Land: Modern Seasonal Dining

Last week I revisited Birmingham, with a view to discover its new, contemporary, and sustainable establishments. Land was one such place that piqued my interest the moment I found it: MODERN, PLANT FOCUSED, CASUAL DINING RESTAURANT. Could this be Birmingham’s equivalent of Manchester’s Erst? Or maybe Helsinki’s Nolla? I quickly booked in and counted down the days ’til my lunch at the Land restaurant…

Land Restaurant

Land is located in Birmingham’s Great Western Arcade, just south of Snow Hill station. Nestled within Birmingham’s (small) business district, it seems like a logical place, despite its reasonably priced tasting menu (£55 for a six-course meal at lunch, rising to £60 at dinner on Friday and Saturday nights).

I have to say I was a little keen, arriving at 11:55 before the doors were unlocked or the kitchen team had finished rallying themselves. I meandered around the arcade for a few minutes, and stumbled across a designer consignment store, an old-school sweet shop, and a Gregg’s. The mix felt very true to Birmingham, where its inner-city locations don’t have much of an identity outside of the Bullring. I headed back and was welcomed inside, unknowingly the only guest they would have booked in until 12:30pm…

Take It Or Leave It

When I booked my table – over a week in advance – I paid £55 up-front for a six-course tasting menu. While booking, I noted the brusque warning that the menu is to be enjoyed as is (save for allergies and intolerances). I love this approach – they ask for diners’ commitment and trust from the get-go. If you don’t like what they’ve created, don’t book in. Seeing as Land is only open Wednesday – Saturday, with two services daily, it seems they don’t need fussy diners’ custom anyway.

However, this did raise my expectations. I like seasonal eating, I’m a keen home cook, and I like to go to bougie, contemporary restaurants when I can afford to. How would the Land team elevate root vegetables and not much else into six plates of dainty delicacies that required no editing?

They did it with Japanese flavours, distinguished plating, and unparalleled service.

The Tasting Menu at Land

After being seated, offered a wine/cocktail/mocktail pairing for an additional £60 (no thank you), and instead brought sparkling water, my testing menu began. I was first brought a ‘snack’, in the form of a light cracker with pickled raisins, microgreens, and some sort of creamy topping. The cracker – too big for one bite, too small for two – made for a messy start, and I suddenly realised that none of the tables had been placed with cutlery, including my own. I wiped my hands on my napkin and wondered if this was a test – somehow, getting my hands dirty brought me closer to the land? (I later observed a table of four lads trembling while putting such a delicate cracker into their mouths, and felt somewhat redeemed).

The second course was a similar affair. A savoury muffin arrived, and I was informed it was a Japanese milk loaf with sunflower seed butter. All beautifully placed, but again, a hands-on affair. I tore into the bread and enjoyed the marmite-y glaze before slathering on the vegan butter. It got on my hands, under my nails, but most importantly, into my mouth. Oh that butter. Whipped yet succulent, and buttery yet vegan.

And that set the tone for the rest of the tasting menu. A chive soup came next, with a flavour profile similar to French onion soup and miso soup. It was topped with soy caviar (a revelation) and light, crunchy croutons.

The next courses became a blur. A savoury turnip loaf topped with leek purée and kimchi sauce; oyster mushrooms with tiny tapioca pearls and crackers that fizzled on my tongue; celeriac cubes in a light buttery sauce that gave a mustard-like heat and sweetness alongside crispy capers… I looked up at my waiter and asked her how many courses I had left to go.

“Two more,” she smiled.

I started counting in my head, and realised the cracker mustn’t have counted as a course. I was full already and yet I never wanted it to stop.

I’m glad the carrot dish was the last savoury plate to be served. This – while on paper was my worst choice – quickly became my favourite. The playful plating made it look like sushi, and yet the carrots were soft, well cooked, and took me to umami heaven. The crispy dumpling, and Thai basil oil were incredible.

The final course – a stem ginger pudding with marmalade flavoured gels and vanilla ice cream – was the perfect finisher. Again, another Japanese taste, yet also so seasonally British. I ordered an espresso and was presented with a homemade chocolate and blood orange jelly. I was full, but I ate both with joy.

My Overall Rating of Land Restaurant: 9/10

I had a fantastic time at Land. I left feeling so very happy, and so very full. Despite my love/hate relationship with Birmingham, my time at Land made me consider moving (back for a brief moment).

In total, I spent 1 hour 45 at Land, although they recommend you give 3 hours total. I think it was a mistake to book in at its opening time (12 midday), but once more diners had been seated, the atmosphere really did live up to the promised ‘casual dining’ with an upmarket feel. Despite its proximity to Colmore Row, Land attracts a mixed, contemporary clientele that range from lads with beers to tourists with silly requests. And the occasional food blogger, too.

Land really did live up to its succinct, six word description. It lets the food do the work, so just sit back and enjoy.


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