It’s quite amazing how many people haven’t heard of this place, the few people who know this fine dining establishment speak about it like it’s the best around and yet in all my years of searching for quality Indian cuisine I have never had the pleasure of visiting Itihaas. Thank goodness I did…
Itihaas is Indian fine dining at its very best. It is situated on Fleet Street, central Birmingham and is easily walkable from the summer row and Jewellery quarter pubs and bars. On the particular evening of my visit the country was enjoying a warm spell of weather which made the very cool air conditioned ambiance most welcoming on my entrance to the restaurant. I was also welcomed with warm smiles and shown swiftly to my table.
Upon first glance and to be fair second glance the menu was extensive, my dining partners were more aghast than flummoxed as we studied the array of dishes available. Much deliberation later we decided on starters:
Mirchi Lasooni Jhinga – butter coated prawns in a flaming wok, tossed with spring onions, green chillies, garlic, sweet plum chilli sauce and soy sauce
Tiranghi Murgh – marinated trio of chicken skewers displaying the colours of the Indian flag. Fiery orange chicken tikka, fenugreek, spinach and mint marinated Baabri Tikka and creamy mild yogurt and cheddar cheese marinated marai chicken.
First thing to note was the stunning presentation, candles with elegant trays to add a bit of style and more importantly warmth to keep your dish fresh. The prawns were tangy and sweet with the plum sauce and had just enough spice to make this dish a perfect mix of sweet and sour ingredients which is often evident in asian cooking. The food whilst a delicious mixture of flavours if anything was more substantial than I would normally expect of a starter and it made me wonder if I would be able to enjoy my main course as much.
My girlfriend’s dish was even more appealing; it mimicked a small tandoor in which a candlelight shone from the bottom highlighting the exquisite presentation. The chicken was 3 kebabs of 3 pieces of brilliantly succulent meat which fell deliciously off the skewer, the 3 colours showing the colours of the Indian flag, this displaying the attention to detail which Itihaas clearly goes to for it’s customers. For all its plusses this dish was very large by starter standards and again we wondered how big the main courses would then be.
Again we were pleasantly surprised; the main courses came and offered a more reasonably expected portion which had my taste buds tingling with anticipation. We selected:
Tandoori Trout – a fusion of east and west. British seafood with Indian cooking techniques and spices.
Maha Jingha – freshwater king prawns, in a tangy marinade roasted in the tandoor.
Being a seafood fan I was intrigued as to how this fusion would work. The fish was served on the bone and was a delight to look at. The fish came off the bone very nicely and the spices were just enough to highlight the beauty of the fish without overpowering. Also with enough lettuce greens to compliment.
The prawns also highlighted superb attention to flavouring, the prawns perfectly cooked, juicy with bags of flavour and spice, they were large but yet were so good to eat made you want more and more.
The side dishes of naan bread and rice were more traditionally cooked and also showed good texture which added to the overall experience. The wine list was expensive, but with a decent selection of wines of fruity and tangy red wines which would compliment spicy food. I was looking for a merlot wine which I find goes excellently with Indian food and found this reasonably priced on an expensive list.
There is no doubt this was a ‘very’ fine dining experience, possibly the best I have experienced, not the cheapest, but with quality comes expense and on this occasion that was most definitely worth it. By no means however was the bill excessive either, the main winner of the night was the food though, brilliant flavours and elegant presentation. Don’t be too keen to tell your friends about this one, you may want to keep it to yourself. I know I will be…
By Robert Wilson