24 Carat Bistro, 27 Warstone Lane, Birmingham B18 6JQ (Tel: 0121 236 0519)
It has been voted the best restaurant in Birmingham.
But this tiny eatery tucked away in the corner of the Jewellery Quarter hasn’t got a single Michelin star to its name.
And its menu has not been sampled by the influential New York magazine, credited with putting the city on the international culinary map.
Yet the 24 Carat Bistro and Deli Bar is Birmingham’s No 1 – as far as Tripadvisor is concerned.
The venue won the accolade in January with 37 first-class reviews on the website, pipping Michelin-starred Adams on Bennetts Hill to the top spot.
But is the bistro really a hidden gem?
We set out on a Monday afternoon to put the first-class rating to the test.
Directions for 24 Carat Bistro, which serves English and Caribbean food, state that it can be reached by “walking down a quaint tiled walkway”.
So our first concern was: would we find it?
But there was no need to fear. There were brightly coloured signs galore to direct us to the venue.
And the trip along the historic alleyways made our discovery all the more exciting.
The privately-owned bistro really did ooze charm – in a vintage, cool, bygone era of style and warmth kind of way.
It was a cosy, comfortable little venue with a gas coal fire on, even though it was sunny outside, and packed full of knick-knacks.
The bistro only opens from 10am to 4pm in the week, from 9am to 5pm on a Saturday, and runs special 9pm till late ‘Caribbean by Candlelight’ nights twice a month.
We were served by one of the owners, who could not have been more welcoming while she explained that, as all the food was home-cooked, it did take some time to prepare.
And, unsurprisingly, they’d been busy at the weekend, so a couple of dishes were not available.
I stuck with the 24 Carat Classics menu and selected mushroom stroganoff (£5.99).
It did take a while to make, but it was worth the wait.
The large, perfectly diced, meaty mushrooms were smothered in the smoothest, silkiest of sauces created from cream, butter, onions, white wine, paprika and garlic. A generous mound of basmati rice was the perfect accompaniment.
Even the side salad garnish made its mark with crisp and fresh vegetables.
My friend chose one of the specials – a warm prawn salad (£6.99).
Again, this was a generous portion, packed with plenty of skewered prawns and accompanied by a spicy sauce.
For pudding I decided to put my faith in the hands of the owners and try a dessert so new they hadn’t got round to naming it.
The Cuban-inspired dish featured bananas flambéed with rum, vanilla ice cream and fresh cream and topped with chocolate biscuit swirls (£6.13). You could certainly taste the rum!
My friend plumped for a speciality hot chocolate, made with real pieces of dark chocolate and flavoured with brandy – it was a Christmas-style treat (£2.15).
The 24 Carat Bistro truly is a hidden gem which has captured the rose-tinted glow of the past and allowed it shine in the present.
The bill came to £21.44.
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