Birmingham

8, Birmingham

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8 is a restaurant which needs to be seen rather than read about. On paper the 16 seater restaurant where all of the 8 courses are based around the number 8 might seem a little gimmicky, until, that is, you are on one of those stools, with those plates in front of you eating some seriously good food. It is here that you see a chef unleashed; his own food and ideas on a plate, following a career of cooking to other people’s briefs in high profile restaurants.

Cards on the table, I have had a tiny amount of involvement in the restaurant. I arranged a couple of launch events – one for chefs, the other for press – and gave my opinion at a drinks tasting, and I suggested the services of someone to make the mixed drinks a little better. I’ve received payment for some things and have done others purely out of wanting to see them succeed. The meal you are reading about is from a press night I helped organise. Whilst it’s important to establish facts, it’s also important to remember that I’ve been critical of dishes before they reached this stage. I’ve eaten almost all of them in isolation, though this is the first time I’ve had them as one cohesive dinner.

But first the dining room, which is unlike anything in Birmingham and has very few reference points outside of the city. A kitchen table of 16 seats, each lit individually by a spotlight that beams on to the logo set upon the oxidised concrete. To one side of the room is a neon infinity wall, to the other a large screen which plays the media for each course. It’s ballsy and in your face. It’s full of talking points. It’s the room which is going to be all over your social media for the rest of the year.

Spelt bread arrives first clad in a sticky apple caramel glaze, to be torn apart between two and clad in butter. Then ‘V8’, the first course proper and named after the juice, a tart of mostly tomato and beetroot, with a warm consommé from the same veg. Delicate pastry, almost sweet filling offset with parsley. It’s a cracking start. It’s followed by ‘oxidised’, a fairly classic tartare of dairy cow with mushrooms, truffle, and a gooey yolk, set between two discs of pressed brioche. Well balanced and rich, it continues to set a high standard. ‘Square Root of Eight’ sees a cube of roasted celeriac share a bowl with a dice of the same veg pickled and a broth of the off-cuts, with little more than a grating of hazelnut for adornment. It comes alive thanks to an incredibly clever drink pairing that contains bourbon, Hungarian sweet wine, and toasted barley oil. I’m biased, but those drink pairings are up there with the best in the country.

From here it gets very, very good. ‘Lucky 8’ is a naughty double mouthful of bread, pork liver parfait, a riff on a famous pickle, cheddar cheese, and lardo. It’s big and moreish. A very famous chef may have eaten three of them. Then a light tartare of scallops and apples, bolstered by a bonito infused cream, which forms the ‘8 Days A Week’ course. We finish the savoury courses with ‘Resurrection’, a venison Wellington studded with foie gras, sauce and that’s it. It doesn’t need anything else. Stellar work, it’s up there with my favourite things to eat in the city. On a side plate is pastry ends. What’s pissed off a kitchen of chefs only adds to the happiness in the dining room.

The first dessert happens to be the first dish that Andrew learnt to make. ‘8-10-2006’ is the date he started as a chef, knocking out carrot cake for afternoon teas. This carrot cake is given an upgrade; one between two, with cream cheese and carrot jam. It’s a stunner. With this a drink that contains carrot vodka. Turns out I like carrot vodka. Last course is ‘8.01’; After Eight, if you like. There’s a chocolate ganache with a puddle of minty chocolate grappa, covered in a spikey alpine of chocolate tuiles. Given the complexity of the work gone into the previous courses, it’s nice to finish on something more simplistic.

The price for the food is £88, more if you go for the drinks pairing, which you really should. I dined in 8 three nights in a row this week prior to the official launch today, and already I have seen minor tweaks and improvements. Given that Andrew describes these as “the eight courses of his career”, it only seems fitting that the dishes continue to evolve, much like him as a chef. As far as experiences go, 8 is as cinematic and widescreen as Birmingham has ever seen. It’s bolshy and ambitious. It demands to be experienced.

You’ve probably correctly guessed I didn’t pay for this.

Better pictures by Where is Claire. Best taxis by A2B.

