Indo-Persian food & UK’s best drinks at Qavali in BirminghamHALAL STATUS Fully Halal food menu • Alcohol served
Of all the restaurants we’ve visited in Birmingham, including those featured in our Halal food tour last year, Qavali stands out for pure aesthetics alone.
This huge venue is exquisitely designed, with hanging plants overhead festooning across its interior to create an intimately immersive atmosphere.
What is more, its decor is influenced by the esoteric tradition of qawwali music the restaurant is named after.
While most of us will have heard of Indo-Chinese cuisine, Qavali is an Indian restaurant that specialises in the less well-known sub-genre of Indo-Persian food.
Located in the fashionable canal-side destination of Brindley Place, this 180-cover eatery takes the vibrantly fresh flavours of Persian food and combines them with the more robust spices of the Indian subcontinent.
Although a large alcohol bar situated centrally within, the place is large enough for diners to sit comfortably at a distance, including near Qavali’s quaint tea bar at the back.
We have never encountered such a vast selection of non-alcoholic beverages quite like Qavali’s before. As such, they deserve kudos alone for sheer ingenuity.
Complete with an elaborate drinks booklet, which dedicates an entire page each to detailing the inspiration and thought put into conceiving each one, we were presented with six of the 10 available.
With each one being entirely distinct from the other both in terms of look and taste, including a few that were challenging in their complexity of flavours, there was nothing ordinary about any of them.RECOMMENDED
The Qavali Sharbat, with its initial hit of sharp fruitiness giving way to a sweet undertone; and the intense fruity flavour of the lychee-powered Paradise Garden that ended in a zesty kick, definitely stood out from the quartet enjoyed above.
The Scarlet was a pleasant one too, with the fragrance of the rose masterfully balanced by the cranberry and jasmine.
Although attractively presented, the Beauty and the Butterfly was somewhat subdued in comparison, turning out to be light and zesty thanks to the sweetness of the sugar cane coming through initially before gently petering out.
Firstly, while the thick and luscious Mango Lassi isn’t on the menu (they were only too happy to meet our request), it certainly should be, given how the clever addition of vanilla helped to enhance the sweetness of the mango.
Of the remaining three beverages, the Maikhane easily boasted the most complex flavour profile – a zingy, fruity, aromatic affair – and one which kept our interest right until the end. We also enjoyed the unusual melon-cum-mango flavour of the Talebi, with the mint and a touch of the rose meandering through in the background.
As for the Levant, then not only was this another sophisticated concoction, but also one that challenged all three of us in equal measure, with one describing it as medicinal-tasting.
The smoked garlic bulbs were perhaps the most interesting part of this medley of hot and cold Mazzeh bowls.
Moving past a lacklustre humous that was thick and grainy, the small falafel balls weren’t quite as delicate and dainty as we’d have preferred. The freshly baked buttered naans, however, helped redeem things somewhat.
These relatively chewy Pashtun-inspired Chapli Kebabs were certainly flavourous, turning out herbaceous and with a touch of heat.
This Samsun Pide Lamb is named after the city that’s famous for such flatbreads. This particular one, although not quite as crispy as we’d have liked, contained a layer of tasty mince that was gently spiced before being topped with a good amount of cheese and a covering of red onions for some crunch.RECOMMENDED
It may not have been the most attractive chaat we’ve ever had, but this Sultani, while driven by the interplay between the sweet and sour sauces, was defined by some complex textures that included, among other things, delicately crispy wheat discs.
The Qavali Grand Platter comprised of five types of meat, which were inspired by both cultures, and came with a trio of signature chutneys.
But is the hefty price tag of £89.95 justified? Well, that might depend on the diner’s exacting standards. If you’re after a good assortment and plenty of it, then perhaps.
On the other hand, if you’re seeking after the quintessential flavours promised on the menu, then perhaps not. For instance, the Lahori Lamb Chops, while neither pink nor moist on the inside, also didn’t deliver on the big, bold spices the city of Lahore is known for.
The same was true of the Punjabi Chicken Tikka, where, unlike the state of Punjab, that’s renowned for its robust flavours, the marination on these was subdued.
Turning out juicy and moist, the Indo-Persian Koobideh were an enjoyable eat, with light and aromatic spices helping to bring out the flavour of the lamb.
In contrast, the Baluchi Charcoal Chicken was relatively dry, particularly the breast. Nonetheless, it was covered in a good masala-based rub that was well-charred.
As for the Sajji Wings, then these were, courtesy of a good molasses glaze, the best items on here. Add to that an amazing salad, and this platter was made better by top notch inhouse chutneys.
The Saffron Sea Bass was one of the dishes of the review, with a pair of pan-seared fillets boasting uber-crispy skin, and taken to the next level by a saffron-infused coconut sauce which, when had with the fragrant saffron rice, we couldn’t get enough of. Dangerously addictive!RECOMMENDED
Another superb plate, with a quality piece of Lamb Shank that practically fell off the bone at the merest glance.
The rich and delightfully creamy sauce, whose mellow sweetness was perfectly offset by the mild spices, allowed one to enjoy the full extent of the fatty-cum-meaty chunks of lamb therein.
And this Kashmiri Lamb Rogan Josh only proved that Qavali’s head chef has his curries down to a tee.
Another stupendous dish, where tender pieces of lamb were enveloped in the lively flavours of a piquant rogan josh sauce, whose heat slowly caught up nicely towards the end.
Surprisingly, the Amritsari Tarka Daal didn’t quite match the depth and richness of the above curries. Not only did it lack the aromatic strength of a well executed tarka, but was also fairly bland, with the textureless lentils perhaps having been blended.
The Mushroom Rice, on the other hand, was far better, with erect long-grains of rice lightly spiced and mixed in with plenty of mushrooms and fried onions.
The evident highlight of Qavali’s signature medley of desserts, aside from the dry-ice and theatrics, was the inhouse baklava.
These were made memorable by the distinct layers of light and crispy pastry, which gave way to a beautifully crumbly middle. The difference between these and the shop-bought variety is that these were not made sickly by an excess of syrup.
We also appreciated the Persian Chocolate Brownie for successfully delivering that moist, semi-gooey centre one looks for in a well-made brownie.
As for the Turkish Delight ice cream and the mango sorbet, then while the former was made better when had with the gummy cubes of Turkish Delight sweets, the latter was decent enough.
- YES/ NO
- CHILD SEATING
Did the food live up to the initial euphoria though? Well, yes and no. While there's no doubting the scale and ambition of their fully Halal menu, most of the dishes, although above average, flattered to deceive. Having said that though, their curries were outstanding; and we can only imagine the rest being just as good.
Overall, we can see why Qavali is such a hot destination spot in Birmingham's Brindley Place. They are worth visiting not just for the interior alone, but to also enjoy one of the best non-alcoholic drinks menu created in the UK.
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