Lockdown food review: Digbeth Dining Club serves street food at its very best
There might not be any music festivals, but you can still taste the best street food with the Digbeth Dining Club, says Andy Richardson.
It’s time for festivals. It’s time to listen to live music, to watch the beautiful people and to eat the finest street food known to man.
Except we can’t. Well, not in the usual sense.
Glastonbury was watched from the perspective of yesteryear while seated on the sofa. Download is the name given to files cached on your computer. Covid-19 has wiped out what used to be our summer. Not even Peter Crouch can save it.
Hope springs, however, as the region’s ever-inventive food and drink providers find new ways to connect with customers.
The much-loved Digbeth Dining Club has found a way to trade, offering a pared-back menu in backstreet surrounds.
Many people will be familiar with it. Founded in 2012, the multi-award-winning street food event has transformed the region’s food landscape by turning some of the Midlands most unique venues, into vibrant, street food destinations.
Within just a year of starting, Digbeth Dining Club had been voted Britain’s Best Street Food Event, and since has gone on to host events all around the Midlands, establishing itself in the region as pioneers of street food.
Digbeth Dining Club works with the best food traders around the UK. Every trader is vetted and trialled to ensure that customers not only get a wide range of cuisines to choose from, but at an affordable price, too.
Whether it’s Michelin-star chefs, former Masterchef finalists or even just enthusiasts with a genuine passion for food, quality will always be at the forefront of our events.
Digbeth Dining Club isn’t your usual dining experience. Staff strip back the frills and fanciness of fine-dining and offer an authentic, unique experience where the food does the talking.
Pre-Covid-19, it was based every week of the year on Lower Trinity Street, in Digbeth, the coolest area in the region and a creative space that would give London more than a run for its money.
It will be familiar to diners across the Black Country, Staffordshire and Shropshire, having developed a portfolio of over 13 locations in and around the Midlands and featured in Codsall, Shrewsbury, Wolverhampton and more.
Recently, it’s switched to a click-and-collect service, where people place their orders a few days in advance then head to Hockley to collect their food.
The offer features such companies as Buddha Belly, Disco Fries, Full of Chaat, Stripclub Street Food, Dessert Box, Eat Vietnam, Urban Cheesecake, Pip’s Hot Sauce, Dig Brew Co., Wine Freedom, Purity, There Goes Coffee, Newtown Juic Co, Beaufort Spirits and more.
Orders are completed online. So there’s a simple click to identify a date and time for collection, a series of clicks to select preferred items from the menu, then it’s time for payment.
It doesn’t run entirely smoothly; a promised confirmation email failed to land when I placed an order and there was no phone number available to double-check that things were fine.
No matter. Digbeth Dining Club is remarkably well organised and when we collected our food, showed itself to be an exemplar of best practice in relation to social distancing.
Security were positioned outside with a clipboard featuring the names of customers, more security were inside to make sure people were socially distanced, there were plenty of signs encouraging people not to touch handrails and the like while the floor featured bright yellow dots, indicating 2m spacings.
Collections were on a rota basis, so as to avoid a crush and to make life easier for vendors. Well done event organisers. All boxes ticked.
The food, of course, is magnificent. The street food scene in the Midlands has blossomed in recent times as people have enjoyed all of the taste without any of the fuss.
As we approached Hockley to collect, we spotted plenty of people eating from the open doors of their cars and the atmosphere was that of a micro festival. Fun times – socially distanced and without the music.
Organisers can’t do anything about the elimination of browsing. Only pre-orders are accepted – and customers stand several metres from the food vendors, with waitresses fetching and carrying their pre-placed orders. In the circumstances, that’s a small compromise to make in order to enjoy exceptional food.
The line-up of vendors changes and when we visited, we covered most bases. So, a mini mac burger was filth in a bun. Dripping moist meat juices, a beautifully seared beef patty was smothered in melted cheese, well-cooked, salty bacon and came in a soft, yielding bun.
Ample salad and half-decent crinkle cut fries made it the sort of takeaway that Elvis would have enjoyed.
Quality has ever been king at Digbeth and the mini mac didn’t disappoint.
A bhaji burger was similarly good. Soft, sweet onions in a crisp batter were wedged between a delicate bun while salad and pickles were topped high.
Spicy fries added ballast and as the sun shone on Hockley we saluted our decision to make the journey.
While the region’s roads are clogged with motorists looking for a McTakeAway from assorted drive-throughs, the roads of Hockley were calm, the queuing system civilised and well-managed and the quality of food around 100% better.
We wrapped it up with a box of jerk chicken. Tender and moist with a crisp outer coating of mixed spices and herbs, it made for terrific, finger-licking eating and showed that it’s possible to eat a fried chicken takeaway riven with quality.
Drinks were bottles of real lemonade, a decadently sweet and citrussy affair made with lemon juice, water and sugar, beside a cucumber cooler, that took the edge off a sweltering day.
We feasted on cheesecakes afterwards, consuming more calories than any man or women ought to as we were transported by a creamy, soft cheese filling, buttery biscuit base and more chocolate and caramel than the Cadbury’s factory.
It was a peculiar experience to swop Digbeth Dining Club’s normal tables and chairs for a car parked against the gutter.
Mind you, as Oscar Wilde said: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
Burger with two beef patties, American spread, crispy bacon in brioche bun, £10
Thai fried chicken rice bowl, £10
Slow-cooked beef massuman, £10
Sticky Bombay-loaded naan with samosa and dipping chutney, £10
Breaded chicken katsu curry with handcut fries, £10
Vietnamese chicken curry with rice and peanuts, £12
Chicken wings with Marmite peanut butter, £6
Sea-salted caramel cheesecake with Lindt chocolate, £7
Terry’s Chocolate Orange cheesecake with extra Jaffa cakes, £7
Dessert box, £12
Digbeth Dining Club
Lower Trinity Street,
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