Wine Freedom, Digbeth

A couple of nights ago we were fortunate enough to do a staycation at Hampton Manor. On the Saturday of this glorious weekend, hungover on whisky and feeling very full, we attended a wine tasting with MD James Hill which forms part of the schedule. James would start by telling us this was a session led by an enthusiast and not an expert, one whose eyes had been opened by a wine specialist named Sam Olive. With a copy of the book ‘Natural Wine’ nestled on the counter, James spoke about how Sam had stripped away the bullshit behind wine, and used a language which was accessible. He told the group how Sam and business partner Taylor now had a garage in Digbeth from which they operate a little wine shop called Wine Freedom, incidentally the name of their bullshit free natural wine business.

Rewind ten days prior and I’m sat in that plant-filled, white washed garage drinking wine with my lovely friend Jo. I knew about Wine Freedom already. Over lockdown we had deliveries from them, and prior to that their produce is in many of my favourite places (Ynyshir, 1000 Trades, The Plough et al). Taylor worked a few hours in my favourite pub and and it seemed like you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing them, including my home, where my girlfriend stores a laminated picture of Sam in a tight grey t-shirt underneath the bed.

I quintuple parked as soon as we got there. I wanted to try all of the wines available by the glass. These seem to be the most user friendly of their range; approachable, young wine which contains grapes and nothing else. I’m still trying to fully understand natural wine but I’m getting there slowly. I do like the ones which taste of wine, but give me the wild ones that have notes of cider and perry and I’ll show you ciders and perry I prefer more. If it means anything I liked all the wines we tried that afternoon, and really really liked a number of them.

In the effort of research we also ordered all the food from the shortish menu. They’ve kept it simple; three cheeses from Neals Yard, good bread and butter, chutneys and pickles, and a potted pork. That potted pork recipe can be found on page 60 of The Book of St John and is possibly the best rillettes recipe you will find, loaded with Madeira, garlic, and spice. The chutneys and pickles too mostly come from the same book, though some have been touched by the grace of Dom Clarke of Caneat. It’s all great, from the squash chutney with ras al hanout, to the pleasingly acidic green tomatoes pickles. It’s all rather special and very inexpensive.

Alas it wasn’t supposed to be like this. There were plans to make it a more finished space, but then the world went to shit and they decided to spend the revised and much lower budget on plants and pallets. They were supposed to have a kitchen and a chef and they still might, but I don’t think it needs it. The wine and the charming service and the communal bit of food do they is just a perfect way to whittle away a few hours with friends, especially when that friend insists on paying the bill. But what do I know? I’m no expert. I’m just another enthusiast trying to understand a little bit more.

Peacer, Moseley, September 2020

Peacer have a wine machine and that’s enough inspiration for me to write about them again. It won’t be a big post, nor should it be. Just a brief love letter to one of my favourite places in my old home. That’s Moseley, not Peacer. I never lived in Peacer, despite trying to claim squatters rights on numerous occasions.

They’ve reopened. It took them a while. Inside not much has changed other than the length of Jack’s hair, which lockdown has created a mane of, and the small matter of a wine machine. Have I mentioned the wine machine? All natural from Wine Freedom, it fits the tone of the space perfectly. Not only do they do pizza by the slice but they now do wine by the glass. Clever guys. Buy a card, pop a card in machine, press size of wine you want. Drink. Repeat. The wines were great. Accessible. Interesting. Youthful.

The pizza is still New York style by the slice. Great big things that need two hands to successfully control. The ‘Smokey’ is very good, the ‘Hot’ with hot honey is even better. Those in the know head straight to ‘Tangy’ with blue cheese, crispy onions, and the house buffalo sauce. It’s one of my favourite things to eat in Birmingham. Always, and I repeat always, ask for a pot of that sauce on the side. I think the tomato and mozzarella salad is new, and goes down very well. It’s simple and well executed.

