I text message Niraj, asking where the best desi pub in the Black Country is. He messages back in record time to time to say it’s a toss-up between The British Queen in Oldbury, or The Sportsman in West Bromwich, elaborating a little to say that if it’s barbecue meat we want then it’s the latter. I trust him; have done ever since we met at one of his superb supper club evenings at his Dudley home and he told me his favourite place to eat was Buddha Belly. The man has taste, an exceptional palate, and the air of someone who likely would have won Masterchef had they not started charging for food in their own home. As much as the rest of the post will serve as a recommendation for The Sportsman, it’s arguably more of one for his supper clubs. You’ll leave extremely full and very, very happy.

And so to West Bromwich, to a grey building on a busy main road which looks it was once a social club. Inside the neutral shades continue, split by walls lined with sports memorabilia and a pool table. Towards the back of the building is a restaurant space of sorts with large booths, the menu over two tv screens, and a large hole in the wall to see into the kitchen. Inside a man is cooking giant skewers on impaled meat over charcoal; the waft of smoke and rendered fat spilling out. Niraj wasn’t lying about this being a barbecue.

The cost effective way of doing this would be a mixed grill platter but we want to explore the corners of the menu so it’s off the TV we go for inspiration. The chicken is star. First, the tikka, stained a ruby red from a marinade that’s punctured through to the outer core of the meat. It’s delicately cooked, full of char. It’s the best desi pub chicken tikka I’ve had. By comparison the lamb seekh lacks any punch. It’s just smoke and black pepper. The dial could be turned up considerably on all of the seasoning.

The chicken pakora is excellent. Dusted lightly in gram flour, the ginger and garlic comes through nicely. I could eat a bag of these for any meal of the day. Also good is the paneer chilli garlic, a thick curry that stains the breath and serves as a reminder of the meal for days afterwards. The masala fries are sad, soggy things, whilst the fluffiest of cheese and garlic naans is excellent. Lunch, with a couple of drinks is £35. A bargain.

I wanted to venture out to the Black Country as this was where it all started for the desi pub movement. Back in the seventies they were safe havens for migrants; places for them to drink and eat and escape the everyday racism. Fast forward fifty years and they are a celebration of a cuisine that has been anglicised and adopted as part of British culture. They are all-inclusive, spilling out across the country as meeting points for communal meals of mixed meats, breathing life into unwanted buildings. The Sportsman is great fun. Looks like I’m heading to Oldbury next.