Having been brought up a couple of miles from Lye High Street, which for thirty years now has had over a dozen Indian eateries on it’s short half mile stretch, I’ve always been used to having tasty and cheap Indian food. In fact if I had to pick a Desert Island Dish, it would probably be a balti, with a fluffy soft naan bread. Given my penchant for poppadums, I was pleased to discover new restaurant Canal Square, in the unit previously occupied by Loves Restaurant, just five minutes from Brindley Place on foot and right next to JuJu’s Cafe. So pleased in fact that we’ve been twice in two weeks.
We’ve a few fine dining Indian restaurants in Brum – Lasan and Pushkar to name two of my favourites. Canal Square brings a similar offering, but with a better view, overlooking the old canal line at Sherborne Wharf. The glass frontage, covered by the building overhang, will be perfect in the summer for sitting out with a beer or cocktail post dinner.
Harvey Bains, restaurant owner and maître d’, is charming and chatty, and full of energy for his new restaurant. He was very accommodating for us, offering changes to dishes to make them spicier or with more sauce (because I like “wet” food). They’re in soft launch mode so have done little marketing so far, we only heard about it from a friend who lives almost opposite.
At the moment they’re running their à la carte menu and a special opening carte d’hôte, £20 for a pre-starter, starter, main, and side. We’ve eaten from both menus now. As a ‘pre-starter’ you can opt for the traditional poppadum with chutney, or for a number of other more interesting offerings. I liked the gobi (cauliflower) pakora, which was delicately spiced and lightly battered, but the Golgappe (£3) were a burst of flavour I will probably repeat each time I go. Golgappe are bitesize spherical shells, with a hole in the top, stuffed with a little spiced chickpea mixture, and served with coriander and mint water and spiced tomato to pour on top of the chickpeas before crunching them in one bite. A great mix of crunchy shell, soft warm chickpeas, and cool zingy sauce.
For starter I chose the duo of paneer. The creamy Indian cheese was served beautifully on a glass plate, a chilli infused paneer in sauce, and crispy paneer pakora, with beetroot ribbon decoration. We also tried the tandoori chicken starter which was succulent and tasty. For mains we had the butter chicken, which was mild and creamy, with light notes of ginger and garlic, the spicy kadai lamb, and karahi chicken. The flavours of the individual spices came through and the level of chilli heat was spot on. We shared naan and rice on the side. Drinks options are good and we drank Kingfisher (obviously) and a crisp bottle of Picpoul de Pinet.
It’s a curiosity that Indian cuisine describes its dishes by the utensil used to cook them: kadai, karahi, balti, tandoor are all cooking containers of one kind or another. We don’t seem to do this with the food of other nationalities. There’s no ‘frying pan chicken’, ‘deep fat frier fish’, or ‘wok beef’. I suppose we might put ‘pan fried’ on something. Anyway, I digress.
Canal Square offers a chef’s table in the kitchen, which I think is a unique offering for a Birmingham Indian restaurant. They also have a private banquet room for that special occasion, and offer a seven course taster menu.
With pre-starter, starter, main, sides, lager, and wine, dinner will probably cost you around £30 a head here, though the 7 course taster is £67 per head if you want to splash out. Yes there are lots of cheaper Indian restaurants, but they’re simply not as good in terms of flavours, service, and presentation. I think it’s an ideal place for a date, romantic dinner, or meal with friends.
Very enjoyable, give it a go.