It’s a year this month since Estado Da India flung opened its doors on Harborne High Street. Twelve months on, the restaurant is thriving, injecting warmth and vibrancy into what was once Café Rouge. Gone are the faux wicker chairs and insipid croque madame in favour of a classy dramatic interior, brilliant service and memorable Luso-Indian food.
Small plates (petiscos) are where it’s at with three per person recommended. Sticking to three was a challenge which we failed joyfully. Nuno, our waiter, was fantastic steering us in some directions we might not have headed, not least the cured beef croquette. If we worked here we’d be snaffling a dozen a day no question. Crisp on the outside, silky and smoky inside served with a lightly spiced aioli. Brilliant.
A prawn rissol was a bit like an empanada filled with delicately spiced prawns served with a Sumaar sauce which is like a souped-up aioli as well as a zingy herby dip. It was a cracker. Iberico vindaloo pork ribs were falling off the bone, melt in the mouth tender with, as you can imagine, a hotly spiced coating. Really super.
Keralan squid was perfection served with a curry leaf and mustard seed masala to dip the crunchy little morsels into. Chicken mappas was the only curry we sampled. On the bone, so still moist, the chicken was perfect with a complex spiced coconut milk green chilli sauce that screamed ‘drink me’. We didn’t order rice, opting for a tomato naan instead so mopped up the remains of the sauce with that. The naan wasn’t the big blistered beast you might get in a curry house – more a refined flatbread.
Word to the wise – we ordered a crunchy slaw (cabbage koshimbir) as one of our petiscos, however since all the small plates were served with a mound of the good stuff, we really didn’t need to order it separately.
A nod to the mixologist who’s got exciting plans for the drinks menu and who served up a couple of cracking mocktails – a zingy fresh Limao Spritz and a creamy coconutty Tropic Like It’s Hot.
There’s nothing else quite like it in the city. Don’t expect a curry house nor is it Dishoom. The food is more interesting somehow and with a £15-for-three-petiscos deal for weekday lunch, it is a steal. We were kindly sent a gift card by the restaurant, but had we been paying, our bill would have been £68 which included two mocktails, seven small plates, two desserts and two pots of peppermint tea. That felt seriously reasonable given the level of the food and service.