I have been quiet of recent; I know this and I apologise. I had taken a couple of weeks to go on one of those silly diets that permits pork scratching’s, cheese and not much else. I have become an eggspert (apologies) at omelettes and being boring, forgoing alcohol and my sense of humour to halt the waistband creeping up towards 36 inches. Diets aren’t fun – anyone that tells you otherwise needs to invest in a life instead of the latest juicer – they suck the life out of mealtimes and make it impossible to eat out. Midway through my descent into hell I was put in the usual position of being tasked with finding us somewhere to eat: I had nothing, not through lack of good options, but for my singular restrictions of what I could put in to my system without committing carbicide. For that reason the suggestion of The Keg and Grill is owed to the personal trainer at my local gym, who, in-between scolding my crash dieting plans, almost shed a tear when telling me about the mixed grill there.
Fortunately, I saw sense on the day and decided that I had a life to live and curry to eat. We keep the booking in place because I have a good idea of what to expect. The owner here used to run The Hen & Chickens, a pub that features high up Tripadvisor’s list of Birmingham thanks to its Indian grill kitchen. I’m a big fan of these places; they breath life into public houses that would probably close otherwise, providing a style of food that far exceeds the soggy cheese sandwich’s which once frequented the counter. Inside it’s a cosy pub, fully functioning with locals perched at the bar. A lick of bright orange paint about covers the extent of the refurbishment.
About eighty percent of all dishes we saw leaving the kitchen were mixed grills, so that seems the obvious place to start. For a tenner, its a beast, where you can fill your boots with whatever meat you like just as long as it is chicken. I lie: There is also lamb seekh keebab’s, though the skewered dry meat is instantly forgettable. Going back to the bird, we have accurately butchered morsels coated with honey & mustard and tandoori drumsticks that are both piquant with heat and soothing with yoghurt. Breast meat is represented two ways; as a traditional tikka with a similar marinade to the drumsticks and as a chilli tikka, unlike anything I had tried before. This is their bright green calling card, all balanced heat and mellow bitterness.
We try curries because it would be rude not. Both, despite traditionally being from the tamer end of the menu, are firmly set to “Hot”. A rich butter chicken cannot escape from the big whack of chilli, as neither can the tikki masala, despite being heavy on the cream. They are unrefined, but then we are on a backstreet in a part of the city centre where refinement is low on the list of priorities. Fluffy naans and rice perked with the umami whack of mushrooms complete the order.
With no desserts on offer we pay the bill and consider our next move. Its remarkably cheap, with only the large grill over a tenner, and that will feed three people comfortably. I’ve been to enough of these grill pubs to say the cooking is honest, if maybe not up some of its competition on the outskirts of the city. Would I rush back especially to eat the food? Probably not. But as a one-stop-shop of meat, beer, and Sky Sports; The Keg and Grill has that in the bag for its locations. That’s where places like these come into a league of their own.