My favourite way to eat food is by sharing shed loads of it with good friends, and recently myself and some friends decided to head to the Jewellery Quarter and check out Hen and Chickens.
This desi pub recently-ish underwent a megabucks refurbishment (they’ve doubled the size of the original pub) and has been on my ‘must try’ list for some time now. Finally, with the lovely Fay living just down the road from it, I got to see whether this Hen is worth clucking about.
Fay, George, Emma I arrived at 6pm to find the place already busy; the bird clearly is actually the word around here. The pub is cosy but stylish and offers informal Indian dining in a warm, friendly atmosphere. Looking around on arrival, everyone seemed to be sharing platters so we decided to follow suit, ordering numerous dishes to share between the four of us.
With one veggie and several cheese fiends, we made sure we ordered enough paneer to feed an army, but first kicked off proceedings with obligatory (utterly necessary) popadoms. Large and not at all greasy, these circles of joy were served with a thick mint yogurt sauce, chopped onions in a lightly spiced marinade, plus a spicier red sauce that was akin in flavour to a balti house chutney. Happy days.
There was a fairly lengthy wait between the popadoms and our main meal arriving, it must be said, but the place was packed and (as we soon discovered) was more than worth the wait. Plus we had these beautiful glasses of gin and tonics to keep us all happy. I am shamefully easy to please with a nice spirit glass these days..
The food all arrived together, and it’s very much a case of digging in and stuffing yourself silly; you won’t go hungry here. The dishes were all aromatic and generous in size to say the least. Between our party we shared five mains dishes and five sides/sundries; this worked out well for four hungry (starving) women, although I think had we ordered the mixed grill we’d probably found a good home for it *whale emoji*
We decided to double up on the paneer because.. well it’s bloody great, isn’t it? The gently spiced Saag Paneer (£6) proved to be my favourite dish of the feast, second only to the dhal – more on that later. The meltingly soft spinach was strewn with generous fried chunks of the mild cheese; I’ve had this dish a thousand times but this is as good as any of the best I’ve had.
Secondly a Paneer Tikka (£7.50) hit the table, providing a dry spiced take on the cheese. The big chunks are packed full of garam masala flavour making this a tasty and colourful option for veggies and meat eaters alike. I loved the charred edges.
The Chicken Rogan Josh (£7.25) is slow cooked and the plentiful meat melts in the mouth. The sauce is warm although not particularly spicy, but it’s utterly delicious and gets demolished quickly.
Our most expensive choice, a Lamb Dhansak (£8.50), is mild and vaguely sweet with tender chunks of lamb and small nuggets of pineapple. The subtle hum of ginger is lovely, and I use the sauce for dipping our peshwari naan in.
However, it was the sunshine yellow and utterly glorious Tharka Dhal (£4) that was the highlight of the meal for me; not something I was expecting to say, I have to be honest. Thick, silky, luscious, deeply flavoured with a smoky undertone, my only regret was ordering one portion. I’d honestly eat this every single day of my life and die happy.
Our final main, the vaguely named Fish Curry (£8) was ok although not all that interesting. The sauce was nice enough but quite forgettable after leaving the pub, and we failed to guess what the miscellaneous bland fish actually was. Our server didn’t seem to have a clue either which wasn’t ideal.
Time for sides, and the Masala Fries (£2) pack a cumin punch and are simple but tasty. At just two quid they’re also a ruddy bargain. The Samosa (£2) was fragrant and could be a tasty starter or side dish to accompany any meal, although each parcel was sadly quite greasy on this occasion; I ended up leaving half of mine.
The Garlic Naan (£1.80) had a gentle hum of the good stuff and is just crispy enough to satisfy, leaving a soft centre to pull apart and mop up various sauces. A Peshwari Naan (£2.50) makes a pleasant sweet alternative but, for me, doesn’t quite match up to the epic garlic version.
A few small gripes aside, we all agreed this was a fantastic meal. The place has a real buzz – it was full the entire time we were there and most tables were reserved – and the staff are helpful and super friendly. It’s totally casual and very laid back (all good in my book) and offers some seriously flavourful food. It’s also unbelievably good value – 10 items plus 8 (double) gin and tonics came to just £32 a head.
Curry, beer and good friends; is there anything better? Will definitely be back and I’ll most likely be bringing my husband who will no doubt love the (enormous) mixed grill platter.
Hen and Chickens, 27 Constitution Hill, Hockley, Birmingham B19 3LE
*Disclosure: We paid in full. All opinions, photos and inability to say no to another mouthful are mine*