Zindiya, Moseley

Zindiya and I have grown up in Moseley together. I’ve been here fourteen months now, replacing them as the newbie in town two months after they opened. We’ve come through hard times together, mostly involving my hangover, occasionally stemming from their oh so fine cocktail list. And it’s amazing living so close to them; it’s impossible to have a bad meal there. I can easily recount the menu from memory, tell you what I want to eat based purely on my mood without looking down at the paper on the distressed wooden tables.

We’re also growing outwards together; just like my waistline after too few gym sessions and too many burgers, their menu is expanding. Which is obviously more bad news for my waistline, but absolutely brilliant news for everyone else. Over two trips I’ve managed to tick off pretty much all the new dishes and I can confirm they are b-a-n-g-i-n-g.

We kick off both visits with Zindiya’s Raj Kachori, a miniature version of the famous Rajasthani dish. The crispy wheat vessel is similar to that of pani puri, but here encases potato, lentil, chickpea, pomegranate, sev, tamarind and mint and coriander chutney; essentially all the elements of their chaat in a little bomb of deliciousness. Think pani puri evolved Pokémon style and you’re on the right track.

I might (definitely) have mentioned before that Zindiya’s chicken tikka is legendary, and it’s now joined on the menu by the Hariyali chicken tikka, a green version with fresh spinach, coriander and mint running through the marinade. Our heated discussion over which of the two is best nearly ended in violence, so you’ll have to be the judge; I’d probably order both to be on the safe side.

Authentic is a bit of an odd term to use whilst eating street food inside a restaurant in a middle class Birmingham suburb, but the moreish rounds of aubergine, fried in crisp gram flour batter and dredged though a sweet-sour tamarind sauce, remind me so much of my sub-continental travels that I think it’s warranted here. It takes the palate to similar places as the crispy aubergine dressed in honey, soy and chilli at El Borracho de Oro (which, if you haven’t already, is one of my Brum ‘must eats’) and is just as good at it’s Spanish cousin.

Keema pav is probably the least exciting of the new dishes that we try, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not good. It’s a comfort food kind of dish – the Indian equivalent of a shepherd’s pie or a chilli – comforting, warming flavours that I imagine will come into it’s own once Britain stops trying to be a tropical country and gets all miserable again.

Zindiya’s sister restaurant, Tap & Tandoor, do a wicked chilli paneer so it’s great to see it on Zindiya’s menu (along with a chicken version for dedicated carnivores). The punchy Indo Chinese sauce is sweet and sour for grown ups; more spice, less sugar and Zindiya’s trademark quality ingredients.

As well as traditional street food dishes, Zindiya like to put their own twist on things. Dessert samosas are nothing new but instead of taking the safe option and stuffing them with chocolate, they’ve used Gajar Ka Halwa, an Indian dessert of carrot, milk, sugar and nuts, as the filling. I know, I know, it sounds weird, but trust me on this one. It works.

I didn’t think it was possible for Zindiya to get any better, but the new menu is so good that I can definitely see some of the dishes ousting old favourites when I order. Either that, or I’ll just get them all. Sorry waistline.

Zindiya is at 21 Woodbridge Rd, Moseley, B13 8EJ. WEBSITE.


Heisenbar, Digbeth

I love a good cooking class; you get to have a day out, eat delicious food, and come away with a load of new skillz.

Last Thursday, however, I went to a cooking class of a slightly different kind; one your mother definitely wouldn’t approve of. I would be joining my classmates in a beat up RV in Digbeth to cook up some meth à la Breaking Bad.

Manned by a motley crew of Birmingham’s best bartenders, Heisenbar takes you on a molecular journey to the elusive “blue meth” via nitrogen infused jalapeños, an adults-only breakfast dish and a shitload of test tubes.

With six cocktails plus two dishes included you get a full evening out for £40, and it’s properly boozy; the next day I felt bad enough to believe I could have been smashing out the meth. Luckily for me, I could tell my boss that I’d been participating in important scientific research; luckily for you, their next events are at the weekend. Limited tickets are available here, so book quickly if you want to get your fix.

Tapas Revolution, Grand Central

Incredibly, I had not been to Tapas Revolution prior to this visit.  I don’t know why; I bloody love the food of Spain.  In fact, thinking about it now, I haven’t been to any of the Spanish restaurants in Birmingham (bar the excellent El Borracho pop up at 1000 Trades).  I am a disgrace. I hold my head in shame.  Now this means that I can’t directly compare Tapas Revolution to its local competition, but what I can do is tell you that at times it transported me back to Valencia, where the food and wine are plentiful.  Oh, and owner Omar is dishy.  It’s little wonder they have his face everywhere.

