Toby Carvery, Hall Green

Imagine I told you there was somewhere you could eat a tasting menu of Yorkshire puddings. You’d be all over it, wouldn’t you? You love a Yorkshire pudding, it’s essentially an exploded pancake, and you really fucking love pancakes. You already don’t need a reason to eat a Yorkshire pudding, you’ll put it on plates it has no place on, which is every plate that doesn’t contain roast beef. You love its versatility; how the texture changes the higher it gets, and how the crevice can store a variety of treasures. Now imagine you can have one on every course. Hello? It’s Toby you’re looking for.

Sadly that is where the fun ends. Our sharing starter is a plate-sized Yorkshire pudding that serves as a plate for the plate it is served upon. Inside is nachos in notion, which translates as a bag of corn shrapnel glued together with cheese, a spoonful of lumpy tomato paste and one chilli cut into six chunks of shit-inducing misery. There was none of the listed guacamole or pulled pork, which I am now seeing as a good thing for me and the pig whose life would have been wasted. The Yorkshire pudding tasted as if it had been made of recyclable material, with the forced upturned lip of a reality TV star and as little point for its existence. More grim than Grimsby, this was an idea that should never have seen the light of day.

This managed to lower the expection of the carvery to Lost City of Atlantis levels. After standing in line for five minutes I eventually opt for another Yorkshire pudding to join a slice of all four meats on a slightly grubby plastic plate. I pile it high with veg and drown in Toby’s special gravy after removing the skin from the large communal pot. There are good bits in the gammon and turkey, the roast potatoes which would shame many a gastropub, a kind of root veg dauphinoise gratin, and that gravy, which goes straight inside the Yorkshire pudding that I’ve filled with crispy bits of the roasties (this should be on the menu). The Yorkshire pudding is okay, as is the pork and the stuffing that tastes suspiciously of Paxo. The rest is not good to damright awful. Carrots are woefully overcooked, the green beans now grey beans, chewy, overcooked beef, mash potato that could hold wallpaper up, and a shard of pork crackling that would broken every teeth in my mouth had I perserveered. And you can go back for seconds on the veg if you are that greedy or stupid.

I didn’t finish the roast and could easily have called it a day, though I can’t because they have A DESSERT WITH A FUCKING YORKSHIRE PUDDING IN IT. Yes, you read that correctly; they have A DESSERT WITH A FUCKING YORKSHIRE PUDDING IN IT. How could I not order A DESSERT WITH A FUCKING YORKSHIRE PUDDING IN IT? It’s shit. I shouldn’t have bothered. All sweetness and cream and milky things, it’s essentially a pimped-out milkshake for pimps who fucking love Yorkshire puddings. It’s not good and I suggest that you never contemplate trying it. I do these things because I love you.

Service is warm and kind, though they manage to mess up the bill by a few quid that I leave as a tip once they rectify the situation. Look, I’m going to be real and leave my conceited and snobby opinion alone for a minute. It was clear that the majority of the room were either not particularly well-to-do or ageing, and the carvery here is £7 on week nights, which is fair and affordable. There are far worse places to spend seven quid on dinner than here. It is honest, not cynical, and generous in size. Most of it is edible, some of it is even nice. I simply can’t hate it, even if I didn’t enjoy it. Would I come back out of choice? No. But I’d have no issue eating here if someone was insistent we came. It’s harmless enough for most, and pure heaven for fans of a Yorkshire puddings.


A2B got us from A to B

Birmingham’s Top Eight Dishes For Under A Fiver

Last January I gave you Birmingham’s top ten dishes for under a tenner; a well-researched ensemble of culinary treats that wouldn’t break the bank. It is still a very good list one year on, showing that when it comes to useless lists that you’ll almost certainly never use, it is I who truly separates the wheat from the chav. But a lot has changed in twelve months. A new threat has emerged, with a long winter ahead of this country looming in the vague shape of Game of Thrones season 8. Brexit, also. I want to give you even more value. So back once again like the renegade master, here is eight dishes in Birmingham for under a fiver with not a Greggs vegan sausage roll in sight. And if eight seems a funny number, you’re right. I had more than five but less than ten with zero filler: these really are the best dishes in town if you’re looking to save the pennies.

Tamworth Pork Sausage Roll, £3.75. Kilder.

This is how you do a sausage roll. Pork from an animal that has lived off the land, spiced with black pepper, and a good fat to meat ratio. The pastry is buttery and flaky. You get a choice of sauces whereupon you should consider brown and then choose brown. And don’t believe them for sticking this under the ‘snack’ banner; this is a lunch for one by itself. Website

White Cut Chicken Bao, £4.50. Tiger Bites Pig.

It was about this time last year that Birmingham went into meltdown over a new opening that specialised in bao. They were rubbish; these most certainly are not. Fluffy pillows of joy filled with smart flavours, my pick of the two under a fiver is this one with poached chicken and crispy skin. Keep an eye out for the forthcoming full review; its a cracker. Website.

Aloo Tikki Chaat, £4.50. Zindiya

This and the chicken tikka have been my go-to order for almost two years, and this dish in particular is probably my favourite vegetarian plate of food in the entire city. Essentially a chickpea curry with a spiced potato patty in the centre, it has bags of attitude. I eat it at least once a week. Website

Pork and Fennel Scotch Egg, £4.50. Pint Shop

But the scotch egg at Pint Shop is an onion bhajii, I hear you say? Correct, young whippersnapper, but there is also one downstairs at the bar that you might like even more. Given the choice I would plump for the more conventional of the two which has more flavour of pork. But what does this multi-award winning nobody know? Quite a lot, actually. Website.

Slice of Pizza, £3.00. Baked in Brick.

I would love to have included an entire pizza in this list but pizza doesn’t grow on five pound trees in this country. Instead I would like to draw your attention to probably Birmingham’s best pizza, which also happens to be the only one I know of which does pizza by the slice. Whatever is on will do; a large wedge of the good stuff and some chilli oil to dredge the crusts through. Website.

Batagor, £5.00. Ngopi.

Thank Farah for this. She took my girlfriend who got all excited and insisted we go. It’s one of the most intriguing dishes in Birmingham that could go on to become a cult classic. Fried chicken and prawn wontons join fried tofu in a peanut sauce marriage of harmony. I honestly never knew Indonesian food could be so interesting. Another full review incoming.

Smoked Beetroot, goats cheese, horseradish and watercress salad, £5.00. Purecraft Bar.

It’s January, you want to be healthy and frugal, right? Purecraft have got your back. Like everything else they do, this is loaded with flavour. The ideal light dinner. Website.

Bao, £4. Little Blackwood.

They are going to murder me for this. The baos are a dessert option as part of a set menu, but get them individually and they are billed at £4 each – I know this because I have paid for them. You’ll probably only get away with this doing what we do, which is by drinking wine on the stools and begging for them. The only dessert on the list, these deep fried bao are similar to donuts when cooked, sliced open and filled with whatever flavours are on: it could be rosehip, salted caramel, champagne, banoffee, or numerous others. The ideal way to finish a meal, and indeed this list. Website.

Want to do this as a food crawl? I’ll join you. Let’s take an A2B. Seriously, let’s do this.