Al Rabie Review – Birmingham

Salaams and welcome back to the Halal Blogosphere where today we have a special guest review from a Halal Food Reader and a dear friend of ours Modasar Rasul.

Over to you Modasar!

Al Rabie review – November 2012 

Following on from attending Kristiane Backer’s book launch ‘From MTV to Mecca’ at the amazing Hubb Arts Centre, the wife and I with 2 kids and a baby in toe set out on a cold November evening in search of an evening meal. After some discussion, we decided to check out the newly refurbished Al Rabie restaurant on Coventry Road. 

The restaurant is well placed in the heart of the Arabic restaurant quarter in Small Heath and has a warm and inviting exterior. The restaurant opened a few months ago and is run by the same team that manages Bader a couple of doors down.  Upon entry we were warmly greeted by a friendly waiter who asked us where we would like to sit. We opted for a family room to try out a different experience and more relaxed experience especially when you have the kids with you. The ambience of the space was inviting and warm the decore is of a high standard and has a distinct middle eastern feel to it. We were guided to the one of the four family areas situated towards the rear of the restaurant. 

Al Rabie is a spacious, arabesque styled Lebenese restaurant which has a laid back no fuss approach to eating. One could even be mistaken for thinking they are in an up market café at times. The layout is contemporary but informal with a warm welcoming feel. For the more seasoned ethnic foodie there is even a floor seated family area towards the rear of the restaurant which makes for a really nice traditional touch. The bathrooms and wash facilities are top notch and clean which is a big improvement on a lot of other restaurants.  


Although the menu lacked more adventurous options, it did offer a standard range of Arabic dishes and was very well priced. For our starter, we wanted something light and went for the Feta Cheese Salad which promptly arrived and was a visual delight. The fresh salad was beautifully layered with generous pieces of feta and drizzled in balsamic vinegar. It tasted as good as it looked! 


For the main meal we opted for the chicken grill platter, the waiter hastened to inform us that it was sufficient for 2 or possibly 3 adults. We were two adults, two children and a hungry baby, so as a precaution, we ordered an additional portion of fries and we prepared ourselves to order more dishes if needed. For drinks, we decided to test the freshly squeezed juice option and went for a mango juice and orange juice. These were juiced immediately and delivered in large glasses with fun straws which the kids found amusing. They went down a treat! 


Within a short period of time, chicken steaks, skewers of chicken kebabs, chicken shawarma and a generous portion of wings arrived on a large platter of aromatic rice, layered with peppers and roasted tomatoes. This was accompanied with a complimentary plate of fresh side salad. It was a sight to behold and a meal fit for a king. Although intended for 2 adults, the platter was more than enough for the whole family. The roast chicken was mildly seasoned, well cooked and tender and the rice was light and fluffy. The chicken kebabs and wings were beautifully cooked and the kids made sure they didn’t last long. Overall it was a great meal. The only area that fell short was the noticeable lack of sauces and chutneys which would have complimented the meal and completed the experience. The portion was so large that we were not able to finish it and had to arrange for a take away pack which the waiter promptly arranged. The experience cost under £30, this was a bargain. 

We didn’t order dessert but noticed a range of sweet dishes and beautifully decorated cakes on the way out as well as other diners mingled and enjoyed their coffees and hot chocolates. 

We enjoyed our first experience at Al Rabie and hope to return again someday. It is a versatile venue and can be visited for a quick coffee (with something sweet) or a full course meal. 

The restaurant also offers a lunchtime buffet which runs Monday through to Friday for those who want to try out a buffet option over lunch.

Quality of Food 7 
Quality of Service 7 
Quality of Space 8 
Value for Money 8

Overall score 7.5

For diners looking to eat at Al Rabie the full address is 392 Coventry Road, Small Heath, Birmingham, B10 0UF

Pastry House – Birmingham

Salaams and welcome back to the Halal Blogosphere where we’ve been transformed into one of those buses you wait ages for then you get three coming around the corner at the same time!

With it being Eid and the end of half term, we’ve been out and about with the family which normally involves stopping off somewhere for some halal fuelling so to speak! This afternoon after a trip to the Science Museum we ended up at Pastry House which for Birmingham residents is pretty much an institution when it comes to going out and having Arabic tea and a slice of cake.

Pastry House is located on the corner of Coventry Road and Whitmore Road in the heart of the Arabic quarter. It’s not the largest of places but there is always room to fit someone in! They have recently expanded their seating outside the shop which was great in summer but not sure how popular it will in the coming months unless we get some nice outdoor heaters in place!


If you are going to Pastry House you have to try the Arabic chai, its jsut what the doctor would prescribe for a cold Autumn day, throw in more sugar than you would possibly want to think about, add some mint leaves for flavour and you have the most popular choice of hot drink in Small Heath!




