Issue 320
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A year ago we would have happily donated blood to the Dark Prince himself to have a Dishoom in Birmingham. And now look, here we are and it's happening and we didn't even need to dance with the devil once. If you've not heard of Dishoom, that's okay, that's what we're here for. Our story starts in Bombay. And by our story, we mean their story. And by story we mean this email. Oh do keep up!       
Each Dishoom — seven precede Birmingham, five in London and one in Edinburgh and Manchester respectively — is a nod, in its own way, to the old Irani cafés that were a big deal in back-in-the-day Bombay. They've almost disappeared, but they were rare spots in 60s India that welcomed everyone: from the richest to the poorest, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, it didn't matter.

The Zoroastrian immigrants who ran the venues were outsiders themselves and were in no place to exclude anyone — at a time when social and cultural segregation was the norm — and so they became buzzy breeding grounds for total cultural chinwaggery. Sweaty customers, fading walls with prices chalked across them, from affordable snacks to full-on meals. At their height there were 400 of them — all contributing to a more open Bombay — now they're down to just 30. Thinking there was something in these warm, welcoming spice spots of yesteryear, cousins Shamil and Kavi Thakrar set up a restaurant centred around the Irani cafes. And, you're entirely up to speed.  
Up to speed, that is, except for the lifespan of the company, which is pretty interesting. The cousins started talking about Dishoom in 2003, and spent seven years researching these Irani cafes and developing what would be a menu of Indian street food staples, biryanis and curries, their roots found in Hindu, Muslim, Irani and Parsi traditions.

In 2010 they made the jump and launched their first restaurant in Covent Garden — it was a hit. Their second in Shoreditch, even more so; and Kings Cross followed. More latterly, Dishoom Manchester opened in a former Masonic hall in 2018. Each restaurant sticks like glue to a supposed story — a subplot that spins from those cafes. Kensington, for example, centres around a cafe goer who opens an art deco club in a former cinema. It's beautiful. Our favourite of all the Dishooms. Favourite, that is, until...     
It's not happened before where our writer and our photographer have walked into a new restaurant, gazed around briefly, looked at one-another and simultaneously mouthed the f-word. That's what happened here. Dishoom Birmingham is jaw-dropping. "It's my favourite one," says Shamil with the sort of energy you'd expect from a man who's steered one of the most admired restaurant brands in the country.

Set in the new Paradise development, so adjacent to Birmingham Museum and the Town Hall, it's huge. The 330-cover memorabilia-filled addition to Brum is inspired by our history as the “city of a thousand trades”, with parallels drawn between Birmingham's market history and Bombay's, through rafts of dated Indian merchandise. Faded and battered, their aesthetic bouncing off the 'popping' blues and greens. It's almost Parisian. Imposing clocks and 60s fans dot the interior, the bar a low-lit cacophony of mahogany. You'll like this place. It's hard not to.
You'll like the menu, also. Sticking to their promise that everyone's welcome, it's affordable. Very. No main dish, for example, costs more than £12.50. Remember when Jay Rayner said that Birmingham lacks "middle ground" restaurants — that sweet spot between street food and Michelin stars — and we all got upset, then we thought about it and realised he had a point? This is middle ground. But there's nothing average about it. We want to be buried with the black daal, gunpowder potatoes and okra fries — and the Birmingham-only mutton chaap korma (they won't serve it anywhere else) is a time-bendingly good dish. When you’ve finished it you’re a full month younger than when you started.

In a city that will always be home to the best Indian food in the country, Dishoom somehow brings something different. It adds to our offering and takes nothing away, and we can get right onboard with that.

Bookings are open for tables from April 1. But if you can’t wait that long, the team is soft-launching from March 21 to 31, during which time staff will be in training so they're offering a handsome 50% discount on food. Walk-ins only.   


