Tag Archives: indian

Pickly spice

14 Dec

The last few years I have been travelling to Birmingham from time to time. Not blessed with the exotic location status of Paris or Barcelona, or even the country charm of the south-west region it always has one card up its sleeve: the food.

Last week when I was helping my girlfriend move the last of her stuff out of ‘Brum’, we went out for dinner at the Indian restaurant, Pushkar. Based down on Broad Street, it feels like an equivalent to Deansgate but less rambunctious (yes, rambunctious) than Deansgate Locks ,although I was assured there are fights for taxis at 2am on a Saturday, so some things are the same everywhere.

Check out the swankiness - image courtesy of What's On Midlands

The restaurant immediately sets an intimidating mood for a man in a shiny bubble jacket and a scuffed-up old pair of trainers but not enough so that I didn’t go in. Inside the place oozed plush. If you ever wondered what happened for the love of white leather that was so prevalent in the 80’s and 90’s fear not, its spirit lives on through Pushkar’s furniture though surprisingly, it just works.

His and Her's menu boxes

After propping up the bar for ten minutes we were led to our seats. Our menus were contained in what I assume were faux crocodile skin presentation boxes with similar design for the menus all topped with gold embossed lettering. At this point I was expecting a menu containing Steak Diane and Black Forest gateaux aplenty. Alas, all I could find were a selection of South Indian classics and a few unique options.

We ordered and took the poppadoms in hand as they arrived. The plain and seeded poppadoms were good quality but the new comer for me was the spinach poppadum. With a much thicker and chewier texture, they were the true opposite to a traditional salted, crisp poppadum. Just to be sure of their quality, I ate 5 of them.

You can't hide in there spinach poppadom

After inhaling the poppadum’s we were more than ready for the arrival of the main. I love a little presentational flair to a meal and despite having been raised on Indian food, I can say I’ve never seen a biriyani brought to the table in the way this one was. Still topped with a thin pastry topping kept soft by the rice and meat baking underneath, our waiter sliced through the crust, peeling it back with a theatrical grace to reveal freshly baked goodness underneath.

The before..

... and after. Magic.

The Lamb Achari kicked arse. Picked and spicy, its had the same tangy, mouth-watering quality that you’d get from Sichuan pepper or a mouthful of gherkins. The intense flavour hangs around in your on the back of your tongue thanks to the semi-dry sauce.

I’ m a big curry-lover so even a mediocre curry would make the evening for me, but Pushkar’s is a great step out for high-end curry in palatial surroundings. Long live posh curry.

Pushkar Cocktail Bar & Dining on Urbanspoon

Asha’s (Birmingham City Centre)

5 Oct

(Yes, this is not a restaurant in Manchester. A poor first showing for a blog about food and drink in Manchester, but forgive me this one as it is well worth the journey if you’re in Birmingham)

Asha's Entrance

Certain things help to announce the arrival of the weekend better than a professional announcer announcing the arrival of a new personal announcement system. My favourite one of these is a Friday Night Curry. So you can picture the delight on my face when I found myself at one of the finest curry houses in Birmingham; Asha’s.

Anyone who knows curry, knows that Birmingham spoils you for choice and that there is some debate about the best curry house in town. Many will side with Lasan, made even more famous by its appearance on that Gordon Ramsey programme (just checked, it was the F word), however there are people who will tell you Asha’s is better, namely some people I spoke to. I haven’t been to Lasan yet so I can’t comment, but Asha’s is definitely worth your time.

Food

Straight to business. You can’t go far wrong on this menu as it is not the small telephone directory of curries you find in some restaurants. The portions are not mean either. Say a big yes to the poppadoms. This is a fine call as there is a selection of plain and seeded poppadoms to go with the four great dips.

Amazing dips. I like the green one

We started off with the Fish Amaritsari (£5.95). The mint and cardamom really came through which is pretty impressive for a fried fish cake. The batter was light, dry and crisp outside but the inside mixed with the fish to give a really meaty texture. Here was a thin strip of sauce across the plate which tasted like tamarind which was so deliciously sweet with the meaty fish that I could have had a jug of it.

For the main, we went to town. The last time I was here we ordered the Tandoori Raan (£24.95) which was a sumptuous leg of lamb so tender it lept willingly off the bone and onto your fork, however it is overfacing and I wanted to try something different.  The Chicken Dhaba Curry  (£13.95) though prepared in a ‘road-side’ style had an incredibly delicate and zesty flavour to it. This went perfectly with the Peshwari naan which tempered the zest and let you enjoy the succulent chicken.

The Panjim Fish curry didn’t light up my world but the richness of the flavour and the flaky fish were just what the meal needed. For the veggie option we took the Hare Baingan Ka Bartha which consisted of a beautiful roasted aubergine dish that works so well on its own I just eat it from the dish.

One of the other nice touches here is the drinks

menu. The list of cocktails is extensive for a restaurant and as the bar is a great stand alone feature of the restaurant, they are professionally made. The Asha’s Spiced Tea was brilliantly refreshing but I thought the drinks menu did a better selling job than I could so ‘Premium vodka, gin, spiced rum and tequila shaken with fresh pressed lime juice and chai syrup served long over ice and charged with ginger beer.

Service

Normally not a major concern. Either the service is good and you’re happy or its shocking and you try to trip the waiter up as he ignores you and rushes past your table (honestly never done that). Here it was a little different. Our server gave us some recommendations, such as the peshwari nann with the Dhaba curry, which work to make the meal that little bit better. If I were rating the service I would give it 5 tricycles…and that’s why I don’t give ratings

Get yourself to Asha’s if your in Birmingham and if you’re not in Birmingham, they have convenient locations in Kuwait, Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, so you have no excuses not to go. Chop Chop!

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Asha's on Urbanspoon