You’re most likely to go to Pastry House for a hot beverage and one of the many cake or pattisserie selections. Pastry House do offer a limited but excellent range of paninis and our choice this afternoon was the Chicken and Coriandar panini which comes with a range of sauces. It’s very rare to find a decent halal panini place and Pastry House do serve some of the better ones. If you’re looking for a light lunch its likely to tick all the boxes. This is not 5 star dining, but for what it is you can’t go wrong.

No trip to Pastry House would be complete without the standard choice of cakes or sweets. We had the chocolate crunch and a slice of chocolate sponge cake.  We’ve eaten at Pastry House for longer than we can remember and both of these have been staple parts of our menu selection.


So if you’re ever in Birmingham and need an interesting spot to satisfy your sweet fix or are in need of a hot beverage then Pastry House is difficult to beat. Its a wonderfully ecclectic insight into the wonderful diversity of humanity that makes up Small Heath. It’s simple, its cheap and its the perfect way to round off a meal you’re digesting from elsewhere or when you’re in need of a light snack and a much needed Arabic tea. It’s a small slice of comfort in the hustle and bustle of Birmingham of Small Heath. The characters behind the counter can be as entertaining as the characters who come in to eat and drink, so sit back and enjoy!



Al Basha Review – Birmingham

Salaams and welcome back to the Halal  Blogosphere where good food meets creative writing. We’re heading into the blessed month of Ramadan and no doubt there will be plenty of tempting offers to entice those fasting into restaurants across the land!

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Today we have a guest review from Halal Food Review reader Imtiaz who recently visited the new Al Basha Lebanese bakery on Warwick Road in Acocks Green, Birmingham. If its the same Al Basha we think it is, then it has relocated from it’s previous premises on Edward Road in Balsall Heath. Over to you Imtiaz!

So, on a Wednesday night, me and my parents went to Al Basha Lebanese bakery on Warwick Rd in Olton. It is opposite the McDonalds and a bit out of the way from all the other Middle Eastern Restaurants on and around Coventry road. Totally worth the trip though.
It is a small restaurant (It probably seats 25 people max) and does a lot of takeaway business, but its owner Abdul is very accommodating and welcoming. It has only been open a few months, so is still having minor logistical issues like running out of ice. However, it had been a very hot day and the drinks were still cold, so like I said, minor.

The decor is very simple, as is the restaurant, but the food is presented well and the staff are friendly, helpful and engaging. There are no toilet facilities as the restaurant is more geared up to takeaways.
On to the food. Al Basha serve a traditional Lebanese menu which offered a varied choice. We started with Stuffed Vine Leaves, which were served warm. This is not something that I am used to and I found the texture a little odd dare I say it even a bit mushy. I would prefer the vine leaves cold but my parents prefer them warmed up. It’s obviously down to personal preference and something you may want to try next time you have them.

We also had the Hummus served with Khobez, which is a Lebanese bread with sesame seeds on it. The bread was a great accompaniment to the Hummus which had been made spicier with some chilli sauce adding a nice extra kick. The bread was very well received, so well received that we also took some home. I have to say, the bread was almost as good the next day as it had been when it came fresh out of the oven.

Now on to the main course. Going for Lebanese food, we always have something from the grilled meats menu for mains and this visit was no different. We had the Mix Grill 2 which includes a total of 10 skewers of meat, including Chicken and Lamb Kofta, Chicken and Lamb Shish and some Chicken Wings, which had been made extra spicy. The meats was very well cooked and melted in your mouth. They were accompanied by rice, chips and salad. We all consider ourselves to have hearty appetites and we couldn’t finish the platter and had to take 3 skewers home.  (the meat not the metal skewers!) Small portions are definitely not an issue at Al Basha. The food was accompanied by some nice chilli sauce and mint mayonnaise, which was something I had never had before. It was refreshing and hit the spot, my Dad decided to take some home.

The food was excellent value for money and can be seen in the prices below.
Vine Leaves – £3
Hummus – £3
Khobez (2) – £1
Mix Grill 2 – £21

As you can see, it is similarly priced to other comparable Lebanese restaurants in Birmingham and matches them in terms of food as well. Now for the scores on the doors (1 = Poor, 10 = Excellent):

Quality of Food – 9. I really couldn’t fault anything we had; it was all presented well and tasted as good as it looked.

Quality of Decor, Facilities – 5. As mentioned, it is quite small and a lack of toilet facilities is a hindrance, but if you can manage without these, it really is worth going. Or get a takeaway.

Quality of Service – 9. Again, really great. The staff we talked to were helpful and accommodating, dealing with our requests in a friendly manner.

