To booze or not to booze? This was the question I suddenly had to ponder while shivering on the steps leading up to Adil’s on Stoney Lane, one of the great stalwarts of Birmingham’s famous Balti Triangle. It’s BYOB here so I felt pressed into making a snap decision. I chose to decline. Surely an absurd choice? In modern Britain beer and curry go together like Morecambe and Wise, like tea and biscuits, like driving and road rage.
Maybe I felt sheepish about bringing a couple of cold ones in a cheap plastic bag into such an eminent and smart restaurant. Maybe drinking on a Sunday night felt excessive after the jars I’d enjoyed on both Friday and Saturday night. It was an odd feeling casting aside something that resides so ubiquitously alongside the humble curry and yet I felt quite at peace once the decision had been made. I almost felt a maverick spirit consuming me as I bullishly poured out my water, pathetic as it sounds now.
Going out on a Sunday felt like a liberating experience. This is a country that draws its curtains and gets the pipe and slippers out after 6pm on Sunday evenings, no matter what time of year. It treats itself to one or two glossy but largely forgettable dramas on TV and then deferentially waits for the suffocating noose of ‘Monday morning’ to do the rest.
My advice: go out on a Sunday night. You’ll often have entire establishments to yourself and the service is invariably better and more programmed to you. The wait for a taxi will be shorter and the roads quieter. You won’t get angry or agitated by crowds of inebriated degenerates because there aren’t any.
Save for a couple of understandably over-friendly waiters gagging for something to do, Adil’s was completely empty inside and I felt rather foolish at having bothered to make a reservation. Why isn’t anybody here at 7pm on (what is still) a weekend evening? The glacial temperatures outside didn’t help and January is a tough month traditionally for businesses but there was something melancholy about being the only people in the restaurant.
24 hours earlier I had been fecklessly navigating my way through the endless crowds at Digbeth Dining Club. With excitable men grunting and gurning in all directions I longed for a cool, calm and relaxed eatery but not one this quiet. Perhaps the location of Adil’s on the more serene Stoney Lane was a reason for the lack of customers. I went for a walk down the frantic Ladypool Road afterwards and everywhere seemed louder and brighter, coloured by neon lights and impatient drivers.
My chicken Balti wasn’t spectacular but it was tasty, inexpensive and I didn’t return home feeling like I had a bowling ball in my stomach which is often the case when I get overly enthused by a menu. I’m looking forward to returning to this area, an area I’ve lamentably not given enough time to over the years despite often espousing its virtues to visitors. Celebrating an exciting neighbourhood by actually going there and embracing it is far better than flippantly mentioning it in your standard “come to Birmingham, it’s really good now” pitch. Even better, come on a Sunday night.