Restaurant Review: Jee Jee's, 304 High Street, Smethwick B66 3PA. Tel: 0121-565 4986
New York has fallen in love with Birmingham after the Big Apple’s local paper touted the city’s gastronomic scene as one of the must-see, must-taste events of 2012.
The New York Times assigned two writers to extol the wonders of la cuisine Brum, a genre of cooking that for many years was associated with the culinary of triumphs of Shughie Mcphee, head chef at Crossroads Motel.
Marketing Birmingham has rightly made a meal of the publicity and sneering local newspaper writers in London have been forced to admit that the NYT has (up to a point) got a point.
London’s grudging interest in Birmingham does make you wonder just how far some of its writers have their heads lodged up their backsides when they have to rely on foreign hacks to flag up a story taking place up the M1.
But let us not be sour the palate in this moment of sweet delectation. Birmingham’s restaurant scene is buzzing like never before.
There’s never been a better time to part with your credit card details and opt for the chef’s menu gastronomique. It would be madness to eat anywhere else right now.
So I went to a pub in Smethwick.
Jee Jee’s lies beached in a one-way system in one of the most unlikely high streets in Britain. It definitely said it was a high street but I didn’t see any shops, which is fine. In fact, I quite like the idea.
Jee Jee’s is no ordinary pub. The clue is, kind of, in the name. Jee Jee’s sounds a bit like a nightclub, but it isn’t. This is a Punjabi pub.
To many people, myself included, this concept is somewhere on the road to dining nirvana. Indian entrepreneurs have put together two of life’s greatest pleasures – curry and beer.
It’s curry night every night down at the local, not just on Tuesdays when Glenda has a go at a bhuna. Does life get any better than this?
Indian pubs are a big thing in that nebulous area known as the Black Country. (There will be letters now saying Smethwick isn’t in the Black Country but I am standing by the claim.
The local accent changes dramatically – becoming Oldburyesque – as you progress off the Hagley Road down Bearwood High Street, which does have shops, into Smethwick.)
It is here that the children and grandchildren of first-generation Indian immigrants have launched popular dining spots in traditional pubs.
The beer is as good as it always was but the food is a whole lot better. Chicken-in-a-basket and chips is dead – long live the biryani. The meals are known for their authenticity and value. It just gets better, doesn’t it?
Jee Jee’s is at the posh part of this culinary movement although you wouldn’t know it from the outside.