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Upmarket 'fast food' has a touch of class; The team behind Birmingham's Lasan launch their latest eatery this week. Mary Griffin goes inside Nosh and Quaff.

Byline: Mary Griffin

T'S probably the best view from any table in any restaurant in Birmingham.

IWe're upstairs in the new Nosh and Quaff surveying the Grade II*-listed Council House and the Grade I-listed Town Hall in Victoria Square.

The views inside this refurbished Grade II-listed building aren't too shabby either.

Beautiful ivory-coloured marble walls and hand-carved dark wooden panelling surround the ground floor restaurant with red and brown leather American diner-style seating and booths.

Upstairs exposed brickwork and metal panelling sit alongside a bar made of green glass bottles. A bronze chain curtain hangs between two dining areas and up here it feels like a merging of classical and industrial.

Having completed its PS1million refit of the landmark building, the Lasan Group (led by chef Aktar Islam and restaurateur Jabbar Khan) is in the middle of trialling their new concept with a soft launch before the grand opening next week.

They've ditched the formal dining of Lasan and Fiesta del Asado, while adding more glitz than their reassuringly down-to-earth Raja Monkey.

You get a plastic bib tucked inside your bright, white cotton napkin and, chances are, you're going to need it.

Cutlery isn't provided and the restaurant's strapline is (complete with hashtag) #letsgetmessy I'm diving head first into the beef ribs while my pal, Aman, begins to tackle his dinner using the only cutlery to hand (claw crackers and a long lobster pick) while studying the "how to eat lobster" guide he's just Googled on his phone.

The lobster comes whole, sliced lengthwise with a garlic and lemon butter sauce. It's meaty (and easier to eat than Aman makes it look) and it's been allowed to speak for itself instead of being drowned in dressing.

The beef ribs are fat hulks of flesh that slide off the bone. They're full flavour, with a hint of corned beef, and the glaze of hickory smoke and molasses adds the perfect sweetness, spice and heat.

They're accompanied by a superb salad/ slaw of crunchy carrot, red cabbage and onion in a mint dressing - the perfect refresher - plus fries, which have wilted after the supplier sent the wrong potatoes. (Aktar looks more disappointed by this than any of the diners.) By the time I finish, my bib and napkin are splattered and smothered with the rib glaze and I look like a crime scene.

Aman has mastered the art of devouring lobster and, having found a connecting tendon, is snapping an empty claw at me from the other side of the table to a soundtrack of high octane dance music.

This place is not just another Lasan. It's noisy and mucky with a sort of upmarket "fast food" feel.

It's the kind of place where you can laugh raucously at your table with food all over your face and feel perfectly at home (I tried it).

It has elegant touches, though. Nosh and Quaff is, I think, the only restaurant in Birmingham to serve the sublime Danish beer Mikkeller and the flavourful Crate lager.

The wine list includes an interesting biodynamic bottle and a sparkling wine to rival Champagne.

And the toilets, too, are a beauty to behold. In the basement, original tiles clad a corridor with the "lobster hotel" behind locked doors on one side, and Victorian-style latrines (complete with pull-flush and original high-level cast iron cisterns) on the other.

The lighting is pretty spectacular, from caged bulbs in the Victorian basement to industrial metal lampshades and neon lights in the diner and "jam jar"-style lights upstairs.

The front of house team (who have only been working together for the last three days) are full of warmth and energy and seem genuinely proud to be working where they are.

Like everyone else at this trial run we were dining as guests of Nosh and Quaff, but a meal of two mains, two sides and two beers would've cost us PS53.95.

The restaurant opens to the public on July 31.

CAPTION(S):

The beautiful interior of Nosh and Quaff (far left) and (inset) chef Aktar Islam

Nosh and Quaff, which opens tomorrow after a PS1m refit of the Grade II-listed building, offers customers 'messy' food, above, the beef ribs with a salad of crunchy carrot, red cabbage and onion in a mint dressing and (inset) the lobster with garlic and lemon buttery sauce
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 30, 2015
Words:723
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