Value for Money – 8. Very competitive prices

Overall Score – 8

There is also a facebook page with the Menu and contact details

As you can probably tell, I’m not very good at writing reviews and didn’t plan on writing one when I went to the restaurant (As much as I use the Halal Food Review, I have never thought about submitting anything myself). However, I was won round by the staff and the food and definitely think that more people should go to it and experience a great meal.


Arabisk Review – Birmingham

Salaams and welcome back to the Halal Blogosphere.

Over the last couple of weeks we have found ourselves drawn repeatedly like a magnet to Arabisk on the Coventry Road, by my reckoning we have eaten there 3 times in the last 2 weeks so it’s probably no spoiler to you that its obvious we seem to be enjoying our Arabisk experience!

Arabisk is located in the heart of the Arabic restaurant quarter on the Coventry Road in Small Heath opposite old favourites including Bader and Abu Zayd. It’s not the largest of restaurants but has recently been expanded through the addition of a new upstairs family room which was much-needed particularly for family diners as downstairs seems to be dominated by male only dining parties during peak times which can make any restaurant feel like a no go zone for families! Lets hope the family room stays a family room and doesn’t become a spill over area for large groups of men!

There is nothing spectacular about Arabisk from a decor perspective, its clean and simple and in all honesty that’s all I want. Birmingham has plenty of fancy restaurants. Call me old-fashioned I just want great food and good customer service at a competitive price and this is where Arabisk really delivers outstanding value.

So what about the food I hear you cry!

The first thing I have to say is I haven’t even scratched the service of the wide range of food on offer at Arabisk which offers a really wide-ranging offer of cold and hot starters with a much wider vegetarian selection than we are used to from many middle eastern restaurants particularly in Birmingham which are very meat dominated. For mains there is a wide selection of vegetarian, chicken, lamb, grilled dishes as well as a range of fish and salad options to keep the most demanding of diners interested.

Both their chicken and lamb shawarma hits the spot, I definitely have a soft spot for the chicken over the lamb. Shawarma can be ordered as a light sandwich option or as part of a main meal which comes with a choice of rice or fries as well as Lebanese bread and salad. Middle Eastern restaurants have a much better concept of what constitutes a salad compared to many South Asian restaurants where it can be as basic as a chopped up onion accompanied by slices and slices of cucumber that have seen better days which would be of no use to refresh your eyes as they have dried out due to lack of any salad love!

The mixed grill meal which includes lamb cubes, a skewered kebab, and chicken cubes is a real winner on the menu. It comes again with a choice of sides and a salad and quite often you will find that the staff will add some chicken wings or shawarma to the mix as I have had on a couple of occasions. Rice options are plentiful, you don’t get the standard token one type of rice but you get a choice of up to four different rice options which is great.

One of the challenges of middle eastern food can be that the mains can be rather dry especially for a South Asian palette, this is where Arabisk definitely excels against its middle eastern competition on the Coventry Road. There is no problem in getting some vegetables in sauce to accompany your rice and if the initial serving is not to your satisfaction they have never quibbled in offering more, its a small touch but it makes a big difference. They also serve an amazing chilli sauce and garlic mayonnaise which will definitely have you asking for second helpings.

Service at Arabisk is excellent, the customer service staff are helpful, friendly and nothing is too much effort. The chefs behind the counter are friendly, not afraid to encourage you to try something different and there seems to be a positive vibe at the restaurant which we really like. We do have to warn you, the restaurant does get busy post Jummah and in the evenings and its easy to see why when you have good quality food with generous portions served at excellent prices. During these times you need to be prepared to both wait for your food and sometimes even wait for a table. If you’re eating in smaller parties of two you might have to eat with another group of diners if you want a seated table but if its good enough for Wagamama its good enough for Small Heath!  This in our opinion is no deal breaker and for me it just gives me more confidence that we’re eating in a restaurant that is popular amongst locals.

Arabisk really delivered for us at the Halal Food Review and the proof of the pudding is that I’ve eaten there three times in less than a fortnight both with friends and the family. When I ate with the wife the staff made a point to let me know that their new family dining area will open soon and true to their word it is now open.

If you’ve not tried Arabisk then I would definitely recommend it the next time you visit the Arabic quarter on the Coventry Road. If you’re not the type to wait for a table then avoid eating after Friday prayers. Arabisk is a wonderful addition to the Middle Eastern dining offer in the city offering a really diverse menu with generous portions at a very reasonable price!

Quality of Food 8
Quality of Service 8
Quality of Space 7
Value for Money 9

Overall Score 8

Basha Halal Food Review – Birmingham

Salaams and welcome back to the Halal Blogosphere.

