pork pie

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.

Wing Wednesdays at OPM and Kilder, Digbeth

Hype is a horrible thing which we’re seeing loads of in Birmingham at present. Baos, fried chicken, ramen, Indian street food; you name it and we’ve been subjected to the same cleverly marketed Twitter launch that see’s everyone proclaim it to be the next best thing. I blame The Blaggers, those who punctuate with examination marks and think that by quote retweeting ‘can’t wait to try this’ will see them first in line when the PR soup kitchen starts handing out free meals. And for what? In almost every instance these launches have disappointed, with businesses forgetting that they should really be focusing on getting the product right before the branding. The very hype is misleading others into thinking that it is good without even trying it. It is this very reason that I tend to keep that giant gob of mine closed until the food has entered it.

I was having one of those ‘just look what we’ve created’ moments recently in an not-be-named location that absolutely sells more than just fried chicken and is not named after a previous member of Oasis. I was chowing down on some very average wings when out of the corner of my eye saw the rarely spotted Patty Man doing the same. We exchange a brief chat over the chicken wings. “They’re alright”, I say. “Come try ours” he grunts (the Patty Man communicate only by grunt). I admire his confidence and take this as a challenge.

Cutting to the chase, those wings are some of the best I have ever eaten, shitting all over the place with the over-hyped chicken. We order one set of each, including the special. Each one has high quality bird with delicate meat and crisp skin, the latter being a very important detail that seems to allude many a chicken wing.  I like the honey wings and waffle special least because it appeals less to my savoury tastes, but the rest, whoa, I’m in love. There are wings in barbeque sauce, and another in a tangy white sauce with notes of vinegar, mustard and horseradish. Like the time I simultaneously dated two girls called Helena, I can’t mentally separate the following two. Both the Korean gochujang wings and the buffalo are knockout brilliant. The former has its fingers on the pulse with the most 2018 of wings, the latter a proper take on a classic. Both have the same thing in common; a pitch-perfect balance of heat and acidity. With these we have chips with garlic, parmesan, and parsley. They are not needed but quickly disappear.

It was around the time of this visit that they also opened Kilder in the unit next door. A completely different offering to the burgers (and weekly wings) at OPM, Kilder has a wider drinks menu and a menu that looks to the tried and tested traditional British values of stuff that works with beer. The room is more complete than next door, the seating more suited to longer stints than the nature of burger joints. In the corner is a fridge with the cheeses and cured meats that make up the majority of the menu. They have Queens of Stone Age playing loudly over the speakers. I like it here.

The food is superb. Really superb. It owes a lot to the careful sourcing of the ingredients and the rest to the virtues of keeping it simple. Of the stuff on bread I thought it would be ‘nduja and honey on sourdough that would steal my heart, but it is the cheese and ham toastie which does it, the cheese blend an ideal combination of more perky hard varieties and the oozy gentle ones. That’s not to say the other isn’t good; the ‘nduja in particular has the tang of offal lurking underneath the abrasive chilli notes. I want to know who they get it from so I can keep it in my fridge. And then there is the pork pie, which, if I ever did Birmingham’s best dishes for under a fiver, would be right at the top of. The warm water pastry crumbles between finger and thumb, with a pleasing amount of bone jelly. The pork mixture is heavy on the black pepper. It is an absolute joy. I initially thought that the ratio was out on the sausage roll, but I quickly realised that any less meat and we’re stepping into Greggs territory. It is a monster that we dispatch half of, before finishing up later on at home. Even the olives are brilliant.

I think that Kilder will be a slow burner and that sits fine with me. Be it for whatever reason, but people tend to be less excited by minced meat between pastry than they are between buns. I’m cool with this; I’ll gladly take it upon myself to keep the business going whilst the masses slowly hear about it. The bill for both occasions was around £40, though it goes without saying that is possible to spend a lot less and still leave full. Both Wing Wednesdays and Kilder are worthy of your time; put down the burger for two evenings and give them both a go. There is no hype here, merely perfectly executed food. Just how it should be.

Wing Wednesdays at OPM 9/10

Kilder 9/10

Transport provided by A2B Radio Cars