I first went to the San Carlo Restaurant in Temple Street on a first date about 12 years ago now and back then, the experience – both the food and the date wasn’t great and I have never been back! (Although I have heard that it is immeasurably better since then.) Even so I was intrigued to hear of the opening a while ago of another restaurant in the ‘San Carlo’ Group, “Fumo” set in the Birmingham’s business district, just around the corner from its sister establishment.
The concept sounded great; Venetian Tapas and cocktails. What could go wrong? You can’t book – this is a turn up, enjoy a drink, embrace the hustle and bustle of the place and when a tables ready they’ll take you to your table. We went quite early on a Friday night, getting there just before 7 and didn’t have to wait for a table, but the place is really popular and filled up really fast. The place does feel quite authentic, lots of Italian waiting staff, big smiles and very friendly. It really seemed like the place to be and be seen in Birmingham at the moment!
Fumos’ speciality is “cicchetti” (pronounced chi-KET-tee) which are typical of small dishes served in bars in the aforementioned Venice. The waiter recommended 2 or 3 per person. They come when they are cooked, so be prepared for this, especially if you order a lot of ‘cold’ dishes, they’re upon you right away and the meal could be over before you know it!
I had a cocktail off their long and interesting list. I went for a Fumo’s own invention – an Italian Spring Punch; Vodka, Poppy Liqueur, fresh watermelon, cranberry juice, a dash of lime and topped with prosecco. It was lovely – really fresh tasting and light. I could have had several more but for the issue of the driving home!
The menu is varied and extensive with lots to tempt you, influenced by Celebrity Chef Aldo Zilli. There were many many interesting dishes to choose from, meats, fish, pastas, pizzas and more!
We had 6 savoury dishes in total, three of which we loved, two we liked and 1 we thought was well below the standard of the rest.
The little plates that we chose were;
- Tuna Tartare
- Burrata – Creamy Buffalo Mozarella with parma ham and black truffle
- Orecchiette – Pasta with spicy calabrian sausage, rocket and pecorino
- Lombardi Pizza – chicory and gorgonzola
- Vitello Saltimbocca – veal wrapped in parma ham
- Duck Salad with pancetta and apple.
We thought the tuna was the standout dish of the night, so simple, but great flavours, working so well together. None overpowered the other and it was just beautiful. It was also prepared at your table which although entirely unescesary added a bit of falre and drama to the event! This was closely follwed by the Pasta dish, the sauce was rich tomatoey and had a great kick of spice and heat and a really good tangy duck salad – the apple and pancetta giving a sweet and salty kick amongst perfectly cooked duck.
The burrata was nice – the mozzarella some of the best I’ve ever tasted, but I felt the parma ham was dry and not enough truffle flavour. The Pizza was also nice, but they had swapped the chicory for spinach and not said anything – not sure if this was a genuine mistake or they thought they could get away with it? We let them though, it was nice enough and not worth complaining about!
Lastly I will talk about the veal – it was pretty small, overly salty and overwhelmed by raw sage. Disappointing really considering the rest of the food was of a pretty good, even excellent standard. My only other comment, and this is neither a good or bad thing, was that they seemed overly fond of garnishing everything with rocket!
There were some other mouth-watering sounding dishes I wanted to try including; Cacciucco alla Vilornase – a fish and shellfish stew in white wine and garlic, Garganelli – pasta with monkfish, saffron and courgettes and also the beef Carpaccio. Maybe next time!
3 dishes each turned out to be enough food, but we certainly were not stuffed, so we opted to have the desert sharing plate as well, which was small portions of many of their deserts including pannacotta, tiramisu, cheesecake, profiteroles and chocolate & hazelnut torte. This was surprisingly good, with shout outs to the chocolate torte, the cheesecake and the pannacotta ( it had a perfect wobble…)
I did really enjoy my meal and experience, and definitely want to go back to see if the food is of a consistently good standard, but alarm bells do ring slightly that it might be more ‘style over substance’. Only time will tell….
San Carlo Fumo
1 Waterloo Street, Birmingham, B2 5PG
Disclosure: We paid for our own meal, and all opinions expressed are honest and our own