1580 – A Contemporary Indian Dining Experience in the North of Birmingham

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.

1580 menu

1580 boat

The Food

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.

1580 cone poppadums

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!

prawns 1580

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.

Quail railway curry

1580 naan

paneer tikka

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.

The Drinks

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!

The verdict

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.

Top tips

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.

1847 – Winter Menu 2016

1847 is a restaurant that has fast become one of my favorite places to dine in Birmingham over the past 18 months. Relaxed and unassuming, this vegetarian restaurant is the perfect little hideaway for a working lunch or a romantic dinner for two. I was recently invited to a bloggers event organised by local food and lifestyle blogger Brumderland, and jumped at the chance to check out a selection from their new winter menu.

Nestled in the majestic Great Western Arcade, 1847 is a contrast to its traditional, historic surroundings. White wood paneling covers the walls, contrasted by simple grey egg shell and no frills carpeting. The place has a simple, fresh, Scandi-cool vibe. The large leafy canvas that extends both floors echoes the restaurant’s plant based menu and adds to the simple, ‘back to basics’ surroundings. This simplicity is carried into their presentation. Food is served on white crockery, slates and glassware. I don’t tend to enjoy over-thought tableware, I think it often detracts from the food, but here it works – a complement rather than a distraction.

I have enjoyed various different dishes here over recent months, but for this article I will focus on the spread of dishes I was invited to try as part of their new winter menu.

The meal was opened with a selection of simple nibbles – focaccia with shakshuka hummus along with confit garlic and smoked marinated olives. Shakshuka is a flavoursome dish, traditionally made with tomatoes and spices such as cumin and paprika. While I enjoyed chef’s spin on this by incorporating the flavours into a hummus, I felt that it lacked the level of depth and spice I would have expected from the description.

bread

For my starter I chose maple parsnip, parsnip cream, apple and pumpkin seed. I very much enjoyed the simplicity of this dish. The sharp apple, contrasted well with the sweet parsnip. The cream gave the dish a richer level. Definitely the sort of dish you want to get a little bit of everything on your folk and taste together!

    parsnips

My main dish was chickpea flatbread, Calva Nero, mushroom, toasted quinoa, yoghurt and chili. Again, like my starter, this dish was simple but well considered. The flatbread was subtly flavoured and provided a good base for the rest of the ingredients. The light flavours of the mushrooms and kale were not overpowered by the chili and yoghurt. I liked the chef’s play on words for Cavolo Nero cooked in Calvados.

mushroom

At prior meals at 1847, I’ve always found they fall down a little on dessert. My dessert for this meal was chocolate brownie, dehydrated chocolate mousse, white chocolate powder, soaked red wine blackberries. While the dish was generally pleasant, I felt it didn’t quite match the standard of the other courses. I often find when I order a brownie, it arrives and it isn’t a brownie at all, but a piece of chocolate cake. 1847’s brownie was exactly what a brownie should be, stodgy and rich. Not crumbly. I found that the accompaniments were too dry however, and the blackberries were a little underwhelming. Something lighter, and creamy would have complimented the delicious brownie better. Perhaps a berry coulis as well, or something using citrus? As a result, I struggled to finish as the whole dish was too rich.

brownie

To accompany our meal, we were served two blended Portuguese wines from the Alentejo region, a red and a white. I enjoyed both wines. The white had a soft, peachy flavour. The red had a berry aroma, and a soft tannin finish.

I really enjoyed my evening at 1847, the food, service and atmosphere was fab (as always). It was also great to be in a room full of fellow food lovers, talking* about my favourite thing and meeting new people.

While the bloggers event I attended was complimentary, I have eaten here on numerous occasions and can’t fault the price. Their menu is a fixed 2, or 3 course at £19.75 and £25.50 respectively. They also do regular discounts via their mailing list, and are a Tastecard affiliate. If you would like to visit 1847 I would recommend booking in advance as they are often busy at weekends. For those non-Brummies, you can also find branches of 1847 in Manchester, Bristol and Brighton.

