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Zindiya, via Deliveroo

December, a food lovers nightmare. Reservations are impossible to come by, and when they do happen, you’ll mostly find yourself dining from an overpriced set menu, surrounded by those who only get out once a year. The types who get pissed on two drinks and cop off with Martin from accounts in the toilet cubicle whilst you really need the loo, and clog the bar with orders for the entire department. I can’t take those pricks. Had I never had friendships that only survive on that one annual piss-up, I’d stay in all month, eating, watching Masterchef and pulling apart the plot holes in a two-thousand-year-old story about the alleged son of God and an intact hymen. I’m not buying it. I fail to accept that booking.com was down on the very day that they landed in Jerusalem, or that three men that rocked up with such useless presents could ever be called wise. At this time of year the only wise man I’m opening my door to is a Deliveroo driver bearing the gift of Zindiya.

Zindiya being on Deliveroo is a BIG thing. They’ve previously had no takeaway option and the increasing success means it’s harder than ever to get a table. What opened as a Moseley favourite is now a Birmingham hero, beloved of the lowlifes like me to Michelin starred chefs.

That delivery process hasn’t affected the quality. The chicken tikka is still in Birminghams top five dishes and tastes better than ever. The aloo tikki chaat still zings with heat and deft spicing. That bhel puri is still a textural delight.

We tried a couple of dishes that have incredibly still eluded us. There was a toastie of sorts that has the crunch of raw onion hidden under melted cheese and chillies that at £3.50 for two pieces doesn’t feel like value for the first time. It’s the Chole Bature that steals the show. The bread is delicate and airy, the perfect vehicle for the chickpea curry. Top it with a bit of the sev and nuts from the bhel puri and thank me afterwards.

The above, including the delivery charge, comes in at £27.00. That chicken tikka is £7, the aloo tikki chaat £4, the Chole Bature a couple of quid more. It’s astonishing value, some of the best food in the city for really very little. Deliveroo have landed big with this and I for one will be making the most of it. In our household, Christmas really has come early.

Deliveroo supplied the credit for this meal.

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The Oak Room at Ettington Park

The long driveway into Ettington Park could be straight out of a movie. The road slowly bends around as the trees begin to disperse and the mansion looms majestically at the back. The side profile, being the first full look, is impressive enough, though the gothic turrets and dramatic arched windows really come into their own from face-on. It’s a handsome building within beautiful grounds, the ideal romantic getaway. Oh, and it’s allegedly the country’s most haunted hotel. Given how the weekend would pan out, a ghost would be the only thing going bump in the night in our room.

The proportions here are of those built a long time ago with little care for budget. Staircases unwind into large receptions, drinks are enjoyed in drawing rooms larger than some homes. Our room is functional without being flash, spacious without the excess the rest of the building has. It has the benefit of a view across the sprawling grounds that succeeds in making me want to leave it and explore. The bed is deep and provides a good night sleep before breakfast the following morning.

The restaurant here is The Oak Room, a beautifully appointed space of dark woods and low light. It is exceptionally romantic, an ideal space for two people to relax and enjoy the two AA rosette food. Except I am here alone. My girlfriend is in bed, laid low with the finest that the Indian water sanitation system could send her back with, just 24 hours from landing. It’s not an ideal situation, though a bottle of good red from a top-heavy wine list proves to be an adequate companion. My mood does not improve with the amouse bouche, a goats cheese mousse with crouton and cherry. The first mouthful is great; the crouton is buttery and light, the sharp sweetness of the cherry an ideal counterfoil, but once they go it is just three more spoonful’s of goats cheese on its own. It needs a rethink in how it is plated.

A pork cheek starter is sat on a dice of celery and apple that gives a subtle nod toward Waldorf. There is a smear of cauliflower purée and a charred floret from the same brassica. It eats well, but once again we have issues with proportion; not enough of that tender cheek to go with all that veg.

And then fireworks happen. Monkfish loin rolled in spices, with picked carrots and cauliflower, and a bowl of dhaal full of smokiness and gentle heat. Yes, the dish is very obviously inspired by Purnell’s winning fish course on GBM, but frankly who cares when it is this good. I’ve eaten both and this probably pips it on the basis that the flavour is more pronounced. I love the additional tangle of fried onion that they call bhaji and I am calling paradise, and the yogurt dressing which tempers the heat when liberally applied. It’s a super bit of cooking.

