street in the Jewellery Quarter.

The couple decided to keep the name and the sparse style interior - so the focus is on the quality of dishes, served up in a laid-back atmosphere.

Upon opening, Ben and Lucy said they aimed to bring "an innovative and exciting food style to Birmingham, within a relaxed space with personal, informed service".

When my friend booked a table at Folium, our dining experience more than surpassed our expectations.

Folium is the hottest restaurant in town and these are the reasons you need to book a table now.

The plaudits

The restaurant comes highly recommended in the Michelin Guide 2019, alongside Harborne Kitchen and Opheem.

The Michelin inspectors said of Folium: "Hidden away in the historic Jewellery Quarter is this sweet, intimate restaurant.

"The chef-owner prepares a very modern menu which relies on English ingredients and has an honest heart. Flavours are bold and well-balanced, and the wine pairings really complement the food."

The eatery was also a new addition to the Good Food Guide 2019, published in September. The Guide proclaimed that Folium "should be on everyone's to-visit list because of its strong ingredient-led cooking and fresh, contemporary vibe".

The chef

In 2012, co-owner and executive chef Ben gained experience working in the world-renowned Noma in Denmark - named best restaurant in the world in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

The 31-year-old also previously worked at Turners in Harborne under Michelin-starred Richard Turner, who is now cooking to huge acclaim at Maribel in Brindleyplace.

Folium is Ben's first restaurant after wowing Brum foodies with a series of successful pop ups at Urban Coffee Company in 2016.

The location

If you want a restaurant that truly is a hidden gem, look no further. Tucked away on a mainly residential street in the Jewellery Quarter, Folium is a short walk away from the city centre and through the beautiful St Paul's Square - the last remaining Georgian square in Birmingham.

The design

The eatery was designed by Faber Design, responsible for the look of most of Brum's best-looking restaurants. Creative director Tony Matters told us: "Folium has attracted a lot of design industry press interest, which is amazing considering it was a very small independent project."

"Ben told us he wanted a clean, neutral restaurant concept in line with his 'Scandi style' minimalist approach to cooking.

"So in keeping with the food style, the design was deliberately restrained and focused on simplicity. Good lighting creates the atmosphere."

The Folium interior has the warmth and the character of the building's heritage as a former printworks but with a polished feel. There is a window partition separating the kitchen and restaurant, so diners can watch head chef Ben and his team, plating up. And the restaurant size ensures a gorgeous ambience.

The service

For most of us, fine dining is not an everyday experience. My pet hate is when impersonal waiting staff don't explain the dishes patiently and look surprised when I ask any questions.

I found on both my lunch and dinner visits, that Folium servers really do appreciate how it's important to make the diner feel they are having a special meal - without being stiff and formal.

There was a genuine passion about the food and drink from our waiter and waitress during our tasting experience. I especially enjoyed our waitress' enthusiastic description of the wine pairing.

It all added to a lovely relaxed atmosphere.

The 'Scandi style'

Scandinavia has led haute cuisine ever since Ben's former place of work, Noma, was first named best restaurant in the world back in 2010.

Ben explained:"The Scandinavian style of cooking is about using the fewest ingredients possible, keeping things simple and delivering outstanding taste without over complicating dishes.

"That's what I'm trying to do at Folium."

It was evident from our visit that each ingredient had been carefully curated to create overall dishes of excellence.

There was real attention to detail in everything at Folium.

The price

Folium is not cheap. And plenty will balk at the Michelin-starred style prices - preferring to spend their money in a starred restaurant.

You can start your introduction to Folium with an affordable lunch set menu.

A price of £27.50 for two lunch courses or £32.50 for three courses is great value for a city centre restaurant recommended by the Michelin inspectors.

A short and sweet lunchtime visit was my first introduction to Folium and certainly was the deciding factor for me in booking a return visit to get the full tasting menu extravaganza - priced at £50 for five courses and seven courses for £65.

Last but not least, the food and drink!

Folium offers a two or three course lunch menu. In the evening the only option is go full-on fine dining and order the tasting menu.

You can choose a five or seven-course tasting menu with snacks.

We splashed the cash on a seven-course experience with wine pairings and snacks costing £108 each.

