As a Brummie foodie living in Erdington for just over 10 years, I have always been used to travelling a little further a field for my culinary fix, be it into Birmingham city centre, or ‘across the border’ to neighbouring Sutton Coldfield. Historically, Erdington always had little to offer in the way of nice eateries. However, something fantastic has been happening over the past 3 years. With post-recession gentrification of the Erdington area has come a flurry of new independent cafes and restaurants. And the best Part? They have been welcomed with open arms by the Erdington community, thriving with custom – clearly something long overdue!
1580 is the latest kid on the block – a contemporary Indian restaurant opening in early 2017 on the border of Erdington and Sutton Coldfield. In mid March I was invited by Brum Bloggers to a bloggers event at 1580 arranged by Delicious PR. The following review is based both on this event, but also on a subsequent visit I made at a later date as I couldn’t keep away!
As a culturally diverse city, with a large Asian community, Birmingham is awash with curry houses. It is clear that 1580 has made a tremendous effort to put their own spin on Indian dining to stand out from the crowd, and it has paid off.
1580 isn’t exactly your ‘run of the mill’ curry house name. So, what is the story behind it? 1580 is the year which Sir Francis Drake returned to England after his circumnavigation of the world. He returned with a ship full of treasures, which included a plethora of spices from India – arguably the first time the British were introduced to Indian cuisine. With this historical event in mind, 1580 have taken the theme of maritime discovery for their restaurant. Being a small restaurant, about 30 covers, the place has a cosy and intimate feel. The nautical expedition theme is carried flawlessly into every feature. Reclaimed drift wood furniture and warm lit lanterns give the feeling of being in the hull of an English galleon. There are several murals of old English sea vessels, as well as beautiful model at the back of the restaurant. Even the menus carry the theme, with beautiful carved wooden covers.
For the bloggers event, we were served a selection of starters and mains, some poppadums to start and a traditional dessert to round things off.
The opening ‘event’, the Masala Cone Poppadums, were a sign that we were off to a good start. Unlike the traditional round (let’s be honest, for most curry houses, probably out of a packet) poppadums, 1580’s are a novel cone shape which you can fill with the assortment of accompaniments provided. Laced with nigella seeds, the poppadum itself was full of flavour and not dry at all. The accompaniments were a mango chutney, an onion relish and a traditional Indian mint chutney. I was particularly taken by the mint chutney. On our table where ‘Yoda’ and ‘Dalek’ from Beyond Our Horizons, who grew up in Indian and advised us that this chutney was very authentic, just like the chutney they were used to eating as children. While you could taste the mint, it had a real kick to it with green chilli and other spices.
For starters, I chose the vegetarian option (mainly because paneer is my Achilles’ heel), while my fellow diners went for the meaty option. The paneer offering on my starter selection was their Kesar Panner Tikka, and arrived as large chunks of paneer dry rolled in spices and pan fried. It was delicious, but then you could say I’m bias 😉 It was also served their Tandoori Mushroom Chaat which was a good size, mildy spiced and juicy.
The meat starter selection was an eclectic mix of lamb chops, crab, prawns and chicken. I was able to try a lamb chop, which fell off the bone and was spiced well. My only criticism was that it was a little dry. I also sampled the crab which was only lightly spiced – a wise decision by chef as the delicate sweetness of the crab still came through over the spices. Being a bit of a prawn fanatic, I chose the prawns (Zaffrani Bada Jingha Tikka) when I went for my later visit. They were juicy and had a good kick to them. They were also huge!
All starters are served with a coleslaw-like salad garnish. I really enjoyed this, as, all too often Indian starters are presented with a soggy, anaemic pile of iceberg. 1580s crisp salad felt like a part of the dish rather than a sad after thought.
Our table all went for the meat selection of main courses: Bater Curry on the bone, Murgh Tikka Masala and Pot Pepper Lamb Curry. I enjoyed both the lamb and the chicken. There’s not much you can say about a chicken Tikka – it’s a crowd favourite and 1580’s was well executed. I love a lamb curry, but have often avoid ordering one in the past after several bad experiences where the lamb was mixed with other cheaper meats as a money saver (I wish I was joking!). 1580’s Pot Pepper Curry was a welcome return from my lamb sabbatical. The meat was a ‘fall apart’ bowl of loveliness and not too heavy. The real ‘show stopper’ of the mains however, was the Bater Curry – also known as Quail Railway curry. The quail was competently seasoned and a really refreshing alternative Indian main course.
Our mains were served with traditional accompaniments of rice and naan. I tend to go for naan give the choice, I found 1580’s naan to be pleasantly flavoured and crisp.
The meal was rounded off with a classic Gulab Jamun (a milk based, syrup soaked dumpling) and coconut ice cream. I love Gulab Jamun so was satisfied with this offering, but after eating a meal with such a diverse selection of dishes, I was surprised at how ‘by the book’ their final course was. I’d love to see some more alternative Indian desserts from these guys.
In the centre of 1580 sits a well stocked bar, with a good selection of spirits. Their wine list is small but well considered. They also have a small beer menu which includes Cobra on draft – something my hop-loving other half was most happy about!
My 1580 experience so far has been a good one. Their contemporary take in Indian dining is well done, and refreshing. Food is clearly all cooked from fresh – a world apart from the ghee-soaked fayre of so many other curry houses across Birmingham. They also have a beautifully varied selection of meat and fresh fish, as well as vegetarian dishes from which to choose, again, not something you would often associate with a traditional curry house. The restaurant is family friendly, relaxed and intimate and the staff are delightful. What’s more, they are excellent value for money, with an average meal (with booze!) for 4 coming in at around £25 a head. I’ve already been back once since first visiting 1580 and will definitely be back in the not to distant future.
A lot of their starters are very generous in size. If you’re wanting to get the full 1580 experience, I would advise getting one starter between two and leaving room for pudding! Their sides are also very generous. One rice and once naan between two is plenty.
Being a small establishment, and very popular already, I would always make a reservation ahead of visiting to ensure you are not disappointed.