The thing you notice immediately when entering Bilash is attention to detail and quality. It's a dining experience rather than just grabbing a curry.
The thing you notice immediately when entering Bilash is attention to detail and quality.
From the pleasing decor and high class dinnerware and glasses to the polite service, it's a dining experience rather than just grabbing a curry.
Beer is by the bottle only and the wine is expensive compared to other Wolverhampton restaurants, the cheapest bottles being £19.90, but you can taste where the extra money is going.
My companion and I decided to share one of these bottles, Mitchell Clare Valley cabernet sauvignon, and agreed it is one of the best either of us have tasted.
It also held its flavour against the curry spices, even enhancing them on the palette.
Some complimentary popadoms were brought to our table along with an onion, tomato and cucumber salad along with four dips - raita, curried preserved lemon, a spiced tomato relish and sweet chutney. The combination of flavours was a delight. I also tried two mini-chicken kebabs which had a tasty barbecued overtone.
For a starter, we both went for a light vegetarian option of hara bana kebabs, £5.90. These are moghul-style disc-shaped kebabs made with spinach, potato, green peas, green chilli, grated root ginger, coriander, cornflour and salt. They were garnished with highly flavoursome grated carrot, lettuce and tomato, with a tomato sauce and finished with fresh lime.
Again, the quality of all the ingredients and care in their preparation shone through.
For the main course, I chose murghi roast - pan-fried spicy chicken - costing £12.90. It was a fillet marinated with turmeric, chilli, garam masala and salt and cooked in a sauce.
My partner had paneer in chilli masala, £9.90. It was cottage cheese Punjabi-style with curd yoghurt, onion, green pepper, tomatoes, chillies, turmeric and garam masala. Both were delightful and packed with spices. The chicken was meltingly tender, while the cheese was robust.
Our hosts also furnished us with some lovely side dishes. The stuffed aubergines was a stellar dish, cooked in a spicy puree of tomatoes, chillies and garam masala.
We also had the tastiest spinach dish, spiced and cooked to perfection.
The garlic and chilli naan bread had just the right amount of fresh green chilli, while the rice was excllent.
After our meal, owner and chef Sitab Khan took time out to explain his philosophy.
"It is the food we do at home. It is for our palette, the cooking which came from my mother and it satisfies me, therefore I hope it does others.
"I see this restaurant as an ambassador for Wolverhampton. I want people to enjoy coming to this restaurant and enjoy the other things the city has to offer.
"I have been here for 25 years but I will not open another restaurant.
"I am not interested in being a millionaire. I can only be in one place to cook the food and look after our guests."
The Bilash, which earlier this year enhanced its reputation by gaining an entry in the prestigious Michelin Red Guide, considered the definitive guide to eating out, has a number of high profile devotees.
Mr Khan said: "People appearing at Wolverhampton Civic Hall and Grand Theatre, such as Jim Davidson like to eat here.
"Les Dawson came in every day when he was doing pantomime. We also get footballers. Steve Bull is another regular, while Ian Wright comes every week.
As a further measure of its status, Bilash is also featured in Harden's Restaurant Guide and has been included in the Which Good Food Guide 2008.
There is a second dining area upstairs as well as a private room for parties, bringing the total number of covers to around 100.
Mr Khan's pride and passion in his labour of love shone through. He added: "You don't come here for a quick meal and then go out again.
"Every meal is made from scratch and slow cooking imparts more flavour."
Having enjoyed the Bilash experience immensely, I hope to become one of its regulars.
Bilash, Cheapside, Wolverhampton
Tel: 01902 427762
By Nick Pritchard
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