Itihaas is one of those restaurants that you hear about for what seems like years, and as the reviews from critics, families, friends, the rich and famous, all sing its praises, I had almost delayed going, as they sometimes say, to save the best for last.
It was a freezing night in early January, and as we cut between the chiselled old Victorian buildings surrounding Fleet Street, we noticed an understated entrance with Itihaas sign above the door. We had quite an excitement about this evening however, as Itihaas is known around the country for an array of awards including best curry house in the UK, not to mention last year’s best in the Midlands!
The moment you arrive at the restaurant, there’s no waiting or messing around. We are taken straight to our table and there is an array of waiters on hand, immediately it seems to help with every last detail. From our coats, to the wine list, to a basket of bread and some dips with the lightly fried poppadoms. The menus weren’t flimsy paper card folder over but glorious leather bound books, aged in time with the excitement of ten thousand diners, or more. This is the true oasis of Indian Cuisine, and it’s not difficult to see why.
The interior is a stunning dining room, an area lit by hanging lanterns, rich and sweet aromas which suffuse the atmosphere and statues of Buddhas, and other Eastern delights give the room a sense of calm. There are an abundance of places to sit, each meandering off in their own direction to a different part of the restaurant, each armed with waiters only too happy to pour you a second, or third glass of wine and guide you through their epic labyrinth of a menu.
Our tray of raita, mango chutney and salad was brought to the table with spicy, wafer thin poppadoms cut into triangles.
One of the most interesting things about Itihaas is their wide range of dishes, none of which have classically British Indian restaurant names. You won’t find your typical dishes, but what you will find is so much more interesting.
Nine unique and freshly baked or fried sorts of bread, from buttery and delicious poppy seed naans to multi-layered laacha parantha which is a fantastic bread to tear and share while lapping up a fiery sauce from your combined starters.
To start two of us went for the Nanha sa Dosa, so unbelievably tasty that it was difficult to put down until every part of the pancake, spiced potatoes, coconut chutney and lentil soup had been devoured. A serious contender for my favourite starter ever. The balance of textures and mouth-watering flavours was a delight for the senses. There were dishes from Kenya, to Kerala, with the finest ingredients such as Scottish smoked salmon through to the most delicate chilli paneer. Itihaas is truly a marvellous place to eat in Birmingham.
For the main we chose a selection from the Koila Murgh, which dangled from silver skewers in deep shades of golden red and lightly charcoaled flame, soft and tender flesh that fell off the bone; through to the wonderful and unique Jalsaa Kofta meatballs where the intensely cooked lamb is completed to perfection with a thick gravy and a splash of wine for good measure.
For a reservation at the fabulous Itihaas, and a truly unforgettable experience call 0121 212 3383.