This meal at Upstairs by Tom Shepherd was supposed to be for my birthday in April, but we did not realise how booked up it gets. The next opening slot was for October. Yes, half a year later. We finally made it, just in time for my husband’s birthday instead. This was our first time visiting and we hope to visit them again in future. The experience was amazing and I would highly recommend it.
Upstairs by Tom Shepherd is a Michelin-starred contemporary British fine dining restaurant located in Lichfield, Staffordshire. The restaurant is in the centre of Lichfield town, and the car parks near the restaurant are a bit distance to walk. They do have disabled parking right outside the restaurant, but it is often full. Hence, if you are not local, I’d recommend setting off early to give yourself plenty of time to arrive promptly.
The restaurant is directly above Tom’s father’s jewellery shop – City Jewellers. That is why it is called Upstairs. We first heard about his restaurant in 2021 when it first opened, way before he appeared on Great British Menu 2023. We had always thought about trying it out, but we had already moved away from Lichfield 5 years ago. Nevertheless, we finally made it after such a long wait. During the initial booking, we had to pay a £50 deposit to secure the places for two. The maximum number of diners per table is four persons.
Our booking was for noon and we went for a lunch menu as it was Mr C’s day off. By 12.30pm, the whole restaurant was filled. We were served very quickly with drinks and our meal. Although all the dishes came in good time, we still managed to spend 2.5 hours there. We did have to leave immediately after our desserts as we needed to get back for the school run. If we knew this meal was going to be so long, we would have planned it better.
They open on Wednesday for dinner (6.30pm – 9pm), and Thursday to Saturday for lunch (12noon -2pm) and dinner (6.30pm – 9pm). They offer two types of menu, an 8 course tasting menu for £100 or a 6 course sample tasting menu for £65, and both with the option of an extra cheese course – Baron Bigod Brie for £12. There is also a wine pairing for £70 or £40. They do offer a vegetarian menu, but they cannot accommodate the following allergies: vegan, soya, dairy and egg.
Of course, since we were there celebrating birthdays, we had to try out his famous perfect 10 dessert from The Great British Menu: No Ordinary School Boy! This dessert can only be found on their tasting menu. As I do not eat beef and lamb, I was offered a vegan starter, in replacement for the beef starter. As for the main lamb dish, I got pork as the replacement.
We had three different canapés to start with. The canapés were so delicate and each mouthful was bursting with flavour.
The first course is the red cabbage gazpacho with horseradish. This vibrant pink colour cabbage soup had a deep earthiness. The drops of olive oil give it a lovely fruity flavour and the horseradish ice cream is so smooth and creamy and gives it a really nice balance. I had to use full concentration to scoop every single drop from the bowl, it was so great!
Next, we had the Parker house roll with in-house cultured butter and marmite butter. The tear and share bread roll was so soft and the sugar glaze on the crust was so beautiful, slightly sweet. I preferred using the cultured butter to the Marmite butter. I am not a big fan of Marmite. I did try the Marmite butter but it was too salty for my liking. I did find the bread roll was too small (had to share it with my husband) as I could have easily devoured the whole roll, it was so so nice!
Next, we have the Orkney scallop coated with toasted sesame seeds and garnish with radish on the top. The scallop squished onto the peanut satay sauce and a moat of coriander oil. The plump scallop was cooked to perfection! Just send me another 50 and I can eat them all! It was so good that I had to cut the scallop into small bites to ensure I could mop up the sauce!
Then we had the corn-fed spring chicken top with king oyster mushroom, resting on a bed of sweetcorn and a moat of chive oil. I enjoyed the chicken very much as it was so tender and juicy. The skin was packed with flavour. As for the sweetcorn, I was not much of a fan, not because it was not nice, but just never been much of a fan of sweetcorn in general. However, the sweetcorn was so delicious that there was nothing left on the plate. This dish definitely exceeded my expectations for it from the menu.
For part 1 of my main dish, I had the Parsley Porridge: pecorino cheese with fresh parsley. This dish was inspired by Heston Blumenthal’s Snail Porridge which is possibly one of the Fat Duck’s most infamous dishes. Of course, this dish does not come with snails in it. It was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. For my part 2, I had the Woolley Park Farm belly pork with broccoli mousse, smoked Tenderstem and courgette puree. The pork just melted in my mouth and the mousse was so light and refreshing. It was amazing!
For Mr C’s part 1 of the main dish, he had the Herdwick spring lamb neck, radish and parsley. For his part 2, he had the Herdwick spring lamb with broccoli mousse, Caesar and onion.
Our seventh dish was called the Transition. I think in the Great British menu, it was a small refreshing palate-cleansing dish before the main dessert. When I saw Thai green curry, I was expecting a bowl of curry. To my surprise, it was a creamy coconut rice pudding, with juicy mango and a foam infused with all the elements of a Thai green curry. It was topped with toasted puffed rice and coriander. It was sweet and savoury at the same time with a hint of spicy. I think the spicy was ginger. We were provided with the tiniest spoon ever for this dessert, which I think was genius as it made me appreciate this dish even more!
Coming to the end of our course, we had the No Ordinary Schoolboy (Bananaman) from the Great British Menu 2023. Even though Tom didn’t win the placement on the Great British Menu for this dish, his dish is the only dish that received the full 40 points in the series. He did win a placement for the main dish – Desperate Dan’s Cow Pie.
Don’t be fooled by the banana as it wasn’t real. The banana mousse was covered in a silky thin layer of smooth chocolate. It also comes with a super soft banana cake with silky smooth ice cream and rum sauce, surrounded with delicious granola on the side.
We both really enjoyed our meal and had a great time experiencing British fine dining food. The meal was expensive (we paid over £200 plus for both of us), but it was worth every single penny. I would highly recommend them.