Having been a Birmingham food blogger for a few years now, I was sure I was at least aware of all good restaurants in the city. So when some local bloggers and I were invited down to the Punjabi restaurant Canal Square to review their Maharaja menu, I assumed either it had to be a new restaurant, or simply not a very good one, for me to have not had it on my radar! After visiting, I can tell you that neither of these things, in fact, is true, so read on to hear about the vegetarian 7 course tasting menu in this stylish restaurant.
The restaurant itself is classy and in a great location behind Brindley Place. We were greeted by Harvey, the owner, on arrival, and were kept topped up with bubbly and then a beautiful malbec throughout the night. Unfortunately, for a Thursday night the restaurant was extremely quiet – I’m clearly not alone in having not known about this place.
First up was the amuse bouche, two vegetable pakoras with a chilli sauce. These little bites were perfect for wetting the appetite, and weren’t too greasy, which is sometimes the case with pakoras. The sauce was spicy but was served on the side, so that you could have a much or as little as you wish depending how you handle heat!
The second course was aloo tikka – spiced potato and vegetable tikki and masala chickpeas with yoghurt, chaat masala, tamarind and blueberries. This kind of combination is always a winner with me, and it didn’t disappoint. Blueberries in the place of the more common pomegranate seeds really worked, and the potato tikki was really smooth and melting. This was my favourite dish of the evening.
Next for vegetarians was marinated paneer served with riata. Though this was certainly a very pleasant dish, the texture of the paneer wasn’t quite as bouncy as I’d have liked. The spicy marinade and cooling sauce were definitely a great combo, but it was one of the more forgettable dishes of the evening. I’m rarely jealous of what the meat-eaters at the table have instead, but their chicken marinated in hung yoghurt, garlic, mint and ginger looked a lot more exciting.
The same could also be said for the next course, which was deep fried cauliflower. I love veggies to death, but this simply seemed a little unimaginative and dull next to the fish variation everyone else was having. It was, however, served with a spicy sauce that really made it pack a punch.
The fifth course, vegetable samosa chaat, was delicious. The samosa was crispy and full of flavour, and, as previously mentioned, the masala chaat and yoghurt combo is one of my favourites. It is a shame however that this was so similar to the aloo tikka course, as it made it feel as though they had run out of ideas for vegetarians. However, as a stand alone dish it was a real pleasure to eat.
Now, just as a heads up, if you’re opting for the Maharaja menu, I seriously recommend considering an elasticated waistband, as the sixth course is really a full main meal. My curry was saag paneer, served with plain naan and pilau rice. Saag paneer is always my go-to curry, and it was certainly a good one, with generous chunks of paneer cheese and a thick spinach sauce. The only downside however was that I was too full to finish it by this point, as were most people, suggesting that such a big course might not be needed as part of this menu.
Finally we were served dessert, which thank-fully was small! This dessert duo included barfi, which I had never tried before; a solid lump of condensed milk and sugar. This incredibly indulgent sweet was a really nice way to finish the evening, and I will look out for it again at Indian restaurants.
Overall, the Maharaja menu at Canal Square was a really enjoyable experience. At times, it felt as though the vegetarian options had not been given as much thought, but there certainly wasn’t anything to complain about, and the veggie version costs considerably less than the meat one. I would certainly go back to Canal Square, and hopefully more and more people will learn of this little-known restaurant in the centre of town. Thank you to Harvey and everyone at Canal Square for having us all!