As well as offering happily alliterative surnames, both Beethoven and Bowie (see!) were artists that challenged accepted musical ideas. Reinventing themselves and their music on the regs, the more than two centuries between the musicians will be bridged at a concert marking Beethoven's 250th birth-versary. Orchestra of the Swan is on music, with Ashes to Ashes, a new work including capital-T-Tuuunes like Station to Station, Lazarus and Heroes. The concert's also got pieces like Grosse Fugue, widely condemned and described as "a confusion of Babel" when first performed. Bowie biographer, Paul Morley, will intro the concert, at the Conservatoire on May 6. Tickets (from £18)


Talk about an old head on young shoulders. Despite being one of the circuit’s relatively newer breakthrough acts, such is Catherine’s skill as a performer that you’re put at ease before she’s even taken the mic out of the stand; the Dublin native is cool and calm personified. And there’s a reason why Catherine is already enjoying rich success across TV and radio (Mash Report, 8 out of 10 Cats, Roast Battle et al): the writing is first-class, she has the delivery and poise of a veteran and — this is the kicker — she is innately likeable. As any comedian will tell you, that’s where the gold is. Grab 'em while they're hot — we'll all be queuing to see her at the Apollo before long. At Glee on March 27, tickets (£10).


Next up from art: lie back on wave-shaped furniture while you watch a mildly trippy sounding animation, in a swimming pool. Thinking there were probably still some issues with electricity and water mixing, Moseley Road Baths — has been drained for Specular Reflecular, which is happening to mark the renovation of the roof at the Edwardian pool. Nearly 500 swimmers, schoolies and Balsall Heathians created the animation by painting over live-action footage of local swimmers, creating the individual frames which make up the film. Combined, they form a moving collage of colours, light and water, which you can take in from your wave-recliner for free until March 28. There are also a number of free tours you can book on to while the exhibition is on (scroll down from the link for dates). Open Wednesdays to Sundays at various times.
Venue: Pulperia, 33 Brindleyplace, B1 2JB; website
Choice: Rib-eye (£28.95) Chooser: Front of house

There's a special part of hell reserved for people who ruin good steak. It's easy to do and seems to happen in restaurants throughout the city. Pulperia, run by Aktar Islam, your man behind Michelin-starred Opheem, is doing it right. So, so right. You've got to have confidence in a chef who doesn't have salt or pepper on the table. Quite right too, because this rib-eye was off the scale — seasoned to absolute perfection, those salty hits borrowing your tastebuds for a mouth-based British bulldogs, and parking them back where they belong when they're done. This is an Argentine steakhouse sat plum in the middle of Brindleyplace and they are serving rare cuts of stupendous beef in easily one of the most beautiful restaurants in town. The decor, sweet Molly Malone, is gorgeous. And those thick, silky red wines play Barry White with your throat. But the beef. This is the mouthful of meat you need, slightly bloodier than you ordered showing chef knows what you really wanted. And the Morcilla (£9). The Morcilla is a caramelised onion and blood sausage of sorts, Spanish bought and utterly sublime, it's cut by the tomatoes it's served with and dances to the palate, a balance of excellence. The rib-eye and the fries were, of course, the show-stealers, but the top tip is the humita (£5), a sweet, steamed corn puree that blew all and sundry away. What a ride. 
St Patrick's Day is taking over Digbeth this weekend. The parade kicks off at an ever so civilised midday.
Bottomless brunch, drink and draw at the JQ's cool AF Tramshed, March 21 and 22 with Bare Skin Brum. It's £30 for a spot and could work for two if you haven't yet handled Mother's Day.
A few tickets remain for Craig Charles' DJ set at the Hare & Hounds on Friday. Doors are at 10pm, with advanced tickets coming in at fifteen GBP.
Give yo' face some lovin', with our sister title, Letterbox. Just mention them for a £40 discount on an Envy facial. The deets
OPM are serving up braised beef and giardiniera pickle sandwiches at Caneat on Sunday. Jodie's on pies. Bada bing! Eat in or take away from 4pm until 7pm. Menu

"For here am I sitting in a tin can / Far above the world / Planet Earth is blue / And there's nothing I can do.”

David Bowie, Space Oddity

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WORDS: Tom Cullen, Katy Drohan, James Gill
PICTURES: Ross Jukes — Dishoom

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