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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Krahi King – the return of the reviewer

Salaams and welcome back to the Halal Blogosphere where today we made a return to one of our old favourites Krahi King on the Coventry Road in Small Heath. We’ve not been back to Krahi King in a very long time and since we re have returned the team have refurbished the restaurant.

There is still the traditional dining area downstairs which is largely a male domain, the space upstairs is now much more family friendly. Blue is the colour of choice in the new Krahi King with menus and seating getting the full blue treatment.

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On our return we decided to keep things light and didn’t order any of the krahi dishes which sounds odd when you go to the place called the Krahi King but we don’t mind being a bit odd and left field in the pursuit of halal food excellence.

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We ordered the sheekh kebabs which come in a generous helping with a side salad of lettuce, red onion and jalapenos. We would have welcomed some tomatoes but they seem to be in danger of extinction in most South Asian restaurants, we might have to start packing our own parcels for when we eat out! The sheekh kebabs were delicious, there was a slight difference of opinion as to whether they were perfectly cooked or slightly undercooked this would probably be down to individual taste. As far as my taste palette goes they were fine.

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The naan was just what we were expecting it arrived warm and soft without any of the crinkly bits you dread which turn naan orders into oversized poppadoms.

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If I had to pick a weak link in our menu selection then it would have to be the masala fish, it was ok but I expected better, I’d much rather restuarants serve a smaller but thicker portion that you can really sink your teeth into then a longer piece which is so thin around the edges that it feels like you’re just eating crispy masala batter which isn’t great!

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Where the masala fish was a let down the half chicken exceeded expectations, the chicken was perfectly cooked and remained moist, its to easy for chicken to dry out. The portion was a generous size and was definitely the highlight of the meal.

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Overall our return to Krahi King was a success, we didn’t try the full menu but from experience and reader feedback their curry and krahi dishes remain hard to beat. The refurbishment might not win any design and living awards but it has definitely made Krahi King a more welcoming place for families in particular.

Service was excellent, our waiter was attentive without being overbearing and was more than happy to meet our extra little demands that come as standard when you take the kids to a restaurant. Price wise Krahi King is hard to beat. So if you’re looking for traditional desi food outside of the Balti Triangle, Krahi King is hard to beat especially in Small Heath. We would definitely encourage you to take a trip to Krahi King.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Eid Day 2 lunch at Chicago Gourmet Burger Company

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Salaams and welcome back to the Halal Blogosphere where we continue to celebrate Eid. This afternoon we took the family for their first Chicago experience. The food was brilliant as ever and the kids loved it.

After the excesses of the day before we stuck to the tried and tested Jacket Potatoe and Strips meal. For those of you who have not eaten there this includes a jacket potatoe with cheese and spicy beans with a side salad plus strips of your favouite burger patty where you can choose from various fish, chicken and lamb options. The meal also comes with a drink and a dessert. If I had to be critical the dessert offering of a tub of custard or creamed rice is really not that inspiring and feels a bit out of place with the other elements of the menu.

The kids shared a very generous portion of jacket fries and chicken nuggets.

A big thumbs up to the Chicago crew and a special shout out to their staff who seem to be on first name terms with most customers. In conversation with the staff there is talk of refreshing the menu at some point. I’d definitely recommend introducing a milkshake and ice cream menu as part of the dessert offer as well as a selection of cakes and bakes. This is the only part of the offer that I really do think could be improved upon.

If you’ve not tried out Chicago, we’d definitely recommend it!

Until the next time happy eating!

Get your dish on the menu at Fargo’s Food Factory!

Salaams and welcome back to the Halal Blogosphere.

How many times have you been to a restaurant and scanned the menu only to think I wish they had that on the menu. Well think no more thanks to the team at Fargo’s Food Factory who want to put the power in your hands. They are running the very aptly named X Factory competition where diners can suggest a dish to be added to their menu.

So if you have an idea for a new burger, grill, stir fry, curry or pizza dish let the team know. You can do it via Twitter, Facebook or best of all in person at Fargo’s itself.

You can email your dish idea to info@fargosfood.co.uk tweet your dish to @FargosFood or via Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/fargosfood

The Halal Food Review Charity Appeal – PLEASE DO DONATE

UPDATE WE HAVE CURRENTLY RAISED £165 FOR THE FEED THE POOR CHARITY, WE ARE STILL £95 SHORT OF OUR £250 FUNDRAISING TARGET BUT INSHALLAH WANT TO RAISE MUCH MORE WITH YOUR SUPPORT!

Salaams and welcome to the Halal Blogsophere!

Today we don’t have a food review for you but we do have an urgent request for help. We pray that you will not only read this message but also action it through your generousity. PLEASE DO MAKE A DONATION.

I have been thinking for a while about how we can utilise the popularity of the Halal Food Review to support a greater good. I set up the Halal Food Review back in 2010 simply to share my passion for food and creative writing but inshallah going forward we can also make a difference and support those less fortunate than ourselves. Inshallah our readers who have benefited from the site can now return a small favour by helping us to help our brothers and sisters who don’t have access to basic necessities such as clean water or food.

For our first appeal we have chosen ISRA UK – FEED THE POOR a charity based in Birmingham which has done some excellent work in supporting those less fortunate than  ourselves. It’s a charity whose work I am both familiar with and proud of. Inshallah your donations will help support both their Water Aid and Iftaari Food Parcel Programmes.

We’re asking members of our community to make a contribution to our fundraising efforts. It could be a couple of pounds, it could be the equivalent of a tip you left at a restaurant or it could even be the equivalent of the price you paid for your last meal out. Whatever amount you can donate please DO DONATE no matter how small inshallah it will make a big difference.

So if you’ve enjoyed reading the Halal Food Review then please do help us to ensure those less fortunate than ourselves don’t go without basic access to clean water and food during Ramadan. What we take for granted others can only dream of.

If everyone one of our readers donated just £1 we would raise thousands each month, I pray that your generosity will help us meet and exceed our modest first target of £250. If the appeal goes well inshallah we will try to help raise funds for other charities in the future.

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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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