Kinnaree, 22 Water Front Walk, Holliday Wharf Building, B’ham B1 1SN T: 0121 665 6568
We are in the midst of a South East Asian food revolution in Birmingham and Thailand is leading the way.
In a matter of weeks, three new restaurants serving fragrant curries, soups and spicy noodles are due to open in the city.
Sabai Sabai has just thrown open its doors on Harborne High Street, the second venue for husband and wife team Jureerat Dykins and Torquil Chidwick, whose other restaurant is in Moseley.
Siew Kuan, the executive chef behind Blue Ginger in Kings Heath, is bringing her mix of Thai, Singapore, Cambodian and Hong Kong cuisine to Harborne Road, Edgbaston, at the new Blue Piano.
Then there is the Thai “banquet-style restaurant” (whatever that means) ChaoBab, which is opening as part of the new Spiceal Street development at the Bullring. The place promises an “exciting live food theatre.”
Will it be tragedy or farce or a “knees up Mother Brown” success? We will have to wait and see.
I toyed with going on a forthcoming press tour of Spiceal Street, taking in ChaoBab, but my blood turned cold when I saw the rendezvous point: Jamie’s Italian. I think they will throw borlotti bean bruschetta and the “world’s best olives” (really?) at me if I go near there again.
The panic level went up a notch when I noted the invitation required attendees to state their shoe size. For lead boots? There’s a lot of canals in Birmingham. I’ve seen The Sopranos. I know what goes on.
(Incidentally, I’d love it if someone could tell me what ChaoBab means because I’m pretty sure my own translation – a mixture of Italian and Black Country dialects meaning “hello baby” – is wide of the mark.)
At the minute, there’s no food business like Thai business. Further afield, The King and Thai in Broseley, Shropshire, has just scooped the title of Best UK Thai Eatery.
Obviously, with all these exciting prospects I did the logical thing and went to a Thai restaurant that has been around for a while.
The last time I went to Kinnaree, for lunch, I had a pretty enjoyable time. The service was genuinely pleasant and it’s difficult not to feel content in a dining room populated with a large number of statues of semi-naked women.
And this time round, when I went for dinner with Archie? Hmm. Well. It was just: hmm.
I’d like to say it was brilliant because I am a fierce advocate of promoting the city’s best restaurants. And if it’s not brilliant then damn awful because as any food critic will tell you both feast and metaphorical famine make for the easiest copy. Cooking’s middle ground, or the lower reaches of the middle ground, is a struggle.
Because everything – the food, the experience and the deflation – is just a little too “hmm.”