One of the things we love about our work at the Halal Food Review is the interaction we have with our readers on Facebook and Twitter and one thing that is really clear to us is that some of our most serious foodies are female! Our female readers are passionate about their food, vocal in their opinions and have a great eye for detail. So if any of our female foodies want to write for the Halal Food Review get in touch via Twitter or Facebook and share your views and you never know you might get a call from the HFR to pen our next review.

If you’re not a member of our Halal Food Review community on Facebook you can find us at or if you want to follow us on Twitter we can be found @halalfoodreview

That shout out to our female readers brings us on to our latest review which is written by Halal Food Review correspondent Shabana Qamar. Readers with a long term memory will remember her from our review of Chaii in Birmingham.

Over to you Shabana!
Basha review

You would be forgiven for not noticing Basha amongst the hustle and bustle of Coventry roads Arab eateries in fact I have probably walked past it numerous times until a friend suggested we eat there. I was quite apprehensive as it looked like a male dominated cafe rather than a welcoming restaurant but when the sign read ‘Arabian/Turkish’ cuisine I did think oh this could be different. Basha is located a few doors down from Bader which is a firm favourite of the Halal Food Review and opposite Pastry House on the Coventry Road in Small Heath, Birmingham.

When walking in to Basha you are faced with a really small room with a counter full of tempting desserts so I was somewhat puzzled as to where the actual ‘Turkish cuisine’ was!  We were greeted by a waiter with an unexpected traditional Turkish top hat (we did get into a slight debate as to whether it was Turkish or Moroccan but if you have seen Tommy Cooper’s stand up you will know what I am referring to).

We were lead to the back of the cafe where I must say I was surprised to see a spacious well decorated room stretch out before us. It was only then we noticed how empty it was considering we arrived straight after Jummah prayers which is the busiest time for most restaurants on the Coventry Road as the hungry masses from the mosque head out to eat and socialise!

Without wishing to burst anyone’s bubble I am not a big fan of romantic dim lighting I don’t care how ugly my company is I still want to see their faces!

When presented with the menu I was pretty disappointed, I didn’t see anything ‘different’ neither did it shout TURKISH at me unless you included the grilled kebabs? I would compare it very much to the likes of Bader or Abu Zayd but even then their menus have more combinations and variety on offer. I was also struck by the rather odd baguette and Panini options which seem better suited to the cafe than the restaurant.

We opted for the mixed mezze starter along with the meat kabsa with rice and the barbecued chicken with fries for mains option. We decided to wait and see if we had enough space in the belly for dessert which I usually don’t after eating on Coventry road unless I decided to take a brisk walk to Asda and back!

The waiter with the traditional Turkish/Moroccan hat was quite friendly and in all fairness all the staff were smiley and pleasant. Our food came out almost instantaneously which wasn’t surprising seeing as there were only 2 other people in the restaurant at the time we ate.

Our starter was your standard mixed mezze which included hummus, falafels, vine wraps (name I forget) and a salad which all tasted fine. The falafel for my own personal taste was a little too oily and the hummus was a little too lightly spread for my liking I prefer my hummus to come in more generous servings!

The mains came out shortly after and the portion sizes were as big as I would expect from our Arab/Turkish brethren. The fries had some kind of chilli spice sprinkled over them which I actually liked but some may not as it can dominate the taste of the fries.
The chicken was well cooked but lacked a depth of flavour. I couldn’t figure out any distinct spices and I was expecting at least a subtle barbecued flavour but what came out was rather bland in terms of flavour. With the meat kabsa on the other hand it was very well spiced, beautifully seasoned and the meat was well cooked. My only issue here was that I didn’t realise the meat is mixed into the rice so for me it became a bit stodgy I prefer the rice and meat to be separated.

Overall our food experience was average, on the plus side service was good and we were given courtesy cinnamon tea during our mains which I thought was a nice gesture.

The total bill for our starter and 2 mains came to £17 which is reasonable for what we received. What you make of Basha is entirely dependent on your expectations from Arab/Turkish cuisine and given the local competition from established rivals such as Bader, Abu Zayd and Momo’s you can’t help feel that Basha needs to offer something different or extra special to convince people to give up their loyalties. If you fancy somewhere quiet to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Coventry Road then Basha offers that.

Food – 5/10
Service- 7/10
Space – 6/10
Prices- 7/10

Azka Halal Food Review – London

Salaams and welcome back to the Halal Blogosphere where we are very excited to bring you our first ever London review! Readers who have followed our blog over the years will know we’ve got Birmingham covered but inshallah over the next few months we want to bring you more national and international reviews! A big thank you for the review to one of our regular readers, its always great to receive a review from a reader who shares our passion for food!

