One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is where to eat around the NIA, or the Barclay Utilita thingy as it is now called but likely soon to be changed. My answer is always simple: Pulperia and Pulperia only. Book Pulperia or don’t eat. Or move that lazy arse of yours and extend your stroll to Purecraft and Dishoom. Brindley Place and its surrounding areas depress me like a birthday balloon slowly losing air. It’s loaded with Instagram opportunities like flower arches and dead rabbit chairs (honestly), but very little else in the way of food other than excellent steak. It’s the place for inflatable dick bottomless brunches and lunches for bankers whose name sounds more accurate if you insert the index digits and stretch the mouth apart whilst saying it. 


New-ish to Brindley is Perios which describes itself as a fiesta of Tex-Mex flavours and comes complete with a history of the area, yet still can’t figure out that chimichurri originates some 8000km south of Mexico like they claim it does. And I write that sitting in my Birmingham house eating a chaat masala with roti that originated here in my home town. The rest of the menu is that kind of depressing Las Iguanas meets Nando’s talk of fierce fajitas and sizzling plates and oh, just please fuck off. There is that Tex-Mex classic Philly Sub on the menu from that well known part of Texas/Mexico Philadelphia. And I write that sitting in my Birmingham house eating a lamb tagine that originated here in my home town. It’s almost like they’ve paid no attention to provenance. 


The interior will appeal to some. There are various areas of different shades of orange and pinks and purples, which they probably think are the colours on the flag of TexMexica. On top of these are illustrations of mask wearing luchadores, those Mexican wrestlers who protect their identity in the same way that I would if this restaurant was my idea. 


The first thing we eat are nachos straight out of a bag, served with BBQ sauce, salsa, and that chimichurri straight out of Dallas via the Andes on a six-hour flight. Whilst the nachos are bad, the dips are enough to require therapy, given they have the texture of ectoplasm and could traverse a wall under their own steam. The saccharine BBQ sauce is cruder than a BP oil slick with the same unappealing colour, whilst the salsa is the equivalent of Ed Balls attempting its namesake dance, given that it’s heavy-footed and attractive only to those with weird kinks. The chimichurri is nothing of the sort, but that’s hardly surprising. It’s closer to the diced onion salad you’d eat with your poppadoms at the local curry house. Which is fine if we were in a curry house instead of a shit rendition of a Tex Mex restaurant. As it is, it gives me indigestion. 


Habeneros Heroes arrive. No, I haven’t got a fucking clue either. Molten balls of deep fried cheese that promise chilli and only succeed in burning the roof of my mouth, they taste of old cooking oil. Seconds later ‘Bites’n’Rice’ appear, sounding like a dance act on Britain’s Got Talent and transpiring miraculously to be even worse. Bits of chopped up bland chicken in a hot sauce so thick I expect it to run for Prime Minister, with rice that has the texture of being microwaved from a bag – if the microwave exploded mid-point and the sprinklers went off. This is depressing food, the OK Computer culinary equivalent without the guile or nuance. The only redeeming point is the excellent Pip’s hot sauce on the table, which I can only assume has been left there accidently by someone who wanted their food to taste of something decent. 


And then the apology happened. I’ve been in restaurants long enough to have chefs apologise personally for a dish after it had been sent out. I’ve even argued with chefs when I’ve said I didn’t like a course and they disagreed with me. But never, ever, have I had a server say “I’m sorry” as they put the food on the table. The dish in question was a buffalo chicken burger of sorts but smelt off and tasted saltier than a snatch game episode of Drag Race. Chicken dry, incorrect items on it. I take one bite and send it back. They had messed up the coating, I am told, yet they still sent it out. After more apologies I am told that we will get a discount and a free drink. We take it out of principle. The bill arrives and they’ve knocked ten percent off the total bill; about three quid of discount when the uneaten and charged for chicken came in at £10. I try to explain that I would rather had just had the chicken burger taken off the bill and not had the bang-average drink, which is a principle that falls on deaf ears. 


There are about twenty people there when I visit. All taking pictures of the stupid masks and the pretty walls, or the cocktail tankards of skulls. And that’s what restaurants have become; visual theatres where the focus is on the walls and not the plate. It’s not what I want when I go out to eat. There is literally nothing redeeming about Perios, other than the hot sauce that they have miraculously sourced onto the table. I leave looking into the void of the canal and onto the surrounding restaurants, each decked out to appeal to the type who walk into restaurants filming like they are Stephen Spielberg with unresolved childhood complexes. Brindley Place doesn’t cater for me apart from Pulperia. Just go there instead.