I don’t venture out to Harborne that often, probably because I was living in Sutton Coldfield until a few months ago and one disastrous bus ride into Birmingham was enough to put me off. Since I moved to the city centre I promised myself I would make the effort with Birmingham’s trendy neighbourhoods and so, here we are.
Hengata opened in December with high hopes of a COVID free Christmas but was sadly met with the recent uplift in cases. I came across this Harborne newcomer in January but there hadn’t been much noise about its arrival at all. I managed to book in for breakfast to try this mystic venue out. You will find Hengata on Harborne high street, sandwiched between Holy Moly and Boston Tea Party. The venue is beautifully decorated, simplicity at its finest. There are plenty of tables on offer that are accessorised with candles, classic cutlery and cushy cushions. The open kitchen is a nice touch, watching the chefs cook food whilst you sip on a glass of red is quite pleasing, you can see the effort and the attentiveness of putting a dish together.
I was greeted by Liv who I believe is the Manager, very easygoing and was full of knowledge and suggestions. I was doing Veganuary and Liv informed me that many of the brunch dishes can be made vegan. I decided to go for The Millennial (£8.75) – avocado, served with tomato and onion relish, poached eggs (removed), house lime pickle and hot buttered sourdough.Service was sharp, I waited around 10 minutes for my food. I arrived at 10.30am and it started to fill up quite quickly by 11. When my food arrived, I noticed instantly that the food was beautifully presented, so much colour and it looked incredibly fresh. The sourdough was perfect, I feel that many places make sourdough incredibly hard, like biting into a brick! On this occasion, I didn’t have to worry. The sourdough was soft with a tiny bit of crunch that blended wonderfully with the avocado, relish and pickle. At first, I thought it wouldn’t fill me up but by the last mouthful, I was satisfied. I paired my brunch with a non-alcoholic beverage – Hengata’s Garden which was so refreshing and the ideal brunch beverage choice!
Overall, I was impressed. The price seemed very reasonable for the quality of food you are receiving. I found the menu so intriguing and I wanted to explore more options to give an overall review and so, I vowed to return to try out dinner. A week later and I found myself returning on a Saturday evening at 8.30pm with James, hoping to top the first experience.
DINNER AT HENGATA
Same as the first visit, we received a friendly welcome. A warm atmosphere flowed throughout with mood lighting from the lit candles on every table, it was extremely cosy and was quite an intimate setting. We both decided to have a night off vegan. I know! We are naughty BUT we have both been doing so well and we just wanted a little break from it for just a couple of hours.
To start, I ordered A Winter Spritiz – Sauvignon Blanc, Elderflower, Cucumber and soda. Rejuvenating yet risky – as it tastes like good pop that you could have about 10 glasses of! When flicking through the menu, it was so lovely to see Hengata support other Independent breweries and wineries within The Midlands such as Attic Brew Co and Wine Freedom, Birmingham does this best!
For starters, I ordered the bone marrow and James ordered the home-smoked mackerel pate. I have never tried bone marrow so it took me a bit of time to work out how to get the filling out of the bone, but with one crack on the plate, I was able to get to the good stuff. It was quite rich, and I found it quite buttery which I enjoyed. Spooned together with a compote of red onion and cranberries, it was very appetizing. The cranberries gave the dish a hint of sweetness which was much needed. The mackerel pate was refreshing and light, James found the portion a bit small BUT when the next course arrived, he was glad it was.
For mains, I ordered megrim sole with deep-fried sage, and caper butter. James ordered the black bream fillet with 2 x side of fries and side of leeks, peas and pancetta. The sole was stunning. Fried beautifully and married perfectly with the leeks, peas and pancetta. The caper butter melts perfectly and creates a delightful combination of flavours. The chips were crisp and fluffy inside, as proper chips should be. James was impressed with his black bream and I managed to sneak a bite and understood his unwillingness to share. Yes, portions are not incredibly big but I felt they were just right.
We ordered a couple of cocktails in between courses, the Harborne Sling – Burning Barn rum, cherry, lime, cranberry and strawberry – Liv’s very own creation and a worthy choice for anyone with a sweet tooth! We decided not to finish on desserts as we were both stuffed, but we were persuaded by Liv to order two Espresso Martinis and thank god she did because they were possibly the best Espresso Martinis we have ever had.With two staff members off, I believe that Hengata did well to accommodate us and the other tables of couples and groups in there. I believe one table complained to the manager about the wait however we also overheard them talking about trying to get a discount…Yes, people will try anything these days to get a discount even for a fifteen-minute wait for mains…
James and I did not experience this. The staff were very attentive, and we never found ourselves questioning where our food was. Service was sharp as the first time.
All in all, Hengata is a lovely addition to Harborne, one that I am sure will become a much-loved brunch/dinner spot for locals. I would also like to point out that their coffee is fantastic, really good coffee so Hengata would make a great spot in the mornings if you are on your way to work to pick up coffee. Hengata has created a chilled space with Scandinavian-Chic vibes where people can relax with a glass of wine, meet up with friends or take a working lunch. It’s already become one of my favourite brunch spots and has proven to be also a great place in the afternoon with its charismatic interior, seasonal menus, and charming customer service. Definitely, one to keep an eye on in 2022 and as good an excuse to visit Harborne as any.