I have to say that while many of my favourite Indian and Pakistani restaurants in the city understand how to cook one or two staple sauces quite well, it’s an altogether different story at Asha’s. Every single dish has a unique recipe, an individually prepared sauce that has both different ingredients, as well as styles of cooking that make every dish a journey of discovery. So what better to go for first than the somewhat mysterious Presidential Platter. A sumptuous feast of Lobster marinated and cooked with delicious fragrant herbs and spices that melt in the mouth, coupled with a tantilising array of kebabs, breads and dips all presented on a marble slab decorated in beautiful floral paintwork around the border. That’s the thing about this restaurant, from the dark oak veneer table to the bespoke framed art work hanging from our booth beside us, this restaurant has more class than even the owners probably anticipated…it’s an unforgettable start to our evening.
Few menus excite me, they’re often drab and boring, with little effort or time spent on the design, the look or feel, even the descriptions of the food. Asha’s on the other hand understands how to excite the diner or customer from the moment you feel the leather bound book of starters, appetisers, kebabs, curries, rice dishes, speciality breads, let alone the extravagant drinks menu. Building something magical is all about creating a dream, hypnotising the senses into believing that you really are somewhere quite special, that perhaps for the time that you step into the restaurant, until the time that you leave – you are not even in Birmingham but somewhere far away.
With Asha’s I felt like I was dining in the late summer at a presidential quarters that I visited many years ago after a trip to the Taj Mahal in Agra. As soon as we step into the place the ambience hits you. The space is large but intimate, decorated in warm, welcoming oranges, reds, yellows and blacks. The lights are dim but the restaurant glows. Immediately we are greeted by the restaurant supervisor Jebin and introduced to our waiter Sachin, both with a true understanding of the restaurant, not just the food, which both know inside out, but also how every flavour, taste, dish, accompaniment, go together.
A basket of freshly prepared papdoms arrives at our table shortly after – countless variations of sizes, flavours, some cheesy, some original each with it’s own intricate decoration of chutneys and special dips to bring out the very best flavours. Asha’s has a place in the Michelin Guide in the West Midlands and it’s so easy to see why. With private dining rooms, the restaurant can cater for all small and large bookings, tailor made to your requirements.
Jebin was superb at juggling absolutely everything you could ask for- the perfect host, from darting in to the kitchen every few minutes to oversee things were going well, to effortlessly conversing with many tables of diners, guests, members of his staff seemingly all at the same time. Passionate about the restaurant we quickly began to understand a little of what makes Asha’s tick, and Sachin’s gracious service, and expertise added a further dimension to the meal.
Asha’s is one of those experiences where you wish that you had more room to feast. Two, three courses is simply not enough as every dish, that each person orders, and all the plates that pass by on their epic journey to other diners’ tables is the most tantalising dish you have seen for …..well a very long time. For the main I go for sharing a Saffron Rice and happen to notice an entire page of the menu dedicated to various breads. The choice is endless and as I look up from our table, I can see one of the chefs through a glass window spinning the dough for a fresh garlic naan, expertly tossing the mixture in larger and larger circles before setting the bread to cook.
This goes perfectly with our Lamb Korma- a dish which perfectly mimics a dish I sampled on the way to Himachal Pradesh in 2005.
The dessert menu was almost too much – every mouthwatering description jumping out of the page. So in true sampling style we went for the classic Gulab Jamun and some wonderful apple fritters with rose preserve ice cream, an epic magnitude of sweet flavours and accomplished cookery.
Other big favourites at Asha’s include the RASMALAI – a Classic Indian cold dessert served with sweetened milk. The KESARI PISTA KULFI – a Home-made Indian ice-cream made with pistachio, saffron and milk reduction. The GAJAR KA HALWA – straight from India made with grated carrots and milk reduction.
This was a restaurant to remember, and if you haven’t been here, you can sample all of the above, for roughly £40 per head. For food of this standard, that is extremely good value for money and a perfect reason for a return visit in the not too distant future.
Asha’s world famous Chef master classes are now also back up and running, led by legendary head chef Guneet Singh Bindra. For more information and also for an interesting read, you can find out all you want to know by visiting www.ashasuk.co.uk or call 0121 200 2767 to book a table.