Abu Zayd Review – Birmingham

You can’t help but admire a group of enthusiastic aspiring restaurateurs wanting to open a new Arabian inspired eatery on the Coventry Road to compete with established favourites like Momos and Al Badr, even more so when the group has no experience in the restaurant game.

Enter Abu Zayd the Coventry Road’s first Arab themed Grill and Steak House.

For me there is no better time to judge the quality of a halal restaurant then walking in for a bite to eat in the post Friday prayer rush when the great and the good from the Muslim community spill out onto the streets from the hundreds of mosques jotted across the city to satisfy their grumbling stomachs!

The restaurant is housed over two floors in the heart of the Muslim quarter on the Coventry Road in the Small Heath district of the city. The ground floor is dominated by male diners with a separate family area available upstairs for family and female groups.

Downstairs the decor is a step up from some of its competitors, a warm mix of browns and creams. Upstairs in the family area there is a darker feel due to the lack of natural lighting and presence of partitions to provide intimacy for female and family diners.

Walking in during the post Friday prayer rush its easy to feel overwhelmed and squeezed in as the main dining area is narrow and some of the space is offset by the counter and food preparation area. In peak periods its likely you will have to table share in the spirit of Wagamama whilst this is a novel and new concept for me its a welcome one and extends the spirit of community and congregation from the prayer rooms to the dining halls.

Our group of three arrived later than we wanted to and we walked in to find the downstairs space full to capacity resulting in us getting a table upstairs. Any grumbles with the lighting were quickly dispelled as a seat next to the central heating providing much needed comfort from the biting cold outside.

The highlight of the Abu Zayd experience is the diversity and simplicity of the menu. Beef takes prime position on the menu which is no surprise with Abu Zayd’s focus on grills and steak. From T Bone and Jerk Beef strips to the first truly Halal original Beefburger there is something to suit every taste.

Equally impressive are the Salmon and Sea Bass options so often missing from ethnic Muslim menus. The menu is rounded off by a selection of chicken dishes, koftas and staple offerings of savoury rice, pasta, chunky chips and sharwama.

For our visit we skipped the starters and opted to dive straight into the mains. I ordered the half Grilled Chicken. My dining partners ordered a T Bone Steak and a grilled Chicken Steak burger all accompanied by side orders of pasta, chunky chips and a generous helping of salad!

I have to apologise for the lack of photos of the food, the camera on my Nokia E71 was not the best choice for dining upstairs, will try and get some photos into the entry at a later date.

Abu Zayd pricing is on the money and provides excellent value. The menu is competitively priced and the portions are extremely generous. The T Bone Steak with Pasta, Chips and Salad came in at a very reasonable £8.95, the grilled chicken and steak burger with the same side dishes came in at a credit crunch beating £4.95.

The service was prompt and friendly, the banter with the staff was warm and the waiter was more than happy to advise on specials and dishes worth sampling. We had hoped to try the Jerk Beef but it was unavailable and one to try on a return visit.

So how was the food I hear you cry!

My plate arrived overflowing with chicken, pasta, chunky chips and a salad accompaniment. The chicken was grilled to perfection and had the right balance in terms of flavour without being overpowering. The pasta had a sweet flavour that accompanied the earthiness of the grilled chicken, if I was to have a criticism it would be that I do prefer my pasta to have an “al dente” firmness to it but this was easily excused by the rich flavours of the pasta.

The T-Bone steak looked absolutely delicious. From speaking to my fellow diner his only complaint was there was too much food on the plate! If you’re gonna opt for the T Bone Steak its definitely advisable to skip starters!

The one thing missing from the Steak menu is an accompanying gravy or sauce that is so often a staple part of the offer in other restaurants. I’d love to see a traditional gravy option or a mushroom or pepper sauce to compliment the steak menu and add a different flavour dimension to the dishes on offer.

Abu Zayd has been open now for a number of months and there is a consistency to both the quality of the food and the standard of service that is so often lacking in some of the competing restaurants on the Coventry Road. Prices are competitive and make Abu Zayd the perfect choice for evening meals and lunch time gatherings. Portions are extremely generous and if there is to be a criticism the size of the portions can stop you from sampling some of the starter and dessert options.

The diversity of the menu and the quality of both the food and service makes Abu Zayd a restaurant you are very likely to revisit. I’m yet to try the grilled sea bass and still want to try the jerk beef strips. Abu Zayd is a welcome addition to the growing dining options on the Coventry Road and the latest in an increasing number of Arab restaurants in the Small Heath area that could do for Small Heath what the Balti triangle has done for Sparkbrook.

Its a big thumbs up from Mr Hussain

Quality of Food 8
Quality of Service 8
Quality of Space 6.5 ( Upstairs dining area needs more light )
Value for Money 9

Overall Rating 8