It took me AGES to finally get to Lasan last year and when I did, I thought it was fab. Not your average curry of course, but a wonderful dining experience with great flavours. And then barely 18 months after I visited, before I’d had the chance to return, they went and changed it all. Eek!
Fortunately, it seems that not all change is bad. Far from it, in fact, with the latest revamp taking Lasan from fab to something even more superlative. I missed the initial run of press dinners and influencers’ invitations but saw the rave reviews coming through so by the time Mr M and I made it for a pre-holiday dinner on a Monday night, it felt long-awaited even though it was only a matter of weeks.
You can tell someone’s doing something right when a place is busy on a Monday night. Well, maybe that’s me and my small-town mind, but I don’t think every restaurant in Birmingham has a healthy crowd in at the start of the week and I’d like to think it’s testament to the reputation Lasan has built for itself, plus it’s snazzy new look.
The whole interior has been remodelled, so much so that if you’ve been before it’s quite disorientating. What was a tiny bar area is now part of the light, open restaurant that’s a complete contrast to the dark, moody interior it once was. And in place of what was previously part of the restaurant is a much larger bar that I understand was designed to encourage people to pop in for a drink at Lasan as well as coming for dinner.
The whole feel, to me, is a bit more casual. I felt this was reflected in the menu, too. It’s hard to explain, but I just felt it was a bit less fussy, with more choice and more dishes that actually appealed to me personally. No, it’s not just baltis or tikka masalas and if you’re after something simple and straightforward this probably isn’t the place for you, but if you like Indian food and trying a range of different styles, I guarantee there will be something for you.
A traditional Pani Puri started us off, complete with the trademark tang of the sour tamarind to get the tastebuds going. Jamie started with Konkan Kekada – softshell crab fried in a chilli batter that doesn’t just look great on the plate, but was light, crispy and delicate and retained its fresh flavour. The Devonshire crab cake it came with was equally simple in flavour, complimented perfectly by a tomato chutney and sour mango.
I opted for the Awadhi Murgh. In essence, chicken three ways. A smooth Awadhi chicken pate kebab was silken in texture and delicate in spice, while a Malai Seekh Kebab melted in the mouth. But my favourite was the Sindhi chicken, a tender leg with spice running deep. None of that hint of spice on the outside followed by a bland interior – the depth of flavour alone could have you thinking it had been marinated for at least a week. I could happily have dined on a whole plate of these.
Our rave over how the chefs at Lasan can create such flavours prompted our waiter to insist on showing us one of his favourite dishes on the menu, a lamb chop that too was packed with flavour and one of the most moist chops I think I’ve ever had. Combine that with the buttery taste of chargrilled lamb fat and for us pair of gluttons it was a winner.
As appealing as some of the main courses were on the menu, my mind had been made up long before we walked in through the new front door. I’d read great things about the Hyderabadi Biryani from the likes of Nosh and Breks whose own post on her trip to Lasan had me drooling into my keyboard.
She wasn’t wrong. Under a fluffy covering of basmati rice lay hidden rich, tender slow-cooked goat in a carefully spiced gravy, served with a sweet pineapple raita that felt like it shouldn’t have worked but somehow did. If your idea of biryani is a plate of neon-coloured rice, chunks of rubbery chicken and a nondescript vegetable curry dolloped on top, you need to stop, throw it in the bin and get yourself to Lasan for the real deal.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, Mr M had picked the winner. The Sikandari Raan was served impressively but given how good it was, I think I would have devoured it off a dustbin lid. The main event – a slow-roasted lamb shank marinated in Kashmiri chilli, ground coriander, hung yoghurt and garam masala – was the stuff of spicy dreams. Again, the flavours of the marinade didn’t stop a few millimetres below the surface but permeated deep through it in the same way your brandy has been soaking into your long-awaited Christmas cake.
The dhal makhani was up there on the dhal charts with that amazing dhal we had at Shababs and the raita – a more traditional sibling of my pineapple-punctuated version – was a delicate cooling addition to the flavour-filled dish.
Gluttons that we are, we couldn’t resist ordering the Nilgiri paneer, the closest I could get to my usual saag bhaji. The slow-cooked spinach here was smooth and mixed into a Nilgiri korma sauce with soft cubes of tandoori paneer. And of course, we couldn’t help ourselves when it came to trying some of their naan. Thin, light dough with none of the doughy nonsense you so often get with a curry.
Between the Pani Puri, the extra lamb chop and the side dishes, one of them ousted dessert from the options and we had to admit defeat. But it meant we could leave still savouring the taste of that fabulous biryani and the spice of the lamb shank – flavours I wish I could have every Friday night probably until the day I die.
In my view Lasan was pretty good before but now it’s even better. It’s somewhere I could more easily imagine going for a Friday night meal with my friends and the food was right up my street, dare I say even more than it was before. While there are several other main courses I’d like to try, I’d happily go back for both of the main courses we had. Again and again. In fact, I might just have to go and book a table right now…
We were invited to Lasan for a complimentary meal following its revamp. We paid for our wine.