The same applies for dessert, a beautifully worked homage to the apple. At the base is a silky smooth set cream, blanketed in a sharp jelly and balls of macerated fruit. On the side are two perfectly made cinnamon donuts. It’s apple pie without the scalded mouth. The flavour is fantastic, each layer pronounced and overall cleansing rather than too sweet.

The meal may have improved with every course but the service was polished to a high gleam throughout. They have a smart operation here that is seamless in delivery; wine is effortlessly topped up, dishes nudged in and out of place from acute angles. It works as a restaurant on its own, not just as a facility for a hotel. I want to return when we can enjoy for what it is, not when I am sat bullseye in the room, with a room full of couples wondering who the weirdo on his own taking pictures of his food is. But that’s fine with me. I return to the room, where I find the TV on and madam fast asleep. Ettington Park is a beautiful place to spend a night or three, she too will understand this one day soon.

7/10

Our stay at Ettington Park Hotel was complimentary, and they subsidised a proportion of the dinner bill. The stay was arranged by Shakespeare’s England. Www.shakespeares-england.co.uk

Cappadocia, Jewellery Quarter

Google tells me that Cappadocia is a geological oddity in a semi-arid location, with homes carved directly into rock faces by Bronze Age cave dwellers. It sounds just like Dudley. And just like the Black Country’s finest, I wasn’t overly enthralled by the thought of going. It was another night of eating out, and I had a job interview the following morning and blah blah blah you don’t care for my whining about going out too much and quite rightly so. I know that I should really be thanking that God who doesn’t exist for my life of excess, not moaning and bitching and choosing to ignore the pain that starts across my chest and travels down my arm. And so I have made it out, sat in a lovely new Turkish restaurant in the Jewellery Quarter with a waiter who has taken a real interest in my name. I’m going to enjoy it. Really, I am.

It turns out that not enjoying it is not an option; the place is a total joy, one of those meals where you look at one another and the eyes say it all. At some point whilst stuffing my face with kebab I think I called one of the best finds of 2017, which I’m sticking with on the proviso that you stick to my suggestions . Top billing goes to a plate of loose hummus topped with crispy bits of lamb, complete with cooking liquor the deep brown colour of unapplied fake tan. Someone realised that hummus would be better burnished with meat juices and they are right. Find this man and bring him to me for further interrogation immediately. It is up there with the very best ways to spend £8 in Birmingham. I want to be preserved in this when I kick the bucket.

Prior to this we try some cold starters with flatbreads that fold easier than a Philip Green owned BHS. We love the baba ghanoush with fat chunks of aubergine that is so smokey it should come with a public health warning. Less love for the strained yogurt and cucumber which I am reliably told reaches ‘peak dill’ by my companion, but really doesn’t taste of much at all, and we’re back in the good books with a spritely Russian salad, though I am unsure what provenience it has here. Perhaps holding an airbase in Turkey has given them the right. And they make their own chilli sauce, a smokey pungent blitz of burnt vegetables and lots of chilli. It goes well with the halloumi and spiced beef sausage starter that is exactly as it sounds.

I admire the mains because they are intended to feed, not be photographed by idiots like me for Instagram. Both plates consist of bits of sheep and poultry, some rice and some bulgur wheat, and an attempt at salad. Everything we eat is a success, mostly because it tastes of what it is supposed to, which is animal, salt, and smoke. Best are the minced kebabs; the spiced lamb sheekh and chicken sibling which we tear apart with hands, douse with the chilli sauce and load on to the flatbread below that have soaked up the good bits.

If they do desserts I never saw them, though this is no bad thing. My suggestion is simple; book here and have the lamb and hummus for starters and follow it up with the minced kebabs combination. Throw in a medium sized glass of wine and your bill is under £25.00. Tip them. Thank them with all your heart for the meat sweats. Ask for some of that chilli sauce to take home and don’t look too disheartened when they say no. Go home and tweet me to say thanks for bringing it to your attention. I will probably ignore you. Do all of this and you will find a rather lovely Turkish restaurant. I can’t promise it will all be brilliant, but parts of Cappadocia are as good as it gets.

