Review: Al Bader, Coventry
July 7, 2022
[Disclosure: We were invited for a complimentary meal at Al Bader for the purposes of this blog]
When it comes to our Midlands cities, Coventry doesn’t have quite the liberal sprinkling of Michelin stars that Birmingham does, or a food scene that features in those ‘top 20 best …… in the country’ lists. It doesn’t have celebrity chefs who hit the headlines, or a new opening every week.
But what it does have in bucketloads is a bit of realism. Yes, there are flower walls and comedy cocktails and big chains and award winners, which are all fabulous for the city. But what Coventry also has is a whole load of places who turn out cuisine from all over the world day-in, day-out, creating authentic experiences with decent food – usually at a fairly bargain price compared to some other places.
Al-Bader is exactly that. I’ll confess to not having even heard of it until they started pushing a bit harder on some marketing via social media. Remiss of me, perhaps, but after visiting I feel I’m justified in perhaps having missed it without the help of some gentle direction thanks to the online world.
Al Bader Coventry
Al Bader Coventry
Al Bader Coventry

Tucked just off the High Street and set slightly back, you could walk right past Al-Bader, but take yourself down a little alleyway and step inside to somewhere that does a pretty good job of transporting you away from Coventry and to somewhere much more reminiscent of the Lebanese and Moroccan cuisine it offers with a traditional interior and rare, but authentic, lack of alcohol on the menu.

Instead, while you’re deciding which Middle Eastern dishes to go for, you can try one of their fruit juices, millkshakes or mocktails. A sacrifice for some, but for anyone who has been to Marrakesh or similar destinations, this cultural difference from our cocktail-craving, wine quaffing vibe feels all the more authentic to the cuisine on offer.

Al Bader Coventry

We start with a mixed mezze platter – a heaving plate of several choices from the starter menu. Two different types of houmous, one slightly spicy, and a smoky, smooth baba ghanoush that I could happily have eaten a bucketload of, scooped up with the pillowy flatbread piled high in a basket.

Falafel were a far cry from the dense bullets you buy from a supermarket, crispy on the outside but lighter inside and packed with flavour including a hint of sesame, while vine leaves were filled with rice laced with herbs, tomatoes and onions with the grassy notes of olive oil and a zing of lemon. The final piece of the puzzle was Tabbouleh, a fragrant, fresh delight of parsley, tomatoes and onions with more of that simple but winning combination of lemon juice and olive oil.

Al Bader Coventry

Al Bader Coventry
Al Bader Coventry

The main course menu at Al-Bader includes everything from dishes cooked on their charcoal grill to Shawarmas and Tagines, as well as steaks and their own signature mains. We enlisted the help of  Taahira, who looked after us brilliantly all night, to decide and ended up with a hearty feast of three dishes between two of us.

Mixed grill was a combination of lamb kebab, chicken kebab and lamb kofta, served with simple rice, more of that dreamy flatbread and salad, plus a chunk of fried flatbread just in case we didn’t have enough carbs on the plate. If you love grilled meat, you’ll love this – simply done, cooked right with that smoky char from the charcoal grill, with a nice variety of textures and flavour between the lamb, chicken and minced lamb on the kofta.

Al Bader Coventry

Lamb Quzi was a traditional clay pot still bubbling like an excitable volcano, full of a traditional stew of lamb cooked on the bone, vegetables and a spice-laden gravy. The meat was delightfully tender, packed with heady spices of cardamom and cinnamon as well as a punch of lemon. Potatoes and carrots in the bottom of the pot were tender and fall-apart, with hours of cooking bringing out the sweetness in everything to counteract the spice. The dish of the day for me.

Al Bader Coventry

Al Bader Coventry
Al Bader Coventry

 

Our third dish is something I probably wouldn’t ordinarily have ordered. Shish Taouk is very much a bit of me – skewers of grilled chicken breast marinated in garlic, lemon juice, spices and olive oil. But this version was topped with a mushroom sauce that disguised the flavours of the chicken and added a heavy, creamy texture to what was otherwise a much lighter, fresher meal.
I’m sure it’s probably traditional, but felt somewhat out of kilter with the freshness and flavours of the other dishes. Perfect for some people’s tastes, I’m sure, but I would always tend to opt for the fragrant, spice-laden dishes that are a bit more in line with my memories of the few trips to the Middle East I’ve taken.
Al Bader Coventry
Al Bader Coventry

We left, unsurprisingly, with a doggie bag of all the rice, meat and salad we couldn’t manage to finish, and couldn’t face any sweets despite the temptation of some rather naughty-looking baklava. Our meal was complimentary but a quick look at the menu and you’ll see main courses are closer to £10 than £20, making a slap-up meal a bit of a bargain.

Al-Bader to me sums up the Coventry dining scene – often overlooked, quietly doing good stuff, and full of the authenticity we all crave in this weird world of imitation an Insta-nonsense.

[Disclosure: We were invited for a complimentary meal at Al Bader for the purposes of this blog]

Pinterest
LinkedIn
Share
Instagram