I have visited Birmingham Hippodrome on a number of occasions over the past ten or so years. Usually for pantomime but also to see musicals and more recently, ballet. In all that time, I’ve been aware that the restaurant exists but I’ve never dined there when seeing a show. So it was with a lot of excitement that I was heading to see Miss Saigon on its UK tour and trying out the Miss Saigon inspired menu at the Circle Restaurant on the same evening.
On arrival at the Birmingham Hippodrome, I met up with the rest of the Brum Bloggers that had been invited along. We were treated to Miss Saigon inspired drinks and canapés whilst we mingled in anticipation of the evening ahead. I had some vegan canapés that were really tasty; especially the vegan yuk sung which was delicately spiced and had a little touch of sesame that wasn’t overpowering.
We were then taken to our tables up at the Circle Restaurant on the mezzanine level of the Birmingham Hippodrome. There was enough space to accommodate our large group, though there were also smaller tables of couples and fours throughout the restaurant too. It was lovely to have the huge glass windows letting in lots of natural light and it made for better photos of course, which is a lovely bonus.
As we were short on time and there are a number of dishes on the Miss Saigon inspired menu, we were served tasters of each of the dishes. These were separated into ‘Acts’ as a tribute to the theatre. I am intrigued by the fact that this menu has taken inspiration from the current show. Though I was told that this only usually happens for the summer as it’s the longest production run. The rest of the year, we have to make do with award winning food that the kitchen team create of their own volition. To be fair, this doesn’t seem that much of a let down at all and certainly doesn’t put me off.
I had informed the Hippodrome of my dietary requirements beforehand and then made myself known when we were seated. They had taken everything seriously and had come up with dishes that would suit my needs without straying far from the theme of the menu.
A dairy-free Act I for me was a white bean soup with basil pesto, Vietnamese summer rolls with sweet chilli sauce and a salad with mooli, shallots and capers.
The white bean soup is a heavy, rich and creamy soup that made me question whether it was dairy free. It tasted that smooth and creamy that I was sure there was a mistake. But I think that it was down to the white beans and how they were cooked.
The Vietnamese summer rolls were nice. I was left feeling a little paranoid that I had food in my teeth though as this is a common problem for me when I eat these. I really liked that these rolls were not doused in sweet chilli sauce in a way that would overwhelm the dish. There’s something to be said for getting that balance right.
Act II was a taster of the main dishes. The pan seared fillet of coley with rice noodles, samphire, ginger and spring onion broth was really tasty. The fish was well cooked and the broth, well seasoned. I would definitely order this as a main dish on a return visit as it is light but satisfying at the same time. Just writing about it has made me want to eat this again. I am quite a seafood fan though and when it is done well, I do end up dreaming about it later.
The honey brushed confit of duck with bok choy and star anise jus as really rich. If it’s true that we eat with our eyes first, then I must have had eyes bulging out of my head at the sight of this. It looked so delicious. I would have liked more vegetables and sauce with this but appreciate that this was a taster size portion.
A lovely surprise was the yellow curry lentil scotch egg with asparagus. The idea of using lentils to create a little scotch egg is unusual for me. But what a tasty morsel this was. The yolk was nicely runny and the lentils were soft but with some bite. And the curry flavour wasn’t too overpowering but was a nice pleasant hum of flavour.
We then headed off to take our seats for the show. And what a show it was. Miss Saigon opened with plenty of sparkle and fun. I was immediately drawn into the story on the stage and barely paused to sip my water throughout as I was so engrossed. There was a great balance of comedy too and the musical numbers were wonderful and conveyed a variety of emotions from sadness, desire, hope and love. I found the play to be quite a journey and it moved me to the brink of tears on more than one occasion.
During the interval, we were served dessert (Act III). Normally, if you book a table at the Circle Restaurant your table will be reserved for you during the interval so you can sit and have a drink, cheeses, desserts and ice creams without having to stand in the foyer between acts. I didn’t know that this was possible before so I’ve made a note for future visits to the Hippodrome. I was impressed that they managed to make me a dairy free dessert and avoid all the fruits that I am allergic to. I don’t know why but I thought that this would be too much of a challenge for a small kitchen with such a short service period with the show start times to take into account.
The experience of eating at the Circle Restaurant and seeing the play at the Hippodrome was great because it wasn’t as rushed as dining elsewhere then rushing to the theatre in time for curtains up. And with the table being reserved for during the interval, it removes the need to find standing room in the foyer during the interval, in which to have a chat and a drink.
I think that the pricing is reasonable at £24.50 for two courses and £29.50 for three; especially as they could cater for my dietary requirements. I didn’t have any alcohol and stuck to water so not sure on how that adds to the experience but others seemed to be enjoying the wine. If I can get tickets to Miss Saigon to take Mr Ting whilst this leg of the tour is happening, then we’ll certainly be booking in for the Miss Saigon inspired menu too. For a date night, this would be ideal!
Circle Restaurant, Birmingham Hippodrome, Hurst St, Southside, Birmingham B5 4TB. Tel: 08443389000
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