Slice of New York Review – Birmingham

Salaams and welcome back to the Halal Blogosphere. We are slowly waking up from our halal food slumber and inshallah will bring you more news, reviews and views from the Halal Food Scene over the coming months.

We were recently alerted to the opening of Slice of New York on the High Street in Kings Heath at the Vicarage Road Junction. We have to confess when we first heard about it we didn’t really pay much attention. We’re quite used to seeing fast food joints open in Birmingham and then vanish almost as quickly as they open.  Slice of New York has only been open for a couple of weeks, the menu is still being tweaked, developed and added to and there seems to be some rather frequent changes to prices too! We’ve made two trips to a Slice of New York in the last couple of weeks and have seen the menu expand from a core staple of pizza options and Philly steak sandwiches to include homemade burgers with plans in place to introduce a pasta menu in the coming weeks.

Slice of New York occupies a small retail unit on the High Street, the first thing that hits you when you walk past is a rich and colourful display of pizzas in the shop front. As you enter you are greeted by a counter that runs the length of the eatery on your left hand side and a row of covers on the right hand side. The biggest challenge for anyone who wants to eat in is the limited width of the space which means that there are two rows of tables that seat a maximum of 2 people per table.  This is great if you’re a couple or eating with a friend. If there are more than 2 of you eating then it does mean sitting on different tables which is a rather quirky and interesting experience! We love the name and really like the concept, the menu and the branding is still a bit rough around the edges but definitely a work in progress.

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What makes Slice of New York even more interesting is that the owner has relocated / returned to Birmingham after living in Florida in the United States. Why is this important I hear you ask? The American influence is not just in the name but also the menu, there is no other place in Birmingham where we’ve seen Gyro served and the Philly and Greek Steak sandwiches have a definite American twist to them.

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So what about the Food I hear you cry.

We’ve sampled the Steak sandwiches, we’ve sampled the pizza and we’ve also sampled the legendary New York Special burger and we have to say the food is of a really good quality. The sandwiches are generously topped with meat, cheese and extras and for an extra £1 you can upgrade your sandwich to include fries and a drink. The sandwiches are not your typical baguette or panini which is easy to find in Birmingham and it really does give you an American experience in of all places Kings Heath!

The pizza is definitely the star of the show at Slice of New York, the clue is in the name and the branding 🙂 If there is one pizza we would recommend people trying it is the Al Fredo. The customer service team will also let you tailor your toppings. This cream themed pizza is the business and unlike anything we’ve experienced in Birmingham. Try it, love it and come back for seconds we definitely will!

The New Yorker burger is feast on its own, we didn’t need any sides to accompany the burger which comes topped with onion rings, salad and jalapenos. The meat patties are 100% home made and there isn’t a processed piece of meat in sight! As burgers go Slice of New York can compete with the best in Birmingham whether your preference is for Chicago’s, Fargo’s or Rock Diner’s burger of choice. It is great to see Birmingham develop a strong offer that is no longer based on picking a processed patty of choice.

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The big challenge Slice of New York does face is it’s location. It’s on the edges of the King’s Heath High Street shopping parade and the team at Slice of New York really do need to raise their profile and the marketing to entice potential customers in. During the two visits we made to Slice of New York there was a lot of passing interest in terms of people looking in but they kept walking on. I would definitely embark on a street marketing campaign that allows customers to sample some of the menu and maybe even run a special offer or two.

If there is one thing Kings Heath is not lacking it is places where you can buy burgers, pizzas and sandwiches. With competitors like Caspian, Big John’s, King Kebab, Al’s Diner and Papa John’s it is really important Slice of New York can carve its identity on to the High Street. Price will be a big factor in the battle for hearts and minds and we have a feeling that Slice of New York are still testing out price points as we have seen price fluctuations during our visits.

So what are the scores on the door!

In terms of the quality of the food we have no complaints. The food delivers with the Al Fredo pizza being the absolute highlight for us. For customers eating in the food could be served on traditional plates rather than paper plates but thats a minor grumble!

Space is a key issue and the seating configuration is not great, with a limit of two people per table it may put off larger groups of friends and families. There is no real fix to this due to the layout of the restaurant. This causes few problems when the restaurant is quiet but it could be disruptive during busier periods.

The Customer sales team are relaxed and friendly, they are more than happy to guide you through the menu options and recommend particular highlights. Pricing has seen a few fluctuations over the last couple of weeks but we think this is partly to test the waters as part of their soft launch. One thing we do like is the option to purchase pizza slices rather than a full pizza, the slices are very generous and it lets you fill your pizza craving without having to buy a whole pizza.

We’re looking forward to seeing the pasta menu come onstream but in the meantime we would definitely recommend checking Slice of New York out if you’re in the area. A word of warning Slice of New York does close around 8pm, we were told they will be reviewing opening hours in the future so if you’re planning on making a trip we suggest you err on the side of caution and go earlier rather than later.

Quality of Food 8.5 – Try the Al Fredo Pizza, it would be rude not too!
Quality of Service 8
Quality of Space 6.5 – the seating configuration is the key challenge here otherwise we like it.
Prices 7 – We’ve seen a few price changes, we’d like to see a more settled menu and pricing before we can give a higher score.

Overall rating 8 out of 10

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Aman Ali video blogs with the Halal Food Review

Salaams and welcome back to the Halal Blogosphere where we have spent the last two days in the company of the highly entertaining and very engaging Aman Ali a Muslim Comedian from New York who is currently on a Europe wide tour. For those of you who may not be familiar with Aman Ali he is also one half of the duo behind the incredible 30 Mosques in 30 Days project which in our humble opinion is one of the most innovative Muslim led cultural awareness projects we have ever seen.

We’ll be sharing some of Aman’s thoughts, photos and videos from his time in Birmingham where he has been hosted by our friends at Soul City Arts who are based in Birmingham’s alternative arts space the Hubb.

So sit back and enjoy Aman’s first video entry!

For more information on the 30 Mosques project visit http://30mosques.com/

 

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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