It’s been a year to the day that we viewed the house in Harborne and I saw the look in Claire’s eyes. I knew then it was the right thing to up and move us, away from the parties, and to a quieter part of town. It’s been a good move us. But for all of its faults I miss Moseley. How one pint on a Wednesday night ends up in someone’s house drinking until daybreak. The ad hoc Zindiya meals and free scallops from Flakes chippy. Miss shopping in Nima Stores and then feeling sad because something so pure can’t last forever. Miss Little Blackwood, and the garden of The Prince, and Joe whipping out a bottle of rum for us to neck in The Dark Horse when he probably should be taking money from us. I miss how the top ranked hotel in the area was our sofa and came with direct access to a free bar. I miss the Tangy from Peacer, so much so that we purchase another four slices to take home with us, before swearing that we’ll go back once a month to make a night of it. Moseley ain’t perfect, but then neither am I. Did I mention that Peacer has a wine machine?

After all that wine we needed to get an A2B home.

Saint Kitchen, Jewellery Quarter

The last time I ate in Saint Kitchen it all went to shit. I had a breakfast there and got embroiled in a row with a member of staff when I didn’t finish my food, who then took it to Twitter and said some defamatory things about me, to which I got pissed off and said nasty stuff back. Some man from the TV who now lives too close for comfort then became involved and I continued to act like a prick when he was nasty to me, which didn’t help when I went to an awards ceremony, won the stupid thing, stayed up all night and sent said man from TV a picture of the award from my local pub the following morning. Another man, this time from the radio, tried to have my award taken away whilst man from TV blocked me. I then said some really mean things to which telly man kicked off and I ended up on page four of the local paper with my dad phoning me and telling me to behave. Sorry dad. Anyway, I learnt my lesson and now live the model life and still see TV man in the pub from time to time where we pretend not to notice each other. It wasn’t my finest moment and thanks Liam, you absolute arse. The End.

I said I’d never go back. Then they were taken over and I had a really nice and brief online chat with a lovely new owner who almost won me over by saying that Liam no longer worked there, and absolutely had me convinced when she was so obviously proud of the food coming out of the kitchen. I should probably let you know that she offered to get this lunch in and that I turned the kind offer down. One, I wanted to support by giving instead of taking, and two, given the history with Saint Kitchen any praise from my part should be genuine.

So get ready for praise. It’s improved greatly on the old set-up and is very good, if certainly not perfect. The coffee is lovely, up there with the best in the city, and team on the lunch we visited friendly and cool and not Liam. A brunch dish with mushrooms and various greens on sourdough is perked up by romesco and green harissa sauces, and is very well received. My order, a bagel with eggs and chorizo jam, is chosen because the words chorizo jam give me a stonker. It turns out to be the best thing we eat by a distance; simple and packed with flavour, that jam is more a chunky sauce but my chin wears it with the same pride. At six quid it’s also firmly on my Brum bargains list.

Alas, it’s not all to this standard. A sausage roll has technically sound pastry work and is well seasoned, but ultimately lacks oomph and is a slog to finish. Patatas bravas are nothing really of the sort; the spuds are good but the spicy tomato sauce is far removed from what it should be and it’s under seasoned. It’s also too wet overall. But really does this matter? Not to me. I’m personally happy to have the option of great coffee in that area, knowing that I can stay for a bagel and that my girlfriend can eat well if she wants. Moreover I’m happy that I can do so in an environment where I’m wanted as a customer. The new(ish) Saint Kitchen can stay, I’m a fan.

You’ll be pleased to know A2B is also a Liam free zone

Greens, Solihull

Greens do a cocktail called ‘Death by Whisky’. Over lockdown it was suggested to me on numerous occasions that I should have a death by whisky, though whether this was a reference to the drink or a wish from my enemies is unclear. “I’m not sure if I can afford a death by whisky” I responded, often whilst sipping on a whisky, often in the morning. It’s true. Whilst the world was going to shit, I was spending a lot of money on mixed drinks. Mixed drinks make me happy.

I’ve now had a death by whisky and as this is not a posthumous blog piece, you can rightly assume it involved a trip to Greens in Solihull. It sits in the centre of a shopping square, sharing a unit with a coffee bar (Vita) and street food space (Taste Collective), each with outside terrace space and its own identity. The name of the cocktail bar might give you an idea of the colour scheme here, the giant pages of glass ensuring it stays bright and well lit. It’s a comfy, almost Mediterranean way of people watching with a glass of something strong in hand.

