New Halal Restuarants coming to Birmingham

Salaams from the Halal Blogosphere! If you believe what Dickie Attenborough tells you nothing stirs in Winter, well as much as I love the voice of Frozen Planet things are definitely stirring in Birmingham as we look forward to the most exciting Winter in living memory as we anticipate the opening of a whole series of new halal restuarants in Birmingham. So to help you pile on those festive pounds here is a our guide to the some of the highlights coming to a street near you.

Royal Haveli Restuarant – This was even caught your halal food reviewer by surprise but it didn’t get past the attention of our HFR reader Angela Thakur who has informed us this super new buffet restaurant will be coming to Coventry Road in December featuring a full live music programme! Whats really got us excited is that the restaurant is being opened by former managers and chefs at Manchester’s premier buffet restaurant Nawaab’s! Birmingham has been crying out for a really good buffet, we have some great B and C grade efforts but Birmingham deserves a A grade buffer and lets hope the team behind the Haveli can deliver!

Fargo’s Food Factory – The Punjab Paradise is dead long live Fargo’s Food Factory, Ladypool Road’s first attempt at an American Diner concept which is again due to open in December. The last time we had a diner concept in Birmingham it was the team at Mushtaqs who were so far ahead of their time it never quite clicked. I am really looking forward to Fargo’s opening and bringing a different offer to Ladypool Road.

La Favorita – After the failure of Al Faisal’s Pialto, Birmingham has waited for the next version of Halal Italien dining and its coming soon to a side street just off the Ladypool Road. The La Favorita chain is brining its italien concept to the odd location that is a side street of Ladypool Road. I’m not sure if it will be Halal in the fullest sense or whether they will slap a big fat bar behind the counter but it will be interesting to see how halal Italien goes down in Sparkbook.

Ismail’s Grill and Yaqub’s Steakhouse – We’ve mentioned both this restaurants before, Ismail’s has been reviewed and Yaqub’s just keeps telling us it will open soon. We are definitely excited about both opening up in Sparkbrook with Ismail’s taking over the old Angel pub at the junction of Ladypool Road and the Stratford Road and Yaqubs taking a corner plot at Stoney Lane across the road to Sparkbrook’s Hubb Art Centre run by our famous foodie and award winning artist Mohammed AerosolArabic Ali who will probably be one of the first diners to experience the new steak menu. Whilst we have all been waiting for Ismail’s and Yaqub’s to open the team at Grill 3 have quietly opened up their second outlet in Sparkbrook which might just have stolen Small Heath’s crown in the halal steak stakes, see what I did there! Rumours are that Small Heath might have something up it’s sleeve and we may see some exciting changes coming to Abu Zayd…. Watch this space.

Two other developments that we know very little about at this stage is the renovation and reopenings of the old President Restuarant and the opening of a new Akbar’s concept restuarant at the old Jug of Ale in Moseley. Both look like they will be hitting the premium end of the market which is the new sweet spot for the Birmingham halal market.

Birmingham doesn’t forget budget conscious halal foodies, Bismillah Bakeries has opened another outlet on the Stratford Road in Sparkbrook which is great for light lunches and cakes and some really interesting home cooked takes on the Gregg’s Pasty! In the City Centre the halal revolution continues in Martinuea Square with the opening of Frydays a traditional styled halal food outlet with a focus on good old fashioned fish and chips and yes you get read COD!

Hopefully that has more than tickled your halal tastebuds and we can’t wait to go out and review all these new places as the Birmingham Halal Scene fights back!

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Poplar Balti House – Birmingham

Salaams everyone I hope you’re all in good health and ready to tickle your tastebuds. After many requests from our fantastic “foodies” we decided to review Poplar Balti House on Ladypool Road. Many of you have said that Poplar Balti House is an unsung hero and their Balti’s where second to none. All this information made the HFR team’s mouth water!

