Casual Asian dining is something Birmingham gets so right. With its melting pot of Indian, Pakistani, Bengali and South Asian influences, whether you want a low-key curry in the Balti triangle, a relaxed Thali lunch or a table full of dishes to share, you’ll find what you want somewhere in Birmingham. The newest addition to the Indian dining scene is Tamatanga Birmingham, which I got to try out on opening night.
Originally from Nottingham, Tamatanga Birmingham resides on Navigation Street, just around the corner from The Stable, Brewdog, Cherry Reds and The Victoria. The welcome is warm and friendly, the decor is casual and industrial, with selectively placed neon slogans that draw the eye. The bar is right in front of you as you walk in the door, so you are mere centimetres away from getting a drink.
I propped up the bar and tested out a Rosy Cheeks cocktail whilst I waited for my dining partner (no other than the gorgeous Vicky from Brumderland) to arrive.
The Rosy Cheeks is a gin cocktail flavoured with rose and thyme, with added egg white for a silky mouthfeel. It was pretty and delicious, reminiscent of Turkish Delight. I loved the glassware too.
After the lovely Vicky arrived, we had time for another drink before we were taken to our table. The dining area is large and spacious, with lots of different table options, from long benches to small cafe style tables. Your cutlery and napkins, or ‘eating kit’ is on the table in a little envelope you can write feedback on after your meal. Its quirky, casual and a bit of fun.
The menu is equally as fun to choose from, with tapas style small plates that work as starters, mixed grill style plates and thalis. Vicky and I had our eyes on several dishes, so we decided to go for the lot and share everything, including 3 small plates and the Tama Feast.
After we’d ordered our food, we got some poppadoms and chutney to nibble on. The onion salad was surprisingly good, with a spicy note over and above the usual onion salad you get at Indian restaurants. The mango chutney also went down well, but the chilled mint and apple chutney was the standout – refreshing, tasty and a unique feeling when you combined the warm poppadom with the icy cold chutney.
We had been warned that the small plates would come out as and when they were ready, but luckily all 3 of ours arrived in quick succession. We had the gunpowder paneer, bang bang chicken and Amritsar fish fingers.
The gunpowder paneer was my pick of the bunch. Satisfyingly squeaky cheese with an earthy spice coating and fresh minty dip.
The bang bang chicken was fantastic, juicy chicken and a super crunchy crumb with a good spice kick.
The Amritsar fish fingers went down well too, with a light batter coating, although I wouldn’t rush to order them again.
What really impressed me was the freshness of everything, and the fact that the fried dishes were lovely and crisp without a hint of grease.
We ordered another round of drinks in between courses. Vicky went for a Belgian coconut beer, which was surprisingly refreshing and went well with the spicy food. I had a Chilli Jam Gin, which was very attractive with flowers and fruits to garnish.
The flavour was sweet, with a throaty heat from the chilli jam. It wasn’t my favourite cocktail, but I appreciated the innovative addition of the chilli which worked well.
Our main course arrived not too long after our drinks, and the table was full of food.
The Tama Feast is in fact designed for one, but I was VERY pleased we’d opted to share. The platter comprised of lentil dhal, Tamatanga salmon, king prawn, lamb chop and chicken breast, all served up with your choice of naan. We had a chilli cheese naan that was literally oozing cheese, and we got a side order of Tama fries for good measure.
The manager had caught up with us before we ate, and mentioned that what makes Tamatanga quite unique is the multitude of curry bases used for the dishes. Where most restaurants will use one core sauce base, Tamatanga use around 14, giving each dish a depth of flavour that can be lacking elsewhere.
Onto the Tama Feast, every element was fabulously tasty and very well cooked, with tender meat and fish and a great spicy bark on the outside. The salmon was a highlight for, me as the rich, fatty fish was complimented by the mild buzz of its spice crust. The lamb chops were fantastic too, with a hotter, deeper spice flavour. I also LOVED the fact that the chops were served on the bone, so you can pick them up and eat with your hands.
The creamy lentil dhal was mild but anything but boring, providing a mellow contrast to the rest of the platter, while the oozy, unctuous filling of the chilli cheese paired with soft, pillowy naan bread was deliciously indulgent.
The Tama fries got somewhat left out, as we really didn’t need anything more than what was on our feast platter, but I enjoyed the chilli and herb hum of these crispy fries. Had I not eaten so much, I would have happily enjoyed picking at these.
We were so full at the end of our main courses that we decided to forgo desert and have a dessert beer instead, as we’d spotted a Peanut Butter Stout in the fridge when we came in, though the baked honey, fig and pistachio cheesecake looked lovely.
Aside from some really delicious food, I really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and unpretentious menu at Tamatanga Birmingham. The staff were enthusiastic about the food, having clearly sampled everything on the menu, and could recommend their favourite dishes with passion and authority.
I’ll certainly be back for more at Tamatanga Birmingham. Lets hope the great atmosphere and dishes here help it stand out amongst many others in the city.
I was invited to attend the launch night at Tamatanga Birmingham where my food and drinks were complimentary, many thanks to the tam. I was under no obligation to provide a review, and my opinions are, as always, my own.
Love Indian food? Read what I thought of Al Frash in the Birmingham Balti Triangle