There are few strands of the internet quite as dull as the authentic cuisine corner. The very notion that you can’t experience a certain style of food unless it was cooked by someone born in that country, cooking their own hyper-regional dishes passed from generation to generation to generation. The idea that to eat the food you must do so within that community, like Chinese food in China town, or a balti on the Ladypool Rd. The latter proving one of the many flaws in the argument given that a balti is about as authentic to the sub continent as Citizen Khan.
I do get it. There’s a time and a place for a triple roast at Peach Garden and that time is most lunch times, and I much prefer the earnestness of the original desi pubs in West Brom and Oldbury to the glossier versions sprouting up around the peripherals of the city centre. But occasionally it’s not what I want. Sometimes I want my service to be slow and deliberate over hurried and abrupt, like this lunch the day after a funeral. And on days like that I want more premium drinks offering than tea or cans of coke. Tattu might not have been the most authentic option, but it fitted our needs very nicely.
In the weeks since my visit I’ve come to know it as a place that everyone has an opinion on but not many have been to. It’s all the same of too young, too loud, too busy, too glam. Not Chinese. Not like the proper Chinese anyhow, which is fine for Tattu given I can’t imagine Jack Grealish eating black cod whilst chinning a bottle of Grey Goose in China Garden. Why is this such a problem in Birmingham when London celebrates the likes of Nobu and Sexy Fish as spots to party, eat and drink? I’m going to give some of you a nosebleed when I tell you that Park Chinois have a carbonara with udon noodles and sea urchin.
We start with cocktails. I have a cherry negroni that’s fun and would remain a well-made drink if you took away the cherry tree in the ice cube. Sophie has a Shanghai Clipper that would stand-up to most of the cities drinks. Then downstairs to the booth, low lit and buzzy, more than busy enough at lunch. We get the cheaper ‘Moon Stand’ lunch and supplement it with others from the main menu. I’ll keep the two separate from herein to avoid confusion.
That lunch deal is excellent value. Really excellent value. Three dishes for £28, with two smaller plates and one larger. Of the smaller we try fingers of tempura aubergine rolled in something sweet and sticky so that the rubble of chilli and onion clings to the outer. There is fried rock shrimp with ribbons of carrot and a healthy dusting of sancho pepper, and spring rolls filled with braised beef that come alive when dredged through a pokey nam jim dipping sauce. Best is the pork belly which utilises modern techniques. The belly has likely been cooked sous vide so that the fat is soft and delicious, before being basted in gochujang and sent for a final ride on the barbecue. Place on the crispy pig skin, garnish with smoked leeks. Enjoy. I certainly did.
Of the two larger plates at lunch it’s the Szechuan qualities of the angry wok bird that impress, given it’s a salty, fragrant, and unapologetically spicy. The best bits linger at the base as cashews are spicy caramelised in an accidental gastrique of rice wine vinegar and dried chilli. The other main is sweet and sour pork with battered strands of meat amongst the dragon fruit and pineapple. The pork has retained moisture, the sauce straddling the delicate line of sugar and acid. It’s very nice. We have more cocktails, including a riff on an old fashioned that is superb.
We supplement this lunch with dim sum that range from a truffle and chicken that could possibly be reigned back on the fragrant oil, to a fun lobster and prawn toast that sees the sesame studded bread reimagined as a circular outer layer. Wagyu and kimchi dumplings are excellent briney, fatty numbers whilst black cod comes in a dumpling wrapper made to resemble a koi carp and is filled with a broth taken to new heights by the subtle addition of miso. Satay beef ribeye comes accurately cooked and with a very good satay sauce, which is all you can ask for given its description. I just wish we had room for it.
Service wouldn’t be out of place in a starred restaurant, but I guess that’s the point. What Tattu lack in this so-called-authenticity they more than make up for the parts that make eating out a joy; a serious wine list, excellent mixed drinks, premium ingredients, and slick service. And crucially there is skill in the kitchen, so much so that there is geniunely not a dud on the menu. Authenticity is overrated, just give me something that tastes good.
Listen to the first season of The Meat and One Veg Podcast here. Season two incoming.