The word value has appeared a lot on my timeline this week. If I were cynical I imagine the term might be there to gloss over some very average cooking by not mentioning the cooking at all, thus concentrating on amount of food for a set price as opposed to the quality of said food. If I were to be cynical I might even suggest that the reason why very few were talking about the food was because it may impact further invites and gifts in the future. But I’m not cynical; au contraire mon frere, I’m a ray of fucking sunshine, so of course I don’t think that. I trust implicitly that they’ve sat through multiple courses and not thought once about how good it is, rather just how bloody great value it would be if they were paying for it.

Now, value. I submitted a piece recently for the national press that’s due out in January on the best places to eat that don’t cost much money. Without ruining said piece I listed Yikouchi, Wok Chi, and Shababs though I wish I’d been to Amritsari Tarka before I sent it over. Omar has drove us over for lunch because he’s marginally obsessed with it, though his wife has argued that his obsession stems from a leaking roof the last time they ate here. It’s in Handsworth, the parking is shit and you may have a rather dodgy bloke offer to watch your car, but my is it brilliant. It has soul in every one of the courses in the tiny laminated menu.

Before I get on to the thali, we get chicken tikka. Properly good chicken tikka with blackened edges and more heat than I’m used to. It needs the lick of acid from the lemon wedge but the bottles of mint yogurt and chilli sauce only mar the quality of it. It’s excellent. Spoiler, it’s all excellent.

The thali is a tenner. Two curries, rice or raita, some chutney and the best wholemeal roti you’ll ever eat. I seriously challenge you to find better. I have dhal makhani that’s better than Dishoom’s and a home-style chicken curry that’s thick and fragrant. I’m guessing they make their own garam masala, they must do, because it’s both homely and refined at once. I try Omar’s veg curry that reminds of a looser mush than you’d find with pau bhaji. It’s spicy, rustic, and the only time the watery raita makes sense. £30 for two. I’m very conscious of it, so without me cosplaying white saviour for shining a torch on places that are clearly already busy, it’s arguably my find of 2023.

Dessert is over the road at Suraj Sweet Centre. Two freshly cooked samosas that hum gently with methi and cumin, and two sweet mugs of hot chai, powdery and damp with spice. You should know that these are the best samosas in the city and that the bill is £12.50 for us both. That’s real value.


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