La Favorita Review – Birmingham

Salaam’s and welcome back to the Halal Blogosphere where we have gone all Italian or as they would say in the West End Mama Mia!

Today the Halal Food Team ventured back into the Balti Triangle of Birmingham but this time we were not in search of baltis, currys or kebabs. We were here to try Birmingham’s newest Italian Restaurant La Favorita.  Now the last time we had an Italian restaurant open in the Balti Triangle it mysteriously disappeared like ships sailing into the Bermuda Triangle only to resurface from the dead as Desi Express!

Pasta Di Piazza La Favorita Restaurant to give it it’s full name is located on Alfred Street just off the Ladypool Road in a purpose-built double storey building with a generous glass frontage that initially seems slightly out-of-place in a side street in Sparkbrook. Having said that I am all for investment in local communities and with the opening of Mughal E Azam in Sparkhill, Haveli in Small Heath, Yaqub’s Steakhouse down the road on Stoney Lane and now La Favorita its great to see real investment in contemporary halal restaurants in the heart of Birmingham’s Muslim communities. I’m a firm believer that for areas like Sparkbrook and Small Heath to thrive in the current challenging economic times it is paramount for local businesses and individuals to support inward investment at a time when the local authority only has eyes for the city centre. Thats enough social commentary for now let’s get back to reviewing food!

As you walk into La Favorita you walk into one of the most delightful interiors of any halal establishment in Birmingham. It doesn’t have the grandeur of Mughal E Azam but the interior is contemporary, fresh and welcoming.  Walking in on a cold January afternoon you instantly feel the warmth of the restaurant. The restaurant spans two floors and the covers are generously spaced out ensuring diners can have an intimate dining experience without having to overhear every conversation of diners in the near vicinity.  As you enter the restaurant the drinks and desserts counter is located to your left and you have an open view into the kitchen at the back of the restaurant.

We were warmly greeted by the staff and accompanied to our tables and were promptly offered our menus. What is unique about La Favorita is that not only is it an Italian restaurant it also offers a full Balti menu which I did find rather strange but the restaurant has ensured both menus are unique and distinct so that you don’t get caught in the middle of an identity crisis. For the purpose of our review we were strictly here to sample the Italian menu.

So what about the food I hear you cry!

For starters we ordered the Funghi Con Aglio which translates to Mushrooms with Garlic, Tomato, Cream and topped with Cheese, the Garlic Bread with a tomato dressing and we decided to share a pizza between the three of us choosing the Rustica thin crust pizza which came with the following toppings of Tomato, Cheese, Spicy Beef, Onion and Chicken.

 
The starters were impressive with the Funghi Con Aglio the undoubted highlight.  Each mouthful delivered a rich experience, the button mushrooms were perfectly cooked with the flavouring of the garlic providing the perfect taste sensation which was complimented beautifully by the rich sauce and cheese. The garlic bread was freshly cooked blended with the rich flavours of the tomato dressing and the rustic pizza was served on a thin crust and was light on the palette. The evidence of how much we enjoyed our starters can be seen by the rather telling picture below and the big smile on the waitress’ face when she cleared away our plates!

 
The starters had definitely delivered!  The customer service at La Favorita is excellent, the service was prompt and the waiting staff were polite and professional. With the rarity of halal traditional Italian dining in the city the menu will be very new to a lot of diners and if there is one area we felt service could be improved is for the staff to be more forward in terms of offering recommendations from the menu as we did struggle initially to decide what to order.

For our mains we selected  the Pollo Pomodoro (Chicken Breast served with mixed Peppers, Chillies and Garlic cooked in a Tomato sauce with fresh Oregano) served with a side of Sauteed Potatoes, the Canneloni (Rolls of Pasta filled with Mince Beef and Vegetable Béchamel, Tomato Sauce and Cheese) and finally the Risotto Rotara (Rice with strips of Chicken, Seasonal Vegetables, Garlic, Onions with a hint of Tomato) For at least two of us this was taking us into a completely new dining experience and we couldn’t wait to try the mains after the delightful starters!