*waxing lyrical

menu

Nosh and Quaff

paisleyimmy
November 20, 2015

Lobster is my absolute favorite munch in the world, however having had a few experiences of spending through the nose for a shriveled piece of wellington boot I have been wary of ordering lobster in this county unless I can see the sea from the restaurant window. Therefore, when I first heard about the Lasan Group‘s latest venture, Nosh and Quaff I had to check it out. Twenty quid for a lobster in the centre of Brum -Too good to be true? I had everything crossed to not be served a cremated pair of Hunters…

Atmosphere

Nosh and Quaff is located in a stunning Grade II listed building overlooking Victoria Square on the corner of Colmore Row. Formerly an office and banking house, I am pleased to say a lot the building’s original features have been retained with the new interior built to complement it. I would describe the place as 50s dinner meets southern American smoke house, shoe horned into the bank scene from Mary Poppins. The building has retained its marble walls and decorative plasterwork ceiling, and gained red leather booth-type seating and neon signage. While the former is a little tacky, I really liked the other ‘barn style’ seating made from raw wood, metal and leather. I also liked the matching solid wood (well stocked) bar that greats you upon entry, and how the menus mirror the style being made of heavy leather.

I could not talk about the interior of Nosh and Quaff without mentioning the bathrooms. The former vaults of the banking house have been converted but still retain all of their original tiling. Victorian pull chain toilets are the ‘main event’, surround by raw copper piping which continues to the design of the wash basins.

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Drinks

One of Nosh and Quaff’s strap lines is ‘Great Lobster, Cold Beers’. We’ll get to the lobster later, but as far as drinks go, this place has a pleasing selection. Whether you’re a beer savant, a cocktail lover or a wine connoisseur, you’ll be satisfied by the menu on offer. As well as the main restaurant, there is also an upstairs bar if drinks is all you’re after. They have a fair selection of entertainment in the loft bar too – great for impromptu after work drinks.

Food

Now for the Nosh! Nosh and Quaff have a simple menu made up of the expected American grill favourites- burgers, ribs, dogs, wings and… lobster! Lobster was the whole reason I wanted to steak out this joint, so naturally I jumped straight for that. My friend went for their Cheeky Burger. Our meal arrived quickly and was hot. The burger was well filled, the buttermilk bun fresh and the filling full of flavour. My lobster arrived (complete with bib and instructions) and was a good size. The garlic and lemon butter sauce complemented the lobster perfectly. The fries were pretty standard. We did not go for sides this time, but the dishes flying out of the kitchen looked tasty and I will definitely be sampling some of those next time. In particular the Blooming Onion definitely looked like a show stopper.

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Pricing

The Cheeky Burger: £14

Lobster: £20

2 Cokes: £5

Total for 2 people: £39

Overall

Overall, I was more pleased that disappointed with Nosh and Quaff. The food, although simple, was cooked with skill, portions a good size and the bill was a pleasing figure. There are, however, a few biggies that I could not do an honest review without mentioning.

The service was a major clanger here. While the food came quickly, a lot of the wait staff were rude and unwelcoming. As we had not booked a table, we were given an hour to eat our meal, but after we spent most of it with an audience of 2 hovering waiters who kept trying to take our plates, we skipped dessert and left with 20 minutes to spare. All of the above would have been a least a little understandable had the restaurant been busy, but it was half empty.

Another issue I have is with the overall concept. London has had the small chain Burger and Lobster for years. Given the reputation of the owners, I was hoping that Nosh and Quaff would have took the concept and ran with it, but the restaurant is disappointingly very similar. I liked how the restrooms were almost steam punk style, and would have loved to have seen a theme like this carried through. There was a missed opportunity to play upon the Victoriana style here, and it’s a real shame. Instead what we have is yet another restaurant with ‘Jam-Jar’ style lighting hanging from the ceiling, copious amounts of reclaimed wood and trays instead of plates.