Working in my field you’re always on the road on one mission or another, London is one of those stops you make on a much more regular basis than any other city and in my case more so due to having family in the capital.  As a regular reader of the Halal Food Review I’ve  been waiting patiently for someone to write reviews in London (hint hint) with no joy so I finally decided enough is enough if no one else will do it I will, or at least I’ll get the ball rolling.

On this occassion I was heading to East London. Driving down the Bethnal Green Road we had a couple of options including Maidah but we decided to stop off at Akza when we stumbled on it by chance and I thought lets see what East London can offer in terms of Turkish cuisine!

The first challenge you always have in London is finding somewhere to park so it was great to find on street parking right outside the restaurant. I’m guessing I was quite lucky with it also being Sunday afternoon, I’d imagine it would probably be difficult to park otherwise during busier parts of the week.

On this occassion I had travelled down with the wife and kids so was looking for somewhere that would be suitable for the family. Azka has a nice casual feel to it, the signage on the outside appealed to the creative side in me and the decore inside looked comfortable and suitable for a family dining experience.  Once in the restuarant we were greeted by a member of staff who took us to our table. The menu at Azka is a very traditional Turkish menu but I was a bit baffled as I noticed that the majority of staff didn’t seem to be Turkish which did make me wonder how authentic or traditional the Turkish menu would be when I had the food in front of me! Thankfully my mind was put at rest when I saw the chef who was of Turkish origin!

For our starters we ordered the Sucuk Hot Mezze (£4.00) which is a spicy Turkish beef sausage sliced into smaller pieces which came with a portion of salad. We also order two portions of the Chicken Wings Hot Meze (£5.50 per portion)  for the kids accompanied by two portions of chips and then for our mains we order the Azka special mixed grill for two and the Iskander Kebab.  The special mixed grill (£17.00) included lamb chops, chicken shish, adana kofta, cop shish, lamb ribs & chicken wings.  The Iskander kebab (£9.50) is  a dish comprising of an Adana kebab (minced lamb) & yoghurt with a special sauce

As we waited for our food to arrive we were pleasantly surprised to receive traditional bread, salad and sauces which again made me have a deja vu moment of being in Woody’s Grill another Turkish eatery in the capital. I guess it must be the standard thing to do at a Turkish restaurant in much the same way you get the poppadoms and sauces in Indian restaurants! The salad was a proper salad not the type you often find in restaurants which consist of some limp lettuce and if you’re lucky some bits of cucumber and onion. The bread came with a white sauce and a tomato salsa type dip, the bread itself could have done with being warmer.

The first thing you notice about the food at Azka is the portion sizes which are absolutely massive! The mixed grill in particular was a really generous portion. The portion sizes ultimately overcame us and we had to take some food home, in hindsight we probably ordered for three adults rather than two and had underestimated how much food would be served. Both the mixed grill and the Iskander kebab dishes were of a really good standard. I was intrigued by how the Iskander kebab was presented. I am normally used to having it served in a bowl with the meat at the bottom with different layers of the yoghurt etc. I was told that the chef was experimenting with how to present their menu differently. The chef had been poached from a nearby restaurant so it seemed to me that the team behind Azka whilst not being Turkish had wanted to secure an authentic Turkish chef for the restaurant. On the whole thought I had very little complaints about the quality of the food it was really good.

If I had one complaint about Azka it was that the restaurant was not the warmest place to eat which doesn’t help in the coldest February I can remember! Whilst not generally a problem it does mean that food also gets colder quicker than it normally would as happened with our rice.

When it came to settling our bill we received a handwritten bill which you expect less and less these days, the total bill came upto £47.60 which was on the steeper side but we had definitely over ordered with the special mixed grill, the Iskander kebab and the three meze dishes in addition to two portions of chips. In addition to the food we ordered two cokes and two apple juices. I am guessing we might have also been charged for the bread and the dips at the start of the meal, we did have two rounds of the bread having asked for extra.

The fact I didn’t keep a copy of my handwritten bill after paying makes me unsure as to whether or not the bread and dips were complimentary or not.

Overall I thought the food was of a good standard, the total cost definitely reflected us over ordering! If I was to have one complaint it would be that the restaurant was on the cold side throughout our meal which is not ideal in winter!

Overall I’d give Azka a very credible 7

The Azka website can be found at the full address of the restaurant is

267 Bethnal Green Road, E2 6AH London


Chaii Review – Birmingham

This week we have another review from a new member of the Halal Food Review team, so take it away Shabana Qamar.

Salaams to all our Halal Food Review readers, so my first venture into the world of halal food reviewing begins and it starts with Chaii a new establishment in Sparkbrook in the heart of the Somali Quarter. Having passed it on my journey through Stratford Road I thought yaaaay a new food place finally! Then the words chai brewed (get it brewed!!) bringing images of warm Jalebi and Samosas to mind.