As we walked into the restaurant it gave us a classic balti house feel as if we were back in the 1980’s. For me it gave the place a good character however the seating space was awful, it was almost as though we were sitting with the table next to us at one point. The restaurant is narrow and they have tried to fit in as many covers as possible. For entertainment we were treated to the delights of Eastenders on a small tv above the counter!

As for the menu (which was bright purple) it was typical for any Balti house, over 30-40 different combinations of balti’s which was slightly overwhelming when it came to choosing one. At this point I asked the waiter which one he would recommend to which his answer was “Whichever one you like”. It was almost if he could not be bothered, shame but true. Here at the Halal Food Review its not just about food its about the quality of experience and that includes good customer service!

We decided to order but before we did we were presented with a tray of chutneys and pickles (no mango chutney) and then asked if we wanted some popadoms which were not bad however the missing mango chutney did not help matters. The mint sauce was more chilli and less mint and the smallest mouthful was enough to set fire to your tastebuds!

The service was nowhere near brilliant so we decided to order quickly and let the food do all the talking. We ordered something simple and quick for our starters which was a portion of chicken pakoras and a katlama. At no point were we asked if we would like any drinks which meant no Ginger beer for me. The starters took over 20 minutes to arrive at our table, so much for quick and simple. The chicken pakoras were hugely disappointing, whilst it was evident they were freshly made the batter lacked any depth of flavour and the portion size was paltry maybe reflecting the chicken they came from! The katlama was actually pleasant and meaty as opposed to your thick pastry and ‘blade of a knife’ thin keema filling which is so common. At this point my emotions were mixed and my experience of Poplar Balti House was not how I expected however the mains were on their way….

We ordered 3 main balti’s, Chicken Rogan Josh, Keema and Mushroom Balti and Prawns with Spinach, we requested medium chilli factor for the first two and a mild chilli factor for the latter. Thankfully I had ordered a peshwari naan bread, which was very nice and went well with the very spicy balti’s that were more hot than medium or mild! My dining companions however did not have this luxury as they were forcing themselves to eat the “medium” spiced curry with their tandoori roti’s and working up a sweat without having to step foot on a treadmill! The pilau rice was disappointing, we ended up helping ourselves to drinks and constantly struggled to get the attention of the waiting staff.

Poplar Balti was fairly busy for the Friday night but our discerning diners left feeling like we wanted more, the food was ok, not great and the restuarant could definitely improve its customer service. For a group of 4 our bill came to just under £40 which is reasonable for a balti experience in the triangle!

Quality of food – 7 (not quite Balti of the year)
Quality of service – 5 (seen better at a fast food joint)
Quality of space – 5 (more space in a fast food joint)
Prices – 7

Overall – 6

Adil Riyaz
Halal Food Review Team

Kafe Karachi Review – Birmingham

This week’s review takes me back to the Balti Triangle and Kafe Karachi which has gone through more brand makeovers than any your average restuarant on the Ladypool Road.

This is the first blog where I have managed to remember to take photos with my Nokia E71 which in my humble opinion is one of the best Nokia phones ever produced. Its the Nokia take on a Blackberry albeit on the much slimmer side with a full qwerty keyboard. If I have one criticism of my beloved E71 its the camera so I hope the photos come out well!

On a side note, we’ve had a great response from readers wanting to contribute reviews to the website, inshallah over the next few months we fully expect reviews to go live in London, Manchester, Cardiff, Bradford and other cities.

Back to Kafe Karachi which is supporting a brand new look both on the outside and the inside, gone is the tacky yellow sign and the diner style seating and tables both of which have been replaced with a sleek black and yellow branding that definitely is more welcoming than before.

Customers can use the Kafe Karachi car park at the back of the restuarant which is a significant advantage to some of the other restaurants in the area where car parking is at a premium and road rage is a way of life!

Entering into Kafe Karachi and the first thing that hits you is the new furniture, I have a feeling they got a bulk discount on their purchase of tables and chairs. Failing that they must be going for a world record bid of trying to fit in as many covers in to their dining space as possible.  I wouldn’t want to be eating in Kafe Karachi on a busy night!