Before the drinks, let’s get a quick word about the food. The cheese board is impeccable, which might have something to do with the general manager previously being responsible for looking after the cheese at Simpsons. All British, they have more conventional options like Black Bomber mingling with lesser known such as the superb Waterloo, which won the war when I was defeated. The meats too are all British including wagyu salami, venison bresaola and coppa, which is a far better use of a pigs neck than David Cameron ever suggested.

And the drinks. Headed up by Rob Wood (that name should mean something to you if you care about drinks), it’s about time that Solihull laid claim to a bar that made top-tier drinks. I really like the Death by Whisky, which is a boozy four-blend of various types with sherry and maple, maybe more so than the gadgetry of Smoke and Mirrors that requires you to pull a cherry and chocolate flavoured whisky drink from a smoke box. Fantastic Mr. Fig is punchy and decadent mouthful of wonder, whilst Whoopsy Daisy is all jammy fruitiness. Maybe best of all is Flowers and Blossoms, with its light floral notes and gentle acidity from sakè. It’s a really great drink.

Service is genuine and kind, on this night led by someone who used to run a bar in Harborne and another who was always too good to break up fights in Moseley. Now I don’t usually make a thing of writing about bars, but I feel compelled to spread the word about here. The nightlife in Solihull is dismal; it’s a place where Slug and Lettuce reigns supreme fuelled by Pornstar Martinis. Green’s offers something different, a classier, more cultured way of drinking in a part of town that can afford it but somehow never had it. Those who had to travel before for good drinks now can stay within their own postal code.

The Crown at Burchetts Green, Berkshire

I’d like to think that a place like The Crown could only exist under its own circumstance. How the unconventional approach of having chef patron Simon Bonwick completely alone in the kitchen allows him to play out the Escoffier tribute without another chef whispering otherwise in his ear. How the front of house, made up of a third of his nine children, are able to talk through the tiny wine list, haggle on the extra bottles on the blackboard, and explain the eccentricities on the menu like a ‘rather nice sauce’, or that day’s ‘nice’ dish. Right down to one of the team jokingly telling us that their Dad would not be happy to see a prawn topple from a main course, it’s an experience which defies convention in its usual sense.

The overall effect is a timeless restaurant that focuses on the roots of fine dining as opposed to the ever changing colours of the leaves on its many branches. The endless towers of cookbooks which litter the bar area have each served a purpose to take the restaurant to the heights of a Michelin star, via a special recommendation from the same guide the previous year. Not bad for a space of just six tables and one chef.

A little canapé arrives alongside the champagne we start with; a delicate thimble of pastry holding a purée of chickpea, lemon, and smoked almond, then a cup of chilled squash soup with clusters of seeds and a hint of spice. Bread is a hot pillowy affair, a little dense, served with slivers of butter pinned together with spikes of lavender and rosemary. A trick we’ll be stealing for dinner parties in our home.

For starters we take a huge cylinder of dressed white crab meat, thatched with batons of apple and a solitary tomato petal. There is a dressing of something sweet and acidic, and a few spiced cashews for good measure. The result is up there with the very best crab dishes I have ever eaten, a tribute to the beauty of the more subtle white flesh. A terrine of pork belly studded with lentils is lovely yet not on the same level. Acidity to cut through the fatty pig is everywhere; a blob of something mustardy, a teeny quenelle of chutney, or the bite of the pickles. They all work.

A beef main is ‘cooked on a string’ and, I’ll be honest, I’m still none the wiser as to what that involves. My guess from the texture of the fillet, is that it is both poached and steamed, resulting in an excellent piece of meat that is very rare but not the slightest bit bloody. With this is spud squared; a fondant and the most buttery of mash with a little confit garlic, some spinach, and mushrooms cooked in plenty of butter. But what makes it is the sauce, reduced so heavily you could varnish a fence with it, and so glossy it could serve as a mirror. Full of bovine notes and with something piquant lurking in the background, it reminds me of the sauce I had with beef at The Ritz, only better.

