It’s a brave person who opens a curry house in Birmingham. It’s a braver person still who chooses the suburb of Harborne, already a food destination hot spot, with a number of award-winning restaurants. But former Ithicaas chef Mandeep Bajwa has done just that, alongside general manager Abdul Hoque.
Umami Indian Kitchen, named after the fifth basic taste, is located on Lordswood Road, just off Harborne High St. The front of the venue is a small, modern lounge area with a well stocked bar. But travel the few steps up to the dining area and the lighting is lowered to create a contemporary, more intimate dining experience that works well for dates, business dinners and family meals. Staff are visible and on hand to help, without being pushy or disruptive.
The menu is split into two sections with a series of set menus, one of which is vegetarian, that range from £15 – 30 per person. The a la carte menu contains some traditional and well known dishes but also some fusion concepts that marries Indian cuisine with French and Chinese. Umami’s starter menu contains a number of seafood dishes including scallops (£5.95) which cut like marshmallows; light and moreish.
Main courses are separated into meat, vegetarian and chef’s signature dishes. It’s a smaller menu than is found in standard Indian restaurants in the city, but there are no generic sauces and choose-your-meat options here; it’s a case of quality over quantity with everything made from scratch, in-house. The murgh makhani chandni chowk (chargrilled chicken in a plum tomato and cardomom sauce enriched with cream and kasorri methi, £9.95) has a rich, yet not too sickly sauce; and the lajawaab kadai jhinga (£13.95) boasts a lovely, peppery flavour thanks to the fact that it’s cooked in a ‘kadai’ (Indian wok), and comes with plump, juicy prawns.
The drinks selection is much more extensive than the small lounge would suggest. The wine list is typically spilt but also has a tasting guide to help narrow the choice, and staff are on hand to make suggestions, too. There’s also an impressive spirit collection with related cocktails. While some Indian restaurants can over sweeten cocktails to compensate for the spice in the curry, Umami’s are balanced and the fresh ingredients work well with the chosen spirit. The signature drink, Rise of Umami (£6.95), is a vodka-based cocktail with purees and juices that give it a fresh, crisp taste. Some of the classics need refining, but there are a number of more contemporary drinks that work well.
Whilst Harborne might be an affluent area, the sheer number of quality places to eat and drink means that new restaurants need to be better than average. Thankfully, Umami lives up to its name.
Bullseye: Manglorean pepper scallops (£5.95)
25 Lordswood Road, Harborne, Birmingham B17 1RP
By Laura Creaven, fulltothebrum.co.uk
Images by Mike Kelly
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