It feels like every growing food and beverage chain wants a piece of Birmingham right now, and frankly, who can blame them. It takes only one visit to Dishoom on a Monday night to note it is the busiest place in the city before a thirty second stroll to Alberts Schloss to see the only bar outside of the Gay Village filling venues early week. This city has a growing appetite for other cities showing an interest in us for the first time. We’re the kid who was unpopular at school who has got popular now we’ve started working out, got abs, and grown a beard.

And yet, to me at least, that fascination is an odd one. The likes of Dishoom, Vinoteca (RIP), Byron (remember them?), Rudy’s, Franco Manca, and now Bundobust are hardly unobtainable, provided travel is available and a will to leave The Midlands exists. I’ve been aware of Bundobust for six years, and I almost cried five years back when I chose a really bad lunch at El Gato Negro over eating there when The National popped in for a pre-gig bite to eat. Back then the premise of Indian street food was exciting; cheap, substantial, and different. Now it’s a different situation entirely. It’s bloody everywhere. From street food stands, to high streets and suburban areas. Even the posh hotels have street food sections on the menus.

Now I imagine that they’ll initially do very well, but the reality is that the offering isn’t unique anymore; lest of all in a city like Birmingham that arguably does the sub continent better than anywhere else. Most of what I tried can already be found better elsewhere in the city. The chole is a pale imitation of the one found at Zindiya, as are the okra fries, whilst the parathas aren’t just bettered by the excellent ones at Indian Streetery, but anywhere. They have dried to cardboard around the edges and are a chore to eat thanks to a way too aggressive cook. The papads we ordered from the ‘whilst you wait section’ turn up with the other dishes. They can be folded. Never trust a papad that can be used for origami. The three dips for them are £1.75. Three superior sauces at Dishoom are £1.75 less.

And I’ll go one further; even the best bits aren’t going to trouble any best of Birmingham lists. I like the koftas of paneer and potato even if they have caught in the fryer, but I really like the saag that’s rich with whole spices and a nice lingering heat. I like the curried scrambled egg thing with peas, and I quite like the bundochaat which improves the further down you go. It’s better than the one I had at the lauded Khai Khai, but no better than the one at a dozen other places in Brum. The one at Jyoti’s is probably the best.

But when it’s bad, it’s hard to justify being here. Given that much of the menu is fried, you would have thought they’d have worked out how to stop the bhatura being so greasy, given it plagues a paneer kadai so dull James Cameron has cast it in the next instalment of Avatar. I can’t bear the paneer tikka that play to the aged stereotype that anything tikka should be stained a communist shade of red, whilst the only thing of interest on the vada pav is the green chilli on the side.

There are some things to like about Bundobust. The place looks great, as do the staff clad in a mixture of local talent and Universal Works. The cocktails I tried are very decent, and I’m led to believe that the beers are excellent, but perhaps I’m the wrong person to discuss that with. Despite this the biggest redeeming feature about the food is the vegetarian ethos, and whilst I’m absolutely in line of believing that less meat is better for us all, it simply has to be done better than presently here. As we sat finishing off the last of our drinks we discussed what occasions would bring us back here. None, we agreed, there is simply better options elsewhere.


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