Are you broke after overdoing it at Christmas? Yeah, me too. Still, don’t let that keep you in the house eating leftover turkey and microwave dinners. January is depressing, though if you know where to eat (and I do), there is some exceptional food to be had for not a lot of money. So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty; here are the best ten dishes to be had in Birmingham for under a tenner. All independents doing brilliant things, who need your support more than a big corporate with a mid-week discount voucher.
1) Chicken Tikka, Zindiya, £7.00
Zindiya do many, many things brilliantly, but there is nothing better on that menu than the chicken tikka. The stuff of local legend, these fat morsels of skewered and tandoor’d fowl are the best example I have ever tried. Dress them in the mint sauce, eat and wash down with a pint of Lawless. These are worthy of a trip to Moseley at least once a week.
2) Scotch egg, Pure Bar and Kitchen, £6.00
Not just any scotch egg. Served warm and with a runny yolk, atop of shoestring fries and beer ketchup, it is probably the best scotch egg you will ever eat. This comes as little surprise when you learn that the menu design is headed-up by Michelin starred Simpsons. The ultimate in bar snacks.
3) Hell Shack burger, The Meat Shack, £7.50
The slogan ‘dripping filthy goodness’ may be a little salacious, but don’t let that stop you from missing out on these beefy beauties. My pick is the Hell Shack, a fiery blast of smashed patty, green chilli relish and a hot sauce which will hurt more on the way out than on the way in. It will end up all down your chin and possibly your top, and it may hurt a little, but it’s worth every second of the eating.
4) Singapore Carrot Cake, Blue Piano, £5.95
Yes, you are reading that correct. Carrot cake. Just not as you know it. Containing very little in the way of actual carrot, this is a spiced savoury cake made mostly of rice flour and mooli, a variety of radish, topped with scrambled egg, spring onion and chilli. It’s so good you’ll consider having it again for dessert. Which you should, apparently it’s a common request.
5) ‘Nduja, Honey, and Chorizo pizza, Otto, £9.00
Otto understand how a good pizza works; a seriously hot oven that blisters dough in a couple of minutes, and impeccably sourced ingredients. My choice showcases those top meats in all their glory. Chorizo and ‘nduja – a spicy and malleable salami – with the heat tempered by honey. It sounds like it doesn’t work. Trust me, it does.
6) Potato Churros, El Borracho de Oro, £5.50
These are so addictive the government are voting to classify them. I jest. I have no idea how they are made – my guess is they’re mashed, mixed with a little flour and then piped into a deep fat fryer. Whatever the process, the result is a savoury potato stick that begs to be dunked into blue cheese dip. Delicious.
7) Alabama Slammer burger, Original Patty Men, £7.50
Brummies love an OPM. Drake loves an OPM. Everyone loves an OPM. Realistically everything on the menu could have made this list, but we’re going leftfield to say ditch the beef and order the Alabama Slammer. Think of it as a Zinger burger for those in the know, with deep fried chicken thigh in the lightest of batters. Stick this is a bun with ‘slaw and hot sauce and what you have is a bona fide winner.
8) Hummus Kavurma, Cappodocia, £7.95
What possibly could be better than hummus? How about hummus topped with crispy bits of lamb and its dark, syrupy cooking liquor?! This relatively new Turkish restaurant in the Jewellery Quarter takes bashed up chickpeas to new heights with this addictive blend of the spicy meat and soothing layer of hummus it beds on.
9) Char Sui Bao. Chung Ying Central, £4.00
Tender slices of marinated and slow cooked pork, hidden inside the fluffiest of steamed milk buns. Sold? Me too. Available at all three Chung Ying sites, I suggest that that you try them in the comfort of the central location over a cocktail or three. The cheapest dish on the list, you’ll still have change in your pocket when you order another portion.
10) Vegetarian Dosa, Gateway to India, £4.99
Don’t let the Broad Street location put you off, this dosa is worth the risks of a stag party slalom. A rolled savoury pancake the size of my forearm, filled with a potato, cumin and mustard seed blend, it is served with two chutneys and a vegetable curry. All for a fiver. The rest of the menu may not come close to this dish, but if I worked closer it would be my lunch of choice on a daily basis.