We arrived to find a rather stubborn door that just wouldn’t open until a firm push from my friend after which we stepped into what could only be described as a something resembling Fidel Castro’s hang out spot, all that was missing was the smell of cigars and ashtrays!

My first impressions were this is grim, there was no vibrancy, the walls were a plain cream with a seating arrangement and layout from a wedding that went wrong.  The restaurant had a definite masculine feel which was also emphasised by the big plasma on the wall showing Manchester City vs. Stoke (well done Man City!!). The corner seating drew our eye which looked much more comfortable than some of the other options available.

Chaii seems to suffer from an identity crisis, it was hard to work out whether the place was going for an Italian, Arab or Pakistani vibe leaving visitors distinctly confused and uncertain of what to expect. We made our may to the counter
were we were greeted by a pleasant smiley brother but then errr it just got kind of awkward as we all just stared at each other blankly before I broke the silence by requesting a menu where we encountered our first problem when we were told not to go by 
the prices on the menu as they were not correct! This actually was a blessing  in disguise because the menu layout and options were just confusing flagging up only drink, breakfast and snack options but no mention of more comprehensive main meal options.

We decided to resort to the menu board at the back of the restaurant which was like the menu but in bigger writing resembling something out of countdown and you would need Carol Vorderman (she does still do countdown right) to decode it for you. We were saved from more confusion when the waiter told us not to go by that either so the question still remained what on earth do they serve!?

Meal options were selected from choosing from the variety of dishes on display in the front counter and to be quite honest they looked like leftovers from Eid but as they say never judge a book by its cover though for a moment we wish we had and made a swift exit. The ‘varied’ choices were rice (which they had apparently run out of at 1.30pm lunchtime,those crazy morning rice eaters!), chicken and vegetable pasta, kebabs, paninis and baguettes. We opted for the pasta,  a chicken tikka baguette and a kinder bueno milkshake (the picture on the menu did look rather nice if we could go by anything on it). 

The food arrived in no time at all by our gracious smiley waiter but on presentation it looked rather like your average ‘Caspians’ offer. The pasta was a simple concoction served with a very uninteresting side salad and the baguette  was nothing to write home about. My dreams of Samosas and Warm Jalebi  had quickly vanished.  The menu offer contradicts the name of the establishment, you go in expecting one thing and find yourself ordering something very different. The menu seems to be a random cobbling together of a variety of dishes that don’t always sit well which other. In terms of quality the food is definitely not the worst you can get on Stratford Road there are plenty of better options to have an unpleasant experience but it fails to wow you either. The Pasta was firmly on the spicy side which suited by Pakistani palette but offended by friend’s tastebuds! The one highlight was the milkshake which lived up the heady expectations built up from those very scrummy looking visuals behind the counter.

My overall impression of Chaii was one of disappointment this could be down to my own high expectations of new places and its name although they do serve chai (tea) but its not even their speciality, I am still trying to work out what their speciality is a few days after my experience! It is definitely not a place for true food lovers but more a lunchtime snack where a meal for 2 will cost you around £8 which pretty much reflects the quality you should expect. 

The customer service was better than we expected, you did not have to shout out for a waiters attention although this could be due to it being hardly what you would call busy. The inexperience of the staff seemed too obvious at one point when a customer had to explain step by step how to make a cappuccino to the waiter as he seemed quite clueless as to what one was which was nothing short of embarrassing! 


Quality of Food – 4 (high expectations were met with a very disappointing outcome)
Quality of Service – 7 (I am going to forget the Cappuccino incident!)
Quality of Space – 5 (Comfortable seating but not the best atmosphere in the world if you’re female)
Prices – 7 (Budget prices reflecting budget quality)
Overall – 5 

Bader Restaurant – Birmingham

Salaams and welcome back to the Halal Blogosphere. After a couple of mixed noodle reviews its back to our old haunt of the Coventry Road and a review of Bader Restaurant offering traditional Arabic and Lebanese cuisine in the heart of Small Heath.

As far as Arabic and Lebanese cuisine goes Bader offers both the widest choice and the most authentic dining experience from the options available in Small Heath. The restaurant retains a number of design features incorporating textiles and patterns from the middle east. When you enter the restaurant you are greeted by a traditional Arabic seating area to your right which is extremely handy as Bader tends to get filled to capacity very quickly particularly on Fridays after the post Friday prayer rush. We had a group of six diners arrive in the peak time rush post prayers and the staff were very accommodating in rearranging diners to allow us to find a place where we could sit. I don’t know how accommodated the diners who were moved felt but we were very appreciative!

