Saba has been on my radar for some time, though probably not for the reason you might assume. You see I have a younger brother who’s nickname is the same as of the restaurant. Please don’t ask me why, I really have no idea, but it is how everyone knows him. My family, his friends, the local police – we all call him Saba. Every time I look at the slightly tattered building in Balsall Heath it makes me think of him looking at strangers and saying “do you have a problem, mate?”, or the time the helicopters hovered over the house looking for him. Brilliant lad is my little Bro. I love him dearly.
But the reason I haven’t visited, wait for it, ShitAdvisor’s 13th top ranked Birmingham restaurant, is a simple one. No booze on the premises. This is a problem for me. I can barely eat breakfast without a glug of wine, so it’s never going to happen at dinner. I’m sure they offer a tantalising selection of non-alcoholic drinks, but when it comes to tails I’m all cock and no mock. I order via Deliveroo, crack open the vino, and put on the least amount of clothing possible to scare the rider without him pressing charges.
The reality is that the restaurant is nothing like my brother. It punches with little strength and is far too polite. The starter promises wheat sauce, walnut and garlic, but if it’s there it’s swamped by aubergine and tomato. Likewise a Karahi that is all tender chicken and tomato paste. Where is the spice? More importantly where is the portion? It takes up a quarter of the tray and is smaller than the starter. We’re sixteen quids worth of food down and I’m still starving.
Here’s the stuff they do well; naans and chilli sauce. The former is supple and light, the latter fruity and backlit with heat. Two thirds of the kebabs also impress, one of lamb, another of chicken, both tender and wholesome. The sheekh kebab is dry and lacking any flavour at all. These three kebabs will cost you £14 and you will find them under the specials section, an exaggeration at best.
For those not able to read between the lines, this is not an endorsement of Saba the restaurant. Delivered to the front door and lubricated with alcohol it is tolerable, but that is about it. It’s overpriced and surprisingly short on flavour. If I want some Saba action in future I’ll be picking up the phone to my brother to go for a pint.
Deliveroo supplied the credit for this. By all means give Saba a go, but if I were you I’d be in The Wellington ordering a Tortilla burrito via them instead.