8/10

I was invited to dine at Cappadocia

Transport was provided by A2B Radiocars. Download the app here http://www.a2bradiocars.com

Masdings at 1000 Trades

Let’s talk battered pickled spicy pineapple rings. A hybrid of the fritters at your local Chinese takeaway and frickles, those battered fried pickles you’ve ordered at The Meat Shack. They are sweet and acidic and hot and more addictive than a Tetris session on Hillbilly Crack (not that I would know. Honest.). They are just one part of one burger at Masdings, providing a sharp astringency and some sweet, sweet love. And they are also available as a side. I tried one on the burger and then ordered more as a side. I expect you will do exactly the same.

That burger is called The Heizenberg and it is what you should be ordering when you get to 1000 Trades this December. At it’s core is an 8oz hockey puck of a beef patty, robust in flavour and cooked just a little past the medium rare they promise. It comes with bacon that has been cooked in Maple syrup and chipotle mayo. It is utter filth and a substantial feed for £8. With the lamb burger sold out on our visit, we order a Smokey Robinson that has a similar offering to The Heizenberg, only with the addition of smoked cheese and minus those battered pineapple rings. My heart may lay with the the former, but I’m happy to kept the latter as my dirty little secret.

A portion of chips with halloumi and chorizo is perhaps the closest we get to Masding’s other business, the Mediterranean influenced Kebabylon. These are brash and a hearty lunch by themselves at £4.50. Indeed, all of this feels like really value with the food elements coming in at £22 and the evening’s beers far more than that. I can find very little to dislike at Masdings other than that awful abuse of apostrophes which hurts to these chubby fingers to type. The residency is on until the 22nd of December and is well worth a visit.

Transport was provided by A2B Radiocars. Download the app here http://www.a2bradiocars.com

The Crown Inn, Hallow

It’s freezing on the late morning we set off for Hallow. Like teeth chattering cold, the kind of November day that sticks icicles on your testicles. Winter is here in full brutishness, taking away our drive and robbing us of sunlight. Not even the inside of the car can save us, my water starting to transition towards a more solid matter and my girlfriend’s hands too cold to handle my gearstick, or the one on the car. We need the comfort of comfort food. Of slow cooked meats and carbohydrates. I happen to know just the place.

I never saw The Crown Inn prior to the refurb, though I like what I see now. It has a mazy quality that reminds me of the adjoining rooms at The Hand and Flowers, with low wooden beams and walls with the girth of a building built to last. The pub has two wood burning stoves that sit both ends of the room like goals and we are positioned in front of one basking in its heat. I like it here. I also like the menu that speaks in a language I understand. It has a familiarity to it but also the ambition of a head chef that has come from the two star Le Champignon Sauvage. Amongst the pub food is game and souffles. We would order both.

Starters first. A croquette of breaded lamb shoulder is a dense bit of sheep made sprightly by a helping of vibrant salsa verde and a sharp redcurrant dressing. Little cubes of charred feta punch with saltiness, whilst the semi-dried tomato feels superfluous. It is a dish that works for its braveness, a potentially tightrope of various acidity and bold seasoning. It pays off. We mostly like a mammoth scotch egg, yolk just runny, breadcrumb coating crisp and golden. The ham hock filling is nice and piggy, though a little under seasoned and containing a few bits that should never have passed the picking process. Furthermore its too big. Generous to the point that this could easily feed one on its own.

It’s a this point that the cottage pie happens. Another gigantic portion, with braised and shredded beef shin at the core and crowned with potatoes that have had the right amount of fat introduced to them. And when I say the right amount I mean lots. There is a jug of thick gravy that delivers on its promise from the very moment it coats my finger. Carrots cooked in beef fat are the only accompaniment it needs and they too are wondrous things. It is a brilliant rethinking of a classic, pimped up and sent out looking as dandy as it tastes.