We enjoyed the wine flight, including some sexy-named South African wines. White Mischief, Vrede en Lust perfectly matched the first ' chicken soup' course and our first red of the night, the medium-bodied Nympomane, La Vierge, was stunning with the lamb.

Here is our verdict on each course:

Crab tart - Crab hollandaise, Steamed Crab, Frozen Duck Liver.

Wow. To start a tasting menu with decadent crab served up as a tart set the tone for the meal.

10/10

Oyster - mock oyster - oyster shell cracker, oyster tartar sauce.

Oyster as an oyster shell cracker made from cod skin intrigued and delighted us. An innovative playful snack.

10/10

Eel - smoked eel, potato mousse, smoked eel foam, crispy chicken skin

I could have eaten bowlfuls of this, given half the chance. A stunning, comforting chicken soup with outstanding flavour and finesse.

10/10

Mackerel - cured mackerel, oyster emulsion, pickled cucumber, English wasabi snow.

From one extreme to another! After our hearty comfort food first course, we were presented with a very clean zingy dish. I loved the cooling pickled cucumber but felt this was a little underwhelming compared to the eel dish.

8/10

Turnip - Turnip ribbons, Parmesan sauce, hen of the woods mushroom, Autumn truffle.

We were back in comfort luxury food heaven with this course.

Spiralised turnip is nothing new but this root vegetable, blanched in Parmesan sauce and covered in a sauce made from Lardo, hen of the woods mushrooms and Parmesan cheese sauce - with truffle shaved on top - was insanely good

Who would have thought a turnip-based dish could get our tastebuds hopping from savoury to sweet, savoury and sweet and back again? Incredible.

10/10

Turbot - Cornish turbot, burnt hay butter, potato and vinegar emulsion

The emulsion of potato and vinegar gave the turbot a strangely fish and chippy taste - without all that horrible batter.

9/10

Lamb - braised lamb neck, lamb saddle, foyot sauce (hollandaise made with the lamb fat) peas, seaweed.

The super-soft lamb neck, braised for 30 hours, was so tender I could have cut it with a spoon. It contrasted beautifully with the pinker lamb saddle.

The seaweed gave it another level of flavour.

The lamb was served with the first red wine of the night at Folium- Nymphomane, La Vierge from South Africa.

The experience of this food and wine pairing was peak fabulousness.

10/10

Strawberry - Sheep yoghurt sorbet, strawberry sorbet, Fresh strawberries, aerated white chocolate, strawberry & elderflower vinegar granita.

A perfect palate cleaner. Just gorgeous.

10/10

Chocolate - Chocolate mousse, salted milk ice cream, cobnut crumb made from left over sourdough, burnt cream ice cream, caramelised rice paper.

Lovely textures of crunchy and smooth bits and lots of rich chocolate flavour but I preferred my lighter strawberry dessert.

8/10

Overall

As my dinner companion, a professional chef said at the end of our meal, all courses and snacks, showcased how head chef Ben has mastered some seriously impressive skills and techniques.

The friendly, informed and warm service matched the quality of food and drink served and gave our meal a real sense of occasion.

This, combined with the intimate, stylish atmosphere, made for a highly memorable meal. I found Folium to be an absolute treat of a dining experience for lunch and dinner.

8 Caroline Street, Jewellery Quarter B3 1TR

Folium is closed Monday and Tuesday.

Brum's other hot additions to the Michelin Guide 2019

Opheem Michelin said:

"Experienced chef Aktar Islam owns this luxuriously-appointed restaurant in the heart of Birmingham.

"He set out to explore India's culinary heritage and move it on a level with his unique modern approach.

"He grinds his own spices and sometimes pickles them to intensify their flavours."

48 Summer Row, B3 1JJ

Read our review here

Harborne Kitchen Michelin said:

"This neighbourhood restaurant is surprisingly spacious - long and narrow, with an open kitchen at its heart; the tiles depicting a bull harking back to its butcher's shop days.

"Modern dishes have a Scandi-feel and feature some unusual combinations. The seats at the counter are a popular choice."

175-179 High Street, B17 9QE

Read our review here


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