Kafe Karachi falls into the same category as Lahore Kebab House in the sense both serve the purpose of providing you with a fast food balti and kebab dining experience. You have the opportunity to relax and eat your meal in your own time but don’t expect any fancy extra. On the other hand I have to say I was surprised by the coordinated yellow napkins that were on each table maybe they are going for that Michelin dining experience after all!

With a full window frontage there is plenty of light coming into Kafe Karachi with two flatscreen tv screens at each end of the restaurant providing an entertainment option. Last week at Krahi King we were subjected to the Pakistani equivalent of X Factor with a religious twist, the WWE wrestling at Kafe Karachi was much more to my liking!

To balance out the WWE effect which coincidentally has gone PG ( wrestling geek coming out! ) Kafe Karachi has adorned its wall with religious imagery of various mosques from the Muslim World.

Food  I hear you cry 🙂

Our trip to Kafe Karachi coincided with a late lunch so we  didn’t indulge in the same manner we did at the boys night out at Kafe Karahi which by the way was a riot! For starters we stuck to a portion of chicken pakora which seems to be my starter of choice. I think I need to diversify my selections for future reviews!  The chicken pakora was not up to the standard of my Mushtaq chicken pakora benchmark but it was ok. I’m still waiting for a chicken pakora to blow me away I don’t think its going to happen just yet.

For our mains we had a mix of a Patera balti with rotis and nan, grilled chicken, masala fish, sheesh kebabs and fries. One of my reservations about places like Kafe Karachi and Lahore Kebab House is the pre prepared baltis. I understand the rationale for this from a fast food and convenience perspective but it flags up a red alert to my stomach which refuses to order a balti that has been sittting in the counter for any number of hours or god forbid days! Luckily one of my fellow diners was a lot braver than me but he has spent time in the roughest terrains and localities in the world in his role as relief worker!

The Patera balti which is a popular alternative to chicken can be described in one word SALTY! The Patera itself was well cooked, the meat tender and coming off the bone but the balti itself was spoiled by too much salt. The full grilled chicken received a much more favourable response, it was well cooked and well seasoned. Judging by the pile of bones at the end of the meal I can only assume my fellow diners had no complaints though both felt the portion of fries was far too dry.

Birmingham is the home of the Masala fish and when we have hosted Artists, Imams and Film Makers from around the world we always make sure they try the Masala fish. I’ve reviewed the humble Masala fish in a number of my reviews to date and I am pleased to say Kafe Karachi delivers a great Masala fish and matching the standards experienced at Desi Express and Krahi King.  The sheesh kebabs were ok but not on a par with the delightful sheesh kebabs we had last week at Krahi King.

To finish off the meal we had some desi tea and Jalebi. Kafe Karachi succeeded where Krahi King failed and served their tea in cups with no stains or spills, though I have to say the sugar pot and spoon have seen better days! The Jalebi was ok it was served warm but I fear that was more courtesy of a dose of radiation in the microwave than it coming fresh from the cooker. Microwaved Jalebi doesn’t do it for me but I have to confess I prefer my Jalebi cold and crispy and not warm and oozy.

In terms of service and price Karachi King delivers, prices are competitive and the service was quick. The restuarant has a relaxed atmosphere and it was evident that a lot of the diners were regulars as there was lots of good natured banter between the staff and customers.

To sum Karachi King up its very similar to the offer at Lahore Kebab House down the road. The menu options are very similar as are prices. What scares me about the similarity is the lack of diversity in the food offer surely Karachi and Lahori cuisine can’t be so similar.

Quality of Food: 6 ( Masala fish would score higher )

Quality of Service: 7

Quality of Space: 6 ( A bit overcrowded for my liking in terms of number of tables, but covers = cash )

Price: 8

Overall rating: 6.5