Open House at Itihaas
Birmingham is well known for a curry, being the inventors of the Balti. There is a growing trend, however, for a more sophisticated curry, away from the usual experience, for those with a slightly less ‘rustic’ palate.
In these restaurants, there is no short supply in Birmingham either with well known names such as Lasan, Pushkar and Asha’s, with Itihaas being one of the founding members of this group.
Itihaas is currently refreshing their menu and earlier in the month, I was invited to try it. The restaurant claims to offer an ‘authentic Royal Indian dining experience’ and ‘a culinary journey through the North of India with a couple of stops through Kenya and vibrant Mumbai’, and I curious to see what dishes were on the table.
The restaurant is just outside the city centre in the Jewellery Quarter, on the corner of Newhall Street and Fleet Street, a few minutes walk from Snow Hill railway station.
We started off with a welcome cocktail featuring Torunska vodka; one of the night’s special cocktails with the guys from Torunska showing off some creative Mixology.
We headed downstairs to the ‘Maharaja’ suite. With its opulent interior and views over the canal, the decor certainly matched their concept of fine dining with garnishes of 18th and 19th century Indian artefacts. I also popped a quick sneaky peek behind the 300 year old Indian wooden doors into the Tiffin Room, which seats 12. It came complete with a bar, library and your very own dedicated butler if you choose to dine in there.
We were served a delicious range of canapés whilst a sizeable portion of Birmingham’s Food blogging community filtered in. Some of the treats we tried included:
- Tempura Cod in a Spiced Paprika Batter served with a Tomato Chilli Relish
- Spiced Mini Potato cakes served with curried chickpeas, yoghurt & mint tamarind chutneys
- Scottish Smoked Salmon with Goats Cheese in a filo pastry casing
- Chicken Tikka in Naan wrap with spicy mayo and green salad
- Minced Lamb Meatballs roasted with mint and coriander
- Crispy Pastry topped with gram sev, onions, potato and pomegranate pearls
My favourites to try were the Tempura Cod and the Crispy Pastry Sev. The cod was very moreish, hot little battered parcels of delicate cod which matched well with the spicy relish. My hand dipped into the basket as it went past on more than one occasion! The crispy pastry was a new experience to me, topped with crunchy noodles made from a chickpea flour. They added a really nice crunch to counterbalance the soft onions and potato.
We had a quick chat from Raj, the Executive Chef of Itihaas, who explained how the new menu was to take us on a tour of the subcontinent and highlight the range of cuisine available. We were also introduced to Torunska vodka. Hailing from the birthplace of Copernicus, Toruń, it’s billed as one of Poland’s best kept secrets and as a vodka for whisky drinkers with a complex palate.
With that on to the mains, I was prepared!
To try, we had:
- Lobster Panchporan – a whole lobster simmered with five spices in a creamed mustard powder
- Nalli Gosht off the bone – lamb off the bone stewed in a hot masala gravy
- Scallop & Prawn Masala – pan seared scallops and freshwater prawns cooked in a sauce tempered with mustard seeds
- Roasted Salmon in a Banana Leaf – salmon fillets in a marinade, roasted in banana leaves.
- Butter Chicken on the bone – chicken cooked on the bone & blended into a smoked tomato sauce with cream and yoghurt
- Vegetable Pakistani Pulao – basmati rice cooked with spiced vegetables and saffron in a dum style
- Pomegranate Raita – thick Greek yoghurt decorated with pomegranate pearls
- Garlic & Coriander Naans – don’t think you need a description for this one!
The lobster was delicious; the meat had been removed from the shell, simmered in a delicious curried sauce, then returned to the shell for presentation. Not too spicy but flavourful, and it really enhanced the sweet lobster meat.
The salmon was also a great pleaser, cooked well and presented beautifully in the banana leaf. The butter chicken was also well cooked, with the rich creaminess as you’d expect.
I was, however, slightly disappointed in the Nalli Gosht. The lamb had taken on a bit too much of a cinnamon flavour for my liking.
And finally, after another quick cocktail break, we sampled some desserts for what little room was left in our bellies.
- Sambuca flamed Gulab Jamun – golden brown milk dumplings doused in rose water sugar syrup and flambéed in Sambuca
- Chai Masala Mousse – milk mousse infused with cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg
- Apple & Cinnamon Samosa – apple compote infused with cinnamon enveloped in pastry
- Pomegranate & Pistachio Rasmalai – a creamed sponge pudding in a rich milk pistachio base, sprinkled with pomegranate.
I was a big fan of the Gulab Jamun, already one of my favourite desserts, which I had became enamoured with when working in Mumbai for a short while. The sambuca added a really nice aniseed element to the dish.
The Apple Samosas were like miniature apple turnovers, dusted with icing sugar and paired with some of the Pistachio and Mango Kulfi ice cream. I thought they would have benefited more from a sweet dipping sauce or chutney to balance the sweet-sour fruit.
I will definitely be returning to Itihaas, and it was nice to see a modern twist on a menu in an opulent setting.
Disclaimer: For this event, I was a guest of Itihaas and East Village PR who provided all food and drinks; this provides no bias to the post. This blog is my own personal opinion and strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.
Where: Itihaas, 18 Fleet Street, Birmingham B3 1JL