There is a new restaurant within a hotel that I’m curious to try. It’s inspired by ‘a love of India’, which is vague to say the least. I love India – the people, the culture, the weather – yet I’m not behind it opening, and I met some pensioners in Goa who love India because their UK state pension allows them to live like kings whilst their saggy testicles droop below their shorts bottom line and gather sand on the beaches. I really hope it’s not them. I hope it’s not the Russians I met who love India because they can smoke in restaurants, and frankly, let’s be honest, because it’s not Russia. The PR behind the hotel restaurant was fanciful in telling me that the chefs have come from five-star hotels in India which is great, but it’s a spiel I’m now jaded from. The reality is that these chefs don’t come to spread a love of their home country, they come because the pay is better and the working hours less. It happens all the time and is never a barometer of quality. A pub in Harborne once employed the entire kitchen of a five-star hotel in Poland. They never came to cook pierogi; they came to flip burgers and poach eggs, though never together because that kind of wackiness is reserved for restaurants in Digbeth. Anyway, a friend of mine who knows a lot about India went to the hotel love letter to India and fed back that “it’s just curry, innit”.  I expected as much. 

We have a lot of curry in Birmingham. From the bottom end to those bestowed with a Michelin star, no city represents the food of the subcontinent better outside the subcontinent. Everyone has their favourite. Everyone. A lot of peoples are Lasan and rightly so. In keeping with the terms and conditions they sent me via email for supplying me with credit, I need to point out that Lasan is twenty years old. It’s their birthday. Two decades in the same Jewellery Quarter building which means twelve years since they went and won the F Word and a city of people realised the money they were spunking eating greasy tandoori prawns at Shimla Pinks could have been spent on something edible. Since then they’ve had a refit, thankfully. It’s colonial now in notion; baby blues and darker woods and lithe waiters buzzing around a room that is busy and spinning tables constantly. We get poppadom’s and the usual dips, not remotely special, then pani puri that zip with spicy tamarind water. It is an opening sequence that hasn’t changed since the first time I was here. 

From here the food is at times excellent, at other times far from it. The worst bits, it seems to me, are when the dishes are lower in spice and become so tempered out that they verge on bland. Cue entrance music, for here comes the panner starter. The paneer itself is good; fresh, it seems, popping with delicate hints of ginger. It’s swimming in something thick and beige which tastes as beige would taste, which is starchy and nondescript vegetables blended with nondescript vegetable stock. It takes something to make paneer the most interesting flavour point in a bowl, but congratulations, they’ve managed it. By comparison, the soft shell crab was superb; batter light and delicate, good amount of spice. The crumbed crab cakes bursting with murky brown meat which offers contrast and counterpoint. There is a couple of chutneys and a vivid green corriander chutney spiked with green chilli. It’s cohesive and easily the best thing we eat all night. 

By now we’ve reached curry o’clock and it’s much of the same from the starters. Kashmiri lamb is very good; the gravy style sauce spiked with lots of chilli and a little clove, rich and tasting of braised bones. The lamb soft and just fatty. There is a lot to enjoy here, mostly because – and I’m guessing here – it’s a dish they can point to for those who enjoy their Indian cooking to taste of Indian food. And for the pathetic white middle-aged folk who find themselves sat in an Indian restaurant despite their insistence that they don’t like spice, there is the Makhan chicken, or butter chicken, if you must. So lacking in any spice I initially thought the sauce might have been Heinz Cream of Tomato soup, it’s a tragedy given that the large chicken chunks are well marinated and accurately cooked. Naans are good, rice okay. I’m just pissed that they felt the need to pander to the delicate anglicised palates so much. And if you are a delicate anglicised palate reading this thinking I’m taking aim at you, book The Ivy and eat the shepherd’s pie. It’s delicious. Stop ruining Indian food for those of us who love it. 

No desserts, but a decent delve into a very fairly priced wine list that others could learn from, and a couple of cocktails apiece that are nice enough and maybe could do with some refinement. Our bill sat around £70 a head for this, though that is substantially discounted with a voucher to celebrate it being their 20th birthday. Have I mentioned it is their birthday? Twenty years is a long time to stay at the top of their game and it felt like at times Lasan was coasting a little too much. I’d go back for the crab and likely the lamb, but I’d love to see what could be achieved with more vibrant spicing throughout the menu. At present it’s just curry, innit. 


I was supplied with credit to use to towards the meal here.