We all know I love a good curry and there are several posts on the blog about my curry adventures in Wolseley Bridge as well as Rugby, but it’s not often I venture into Birmingham for one. I know, sacrilege! In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had been to the Balti triangle, something that I reckon needs immediate remedy. Anyway, on a recent night out with friends, we decided to eat Indian in Birmingham city centre. After a bit of enquiring among everyone we knew, we were advised to try Milan Indian Cuisine. On Newhall Street, it’s an easy walk from New Street station. Inside it’s a large open space and was pretty busy for a Wednesday night. The welcome was friendly and we were taken to our table and swiftly served some drinks.
Milan claims to offer “authentic yet modern” Indian cuisine and the menu was packed with dishes I hadn’t seen before, which is always a welcome treat. Unlike Mr M, who sticks with the same choice most of the time, I tend to play a bit of a game of menu roulette, gambling on a new choice each time. It’s a tactic that sometimes pays off and sometimes doesn’t but I’m still not swayed from.
We munched on poppadoms as we made our minds up. Despite knowing they fill me up, I somehow find it unable to resist them. Not because I love poppadoms, but because they’re a handy vehicle for all the yummy sauces and pickles. At Milan these were varied and tasty, although the yoghurt and mint dip was a bit bland compared to other places I’ve had it. The confusing thing was, a similar raita that came with the starters was packed with flavour, so maybe our original one was just a dodgy pot, who knows.
The starter menu was a mixture of some of the usual suspects like samosas, pakora and bhaji, with some more unexpected choices like Old Delhi’s Hot Chicken Chaat and Almond Pears – potato shapes filled with sliced pears and rolled in almond slivers. None of us were brave enough to try this, but I decided to go for something else I’ve never seen – Naram Dill Tikki. This was described as heart-shaped dumplings of spinach, chickpeas and potato filled with mozzarella then fried. Certainly not anything I’ve seen elsewhere, and nothing I think that can be called traditional.
Heart-shaped they were, and very pretty on the plate. The dumplings were subtly spiced, with gooey cheese inside. They were served with a mini pot of yoghurt dip (mentioned above) which complemented them well. Though deep-fried, they were light and didn’t fill me up like some starters usually do.
For main course I picked the Rarha Lamb – diced lamb, stir fried over a ‘high flame’ with mince and ‘chef’s chosen spices’ and lots of fresh coriander. I love lamb in a curry, I think it stays nice and tender and adds a depth of flavour that you sometimes don’t get in chicken. The addition of mince, or kheema , made the gravy thick and meaty, with the spices making it genuinely tasty rather than just a slightly spicy lamb stew that some places can offer. I tried to avoid rice and naan, but ended up nibbling on an array of carb-loaded sides, from soft, warm garlic naan to some decently cooked pilau rice.
There were plenty of other dishes to tempt me on the menu, from a Kerala Lamb Coconut Chilly Fry, to Nalli Nihari – slow braised lamb shanks. While I love lamb, I often choose fish because it feels slightly less unhealthy (not this night obviously) but I noticed the menu offered a great few options that I haven’t seen elsewhere including Tilapia Moilee and a Cod Tawa Masala.
The dishes we had were all well-presented and the service was swift, friendly and made for a fun evening. While some of the dishes are a bit out of the ordinary, and are perhaps catering for people who may not want a completely traditional experience, Milan has done well to get the balance of traditional and modern right. It certainly stands out from some of the other places I’ve been to for Indian food, offering dishes that are a bit “outside the box” while still retaining the idea of using decent spices and traditional cooking to create dishes packed with flavour.
I can see why Milan was recommended to us and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to others. So if you’re in Birmingham city centre, give it a try.
Where’s your favourite Indian restaurant? Let me know, and I can go and try it.
We paid in full for our meals at Milan, although they did do a good midweek deal at the time of starter and main course for £9.95 (excluding certain things like lamb chops and prawns). Check their website for details.