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Jee Jee's well worth a flutter; POSH NOSH JEE JEE'S, SMETHWICK.

THERE'S a new breed of pub in town - and Jee Jee's is the latest addition.

It's one of the growing numbers of Punjabi-themed pubs, and is not to be confused with a curry house.

There are a few of these venues springing up in and around the West Midlands.

And whilst they serve up great traditional Indian food, it's usually in meagre canteentype surroundings, with food served on paper plates with plastic knives and forks. Classy joints, they are not.

However, what they usually lack in style, Jee Jee's certainly makes up for. The owner has restored the former rundown Park Hotel into a palace fit for an Indian prince. With stone flooring, clean cream walls, traditional wooden carvings and silky furnishings, it's almost unrecognisable from its former self.

It took him a year to completely transform the pub and it's now primarily aimed at families, couples, and professionals. With that in mind, it does have a smart casual dress code.

You'd think that with this sort of investment, the boss would want to pile on the pounds when it comes to the menu.

Reasonable But he's kept the price of a curry pretty reasonable, with those of the meat variety coming in at a pocket-friendly price of around pounds 5. I took my husband Pete for a Punjabi pigout.

We went on a Saturday night and, although the place wasn't packed out, there was a nice, friendly atmosphere.

The venue is deceptive and a lot bigger than you think, with around four different sections. The menu, meanwhile, is split into two parts, with grilled items and curries.

There are two kitchens to reflect this. All the grilled food is cooked in an open kitchen so you can watch the chefs in action, whilst the curries are cooked behind closed doors.

Both Pete and I were pretty hungry and we decided to go for a little bit of both, ordering a medium mixed kebab grill (pounds 11.50) served on a sizzling iron skillet.

It came out with a small side salad, and two sauces, one tamarind-based and the other minty yoghurt.

The sizzler portion itself was enormous and was made up of seekh kebabs, lamb chops, and chicken pieces which were on and off the bone, and of the wing variety.

The kebabs were nicely spiced and juicy, whereas the lamb chops were a little too tough in parts. The chicken had a great punchy masala coating and there was plenty of meat on the wings.

Both of us agreed that, coupled with a naan each, this would easily make an adequate main course between us.

The sizzlers also come in a small and large size, with the latter costing an extra pounds 5. I can only imagine it would easily feed four people.

There was a bit of a wait between courses, but that was fine as we felt quite stuffed from our starter. When they did fi-nally arrive, we were once again impressed, not just with the taste, but also with the portion size.

I'd gone for the chicken rogan josh (pounds 4.95). It wasn't as oily as the dish that's usually served up in a restaurant and there was a good balance of spices. I ordered a naan (pounds 1.20) to mop up the sauce.

Again, there was quite a bit of curry and despite the wait for our second course, I couldn't finish it all.

Pete had decided on keema mattar (pounds 4.80) and had asked at the bar for it to be quite hot. Unfortunately, it had a little too much heat for his tastebuds, but other than that it was perfectly spiced and the meat was tender.

He, too, ordered a naan, which came out crispy and fluffy, and also a tandoori roti (pounds 1.20).

We had managed to plough through half our curries when we decided to throw in the towel. However, we didn't want it to go to waste and the waitress happily boxed it up for us to take home.

As you've guessed, we were too full for dessert. Instead, we finished up our drinks and headed home with our leftovers. The bill including two beers and two glasses of wine, came to pounds 39.

ANUJI VARMA

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PUNJABI PIG-OUT: Jee Jee's in Smethwick
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Apr 17, 2011
Words:719
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