While the food was tasty, I would have loved to have had a little more choice with the lobster. Perhaps a few different sizes and sauces would be a good way to go considering that lobster is the main draw for a lot of people visiting the restaurant.

This review can also be found at

dine-birmingham-med

Rico Libré – Tapas in a Quirky Setting

Marketing itself as ‘very tasty food in a quirky setting’, Rico Libré is the latest boutique restaurant to hit the Digbeth food scene. Formerly a ‘greasy spoon’ known as the Barn Street Diner, Rico’s has transformed itself into an urban tapas experience. Having grown in popularity among the city’s ‘foodie’ types, I was keen to see that it was all about.

Atmosphere

I visited Rico’s on a Friday evening in January for after work food and drinks. Our party of six was booked for 6.30pm. Sitting on the border between Barn Street and Milk Street, its lime green frontage (on which is prides itself) is not hard to miss. The symmetrical round topped windows and foliage around the door give the pleasing feel of a small independent café in rural Spain. Upon entering the establishment, what we were greeted with was entirely unexpected. The restaurant is small, with around 40 covers in total. The main dining area backs onto a semi-open kitchen, and there is a small side room seating about 8 people. The low polystyrene tiled ceiling littered with posters gives the odd impression of a teenager’s bedroom in the 1990s. The rest of the décor comprises an eclectic collection of oddities.  A wonky Che Guevara canvas borders an old Beetles shot. A plastic sumo wrestler figure sits on the window sill next to us. I’m not going to lie I found it all a bit surreal. I did, however, love how the place felt like you were visiting your mad auntie’s house. I was half expecting someone to jump up and start playing the (probably out of tune) piano in the side room.

ceiling

 Food

Rico’s menu consist of a small selection of starters, 14 standard tapas dishes and some tapas specials.

To start we ordered Pan De Bara (bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar), Pan De Ajo (garlic flatbread) and the Brie and Grapes. To be honest, I found the starters a little disappointing. One of our party had visited Rico’s the week before and said our portion of Brie and grapes was a bit on the skimpy side. The bread provided looked like a supermarket baguette. The garlic bread was certainly nothing special.  I was starting to wonder why the place was so popular. Then the tapas arrived…

As a party of 6, we ordered all of the standard tapas dishes on the menu. We chose to order our food in 2 sittings. I honestly cannot fault a single dish. The calamari was well executed- not a rubber band in sight. The Pescado Blanco Frito (battered white fish) came with a beautiful light batter that melted in the mouth- it was not greasy at all. An all-round favourite of the table was the Chicken Livers with Chorizo and Red Wine. It was rich, flavoursome, indulgent.

white-bait       dishes

Drinks

One of the real plus points for the money conscious diner is that Rico’s is not licensed. They do not charge corkage either, but ask for a minimum spend of £14 per head on Fridays and Saturdays- very reasonable. A selection of soft drinks are available should you not wish to bring your own.

Prices

Starters: £2.50

Tapas: £4.50 per dish, or 3 dishes for £12

Specials: £5

Desserts: £3.50-£5

Overall

Overall, Rico Libré is well worth a visit.* Bear in mind, you’re not about to witness a polished performance. They’ll probably have to ‘break out the emergency chairs’ to get you all round the table, and they may forget to bring you knives, but stiff upper lip fine dining is not what this place is about. With the combination of homespun surroundings and friendly waiting staff, the place is warm and welcoming with added quirk around the edges. And most importantly, the food is probably the best and most authentic Tapas in the city. Buen provecho!

*My only negative point would be dining time. After only an hour and a half we were politely asked to vacate out table (despite wanting to order dessert) to make room for another booking. The website does state a strict ‘time slot’ for your meal, but in my opinion this does not fit with the lazy style of Spanish Tapas dining. Our party would have happily spent the evening leisurely grazing through their lovely menu, but instead had to continue elsewhere. Not ideal, even if we were given a discount for the inconvenience.

This review can also be found at

dine-birmingham-med