If I’m launching into hyperbole it’s because we were both having the best time. There is something magical about being somewhere so at ease with itself. The other main of halibut owes much of its majesty to the Breton prawns it shares the plate with, being some of the freshest and tastiest I can recall eating. Like the beef it has the mash and the spinach, though this has a verdant pesto and a little tomato concasse to bolster the summer flavours it speaks of on the menu. A really outstanding dish.

Saint Marcellin cheese gives me happy memories of Mere Richard in Lyon, so when it’s on the menu as cheesecake, I’m ordering it. In truth it’s the one dish I’m not mad on. The cheese flavour comes through nicely, but it’s a little dense and the base is a little chalky. Lovely raspberries though. But frankly who cares when they have steamed syrup sponge as good as this. A light, pillowly bosom, sweet and unforgiving to the hips. A proper dessert. I get a macaron with a candle in because it’s my birthday. It’s a good macaron and a great birthday.

Starters and desserts sit mostly in the teens, whilst the mains above are £40 and £44 respectively. The total bill of over two hundred for two including wine isn’t cheap, but it is worth it. We simple loved The Crown. It defies trends and fashions to serve the food which they are comfortable with, in an environment which they have curated to suite them. With the exception of a few other favourites of ours, it stands out for having a true identity. I can see many other visits happening in the future.

Fazenda, August 2020

To write about Fazenda post apocalypse feels like writing about a new restaurant, more so than anywhere that I would consider visiting for pleasure. I’m not going to overlook the struggles that all restaurants have faced in the last eight weeks to reopen, but I’m specifically referring to the model that this business previously ran on. This is a place that pre-COVID involved having the whole cuts of animal carved at the table, whilst the gaps in between were filled with trips to a vast salad bar; the latter simply not possible at present, whilst the former has its own issues. When the government closed restaurants part of me feared that we’d never see Fazenda again.

They are back and it’s clear that they’ve considered the right way of going about things before they did. They’ve dropped a lot of covers – 50 or so – meaning that tables are well spaced and mostly behind screens, and whilst the meat is still carved, it is done from a safe distance with individual prongs to collect it as flops from the skewer. The biggest change is with sides and the wine, now accessed via a link and ordered from phone to table by a dedicated server.

I think I preferred the new way. I think. Certainly not the face masks and the distance, but the side plates that are now cooked to order and have improved. After the opening board of cured meats, cheeses, and other bits, we get mushrooms pan fried in lots of garlic and a little cream that benefit from fresh preparation, as do fries straight out of the fryer dusted in parmesan and a little slush of truffle oil. We both love the dinky balls of mozzarella and tomato dressed in the spiky green of chimichurri, and the red peppers roasted until the skin blackens and makes the flesh sweet throughout. Perhaps the Brazilian black bean stew isn’t quite as deep a flavour as I remember, but that’s okay because now we have a purée of sweet potato so soft it could be baby food. That purée is given bags of character with feta and mint, crunch from sweet potato crisps, and would be ordered again later in the night.

I’m well aware that very few customers book Fazenda off the back of the side dishes (RIP salad bar 2018-2020). Its draw for most is the meat, and so it should be. Over the two or so hours we eat long slivers of rare beef sirloin and rump that glisten a ruby haze when cut, and generous chunks of fillet cooked almost blue. Lamb cutlets are smokey, tender bites whilst Brazil’s favourite cut of beef, picanha (rump cap is as close as you’ll get here) is cooked with absolute precision. Indeed all the meat is nailed-on for accuracy tonight. I’ll be nitpicking if I told you that the sausage was way too salty, which it was, but fine for pointing out that the gammon was correctly high in salt. Pork collar with honey was all kinds of excellent.

Front of house was flawless from start to finish, and I’ll fight anyone who tells me that there is a better place to drink the wines of South America in Brum than here. The price of £34.50 per person in the evening can quickly spiral when desserts and booze are factored in, but this is money well spent. We leave the restaurant and head to the hotel over the road for an extended night cap. In a world where every movement is restricted I’m pleased we are able to still have these experiences. Fazenda, it’s great to have you back.

Apologies to the A2B driver I had drive us around at 1am looking for a pool table

Bop Kitchen @ The Juke, Kings Heath.

