Omar wants nihari for breakfast. No, I take it back, he wants both of us to have nihari for breakfast. Because nihari, when done right, is the ultimate breakfast food. The slowly cooked mutton stew with the gelatinous meat trying desperately to part ways with the bone like a party with the one bloke in the kitchen who wants to talk about the virtues of Laurence Fox. There is protein, wobbly protein, from the sheep, and a broth that’s not heavy in the slightest but contains enough heat to get the digestion going in record time. Add some wholemeal roti’s and it’s a surprise you don’t see this Pakistani staple more often; breakfast, or any other time.

There’s one place to get nihari in Birmingham. It’s a little place called Sheereen Kadah in Balsall Heath that’s been around since the seventies, which I once stumbled on walking home from Rock’n’rolla some twenty years ago and have been fascinated with since. I’m not sure it ever really closes: at 7am, as Rock’n’rolla closed, it’s full of taxi drivers welcoming in the light with nihari and haleem, by 11.30am – when we are here – it’s a new customer of samosas, light lunches, and sweets. At night, it’s one of the last bastions of the Balti, but really so much more. And getting a Balti can prove difficult. I know, I tried.

Omar gets his nihari. It’s the colour and viscosity of fake tan, which, given the quantity of ginger involved, might be a life hack for redheads. It’s rife with black pepper and the medicinal quality of clove. It’s deep and meaty, the process of hours on a stove. Make no mistake, this is one of the great dishes of Birmingham, perfected over decades of no menu change. I ask for a Balti because I’m a heathen, but also because a one dish review of a restaurant is shite (side note: a prominent Birmingham blogger once reviewed a Pret sandwich. It still gives me nightmares). They ignore my request and give me a homestyle chicken curry. It’s pungent and spicy. I chase the last dots of sauce out of the dish with the last of the roti.

In between this there is a round of pastry filled with lamb keema and spiced potato that sent trigger warnings to my arse, poppadoms straight out of the fryer, and chai so hot Jada Pinkett-Smith claimed to have slept with it in the 90’s. The bill struggles to hit £30 and we leave sensing that whilst the restaurant scene has changed a lot since they opened fifty years ago, the need for places like Sheereen Kadah has never been needed more. The media this week would lead you to believe that this is a no-go area, when in fact it’s the beating heart of an immigrant neighbourhood that adds to this cities rich diversity. I’m sure the Tory MP who shot his mouth has no idea that places like this exist, and maybe it’s better for us food lovers it stays that way.


The Meat and One Veg Podcast returns on Monday. Listen to season one here.