One of the challenges of the Bader menu is the sheer choice from starters to the mains as well as the various grill and dessert options. For starters we decided to go for a Mix Maza which included Houmous, Falafel, Stuffed Vine Leaves as well as a Tabbouleh salad and traditional Arabic breads. The beauty of the Mix Maza was there was no meat in sight! Its to easy to go to an Arabic or Lebanese restaurant and not really try out some of the outstanding vegetarian options, I would definitely recommend people experiment with their starters even if they are not prepared to sacrifice the meat from the main courses! The starter was excellent, the portion size is more than suitable for a group of 3 to 4 people but it does become limiting when you have six very hungry diners! For larger groups I’d suggest ordering a wider selection of starters.

For our mains our table ordered mixed grilled kebabs, shawarma and baked salmon. The mains came with a variety of side dishes including rice, fries and salads. There was a slight problem with my order of baked salmon where I requested fries but received a giant portion of rice instead. The waiter promised to bring over replacement fries but they never arrived which whilst not the end of the world is not great customer service!

The frustration only grew as Arabic rice tends to come with no accompanying sauces which to the Desi palette borders on food blasphemy! Whilst the rice failed to meet my expectations the salmon was excellent, perfectly cooked with a rich sauce that I wished there was more of! The side salad I ordered was also rather limited to the culinary delights of the very traditional English lettuce which left me yearning for Arabic flavour!

The dishes around the table were tried and tested and delivered against expectations. Again if there was to be a criticism it would be that rice and meat mains do require an accompanying sauce or condiment e.g. gravy. The flavours of Arabic starters can often be missing in the main dishes particularly the grill options.

Service was mixed, the restaurant was exceptionally busy after Friday prayers which merits giving the waiting service the benefit of some doubt but small errors like forgetting to bring food out is just a basic error that can happen when a restuarant is not busy.

Prices at Bader are competitive, slightly higher than prices you may pay at other local Arabic restaurants but this is more than compensated by the dining experience and the range of choices available that are not matched by rivals in the area.

For families there is a small seating area at the back for families and female diners who wish to eat in a segregated environment. I still hold our hope that restaurants can become more family friendly, there are very few halal restaurants in the city that you feel comfortable entertaining friends or family particularly female family members as so many places have become male dominated. This isn’t necessarily the fault of the restaurant owners but something you would hope can be addressed. One of the exceptions to the rule is Dubai Express which provides a really ambient dining experience but struggles with a whole host of other problems as testified by the range of reader comments on our review.

General observations aside, Bader definitely gets a thumbs up!

Quality of Food 8 (More sauce please, we’re British!)
Quality of Service 7 (Try and avoid the post Friday rush)
Quality of Space 8 (Can get tight and overcrowded during peak times)
Prices 8
Overall Score 8

To view the website go to

La Fibule Review – Birmingham

Salaams and welcome to the Halal Blogosphere, this week we have another guest review. This week’s guest reviewer is Altaf Hussain Kazi who will inshallah be contributing a number of reviews in the coming weeks. If you would also like to submit a guest review then contact the HFR and shout about the food you love. We have our fair share of foodies from Birmingham and I’d love to get some guest reviewers from around the UK.

Food Review I hear you cry, over to you Altaf!

Last Saturday I took the missus out for a slap up meal! I thought we’d be a bit adventurous and go to La Fibule on Woodbridge Road. La Fibule is a Moroccan themed restaurant with the promise of authentic Moroccan grub – the missus didn’t need much convincing. As La Fibule is a little more up market I booked a table (half an hour before we left in true Asian fashion- but this shows that it can be last minute option for a small party).

Before we reached the restaurant we found it a little difficult to find parking which I would warn others about. However, as soon as we got into the restaurant we forgot about that. La Fibule is a cliché for a Moroccan restaurant- from the seating through to the colours and the lighting everything is Moroccan themed. I found the restaurant warm with a wonderful glow that set the ambiance for the evening.

The atmosphere in the restaurant was lively and bubbly. There was no music and it seemed to be a refreshing change from the norm (although music was put on before we left). We were greeted by welcoming staff that took care of us. We were seated by the kitchen which was a bit of a tight squeeze for my pregnant wife so they moved our seating away from the kitchen to a more pleasant and relaxed seating area. I noticed that they also had only one baby seat! This for a restaurant with atleast 30 covers is ok but could be better.

The selection of food looked good although it was a little on the expensive side. For starters we had Laffa Badijan (Koftas rolled in aubergine, with pine kernels & tahine). The starter was presented well and looked good-however it failed to pack a punch on the taste test. Although each item tasted nice on its own- the combination just did not work- we were a little disappointed by this. My wife called the koftas ‘salt and pepper koftas’ as she couldn’t see or taste any other flavouring- It was edible- just not spectacular.