I was told about Bop Kitchen’s pop-up first by one of the city’s best chefs, who knew one half of the team, and then by my girlfriend who knew nothing other than she wanted a kebab. Both are perfectly valid reasons. So back to Kings Heath we go; first to the wonderful Grace & James for some cold rosé in the bright heat, then across the road to the equally wonderful Juke for a G&T and a kebab. That classic flavour combination.

It’s thriving. It would appear that the duo on the grills have brought most of South Birmingham with them. The Juke has never been the biggest of spaces and today they are open purely outside, with tables stretching out across York Road.

I’ll save you my pitiful pictures but these are the best kebabs I’ve eaten in Birmingham. Soft, pillowy flatbreads enclosing flavours that are reminiscent of everyone’s favourite pissed food yet skilled enough to have come from someone who knows their way around a chopping board. They remind me of a more polite Black Axe Mangal. The mutton kofta is pleasingly dense and full of ovine flavour, with hummus that’s retained a little texture and the occasional bite of pistachio. But it’s the chicken that you need to order. The pomegranate glazed bird and the hot sauce and apricot dukka, with the filthy addition of shards of chicken skin which crack between teeth. I’m in love with it and refuse to share.

They sell out by the time we finish up, which is excellent for a set-up only trading for the second time. I hope The Juke get them back and soon. It’s perfect beer food. I’m too old and grey and flabby to live somewhere that cool anymore, but it’s great to dip in and out of York Road. I really like The Juke. I really like Bop Kitchen. They make a great couple.

A2B took my drunk ass home for free.

Eat Out to Help Out, Week 1

It turns out that Rishi Sunak, the former hedge fund manager who personally profited from the collapse of RBS to the tune of many millions, is an actual angel. A tiny, 5’7″ angel, sent from the heavens to sit atop of my Christmas tree. First the furlough scheme which has allowed me to complete Netflix over the last four months, and now the salaciously named Eat Out to Help Out incentive. I went out several times this week to get Rishi’d, fully embracing the 50% off food (and soft drinks) to the maximum tune of a tenner. And here, my gift to you, a super quick post about what I ate. I won’t give prices because you’re all adults and frankly I can’t be arsed to look on the internet. In your face, RBS.

Arch 13.

What’s that Rishi? No discount on vino? Damn you and your insistence on taking all that sweet sweet alcohol tax. We had a cheese board, couple of meats, and some mighty fine hummus. It was all in stellar condition, hand picked from the best possible suppliers. I’ve missed Arch 13 a lot. It’s a bloody great bar.

Zen Metro.

People are shits. Absolutely horrid shits. Zen got stung the weekend before with 25% of bookings not showing. Horrid shits. The power of the internet meant that one tweet later Zen had twenty or so jaded readers of a food blog in for dinner. Claire had a very serviceable salmon dish, whilst I went for the Zen Inferno, a mild curry in no way steeped in Birdseye chillis. I finished it with sweat pouring off my brow, holding in the internal burning by not coughing. My arse still hasn’t recovered. Service by Jaimon was as sharp and personable as ever.

Purecraft Kitchen.

Behold the greatest bar snack in the world! Smoked potato, crushed and then crisped up in fat, doused in beer cheese sauce. Whatever beer cheese is I want it my belly. All the beer cheese time. Add the best scotch egg in Brum, a killer sausage roll, burgers of beef and of chicken (have the latter), and you have an extremely enjoyable lunch. Praise be to Rishi, my little gnome friend.

Little Blackwood.

Is there a better way to spend a Wednesday evening than at Little Blackwood? How about bao and ramen at Little Blackwood. Twenty quid (well a tenner because of Rishibabes) gets two of the former and one of the latter. We eat them all; the salmon bao and the duck bao wolfed down in record time. The spicy laksa with just-cooked prawns bobbing on the surface and the ramen with its chewy noodles and a broth with a dashi base and the texture of long simmered bones. Do it.

Baked in Brick.

Not technically on the scheme yet, but we went on Thursday when pizza is two-for-one all day, thus effectively adding one more day to destroyer of banks Rishi Sunak’s scheme. Lee has been working on his dough all lockdown and it shows. This was the best pizza I’ve eaten at Baked in Brick. I’m reliably told that you should keep your eyes peeled for a special pop-up in the next week or two. See, you come here for dreadful writing and I give you an exclusive. Ain’t that grand.

