I first went to San Carlo’s founding restaurant on Temple Street (now one of many in the San Carlo Group) when I was living in Birmingham 15 years ago. It was the most exclusive place to eat at the time and if I remember correctly it had an impeccable reputation. Today the food scene in Birmingham has exploded, with more Michelin-starred restaurants than any English city outside London and new and exciting restaurants popping up everywhere. Unless I’m fortunate enough to be eating in one of those Michelin restaurants when visiting the second city I’d generally choose to go somewhere a little less formal than San Carlo so haven’t been back recently.
The savvy, family owned group launched Fumo in 2012 with several venues throughout the UK. Fumo is a modern Italian restaurant concept which allows diners to sample their Italian dishes cicchetti (small/side plate) style. According to their website they source ingredients from the markets in Milan weekly to ensure the quality of food is at the highest standard.
I’ve eaten at Fumo in Birmingham several times and there’s a number of reasons I keep going back, despite there being so much variety in the city. The location is great. It’s walking distance from Snow Hill station, near to some great bars as well as the hotel I usually stay in. All of the waiting staff are Italian; their English may not be perfect, but it adds to the authentic feel. The food is consistently fresh, served at the table quickly and dirty plates are cleared promptly. The restaurant is modern and stylish, it’s a trendy place for drinks and food. Although bookings are not taken for the restaurant, I’ve never had a problem being seated even when they are extremely busy, neither is the food quality or service compromised. Even more impressive than the great food and flawless service operation is the bar at Fumo. The mixologists are incredible to watch and the cocktails divine. I’ve stood at the bar after dinner on a Friday evening when the bar is 3 or 4 people deep and the bar staff are watching, ready to pour your next drink as fast as the person at the front.
We were staying in Birmingham on Easter Bank holiday Monday, my boyfriend hadn’t been to Fumo before but had been told by various friends, and me, that he really should. It was the first time I had been when it was so quiet. Everybody else was back to work the next day so we made the most of being lucky enough to be out for birthday celebrations. Although quieter than usual, the restaurant was far from empty. We were given a romantic table in the corner next to the window and close to the bar. We’d eaten lightly that day in preparation for the feast we were about to face ourselves with.
Cocktails and a bottle of wine on order, we started picking items from the menu. Our first round of food included some fried baby mozzarella, fresh crab and avocado and the grilled Gamberoni Piccanti Sicilian prawns. Next we ordered some gnocchi and pasta, followed by a Florentine pizza, a fried pizza bread with prosciutto and cheese filling (can’t remember what this was called on the menu) and finished off with some meatballs and the scallops. All of the food was lovely, but without a doubt Fumo’s greatest talent lies with their pasta. My top tip would to be to skip the bread and olives and save room for the pizza or flat breads which are also delicious. Then make sure you order yourself a Pappardelle with porcini & truffle oil as this was the best thing we tried along with the seafood spaghetti which was on par.
If you’re in Birmingham, you like Italian food and a good cocktail, go check out Fumo!
Cost: £86 approx. (food only)
10 dishes from the main menu (nothing was ordered from the slightly more expensive special’s menu)
Fumo’s sample menu (full menu is not available on the website)
Birmingham, West Midlands, United Kingdom – last visited in April 2017
Food hygiene rating – improvement necessary 2/5 – date of last inspection 28th March 2017