Our other main is pheasant. It’s a rustic plate of the good stuff, with roasted breasts just blushing pink positioned on on creamed cabbage, a buttery wedge of potato and onion labelled as a hash brown, and the filthiest of black pudding purèe’s. The dish is completed by black berries and a well sauce that has the back note of acidity needed to counteract the richness. It’s a lot of food for £17 and we tell them so. Apparently, there have been gripes that the portions here are small. I despair at those who clearly don’t know a good thing when it’s hit them in the face. And this pheasant is a very good thing indeed. Of the sides we try, roasted carrots and parsnips are glazed in maple, and potato gratin in gloriously cheesy with a back note of nutmeg. Only the chips could have done with a fraction longer in the fryer.

After a pre-dessert of lemon and mango which has perfectly judged levels of sweetness and acidity, before we share an apple soufflé to finish. The soufflé is textbook, proud in height with good apple flavour. The ice cream may be a little too subtle in salted caramel, but works well when we prise open the top of the soufflé and slide the ice cream in. I can only applaud any pub that not only shows the ambition to put this on the menu, but to also deliver it with aplomb.

There are petit fours but by now we’re both full to the point of bursting – I defy anyone to come here and eat three courses and not feel the same. The team here might be relatively new (the head chef, Chris Monk, has been in place for three months), but they are already showing considerable skill. It’s not perfect yet, though it is somewhere that I’ll be monitoring closely over the next year. It’s my style of food; clean and bold and still familiar. There is a clear market for taking traditional pub food and elevating it above the norm, and The Crown Inn are doing a great job at cracking it.

7/10

I was invited to dine at The Crown Inn

Adams, Birmingham

Given that Claire whisked me away to Ynyshir for my birthday, it was always going to be a struggle to get close to her efforts for her birthday. My idea was a simple one; to saturate her with saturates, to become the quintessential feeder and ply her with good food over a sustained period of time. We end up doing eight meals in eight days, lots of daytime boozing and as many late afternoon naps. Central to this was a meal in the multi award winning Adams, which also has the added bonus of being the only decent restaurant in the city in which I have not been on a date to with a girl. I’ve been several times before with mates, on those long boozy lunches that end with hazy memories and self loathing.

The interior is smart here, with a polished team operating on a level way above the one star currently bestowed by Michelin. The noise levels are low and it is more intimate than I recall, but perhaps that is a more a reflection of the company I’m in keeping of tonight. We quickly receive a number of amouse bouches; artichoke crisps with earthy purees of the same vegetable and black truffle, and squid ink macaroon with creamed cod’s roe filling. This is followed in rapid succession by tuna sashimi with ponzo jelly and a tartare of steak with charcoal mayo. The last of these is the star, the meat of real quality and the charcoal mayo giving the flavour of roast beef without heat touching it. It’s not my first encounter of the use of charcoal in a similar ilk, but it’s right up there with L’Enclume for precision delivery.

This is a kitchen that means business, that much is clear from the off. Bread comes as two types of sourdough with whipped lard and the richest of butters. First course is a successful pile of lightly dressed crab meat shrouded by pickled kohlrabi, with dots of a puree of apple and another of soy mayonnaise. It is precise in the balance, a light yet punchy dish to properly start the show with.

And then comes the only technical error of the meal. A veal sweetbread with finely sliced raw mushroom blanketing a mushroom ketchup, and a cup of shitake broth on the side. The umami rich mushrooms are the perfect foil for the creamy sweetbread had mine not been undercooked and gummy in texture. It is worth pointing out that Claire’s sweetbread, smaller in size and with a requested black pudding dish from the a la carte, was perfect, and I watched in envy as she demolished it with pleasure. We move on to a thick fillet of monkfish, the fish meaty and pearlescent, with crayfish and bisque. The bisque was astonishing; bold and with a good acidity level from vinegar and lemongrass. Ginger provides a sophisticated background heat that lingers.

