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Royal AL'Faisal Balti Restaurant

Royal Al’Faisal Balti Restaurant
136-140 Stoney Lane
Sparkbrook
Birmingham
Tel: 0121-449 5695/8902
A-Z P90 2C

Sandro & I had been to the NEC to cover the European Ethnic Food Exhibition. We had pretty much decided that on the way home we would take in a detour to sample some of Birmingham’s Balti delights. So after the show we headed into Birmingham bound for Sparkbrook, where we knew we would find an interesting spot to eat and review.

So without any real forward planning we descended on the Royal Al’Faisal a little by chance. Deciding it looked a likely target, attracted by the banners proclaiming ‘Balti Buffet’ and ‘eat as much as you like’ and ‘for just 5.95’ we parked on their private car park opposite and ventured in.

We didn’t expect the world for 5.95 so when we went in we were not daunted by the basic appearance. It was unlicensed as well, but once again many of these type of establishments are. We weren’t  bothered about this as we had taken some swift refreshment on the way and would just appreciate the jug of water that was part and parcel of a Birmingham Balti.

We sat down at a long table, occupied at the other end by two chaps in the middle of their meal, with their selection of Miller Draft cans on the table. We established we were having the buffet and the waiter brought us a plate each and the jug of water. We also had another plate which I guess was for the scraps.

So not daunted by surrounding we launched ourselves at the buffet. It boasted 30+ dishes on their advertisement and I guess there must have been something like that available. The food was arranged on two sides of one end of the restaurant. The poppadums and salads, chutneys and sauces were at the one end followed by metallic dishes of starters. We had some onion and tomatoes and then decided on a selection of starters. The tandoori chicken looked most unappetizing as a heap of dried out tandoori coloured pieces. I risked one but Sandro declined. There was then some onion bhaji, which looked ok and some mushroom bhaji that looked if it had seen far better days. There was no sheek kebab in the sheek kebab receptacle, just a pile of onions that had obviously been left over a period of time as people had picked out the kebabs.

We went back to our seats and sampled our selection, the tandoori chicken tasted about as good as it looked, the onion bhaji was passable, the mushroom bhaji was awful. The yoghurt and mint sauce was pleasant. I then spied some kebabs being emptied onto the dried out onion bed, so though I would chance one of those. It was the kebab that redeemed the starters. It was strongly flavoured with green chili but was pleasant and freshly cooked.

We went onto the main courses. There was plain rice and pillau rice. The plain rice looked ok but the pillau rice looked appalling. It hadn’t been topped up for a while and consisted of a greasy aggregate on the bottom of the bowl. I decided there and then I would just stick to the curries. Of the range of curries, there must have been in excess of ten, the most appetizing appeared to be the lamb balti and the balti spinach lamb. So I sampled both of these together with a scoop of balti tarka dal. Without any rice to accompany this selection on a plate it turned out to be a bit of a slop. However, the lamb balti was reasonable, the lamb content appeared good. The balti spinach lamb had obviously suffered through being kept hot for so long and was a little congealed. The tarka dal was ok, but in fairness to Al’Faisal, is not really one of my favourites, I just thought I would give it a go.

To accompany our meal we were offered nan bread, which was cooked to order and turned up hot and fresh. This was a pleasant accompaniment to the meal and helped mop up the sauce admirably.

Sandro was not too impressed and decided not to try any more than his original selection of main courses. I decided to go around again, but faced with the same selection I once again opted for the most appetizing looking and had more lamb balti and balti spinach lamb, but this time chose some chicken balti instead of the tarka dal.

With the aid of the remaining nan bread I eat the meat and spinach content of the meal and mopped up some more sauce. That was enough for me.

We discussed the desserts and Sandro volunteered to check them out. He came back and reported that he didn’t think they were too appetizing and wouldn’t be bothering with those either. So I concurred and we decided to call it a day and journey on home.

Overall, we were not impressed with the food at all. It was most unappealing to us. However we have to concede to the obvious popularity of the place, which had got progressively busier as the early evening went on. We both felt that it would have benefited from a smaller selection and hence bigger turnaround of dishes on offer. We also were not keen on recycling the same plate for each course. We would have preferred to be able to pick up a fresh warm plate at the servery for a new visit, particularly after starters and before the main course.

Also, I must bear in mind that it only cost 5.95 each. Not a King’s ransom at all. So I must concede that it can be construed as good value if you like that kind of thing. However my own preference would be to pay more for extra quality.

Verdict: Only for the brave.

Eatanddrink Ratings

Royal Al'Faisal

Total Score: 38%
Quality: Below Average
Service: Average
Facilities: Below Average
Ambience: Above Average
Value: Below Average

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