You might think we’re spoilt for choice in Birmingham with Indian restaurants two-a-penny and I suppose we are, however the opening of a mammoth eaterie on Broad Street would suggest otherwise.
The latest offering and first foray into the Midlands for the chaps at East Z East is big and flashy with neon lighting akin to a nightclub rather than a dining room, but somehow it works. No one’s pretending it competes with the likes of somewhere like Lasan in the fine dining arena. This is rustic, flavourful nosh with an obsessive focus on service and the customer experience which unfortunately we tested to the limit by arriving embarrassingly late – a long story involving the presidential suite at the Hyatt, a handful of business people, a well-known PR and a photo booth. Enough said.
Our lateness and obvious apologetic demeanours were graciously greeted with smiles and ‘no worries’ and we were shown to our table in the heart of the restaurant. The tables are tall booth type structures which are private and cosy. The enormity of the restaurant is unexpected. Apparently they’ve just hosted their first Indian wedding which I can see would work a treat. The room isn’t the only thing that’s enormous, the menu is gargantuan too, so while we considered what to eat I slurped a punchy mocktail called Refresh which was a mojito minus the booze. I’d happily substitute the real thing with this on every night out. It was great. My friend went through the motions of checking out the extensive cocktail list only to come back to the primitive equation, man + Indian food = beer.
Poppadoms arrived with a tray of accompaniments containing at least 10 different pickles and chutneys. The old favourites like mango chutney and mint raita were there, but it was nice to try something different. Underneath each little pot was the name of its contents which was a very good idea. The chilli version had a serious kick which surprised us both – in a good way, before we noticed the labelling. To begin, we opted for a mixed starter that consisted of a meat samosa, fish tandoori and fiery chicken wings among other morsels. It’s difficult to see the colour of the food in the low lighting. Everything looked a bit similar, but thankfully each element tasted unique with different spicing and levels of heat. The samosa was particularly good. For the mains there’s no doubt we over-ordered. I enjoyed the Lamb Lahani Handi which was nicely spiced tender lamb chops in a rich sauce. My friend chose the Chicken Masala Desi which was really good with lashings of rich, hot sauce to mop up with the naan. The naan bread was presented on an upright stand which is a standard East Z East touch and was the size of a car tyre. It was lighter and thinner than your average naan, yet we still only managed a sixth of it between two, but it added a bit of theatre. We barely touched the rice or the saag aloo as we were so full.
We skipped dessert and waddled off happily into the night after having a good chat with lovely manager, Tullah. Apparently, the opening of the restaurant was delayed due to its ambitious design and the addition of a mezzanine level, but I think it’s worth the wait. It adds a touch of glamour to the place and opens it up for large events. Thanks to the neon lights, the oversized chandeliers and tall booths, dinner here feels more than just a meal – it’s a night out. So, if you’re in the market for reasonably priced, tasty food in fun surroundings – and why wouldn’t you be – I’d thoroughly recommend East Z East. Just go easy on the naan…