We share an optional course of lobster with peanut satay. I say share – the cold chunks of crustacean disappear so quickly I only get one piece. The bit I try is superbly cooked without a hint of chewiness, the satay an unusual match that seemingly bolsters the meatiness of the lobster through the use of umami. Indeed, much of the food here relies on an almost Japanese use of vinegar and umami to give clarity and depth to dishes. This is again apparent with a pigeon dish that has another unique pairing of Colton Bassett and brambles. Who knew that pungent blue cheese went so well with the gaminess of pigeon? Not me, that’s for sure. Yet they sit side-by-side with one another, separated only the tart flavour of the berry. It’s really very clever.

The following course is without doubt my favourite of the night. Scallop, seared heavily and opaque in the centre, with a various onion preparations and a tempura of eel. It’s up there with the best dishes I’ve eaten this year, true to the scallop and perfect in balance between the sweet and acidic elements. We love the lightness of the tempura almost as much as the purée of white onion that showers everything in acidity. It overshadows the duck that comes afterwards. The rectangle of breast meat is perfectly tender, the heart of the bird an accurate blushing pink. We finish it, of course we do, using the last of the bread to mop up the last of the light jus, all whilst talking about the dish that came before.

If I remember one thing about our first dessert it’s how quickly it was eaten. The tart plum only marginally tempered by the sweeter elements as a transitional course into the final sweeter moments. The pistachio sponge (microwaved, El Bulli style?) threatened to disappear into thin air whilst the brown butter added a wonderful nuttiness to the plate. This is a grown up dessert, which is great, because I think I am one, though I’m not sure that Claire’s age qualifies her to be one yet. The last course is listed as ‘raspberry, lemon curd, clotted cream, sherbet’. I could probably stop this right here and leave you with that. It’s brilliant, a riot of the sharp and the sweet and the playful, the star being the raspberry sorbet that had astonishing depth of flavour. It’s everything a dessert should be.

This being a birthday treat I’m not going to say how much it cost, other than pointing out that with a good bottle of champagne and a nice bottle of red it would be a mortgage payment to some. Sweetbread issue aside, if was for me a clear indication that Adams is up there with the absolute finest in the city, with inventive cooking that nudges the boundaries without trampling all over them. Some of the dishes, like the crab, the tartare amouse, and the scallop were truly outstanding and as the seasons change it will be a place that we will come back to soon. And for Claire, she loved every second, grinning for days on end and sharing pictures of the meal with anyone who feigned interest for more than a second. That is all the reaction I need to tell you that Adams is worth every penny. It’s a special restaurant worthy of any special occasion.

9/10

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MEATmarket, London

I read a lot of other blogs and a lot of lists. I’m fun like that. Almost always food, always a mixture of the good and the bad; there are those I look up to and those I read to make myself feel better. It’s important to keep your eyes on both the sky and the dirt. One of the things I read a lot about is burgers. Outside of Brum I know about as much about them as I do monogamy and modesty, but my girlfriend loves them so it’s in my interest to keep her happy. I’d have never had found out about Bleecker without reading other blog posts, and those same posts always list MEATliquor (and it’s offshoots for which Covent Gardens MEATmarket is one) as one of the true originals to the burger scene in this country.

So I’m not quite sure what has happened. Maybe the very businesses that they have inspired have surpassed them in quality and delivery. Maybe there offering isn’t as good as it used to be. Maybe it was actually never that good. I don’t know, I can only base it what we had, and what we had was okay. The burger that I see on most lists is the Dead Hippie, a double patty of just pink beef in slender proportions with their famous Dead Hippie sauce that is seemingly a mustard mayo given a kick up the arse with chopped pickles and Worcestershire sauce. It’s messy and difficult to hold (these are plus points, honestly), with a bun that gets too soggy too quickly. The beef is good, but not up there with the best; it’s a little chewy in parts and we chow down on bits that possibly shouldn’t have made the cut. The sauce adds a nice acidity and the diced onions are welcome. It’s a good burger, I’ve just had much better.

The double bacon cheeseburger baffles me for crimes against bacon. We’re back on that double patty and bun though this time with additional thin layers of something dark brown that tastes vaguely of pig. It’s bacon, minced and reformed again, because, y’know, sometimes a rasher just isn’t good enough. They’ve destroyed the essence of what it should be, the fat content and the crisp shard of pure pork flavour, turning it into a just another layer of something brown and grainy that detracts away from a pretty good burger. We switch our attention to battered fillets of chicken breast that give the impression the oil was not hot enough. The batter is flaccid in good places, soggy in others from a coating of buffalo sauce. It makes a bit more sense when dipped into the blue cheese dip.

