Sometimes you come across something so obvious that you think why isn’t it everywhere.
One such idea is the so called desi pub, a (seemingly) long standing trend (predominately in the West Midlands/Black Country) of fusing the traditional (and all to often failing) boozer with the curry house.
Now it is (or certainly was when I was out more on a Friday/ Saturday night) a time honoured British tradition to have a few beers in the pub and then finish off the evening with a curry, so having both on the same site seems just totally logical and a case of killing two birds with one stone. The lazy arse in me likes the “you don’t need to get off said fat arse” beauty of this. Despite that, this eminently sensible trend does not seem to have made it down my way as I am not aware of any desi pubs in the Cardiff area (I suppose Keralan Karavan’s collaboration, a while back, with Small Bar was the nearest we in Cardiff seem to have got to this concept as far as I am aware). Shame that.
This bring me to Wolverhampton, where Mrs. SF hails from. The food scene here seems rather muted, but the desi pub concept intrigued me and I have been keen to try one for a while.
Down the road from Mrs. SF’s family home was what I remember as a pretty run down/down at heel pub. On numerous visits up that way we had never contemplated going in there. As I get older, the more I like to eat when I drink so tend to gravitate to pubs that focus on food more substantial than just a bag of crisps.
The place has been bought and made into a desi pub. As such it does Indian food (eat in and take away) and not being bothered to cook we though why not give it a go.
Inside there is a traditional bar that looks like your standard spit and sawdust pub, with the usual drinks on offer, a dart board and footie on the telly, but in the back lounge you have IPL cricket on and the offer of interesting sounding Indian food at a seemingly very reasonable price point. Take aways were flying out of the kitchen and there was a steady stream of people (many of South East Asian descent) eating in (even at the early evening hour we choose to arrive at).
The menu certainly looked interesting both in terms of what was on offer and the price point.
We, as is ever the case, over ordered and it was a rather bountiful table when it all arrived, which looked more suitable for four rather than two people.
Luckily Mrs. SF talked me out of the mixed grill, which I suspect would have finished me off.
Chicken samoas (£3.50 for two) were big buggers and clearly home made rather than bought in, with a good level of spicing and a nice pastry case (shorter than usual) .
On the table sauces (a mint one and a quite ferocious tomato and chilli number) added nicely to the mix in terms of pepping up the rather pedestrian side salad
Lamb chops were humongous in size (5 good sized chops with a fair bit of meat on the bone) and a real bargain at a mere £8.50.
Literally smoking hot, they had a lovely tandoori char to them with copious amounts of masala and bit of chilli heat bringing a nice level of spicing (not too hot). If ordering these extra napkins are a must, as it was a messy affair. I very much enjoyed gnawing on the bones to get every last scrap of meat.
On to the mains, being in a desi pub I was tempted by the namesake desi chicken curry, but also spied a lamb rhara (rara – £9.50) dish (not seen this on a menu before) with the intriguing mix of lamb chunks and lamb mince.
Lovely and plentiful chunks of tender meat, with a rich spicy (chilli, cardamon and lots of it, cloves and ginger) gravy that was choc a bloc full of lamb/mutton mince (suspect latter and all the better for it). All the spices made it a really fragrant curry.
On ordering I asked if it was hot and was told they could do it mild up to very hot, but as I had asked perhaps medium was the best option. Medium was pretty firey so I was grateful that the medium option was taken for me. Unlike most garnishes, the coriander and batons of raw ginger served a purpose, with both seemingly taking away a touch of the heat and also refreshing the palate.
The rice was nicely cooked with a lovely butteriness to it, from (I suspect copious amounts of) ghee running through it, and a liberal lacing of jeera (cumin) seeds.
It was a very substantial portion, which I failed to finish (left overs went in a doggy bag), and I think with rice and a naan or two this would be easily enough for two.
Mrs. SF went for a chicken biryani (£9.00),
which was a vertitable Himalyan range of rice.
Good flavour to this with lots of fried caramelised onion running through it and big chunks of succulent, well spiced, chicken. Lubrication was provided by a good raita.
Again, easily big enough for two this dish.
We added a butter naan (£2), as the one the table across from us looked so nice
Pleasingly crisp base, not too thick, and a nice level of bubbling. Lashing of ghee too
Total price for all of this was just over £35 (so about £17.50 a head). There was so much food we took a doggie bag back home, so it could have easily feed 3/4 (non piggie) people I reckon. Think you could actually pretty easily eat here for under a £10 a head based on portion sizes.
Drinks were cheap too, with a pint of cobra a mere £3.80. I tried to buy one on my card and was told there was a minimum transaction level of a £5, which I expected the pint to be to be honest. Had to buy another half to make it over the £5 mark.
Wine wise I did notice a Sula (Indian wine) lurking amongst the otherwise dubious looking wine selection.
No idea as to price.
This was one of the nicest and best value Indian meals I have had in a long time. Very good flavours, big portions and a nice price. We weren’t sure what to expect and it was very nice to get something that certainly exceeded our expectations. The desification certainly worked with us, meaning we visited a pub that we had never really contemplated going in before.
Due to circumstances Mrs. SF and I are unlikely to be up that way as much going forward and I would really like one of these desi pubs to pop up here in Cardiff. Can think of a fair few boozers in Cardiff (doing generic by the numbers, the Brakes Brothers van has pulled up, food) that would benefit from a bit of desification. Would love this sort of thing in the Victoria Park pub, for instance.
Address: Willenhall Road, Wolverhampton, WV1 2HR.
Looks like a tasty feast!