In terms of the mains I ordered a Tagine D’agneau Piquent (Tender pieces of lamb cooked with mixed peppers, chilli & almonds) to accompany this I ordered Moroccan bread and steamed rice (I like to try both combinations). The portion size looked small initially but I had around 6 medium pieces of lamb which was very tender – I understand what melts in your mouth means! Overall the dish tasted really good and definitely one I will be coming back for- the balance between the tomatoes and the chilli was just right. I enjoyed this more with the bread- which was nice, flat and fluffy. Again the staff were great and came to see how we were getting on!

My wife ordered the Couscous al Jadija (Couscous served with lamb & seasonal vegetables a dish she had eaten in Morocco- me thinks). The portion size was generous- but again it lacked any punch. We weren’t looking for spices like most Asians but traditional Moroccan flavour and taste. The accompanying broth, did not add the flavour it intended to. I don’t normally eat couscous but it looked really fluffy and tasted light and airy. Overall the dish was not as flavoursome as we had expected but was palatable and ok- again the lamb was cooked to the t- fell off the bone and melted in my mouth!

Being a dessert man myself-the dessert menu was a big disappointment. Although they had a good selection of desserts, the only authentic option was a selection of Moroccan sweets. In the end I opted for Moroccan tea- the tea is the best Moroccan tea I have had but was served like a desi tea in Lahore Kebab House which is fine if they hadn’t gone to all the trouble to make the place look so Moroccan. The service I got here is amongst the best in Birmingham including Lasan, but the food was summed up by my wife who said ‘its really nice but next time I’ll have what you ate!’- our bill was £32.00 which in hindsight is expensive- but in the same price range as Ismails Grill House.

I would recommend this place because I did enjoy most of the food, the feel of the place and the service… but if you do go really have a good think about what you want to order otherwise it could turn out to be an expensive mistake!

Remember curiosity killed the cat and in this case it may just hurt your pocket to!

La Fibule – 31 Woodbridge Rd Birmingham, West Midlands B13 8EH – 0121 449 3289

Quality of Food 7
Quality of Service 9
Quality of Space 9
Price 7 ( Premium price is reflected in service offer )
Overall rating 7 – 8

Shiraz Food Review – Birmingham

Salaams Blogosphere. Today’s Halal Food Review is our first guest review on the site submitted by Haroon Ravat who has accompanied me on many a culinary adventure across the West Midlands. So sit back and enjoy our first review of traditional Iranian cuisine in the heart of Birmingham.

Over to you Haroon Bhai!

To start with I am no expert on Persian cuisine. Birmingham only has around 4 Iranian restaurants in total and Shiraz is reputedly the best of them.

The aim was to go and try the tour-de-force of Iranian cooking – Khoresht Faisinjan. Sadly they only serve this delicacy on weekends and on Iranian national holidays and I went on a Thursday. Gutted.

The restaurant appears to be a family-run establishment on the busy Hagley Road out of Edgbaston. Quaint, sophisticated but not pretentious either.  The staff are friendly and welcoming.

But what about the food I hear you ask?

My Iranian friends swear by Chello Kebab Koobideh. This is their equivalent of the Indo-Pak sheikh kebab. But similarities aside, this is a different product altogether. The flavours are far more subtle using delicate herbs and spices instead of the weapons-grade green chillis that desis often utilize.  We adapted this main course listing as a starter and it went down very well.

For our main meal, we ordered a grilled sea bass and a combination of Jooje (chicken) and Barg (lamb) kebabs with saffron flavoured rices. Most dishes come with an excellent combo of salad and grilled vegetables.

The fish was expertly grilled and presented on a bed of choice salads. Flaky, moist and delicate like all bass ought to be.

The chicken kebabs were beautifully roasted on a charcoal grill. Tender yet still well done. The lamb kebabs scored an acceptable second place.

I have a confession – Iranian naan breads are superior to the ones we are familiar with. They appear to be made with a healthier brown flour and aren’t hammered with yeast or lashings of ghee. Very natural in taste and texture. Excellent with humous.

The menu does appear to be a little on the pricey side.  However the portions are very generous. By ordering a combination of two or three main courses, a group of 4 of us ate like kings for a little over 60 pounds which isn’t bad going for a classy establishment like Shiraz.

With a complimentary offering of Iranian rice pudding (sholezard) to finish of the meal I would thoroughly recommend Shiraz to the halal muncher who aspires for something a little different.

Quality of Food 8

Quality of Service 8

Quality of Space 6 [ Ask for a table at the back of the restuarant ]

Price 7

Overall Score 7.5