I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure I heard Rishi say everyone should use A2B

Dishoom, Birmingham

The interior of Dishoom is a throbbing hive of clinking cutlery and conversation. As I peruse the menu a waiter passes me bearing a tray full of chai, then reappears, as if by magic, from the same side bearing more. It is an atmosphere which echoes the Iranian style of cafe in Mumbai from which Dishoom is modelled, a city within a country that I have visited and love. My girlfriend knows more about the city previously known as Bombay than I do; understands it’s culture far more than I ever will. She has been to Mumbai on multiple occasions. She sponsors the education of a child she has never met at a school there, one whose grades are deteriorating by the year and who she perseveres with when I suggest otherwise. She has an internal commitment to the betterment of the area, just like Dishoom, who donate two meals (one in India, the other in the UK) for every meal purchased.

That opening paragraph was tough, but I think I’ve covered most of Foodie Boys guide to writing a food blog, and if I haven’t, then I’m sorry, I’m just really not very good at this. I went on a press trip with Dishoom in January and whilst others were asking important questions, I was doubling-up on the free drinks and standing under signs in the Kings Cross site that read ‘Simon Go Back’. What I did get was the sense of a business wanting to do things the right way; to give back to those in need, and to bring communities together over food. When Simon eventually did go back, he did so drunkenly muttering about wanting to work for such inspiring owners. Yes, I did just reference myself in third person and kiss the arse of the business I’m about to write about. I’m pathetic.

So the food. We’ve been a few times now, twice for breakfast (one time far superior to the other) and once for lunch. All three over soft launch periods with 50% discount on food that will make me overlook the bits they fell short on. At breakfast they have quite the reputation for the bacon naans and so they should, given the quality of the bacon, and the supple bread which houses cream cheese and the addictive tomato chilli jam. Don’t overlook the eggs on chilli cheese toast that is kejriwal, or the akuri scrambled eggs that punch with spice. We have the Big Bombay that has parts we love and parts we don’t. Of those we love we build our own buns of peppery sausage and more of that scrambled egg. At £12.50 I’d suggest more enjoyment would be had from two bacon naans.

Lunch brings more happiness. Murgh malai is an ode to tenderising chicken thighs over lengthy marinades, and produces a must order of soft, slightly smokey meat. Likewise the black daal must be taken; a dark and brooding affair, cooked slowly overnight until the lentils fray at the shell and offer no bite. It’s rich and addictive and worthy of the individual box on the menu. I could take you to other places in the city for better chana, but none that I’m aware have the foresight to serve it with sweetened carrot halwa and batons of pickled veg that when loaded on to the puffy fried bread add contrast and depth to the gingery chickpea curry. It’s a genuine game changer.

Back in January Naved Nassir, the group’s executive chef, spoke of the pressure of coming to a city that has curry at its very foundation. Perhaps it’s why they choose to put a curry as the Birmingham special. The base, a gravy with heady notes of clove, cinnamon, and cashew, is the vehicle for slow braised mutton that quite literally falls from the bone. To say it reminds me of a korma cooked by a very young Aktar Islam gives you an idea of how highly I regard it. The same for the technical workmanship involved with making the roomali roti that holds the chicken tikka. The detail is as impressive as the taste, which, given the size of the operation, is impressive in itself.

Three separate meals each with 50% off, the most of which is around £40 without booze. And herein lies my personal conflict; am I likely to pay the full £80 at lunch when the same sum gets me food and wine for two at the immaculate Opheem? Probably not. But I can see it being a permanent fixture for breakfast, a regular stop off for a one-dish lunch, and the occasional dinner with friends. But this isn’t about me. It’s about Birmingham finally being taken seriously by the big-hitters from the capital, how it’s still attractive in the middle of global pandemic to be here, and how the city have already repaid that faith by packing it out before they properly open the doors next week. Dishoom could have played it safe and yet they’ve gone all in. I have a feeling the hand is going to play out well.

We take A2B to get from A to B