One of the more recent additions to the Birmingham food scene is Praza, the sister restaurant of Pushkar, an Indian restaurant in the City Centre that has been popular with diners for years. With the high standards of Pushkar raising our expectations, we were excited to see what this new Indian restaurant and cocktail bar could bring to the table, as it were, when we visited last week.
The building itself is a beautiful Georgian house set back from the busy Hagley Road. This kind of setting is the main benefit of dining in Edgbaston rather than the City Centre, and Praza are certainly making the most of the more exclusive atmosphere the location creates. Inside, the décor is modern yet with an Art Deco twist. Oddly, there wasn’t a hint of Indian culture in sight, and there were points at which the bold style verged on tacky (such as sparkly eye-lash cushions!?), though the overall effect worked. The server who first brought us to our table and took our order was slightly off-hand, but the rest of the staff made up for this as they made us feel really welcome.
While we ate the the poppadom course with three beautiful dipping sauces, we ordered cocktails from the ‘Praza Martini’ section. The bartender was happy to recommend drinks from the menu – I took him up on the black forest martini – while Jack couldn’t not try the curious ‘spicy mango’. My martini was a deliciously rich cocktail, made with chocolate raspberry vodka, raspberry and orange liqueurs, strawberry purée and a hint of chocolate liqueur. Though sweet, the balance of fruit to chocolate flavours meant it wasn’t sickly, and it would have made a great alternative to a dessert if you were too full! The bartender was keen to make Jack’s spicy mango to his liking (which was pretty spicy!) and this went down a real treat. Though spicy enough to make your lips tingle, the mango flavour was still allowed to speak for itself, making for a really creative and interesting cocktail.
To start Jack ordered the Teen Tikki, a trio of vegetarian ‘kebabs’ which included fig and green peas, beetroot and onion seeds and paneer and corn, served with a tamarind sauce and sultana chutney. Each flavour combination worked really well, and the two accompaniments gave each mouthful a kick. I opted for the Achari Paneer Tikka, which was lightly charred in spices, yoghurt and gram flour. The locally sourced paneer was beautiful and the seasoning gave it a bit of extra texture, making it a simple yet really satisfying starter.
As pescatarians we were glad to see there were plenty of seafood and vegetable options on the menu. For his main Jack went for the Paneer Butter Masala (yes, we like our paneer) and I had the Ajwaini Jhinga – tandoori king prawns in a yoghurt, ginger and ajwain marinade served with a corn and paneer kebab and a side salad. Jack’s paneer masala was as rich and creamy as you’d hope and was packed with paneer cubes. The subtle ginger flavour went really well with the cheese and made it a really warming dish.
My main of marinated King prawns simply had to be the best prawn dish I’ve ever had. The prawns tasted incredibly fresh and were cooked to perfection. It was the marinade however that really made the dish, with a slightly sticky texture and bursting with flavour it really brought the prawn to life (not literally, that would be weird…). Though it was the priciest option on the menu, it was one of those meals that now every tandoori dish will be compared to, and I doubt any will supersede it.
For dessert I had been planning to try one of their traditional Indian treats such as the Gulab Jamun, however when I saw another diner being served the chcocolate brownie and cappuccino ice-cream I’m afraid I gave in! The brownie was lovely and rich and not cakey like some disappointing brownies are, and the ice-cream was silky smooth and quite subtle which was nice. Jack opted for the trio of Kulfi in pistachio, malai and mango flavours. The trio went beautifully together and were sprinkled with toasted almonds for a bit of texture.
Overall Praza in Edgbaston has to be up there with the best of the Indian restaurants that Birmingham has to offer (which, incidentally, is a lot). Very rarely do we go to a restaurant where we couldn’t think of any possible improvements for the food and drink, but Praza really had us stumped! This is however reflected in the price point, and the 12.5% service charge on the bill seemed rather unnecessary for smaller groups. With this in mind, Praza would be a brilliant choice for a special occasion such as a birthday meal. Thank you to Prashant and everyone at Praza for having us, we had a really brilliant time.
*We were invited to dine at Praza complimentary for review purposes. This does not affect my honest opinion.