We take a seat at the long copper counter (just like proper Spaniards, only more pasty) and dive straight into the new cocktail menu.  A blood orange and cherry royal is excellent, as is a boozy julep made with wild strawberry and pomegranate.  From the tapas menu we start with bread which is generously topped with garlicky tomato sauce and serrano ham.  It is wonderful; punchy and meaty, the ham impeccably sourced.  Pork belly, probably my favourite dish of the evening, arrives pan fried to a crisp, with a heady sauce that makes me want to lick the plate clean. I don’t, but only because I am in company and my mother would be ashamed.

Padron peppers are one of my favourite things in the world; if they are on a menu I order them without fail.  These do not disappoint.  They are blistered by heat and sprinkled liberally with sea salt.  They pretty much dissolve in the mouth, leaving behind the warmth of a very mild chilli heat and the smug feeling of discovering the best way to consume one of your five a day.  Paella is technically very competent, the rice accurately cooked, the dish boldly seasoned.  The chicken is still tender and the bite of the green beans is welcome.  Like all well-made paella the joy is at the bottom of the pan where the rice has gone crunchy and absorbed all the flavour.  If you were unaware of that before, claim that shit as your own next time.  It’s where the party is at.

Cocktails three and four are a margarita with sparkling rose that reminds me a little of my favourite Aperol Spritz, and a Batida which sounds like it should be far too sweet but delivers plenty of grown-up flavours.  We finish up the savoury courses with a solid rendition of patatas bravas and the only misstep in the meal, a cod loin that had been cooked a minute too long, with an underwhelming pea puree.  Not even sobrasda, the spreadable chorizo paste straight from the Gods, could save it.  It’s not a bad dish, it just wasn’t as good as the previous dishes.

We finish off by sharing churros. Not because we need anymore food, but because the lovely waitress insists on it.  We’re pleased that she did – they are lighter than they look, with a decadent chocolate sauce that induces sadness when it finishes.  I forgot to take a picture; this is proof of my enjoyment. And with that we’re off, brimming with food and a little more tipsy than we arrived.  We had a really lovely meal – one where the flavours were authentic and the service well led – and it has reignited my love for Spanish food.

Spanish restaurants of Birmingham, I’m sorry. It wasn’t you, it was me. Let’s get it on.

Tapas Revolution Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A boozy evening at Gusto Birmingham

Now there’s not going to be too much “foodie bullshit” in this post, because quite frankly we were so well looked after – and the company was so good – that I didn’t pay nearly as much attention to the food as I usually do.

That’s not to say that the food isn’t great – it really is (see my previous post here) – but I think that’s kind of what Gusto is all about. Because you can always guarantee that the food, drinks and vibe will be right, you can just concentrate on having a fucking good time with your chosen companions.

I’ve never seen the bar area in Gusto empty. And for good reason. One of the things I like most about Gusto is that it has a proper cocktail menu done much better than many “cocktail bars” I’ve been to. On this occasion, we were treated to a selection of the bartender’s favourites which did not disappoint. The Grape and Cherry Spritz, probably my favourite of all, is less sweet than it sounds and delightfully refreshing. The Vanilla Rum packs a punch without being at all harsh, whilst the Elderflower and Peach Martini is sweet and very sippable. For something a bit different, try the Coconut and Cherry Sour.

What did I eat? To start, I had the creamed garlic mushrooms which I will now order every time I visit Gusto. They are ultimate comfort food, rich, creamy and (unsurprisingly) garlicky, topped with crisp shallots for some added texture. The only time I might make an exception is to order the dough petals instead. Actually, fuck it. I’m going to start ordering both and dipping the dough petals in my garlic mushrooms.

I followed this with the white crab, chilli and garlic spaghetti. Simple, tasty and with a generous helping of crab, it was a lovely main. Although I admit that by this point, @barrysherwin61 had fed me so much red wine that I was losing interest in the food and agreeing to all kinds of things…

Sticky toffee pudding satisfied my craving for a sweet ending. Big enough to satisfy, without being so heavy that I couldn’t extricate myself from my chair after the meal. I would have liked a tiny bit more sauce, but my dad tells me that it’s not civilized to eat dessert from a bowl so I guess I need to up my standards. Forgive me, I’m from Macclesfield.

Gusto regularly change up their  menu, with the next one due in April, but all the dishes above have a permanent slot (for good reason). Come and try them; come and try the cocktails. If you want to eat and drink somewhere buzzy, relaxed and really well decorated then Gusto is your place.

Disclaimer: We were guests of Gusto so dinner was on them. However I’ve been many times before before and paid, and I will again – I genuinely rate it. 

Find Gusto at The Grand Hotel, Colmore Row, B3 2DA WEBSITE