Birmingham, Birmingham, Birmingham. Balti, UB40, Ozzy Osborne, a thousand trades, curry, concrete, balti, canals, carbuncles, balti, spaghetti junction, second city, did I mention balti? We’re blessed with a thousand curry houses here in Brum and the invention or at least the innovation of our own form of curry. We’re not short on choices and every Brummie is an expert on “Indian” food, start a conversation with us on it and we’ll talk your back leg off. But sometimes familiarity breeds contempt, maybe we have too many, maybe our dining choices have narrowed in our splendid City because we love curry TOO much. No matter where you are you can find at least ten curry houses within a 5 minute drive. Is it possible to fall out of love with curry?
The answer to that seemingly hypothetical question is… maybe, almost. Until Mughal e Azam opened just around the corner the possibility for me was very close. Most of the city’s offerings were becoming very generic, especially in the suburbs, there wasn’t any distinction between them. The menu would read meat/chicken/prawn/other in korma/bhuna/dopiaza/madras/vindaloo a few tandoori specialties and that would be that. It had become standardised and familiar and boring. But curries should never be boring! They should ignite the tastebuds and delight the palate. The curries at Mughal E Azam do this but not before your other senses are dazzled first. The old church that it is housed in on the border of Hall Green and Sparkhill was in a sorry state. The multi-million pound renovation is simply stunning, it is without doubt the most splendid curry house in the city.
The food is pure Pakistani, there’s no pandering here to English tastes or sensibilities. The dishes are dry, sticky and rich. Spicing is fervent and bold. I have a Pakistani friend who swears by the authenticity of the spicing, he’s convinced they must import their masala directly from Pakistan weekly. He also introduced me to the joys of simmered lamb brains, soft and delicate like curried scrambled eggs. Fitting, as over there it’s a breakfast dish. The Tandoori mixed grill is pound for pound surely the best meat dish in the city. A sizzling platter of chicken seekh, lamb seekh, chicken wings, chicken tikka, lamb tikka, lamb chops and salmon tikka. All are succulent and feisty but be warned if you share this with less than two other people you will not have enough room for anything else. My favourite curry is the lamb kerela, or lamb with bitter gourd. An unusual vegetable with an incredibly bitter taste that makes an utterly mouthwatering curry. The lacha paratha is the best I’ve ever had, proper buttery layers of freshly made chapati. All the main dishes have that deep home-cooked flavour of long simmering and generous spicing. Not just simply meat covered in sauce that you find most average curry houses. So if like me your love of curry was waning, have it reignited here.
This Church of Curry does not have an alcohol license so bring your own or quench the spice with a soothing mango lassi.
Mughal e Azam
Stratford Road, Sparkhill, Brimingham, B11 4DA
0121 777 9348