There is a revelation in the form of a Hot Mess, cylinders of crisp potato that ooze a pungent blue cheese and jalapeno sauce, and less of one with green chilli fries that blast heat with every mouthful. It’s a credit to MEATliquor that the sides are genuinely interesting and I’ve seen very similar options pop up elsewhere, including Birmingham, in a blatant bit of plagiarism.

The bill for all of the above and a couple of soft drinks came in at a few pence under forty quid, which would have been value had we enjoyed lunch. The truth is we both walked away full but underwhelmed, struggling to see what all the fuss is about. I can think of three burgers I’d rather eat in Birmingham and at least another three in London. The burgers at MEATmarket may be of legend, but the competition has not only caught up, but surpassed them.

6/10

Lord of The Pies, Macclesfield

Given that our run over the previous week took us up and down the country, eight meals in as many days in some of the most established and revered restaurants, if someone would have told me that one of the best things I would eat would have come from an unassuming spot in Macclesfield town centre, I would have laughed in their face. Hard. Yet here we are, sat in Lord of The Pies looking at empty plates and discussing how much space we have in the freezer. Answer; lots. We stock up. More on this later.

There is something very special about a pie when done correctly. Golden pastry encasing a steaming hot filling; not a pastry lid on a stew like some would have you believe. Lord of The Pies isn’t just a great name, it’s a great pie shop, serving undoubtably some of the best pies I have ever eaten. A beef and ale pie has long braised meat in a sauce so lacquered you could paint your walls with it. Or your nails if you want to look extra pretty for me. It’s ordered with a mash potato with black pudding that makes the colour as filthy as it tastes. Gosh, this is heaven. Likewise a chicken balti pie that has plenty of meat and even more attitude, clearly made by someone who gets spice more than my local curry house. Fat wedges accompany this time. It just makes more sense. They have crunchy edges, and a centre that offers no bite. Price wise all of this is around 20% cheaper that Pieminister and 400% better. I’m no accountant, but even that is math I can get on board with.

And so we’re back to those empty plates, Claire looking at her untouched Forest Gin, me my local beer. We’ve barely said a word to each other for twenty minutes. She eventually exhales, nailing it with the simple description that these are everything that you imagine a pie could be, but never are. She’s right, but then she’s always bloody right. We get to the counter and chat to the charming server, asking for reccomendations and then ordering them to take home. Some two days later and I’ve eaten two so far; a pork and black pudding one, another of wild boar and apple: Claire is fully aware she needs to get more before she is welcome back in Brum. I’m not prepared to wait until Christmas when I’m next in Macclesfield at the in-laws, Lord of The Pies is now my life. I’m in this for the long haul.

8/10

Pastaio, London

Not so long ago I was asked for the best Italian restaurant in Birmingham. “There isn’t one”, I said. “Pick another cuisine or go to London”. Whilst harsh, I stand by what I said. Our best Italian restaurants are universally average and I would argue that the food coming out of my kitchen is a damm sight better than the majority of theirs. Give me notice and I’ll braise down some ox cheeks and use the liquor to transform them into a ragu of rich meat. Expect this with homemade tagliatelle and a dusting of aged parmasen. Good Italian cooking isn’t difficult – I can do it, for Christs sake – we’ve just anglicised it to the point of pure laziness.

I have places that I go to for fresh pasta, places that I’m not going to publicise because the queues are large enough already. And then I see a tweet from Nigella Lawson of a potato ravioli with gravy, an oozing egg yolk and white truffle. Take me there and invite Lawson to bring the party whilst you’re at it. As soon we get off the train it’s straight over to Pastaio where a fifteen minute wait has us seated in the week old restaurant.


We try four dishes which is enough to make me want to come back, but possibly not in a mad rush anytime soon. The biggest dissapointment is first; a toastie of sorts with mozzarella, honey, and n’duja. I note the n’duja last because this is barely present – the tiniest of blobs that sits off centre. I’d imagine in it’s full glory this is a dish to savour, just not today.


