Street Food

Zindiya, Moseley

I started my last piece on Zindiya with the words ‘Chicken Tikka’. Well I would, wouldn’t I? I’m so bloody predictable at times. A fully committed carnivore whose eyes wonder to the grill section of the menu, even when, as the case is at Zindiya, the majority of the menu is vegetables and other lovely stuff that leave a far smaller, morally larger, footprint on the planet.  Despite that bolshie, macho attitude I like to display I actually really love vegetarian food – about half the meals I cook at home are – and none appeals to this side of me more than Indian vegetarian cooking.  I hardly touched meat in India because I never needed to.  The ability to turn vegetables into a meal of their own is something that the Indians specialise in – they have the lowest rate of meat consumption in the world.

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I’m in Zindiya with someone who has never been here before, and when it comes to India, well, she’s been there, done that, bought the tea set.  We never meant to order a (mostly) vegetarian meal, it just kind of happened.  A lot like our relationship.  I insist on some dishes because I know they will be good, she insists on okra because she is a sadist.  The lady fingers are the first to arrive.  They have crunch and are a million miles from the gloop that I associate them with.  She did okay with this choice.  She can stay another week.

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What follows is a masterclass in vibrant and light Indian street food dishes.  No one, and I mean no one, does this as well in Birmingham as the team here.  The Aloo Tikki Chaat is a prime example of this, the potato cakes being delicately spiced, the surrounding chickpeas more aggressive in heat.  It’s topped with soothing yogurt and the most vibrant of mint sauce.  It sings.  The green pucks that are the Hara Bhara Kebabs are new to me.  The potato and spinach patties are denser than Aloo Tikki and need the mint sauce to revive them.  No such problem with the kati roll filled with cubes of paneer and coarsely chopped raw vegetables.  I’ve eaten this dish a lot because it’s wholesome and complete.  It’s a meal in itself and a bargain to boot at £6.50.

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Papri Chaat is my highlight of the night. Pops of crispy dough wafers nestle amongst chickpeas, potatoes, yoghurt and tamarind chutney, giving a perfect contrast of texture. The spicing is beautiful – all depth rather than heat – giving the dish a complex flavour that demands another mouthful. It’s absolute heaven in a dish, and a bargain at only £4.  If you thought that paragraph was too good to be mine, it’s because it is – I’ve nicked it from my girlfriend’s blog because she says it better than I ever could.  Take a look at http://www.noshandbreks.com and see how much better her pictures are of the meal.  It’s not even funny how superior she is.  Anyway, back on my (award winning, had you not heard) blog,  I’m not crazy about the taco-like presentation of the dosa, but the flavour is there in spades.  The potato filling is spiked with mustard seed and turmeric, all neatly folded into the rice batter pancake that probably doesn’t need to be so neat.  The sambhar and coconut chutney it comes with could make anything taste better.  Maybe even tofu.  Those two dishes showcase what Zindiya does at it’s best; deft spicing and vibrant cooking that wont leave you sagging with a heavy tummy for the rest of your evening.  The lightness of touch here is astounding considering the bold flavourings.  We get Chicken Tikka because Claire has never tried it.  It is still the best version of it’s kind I have ever tried.

IMG_9745IMG_9746IMG_9748There was a dessert, but I was too busy working through the cocktail list to tell you what it’s like.  What I can say is that everything has improved since it opened.  The service is sharper, the food on a constant incline.  It is ready to be rolled out across the country and embraced by those far and wide.  Tonight they served up the best vegetarian meal I’ve eaten in the city, despite not being a vegetarian restaurant.  Just don’t forget the chicken tikka.  See, I’ve gone there again.  I’m so bloody predictable.  

Baked in Brick @ Quarter Horse Coffee

I’ve been a fan of Baked in Brick since the very first events. If you had took heed of my words during his first pop-up (when I suggested that you keep a firm eye on the man and the mini) you’ll know that the fifteen months since that pop-up have been eventful for Mr BIB himself, Lee Desanges, as he took the title of the country’s Best Street Food last September. Not wanting to miss out on his cooking, I popped along to Quarter Horse to check out the latest of his pop-up evenings, where he was showcasing the oven and grill on that red Mini of his to maximum effect.

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The amouse we are served is a direct nod to that Street Food Finals victory. The winning beef shin calzone is represented as a tangle of the meat on a little disc of sourdough, all topped with a little stilton. It’s decadent and deep. It’s also very obvious why it took first place. Sharing the plate was a little chicken tikka and mango chutney; another nod to the wrap that was entered into the Best Dish category. I happen to think the wrap is as good as the calzone and judging by the reaction on the table I was not alone.

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Wild mushrooms on sourdough toast is an exercise in the virtues of simplicity. The muddle of mushrooms are rich and earthy, enlivened with the aniseed whack of tarragon and a smattering of rarebit for comfort.  The sourdough is well sourced from a bakery in Codsall and has a little chew. A slow cooked quails yolk is all the sauce it needs. It’s absolutely glorious. I will get him to make me breakfast one day (possibly post-coital. Probably not) and this is what I will insist on.

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Shit. Jesusfuckingchrist. Not my words, but that of a fellow diner I had not met before as she bit into the steak sandwich. Her reaction was not overstated, the spider steak was rare but still had a little chew. The flavour deeply bovine. It was nestled on a cushion of dauphinoise potatoes with a little Iberico bacon and a splodge of béarnaise sauce.  It is the ultimate steak sandwich, a clear warning shot to the steak houses of the city that he means business should he ever wish to find a permanent venue.  A heritage tomato salad with a little burrata and dehydrated olive is all the respite we require.  Seconds of the beef are offered with more béarnaise.  Everyone in the room takes them.

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I’ll forgo the menu description of the dessert for copyright infringement, though you may know it as the French term ‘doissant’ – a hybrid of the donut and croissant.  Here it is given the full twist, piped with a vanilla crème patisserie, rolled in light brown sugar and brulee’d with the blowtorch.  It’s filth.  Total utter filth.  I didn’t know whether to make love to it or eat it.  That’s a lie.  I knew exactly what to do.  Seconds are offered.  Everyone in the room takes them.

If you are not inclined to listen to my opinion, let me tell you about the dining room for this pop-up.  Chef’s of serious pedigree, restaurateurs, major industry players, all paying to eat food cooked on the front of a mini.  It’s astounding when you put that into perspective.  They all know what I know, which is Lee’s cooking is up there with the best – he just happens to be doing it on the move, not from a permanent residence.  The man I once said was going places has truly arrived.  And only an idiot would miss out on it.

And now the plug; I am up for Best Food Blog at the forthcoming MFDH Awards, where Baked in Brick is up for Best Street Food.  Please give us both a vote here http://www.mfdhawards.co.uk/vote-now/