I'm pretty sure it's nurture but could also be in my nature thanks to my family, but for me one of life's great pleasures is sitting down to a lovely meal with your family or friends. Whether it's a cosy meal in the Autumn or an al fresco dinner in the Summer I just adore eating with other people that enjoy and appreciate good food, people you can relax and have a drink with and just chat about nothing and everything. 

While I enjoy cooking for people eating out can also be a great treat and when you pick the right place that's just the right level of formal and relaxed with a menu to suit everyone you know you're onto a winner. For me Marmalade at the REP Theatre in Birmingham is just that - nice decor, a diverse but not overwhelming menu and a friendly atmosphere and I must say it doesn't feel like a theatre restaurant, more of a venue in itself which I say as high praise.

I was recently very kindly asked if I'd like to visit Marmalade to review the restaurant after their refurbishment and menu overhaul; so headed there on a Saturday evening with my parents after enjoying a day at the Jewellery Quarter Museum and spending too much money in The Bullring. 

We had an early table at 5:30pm but this appeared to be perfect timing as Marmalade and the attached bar were wonderfully buzzing and full of happy eaters and theatre goers. The lovely circular restaurant with full glass windows looking out onto the courtyard and fountain outside made it a perfect spot for seeing people queueing up for shows in their glam evening wear which added to the atmosphere brilliantly - I'd definitely recommend this timing if you enjoy dinner with a fashion show!

We of course started our meal with some drinks and I was thrilled to find Martini Fiero on the menu as I can't seem to stop drinking it at the moment, ice cold and in a fifty fifty split with tonic water. My parents both ordered vino and were very pleased with their choices (that I sadly can't recall sorry!) and then our starters arrived.

I shared the Charcuterie Plate with my dad which consisted of fresh bread, chicken liver pate, olives, prosciutto wrapped breadsticks and delicious slivers of bresaola and chorizo with cornichons and onion jam. The quality of all the ingredients was very apparent and I enjoyed the choice of meats especially alongside the rich pate as they were of such varying flavours.

Mum had the same Chicken Liver Pate with Onion Jam and Toasted Bread as her starter and thoroughly enjoyed it too, the texture was nice and smooth with good seasoning avoiding the sticky smoothness that you find in most store bought versions. My only improvement would be adding a little balsamic to the onion jam for more contrast against the rich liver, but then I'm a slave to it's sweet vinegariness and manage to find a place for it in an awful lot of dishes.

Dad chose the Gourmet Stack Burger for his main course which was a towering affair with two beef patties, bacon, cheese, onion jam and gherkins. He's a big burger fan is my Dad and he wolfed this one down with pleasure, also finishing all off his fries which he doesn't often do! To my mind nothing spoils a burger like it being too compressed and solid but this one was shaped perfectly so the meat was tender and almost too easy to devour, with great quality bacon adding another salty edge against the creamy bacon and sweet onions.

Mum went for the Battered Catch of The Day that arrived atop a pile of homemade mushy peas. I have to say I was pretty jealous when it was placed in front of her - the batter was the perfect thickness and clearly crisp and crackly as it should be. The fish was cooked perfectly too and the combination of pea shoots with mushy peas is brilliant, combining fresh pea and the softer cooked pea flavours to great effect.

Served alongside were the fattest chips I've ever seen and a generous dish of delicious tartar sauce which were almost a meal on their own! The chips were so chubby they were more like long fried roast potatoes and they were none the worse for it. I may have stolen one...!

I decided upon the Blade of Beef that came served atop a potato rosti with wilted spinach and peppercorn sauce. The portion size here was incredibly generous and I couldn't finish it all! The meat was flavourful and mostly tender, it could have done with just a little longer cooking I think to really break down the connective tissue but this cut is such a tricky thing to judge and I would imagine especially so on a busy chef line. The taste was grand though especially alongside the rosti with a dab of sauce and a little green bite from the spinach. 

We ended our lovely evening with some puds of course. I get my love of floral flavours from my Mum so I wasn't surprised when she went for the Rosewater Meringue served with Macerated Strawberries and Whipped Cream. A classic flavour combo done very well and presented beautifully, a perfect sweet-fruity-creamy Summer dessert.

I decided on the Mango and Passion Fruit Sundae which I have to say was just gorgeous! The sweet tartness of the passion fruit sorbet tasted divine with the creamy vanilla ice cream and silky mango sauce with the freshly whipped cream, ripe and tender mango chunks and little popping fruity balls taking into the levels of true decadence. I want another one right now!

Dad chose the Lemon Tart to finish served with raspberry sorbet and it was expertly crafted with a beautiful satiny texture and perfect level of tartness finished with a final burnishing of sugar on top that added a gentle caramel flavour. The pastry was just the right thickness and was nice and tender and the contrast between the cold sorbet and silky tart was a grand one.

Our meal at Marmalade was a lovely one and the atmosphere and ambiance of the place makes it even better. This would be a great spot for a ladies lunch with your friends or they also do a nice sounding afternoon tea and Sunday Roasts so I'll definitely keep it in mind for my frequent trips into Brum. Thank you so much to Marmalade and FU Media for asking me along!

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*This meal was complimentary in exchange for my review. For more information head to my disclaimer page.