For those familiar with the old New Street Station and Pallasades shopping centre, the new look station and Grand Central are a breath of fresh air. What was once a concrete block of misery is now a spacious white dome straight out of a Stanley Kubrick dream. Its detractors may complain about the lack of independent business within the curved walls and they are right in doing so, but I remember just how shit the shops were in the Pallasades. Call me whatever you want, but I will gladly now take Cath Kidston over Gimme Gizmo, and John Lewis over Poundland.
The same argument appears to have been rolled out for the restaurants here. Walking around the open plan floor it does feel a little predictable with the usual suspects of nationwide brands and a smattering of smaller groups still trying to find their feet outside the stampede that is London. It is one of these smaller brands, Tapas Revolution, that would feed us tonight. I am sorry if you have come here looking for your corporate fix, though if you want to read someone trying to ascertain just how cheeky a Nando’s really is, please do me a favour and never visit this page again.
Tapas Revolution already feels polished enough to be in every city. They have a glossy brand, modern interior and counter seats. More importantly they have a menu that screams ‘EAT ME’ in every possible way at a price that wont break the bank. There is proper hams from the correct pigs, regional dishes such a Asturian sausage and the promise of a lot of garlic. I want to love it but I cant. Everything we try was flat in flavour and lacking in love.
Take the paella. At best it is a textural delight of rice – some bits crispy, others tender – heavy on the flavours of chicken stock and saffron. Here it was one level of overcooked rice and metalic saffron, with meagre pieces of chicken and green beans. It is under seasoned to the point that I fail to detect any salt at all – a problem which would repeat itself nearly as much as the alioli the following day.
The disappointments never stopped there. Pisto should have been the Murcia version of caponata; a punchy salty, sweet and sour display of mediterranean veg at their best. Nothing. If my doctor ever tells me to cut salt out of my diet I will show him this dish and load the revolver for him. We make the most out of a bad situation by piling it on to bread smeared with alioli overloaded with intense garlic. A tortilla with potato and onion suffered similar levels of blandness.
Perhaps the best thing we ate was hot croquettes, big on ham flavour and deep fried to a crisp exterior. These and a potato, chorizo and egg dish indicated that there was a degree of skill in the kitchen, though just how much is debatable. The bill at £35 with a couple of beers puts it in the same bracket as the brilliant Rico Libre. I know which one I would choose. If convenience is your thing, please head to the domed roofs of New Street Station. If its big, gutsy Spanish cooking is what you are looking for take a left at the stairs of the station and keep walking until you hit Digbeth.