5. Al Frash, Sparkbrook. £
Perhaps you have heard of certain dangerous no-go areas in Birmingham due to the efforts of a certain Fox news commentator with the luxurious hair of a Ken doll and the hue and complexion of an ageing ham? Well if it was up to him then you would never get to experience the wonder and majesty of what is Birmingham’s brilliant and famous Balti Triangle. And I would argue that Al Frash is it’s crowing jewel.
Al Frash themselves claim they are the very best curry house in the Balti Triangle, and judging by friends recommendations plus not to mention bumping into out-of-towners who have made a special trip over to Brum for an Al Frash balti, I think they might be right. The no-frills decor is simple, staff are frantically haring around getting orders out, but the quality of the food speaks for itself.
It is generally pretty busy so a good idea to book, although they can usually squeeze you in somewhere, and like most of the curry houses in the area, it is (praise be) BYOB.
Menu recommendations: 2 months later and TB is still raving about the Tandoori fish, Balti chicken (of course).
4. Warehouse Cafe, city centre. £
An award-winning vegetarian and vegan cafe nestled away just behind Birmingham Moor Street station and the Bullring shopping centre. Despite the tucked-away location, the Warehouse Cafe is so popular it can sometimes be almost impossible to get a table here.
The food is excellent, blending interesting flavours with seasonal ingredients sourced locally from allotments. The cafe sits on the top floor of a converted warehouse with an exhibition space and shop below. Well worth a visit despite any carnivorous proclivities you might have, I can guarantee you will not miss meat from your meal here.
Menu recommendations: Halloumi fish & chips, Digbeth Daal.
3. The Karczma, city centre. ££
A bonkers Polish restaurant perfect for wintery evenings. The decor is interesting; straw donkeys sit on shelves in front of painted pastoral scenes of farmhands and country maids, whilst white faux fur throws adorn the wooden benches. But after the shots of vodka are wheeled out, becomes more and more delightful.
If anywhere is made for cold dark evenings, it’s Karczma. The traditional Polish dishes are delicious, carb-loaded and most importantly, huge, the interior warm and inviting and the staff, lovely. I have not yet managed to finish a main course and always roll out the door in a food-induced haze. Marvellous.
If you’re visiting on a Friday or Saturday, I recommend booking a table.
Menu recommendations: Try the hearty rye soup served in a bowl made from bread. Also the cabbage and mushroom dumplings and melt-in-the-mouth beef stew.
2. Carters, Moseley. £££
It is harder to book a table at Carters than it is navigate the London transport system in rush hour, with a hangover and a large suitcase. You must book about 6 years in advance to secure a table by the toilet on a Monday at 11am. I jest, perhaps only 5 years in advance. Either way we were very lucky to manage to get a table to eat there for my birthday last year.
Once you are in however, you are in. Staff are so lovely and having found out it was my birthday produced a plate iced in chocolate wishing me a happy birthday at the end of the meal. When we went, the 7 course menu included an extremely tender Cornish Coastal Lamb, sea kale with seaweed sauce as well as a delicately flavoured concoction of Sheep’s Yoghurt Mousse, Alphonso Mango and Pistachio. The menu changes according to season and climate and is quite frankly, excellent. There is a reason Carters has just been awarded a Michelin Star. And if there was a way I could get a table there again (and if my bank manager allowed it – with Michelin stars and brilliant cooking comes a hefty price tag), then I would be there every week.
Menu recommendation: Whatever is on the menu that month. The food is all incredible, you will not be disappointed.
1. Nomad, city centre. £££
Nomad is really quite special and an obvious labour of love from chef and creator Alex Kerridge. We visited one evening last year on TB’s birthday when Nomad was hosting a pop-up restaurant in the Kitchen Garden Cafe. From the moment we walked through the fairy-lit garden, to finding a birthday card waiting for us on the table from Nomad, I knew we were onto something special. Staff were friendly and knowledgable, advising us on each course to come (all staff try the menu in advance).
The food itself is incredible – the menu changes depending on the season, what’s available in the allotment and the tastes of Alex, but some recent examples would be: reindeer moss, bacon, egg and baked coffee, as well as ewe curds, sea buckthorn and treacle oats.
At the end of the meal Alex came for a chat and to check we liked everything, you get the sense that he, as well as the rest of the team genuinely care that visitors have a brilliant experience, which of course, we did. I really cannot recommend Nomad highly enough, and luckily they have now set up a permanent home on Dudley Street, renting the space next to the also brilliant art space, Birmingham Open Media.
Menu recommendations: Put yourself in their hands, it’s all good. Staff at Birmingham Open Media whispered to me that if you fancy a gourmet meal on the cheap, you can visit Nomad at lunchtime mid-week, where you can try taster samples of the menu for a fraction of the cost.
I look forward to reviewing and refining this list based on more eating adventures around Brum. Any suggestions or recommendations, give me a shout.