Pasta is why we are here and that is obviously where their heart lies. With no ravioli and gravy party we plump for wild mushroom tagliatelle. The pasta is silky smooth, the mushrooms delicately cooked with garlic. It’s a joy. Diminutive shells of malloredus pocket a ragu of sausage meat. It’s a grower of a dish, one that I end up clearing despite not enjoying the chewy croutons that work the jaw.


The day belongs to cacio and pepe and bucatini – a 2017 pasta dish if there ever were one. The thick pasta coated in a sauce of parmesan, butter and toasted peppercorns. It’s decadent and brilliantly judged, the ultimate in comfort food.


With dinner booked for two hours later, we opt against dessert, despite developing envy from the neighbouring tables tiramisu. Cheese toastie aside, we had an enjoyable lunch at Pastaio, even if it’s not the earth shattering moment of pasta perfection we longed for. It’s destined to be a success, with long queues in Soho a certainty once word gets around. Me, I’ll be patiently waiting for the potato ravioli and gravy before I consider joining the back of it.

7/10 

Lasan, St Pauls Square, Birmingham

It is impossible to mention the new Lasan without referring to the old. It is a restaurant that I am very familiar with, one widely regarded as the best of it’s kind in this city, thanks in part to it’s association with TV food mahatma, Aktar Islam. Aktar has now parted with the group and the restaurant has had a well needed spruce. Gone are the hard wooden lines and non-existent lighting, in comes a softer, more approachable look of pastels and patterns. It’s almost colonial in feel, like they play fine jazz to those awaiting food on the curved bar that sits adjacent to the dining room. And they do play jazz. I’m a massive fan of the refit.



Without wishing to play down the offering, you get the feel that the chase of a Michelin star has gone, replaced with a desire to feed with more traditional methods whilst still keeping to the refined style that has made it so popular. This is reflected with an ease to the service; staff are happy to chat, some dishes are rustic in their presentation. It’s less stuffy and more congenial – a place to return to time over rather than just special occasions. Accolades are excellent, but it’s paying customers that pay the bills.


It starts as it always has, with umami bombs of pani puri, filled to the brim with a pungent tamarind water and as good as they ever get. These come with greaseless poppadoms and dips to range from a familiar made from mango to a pineapple one that’s new to me. We try samosas made with the lightest of filo pastry, the filling of minced venison more than capable of standing up to the spicing.



Another starter of chicken is a solid piece of  workmanship. From the kebab made with coarsely ground mince, to the paté patty with the background funk of offal, and precisely trimmed drumstick, it sings with deft spices and well judged heat. Soft shell crab has the lightest of chilli batter that packs the biggest of flavour, with a crab cake packed with brown meat that reinforces the crustacean flavour. It’s hard to pick fault with any of the starters. Looking back, I can think of no fault at all. 


The biriyani that follows has cubes of goat at the base, braised so that they collapse under the interagation of the fork, with a dry curry that packs real power and crowned with a flurry of rice, crisp shallots, and herbs. I wish that the dish arrived wearing a pastry cap so that the aromas are released tableside, but this is a small detail given the quality of it all. We scoop on to excellent garlic naan, and, even better, roomali roti that is so thin it could be parchment paper. It’s great to see this bread, the most tricky to make, being properly showcased.



A steel tray comes bearing a shank of lamb, coated in marinade and slowly cooked. It’s an accurate bit of cooking; the meat coming away from the bone with ease. Pickled onions have enough astringency to cut through the chilli heat, with pots of raita and dhal for light and shade. That dhal returns in a larger pot – it has to, it’s glorious. As good as any dhal I’ve eaten anywhere. The lentils slow cooked and as smokey as a jazz club. 


Dessert course defeats us, and I sense a dissapointment from the waitress that we are really missing out on something. It’s okay, we’ll be back. Soon. This was my most consistent meal here to date, wholesome and confident in it’s new identity on the plate and in it’s space. I have no doubt at all that Lasan is currently the best Indian we have in Birmingham. 

9/10

I was invited to dine at Lasan

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