 
The mains were beautifully presented with the star award going to the Pollo Pomodoro which came in a beautiful sauce which was complimented by the rich colours of the peppers and vegetables. The risotto was accompanied by a decorative beetroot sauce. It was at this point we encountered the only glitch of our dining experience where instead of the Cannaloni we were served with Crespolini(Rolled Pancake filled with Ricotta Cheese, Spinach, Garlic, Chillies, Cheese, Bechamel and Tomato Sauce) The waiting staff could not be more apologetic and assured us that the Cannaloni would arrive within a few minutes. Not ones to miss an opportunity we offered to consume the Crespolini too and were delighted to hear that we would not be charged for the extra dish. Small touches like this make a big difference and also allowed us to try something we probably wouldn’t have considered on the menu and full credit both to my fellow diner for making the suggestion and to La Favorita staff for offering us a generous freebie.

 
Each of the mains was once again a feast for our taste buds, we mixed and matched our mains and there was no weak point that we could identify. The risotto was served al dente just as we had requested, the chicken in the Pollo Pomedora was cooked to perfection and the sauce it was served in was rich in flavour and texture! The cannoloni delivered too with delicious mouthfuls of pasta and beef bathed in a rich sauce and cheese topping.

La Favorita certainly delivered. Our dining experience was incredibly positive and we also encountered even more of a rarity which is gushing praise from three of the most demanding tasting palettes on the Halal Food Review team! Towards the end of our meal the chef also introduced himself to us and shared his thoughts on the menu as well as getting our feedback on the food.  The human touch of a dining experience can never be underestimated and we found the team at La Favorita to be warm and generous and this was topped off by a complimentary selection from the patisserie counter.

If we had to look for faults or suggestions for improvement we would welcome a serving of bread, dips and oils at the start of the meal for the full Italian dining experience. At no point did we look at the Balti menu and it will be interesting to see how diners take to the dual cuisine offer at La Favorita, the Italian option is more than enough to make the Halal Food Review team come back for more. The only other complaint is one we have to blame ourselves for, having eaten so much we didn’t leave any room to fully sample the dessert menu but we will definitely be back to tackle the sweet side of the menu!

In summary La Favorita delivered a wonderfully rich Italian dining experience, the food was faultless and the service was of a really high standard. The total bill for our meal came to just over £40 which would have been higher if we had ordered more drinks but only one of our dining party had a soft drink whilst two of us stuck to water. The portion sizes are generous both for the starters and the mains and the prices represent very good value for a totally unique halal Italian dining experience that is not available anywhere else in the city.

We would definitely recommend La Favorita to all our Halal Food Readers, and would welcome reader thoughts particularly on service during a busier evening dining period as we ate after Friday prayers when the restaurant was quiet. La Favorita should definitely be at the top of your places to dine list and we’d encourage our readers to experience the true breadth of the Italian menu on offer.

La Favorita has certainly knocked Mughal E Azam off the top of our favourite places to eat in Birmingham chart and we can’t offer any better compliment than that!

Quality of Food 9
Quality of Service 9
Quality of Space 10
Value for Money 9

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Roti Boti – Queens, New York a video blog from Sameer’s Eats and special guest Aman Ali

What do you get when you have a Halal Food Reviewer, an International Comedian and a video crew? You get a Sameer’s Eats video special with Aman Ali who many of you may recognise from his 30 days, 30 days mosque project and his recent trip to the UK. So sit back, get the popcorn and enjoy another special edition of Sameer’s Eats from Stateside!

For more Stateside content from the team at Sameer’s Eats visit their website at http://sameerseats.com/

Yaqub’s Steakhouse Review – Birmingham

Salaams and welcome back to the Halal Blogosphere. Over the last few weeks months we’ve seen a number of new Halal restaurants open in Birmingham from Mughal E Azam to Haveli Buffet and our first new opening of 2012 Yaqub’s Steakhouse.

As our readers know we are currently running a 25% off your total bill promotional offer and we’re grateful to the management at Yaqub’s for extending this generous offer to Halal Food Readers. Inshallah we will be bringing you other restaurant offers in the future, if you are a restaurant owner reading this then please do get in touch. If you want to be kept in touch of any offers like our page at Facebook or follow us at Twitter @halalfoodreview

In order to keep our reviews completely impartial I have not written the review for Yaqub’s, so that our readers get a completely neutral perspective and we maintain the integrity of the site so please welcome back Altaf H Kazi who has kindly agreed to review Yaqub’s Steakhouse. For regular readers with a long memory Altaf’s name might ring a bell he also penned our La Fibule review. So without further to do over to Altaf for our review of Yaqub’s!

