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.  

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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! 

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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! 

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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

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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

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