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A la Colthard/ Lasan/ Birmingham

I stand rightly accused of only leaving the South East for foreign parts and rarely visiting the gastronomic world of the entire UK. So here I am in England’s second city, Birmingham, a place I have barely visited or know. My preconception is that architecturally it is still in the sixties, all concrete, dual carriage ways and roundabouts with little green.

Certainly my preconception was correct in the short taxi ride from New Street station to my  hotel, Jury’s Inn.

It is one of those tower block corporate chain hotels which made me wish I booked the edgier Malmaison.

Still the room was large enough with a view over the metropolis  but I was irritated by little things: there was no water at all, no handle on the bathroom, the extractor in the bathroom did not shut down, and later the card did not work in the lock.

I was initially recommended Asha’s by some friends in Wolverhampton but according to the internet fully booked. Mummy and daddy had a circle of midland industrialists whose company I always enjoyed as they made things and I could never quite work out what husband Ollie’s chums did in high finance except brag about their bonuses and sneak off to lap dancing clubs after booze lunches when in my case it’s always available at home !!!

One of my other preconceptions is that in Indian and other ethnic cuisine its difficulty to differentiate in quality – though not in price – between high end and more basic grub.

Here I was agreeably proved wrong by Lasan.

The taxi driver who took me there said it was too posh for him and recommended the Indian Brewery by Snow Hill station. Lasan, situated in the jewellery quarter which appeared to be the high-life area and there was even a square (St Paul’s) of greenery.

The restaurant was large with a split level where I was seated. I liked the decor and the buzz. The waiter was very obliging. I like those dark NW frontier Parthan looks and we discussed choices in some length.

I cannot take a hot curry so we agreed on salli keema, a slowly cooked mutton stew with straws and duck egg on top. For starters I went for Sarson Ka Jhinga – prawn in a grapefruit salsa – which was quite delicious.

The food was not served by the waiter by what appeared to be the chef. The salli keema was incredibly tasty, any hotness mellowed by the duck egg. The meat was rich and wholesome. There was still room for some sorbets. My only criticism was the cost of wine by the glass: £9.50 for a 175ml Gewurtraminer, £ 8.50 for the Rioja.

The restaurant would have paid far less for the whole bottle of each so the mark up is huge and unjustifiable. I suspect many will go for Cobra beer at under £4. The final bill including a more sensibly priced Moscato dessert wine was £ 67.75 without service. I added a generous tip. It was possibly the best Indian meal I have ever enjoyed.

Eating on my own I could indulge in my hobby of people watching.

There was  a couple on the next table. He was dressed in suit, shirt and tie with tie pin she in a sensible checked suit. They looked to me to be an internet-matched couple on their first date.

They had Gin and Tonics, looked like Hendricks with Fevertree, Bob Tickler’s favourite tipple and Fevertree his favourite share, and clinked glasses.

But the evening was not going well. She was doing all the talking, he looked bored. How long before mobiles were checked ?

On the way home we drove through the square which, to my surprise as you don’t see them in London anymore, were ladies of the night selling their wares on the  pavement.

I asked the driver if we were in a red light area but he merely chuckled and was more clearly interested in the Birmingham v West Bromwich Albion commentary on the radio.

 

Daphne Colthard
About Daphne Colthard

After graduating at RADA but finding no roles Daphne went into magazine journalism with Good Housekeeping. Widely recognised as one of the country's leading restaurant and hotel reviewers, particularly by herself, Daphne is the author of "Bedded and Breakfasted", a light hearted chick novel and Grand Hotels DC: the Daffers Dictionary. Daphne lives in West London and is married to an investment banker Oliver. They have 2 boys Humphrey and Tarquin. More Posts