Yaqub’s Steakhouse Review

After months of anticipation Yaqub’s finally opened its doors to the public. I was well excited; I’d been missing my lamb steak and picante gravy. This, I thought, would be my fix! I convinced a group of mates to join me. We had heard rumours that it was a little expensive so the guys warned me, that it better be worth it. I booked the table on Wednesday and got a late Friday booking, which was good. We booked our table before the Halal Food Review discount code went live so we paid the full price for our meals.

Getting to Yaqub’s is easy it is located opposite Lahore Chinese on the Highgate Road near the junction with Stratford Road. There is ample free parking opposite the restaurant which makes it easily accessible by car. From the outside Yaqub’s looks the business and looks like an upmarket establishment even though this seems a little odd for Highgate Road! But does it look like a Steak House? Unfortunately it doesn’t it looks good just not a steakhouse. It reminds me a little of Ismail’s with it being finished to a high spec but not having a steakhousy feel if that makes sense.

As you enter you are greeted by a ‘door opener’ standing between the two entrance doors which seemed a little odd but nevertheless he greeted us with a smile and did his job; making sure we got in safely. Doors are dangerous things, potential hazards even so it’s nice to see Yaqub’s safeguarding its customers from risk! It wasn’t particularly busy when we arrived but we did get there at 9.45pm.

So what about the food? 

Between our group of five we ordered different starters, I opted for the fish tikka whilst others in the group ordered the lamb chops, potato skins, prawns and fried beef starters.

My fish tikka was very nice; the batter was crispy with the right amount of spice, whilst the cod was perfectly cooked and moist.

Unfortunately my mates on the other hand were not as happy and understandably so; the lamb chops cost £4.50- for that price you’d expect to get 3/4 pieces but we received 2 chops for £4.50, that’s £2.25 a chop!  That was not the end of it we received 5 prawns for £5. The potato skins tasted fine but didn’t look impressive and I’d expect more when it comes to presentation particularly for a fine dining experience. I hope the management can take note.

On to our main courses. Yaqub’s offers a range of Steaks, Burgers and Fajitas. Their steak menu is extensive and they offer a range of different cuts of beef, t-bone, sirloin, rib eye or rump as well as lamb and chicken options. There is even a picture of a cow on the menu showing you were the different cuts are from. Along with offering the choice of your steak being prepared in 5 different ways you knew the team at Yaqub’s had done their research! With all this information I was about to go Heston on them and ask them if their meat was fresh or not. Steaks are better the more mature the meat gets- they are best at around six weeks from slaughter. 

The prices at Yaqub’s are definitely at the premium end of the dining experience and thus expectations are also raised high. I don’t think we mind paying good money as long as we get good quality food, attentive customer service and experience a good ambiance.

My mates ordered the t-bone steaks and burgers. I stuck to my guns and ordered a lamb steak (medium to well done) with picante gravy in the hope of getting my fix. The burgers looked exceptional- towering high and made from pure meat. They went down a storm. The burgers were succulent and juicy they had the right amount of cheese and where served in a ciabatta bap. They were as good as those served at Chicago Gourmet Burger with the bonus of more meat! We had the doubles and they were definitely the highlight of the evening!

The t-bone steaks didn’t hit the same note on the other hand and were just average in comparison. They didn’t jump out or taste exceptional and the gravy again was at best average. Now for the science part!

The t-bone steaks were not cooked to perfection. I could see the cooks using thermometers and for those who know about preparing and cooking steak should know that the medium to well is served best at 54- 57 Celsius. In my opinion it looked as if they had got the temperature right but forgotten to take into account the fact that residual heat keeps cooking the steak and that after resting the steak for at least 5 minutes they need to run the steak out to you. I think when you offer so many ways of cooking steak you need to get it right, especially at the premium side of things and this is something I hope improves with time as the potential is there. 

I got my lamb steak and was expecting a fillet of lamb (about the size of a burger patty) but what I got was four small pieces of lamb. I was gutted and all my mates were laughing at me! My dreams of getting my lamb fix were dashed! On enquiring with the waiter I was told that this was spring lamb and it came like this. I told him that they should tell customers this in order to manage expectations. He apologised and suggested that I could order something else. Having seen the burgers I ordered one of those instead.

The customer service at Yaqub’s is as good as anywhere in Birmingham but in my opinion the standard in Birmingham is below par compared to other cities I have eaten in. The service was ok, the waiter came and took our order, he then re-read the order to us and asked us how are food was once it had been served. So he did his job. In many other places that would have sufficed but when it comes to the premium side of the dining market I want the waiter and service to be exceptional at a level that goes above and beyond what I would expect at other restaurants. Again I think there is room for Yaqub’s to improve this part of their offer.

A note to Muslim customers Yaqub’s has no lota in the washrooms for making wudu so take your own bottles or wudu mates with you but I’m hoping the restaurant will rectify this!

Overall our night out to Yaqub’s wasn’t the success I hoped it would be but it wasn’t a failure either. The guys didn’t ‘cuss’ me for taking them there which shows that it had some good points like the quality of the fish tikka starter and the excellent burgers. The other starters were just ok particularly related to the price we paid. The restaurant needs to focus on delivering value for money for what is a premium dining experience and this includes improving the presentation of the food that is served so that it reflects that premium experience. My share of the total bill came to £18 including the starter and main dish and at that price the food, service and presentation has to be consistently good.

The biggest disappointment of the evening was the steaks; I was expecting something exceptional, something to befit Yaqub’s as the new premium choice, unfortunately our experience was average at best but I would hope things improve as we’re still at the early stages where all restaurants have teething problems.

I am planning on returning in a month or so after the restaurant has had some time to bed down. In a month’s time I would hope they have perfected the steaks and gravy as well as raising the level of customer service to reflect the premium dining experience.

I hope they do as they have the potential to become one of Birmingham’s finest dining places.

Scores

Quality of Food: 6
Quality of Decor, Facilities: 7
Quality of Service: 6
Value for Money: 3 (full price paid, no discount codes used)

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25% off your bill at Yaqub’s Steakhouse – OFFER EXPIRED

THIS OFFER HAS NOW EXPIRED

As we promised our readers earlier in the year we are planning on bringing some new content and special offers to make your halal dining experience even more enjoyable.

We’re pleased to announce our first reader offer which is 25% of your bill at Yaqub’s Steakhouse in Birmingham.  To take advantage of this special offer all you need to do is pre book a table by ringing the restaurant on 0121 773 9111 and quoting Halal Food Review its that simple.

The offer runs until the 29th January 2012 so make sure you pre book your table before you visit the restaurant to save yourself 25%.  A word of caution for readers though and that is Yaqub’s are nearly fully booked for the next week so you might have a bit of a wait before you can get a table.

 

Send us your halal food comments, photos and videos!

Salaams from a very cold Monday morning in Brumistan! A quick blog update this morning to encourage readers to send us their photoso of their halal food experiences. They say a picture tells a thousand words and we’d like to see what our readers are eating when they are out and about.

If you would like to share photos please use our social network channels on Facebook and Twitter so that you can connect with our wider Halal Food Review community. Its a wonderful way of finding out about new places to eat, places to avoid as well as being part of a wider conversation that we can’t always replicate via the website. We will be sharing reader photos via the website on a regular basis too. So now its even easier to be an active part of the Halal Food Review community. You don’t have to write reviews just send us your photos!

To share your photos via Facebook visit http://www.facebook.com/halalfoodreview
To share your photos via Twitter either follow us @halalfoodreview or tag us using #halalfoodreview

One final note, we’ve added sharing buttons to all our posts so please do share the Halal Food Review website with family, friends and colleagues. The wider our reach the more diverse we can make our content. If you haven’t joined us on Facebook or Twitter it only takes a moment.

Until the next time, happy eating!

Join us on Facebook & Twitter as we bring you exclusive discount codes and special offers

Salaams and welcome back to the Halal Blogosphere.

Over the coming months we will be bringing our readers a series of exclusive discount vouchers and special offers for halal food restaurants across Birmingham and inshallah nationally across the UK. This is an opportunity to thank our readers for their continued support over the last couple of years and inshallah you will continue to benefit from the site in the coming years.

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Keep you eyes on the site over the next few weeks for the first of our exclusive reader offers.