Food review: Simla Spice, Great Barr
I adore Indian food – it’s my absolutely favourite cuisine.
Whenever I can’t quite decide what to have for dinner, a really good curry (with a load of crunchy poppadoms on the side) is absolutely always something I’ll go for – without fail.
I’ve recently moved to Great Barr, and had heard great things about the little family-run curry house Simla Spice that sits on the Scott Arms-end of Queslett Road.
So of course, I had to pop in and give it a try.
Simla Spice is a lovely, small restaurant. It doesn’t hold too many tables so booking is advisable if you’re planning to come on a weekend, or bring a large group, but it’s size gives it a cosy, intimate feel.
It’s classy, but welcoming at the same time, with comfortable, squashy black chairs and benches, mirrors on the wall, and bright flowers dotted here and there on the tables.
A little bar sits at the back by the entrance to the kitchen, with a number of lagers, beers, wines and spirits on offer.
The menu is plentiful, with traditional ‘British-Indian’ dishes like korma and tikka masala sitting comfortably amongst house specialities like rangeela khana, chicken tikka nagar, and lamb korai.
We don’t live too far away, so we sauntered over one Wednesday evening. It was a special occasion (my other half, David, was celebrating a new job) so of course, three courses were a must.
The staff were warm and welcoming when we arrived, instantly showing us to a corner table and making sure we were settled with a couple of menus, and a plate of poppadoms and dipping sauces.
The starter menu is generous, with a good 15 options to choose from – and that’s just the meat section. Simla also boasts a varied seafood appetiser selection, with tandoori king prawn and grilled salmon both on offer, as well as a number of vegetarian options such as vegetable pakora and onion bhaji.
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a whole portion of the menu dedicated to tandoori starters – so you really are spoilt for choice.
We were feeling greedy, so opted for a tandoori mixed kebab each, and also a hot and spicy kagari to share on the side – as it said it was new on the menu and we were feeling daring.
The mixed kebab consisted of melt-in-your-mouth sheek kebab and flavoursome chicken tikka and lamb tikka – while the hot and spicy kagari was a deliciously marinated chicken (which certainly lived up to its name and left me gasping for water).
Foolishly, I was already getting full – but powered on bravely to my favourite bit, the main course.
We thought we’d get a couple of dishes and share them between us – and after much debating (while nibbling on poppadoms dipped in mango chutney) we settled for tandoori balti milli juli and parsi murgh (mine being the latter, trying to be bold and opt for something other than my standard – but delicious – chicken tikka masala).
A fried rice and cheese naan for David (he is all about the cheese naan) and pilau rice and chapati for me (I can never eat a whole naan – possibly because of the colossal starters I always decide I can handle beforehand) and we were set.
A couple of Cobra lagers on the side, and I was in my element. We relaxed back and waited for our mains to arrive – the delicious smell of cooking wafting in and teasing us from the kitchen at the back.
It didn’t take too long, and the dishes were really delicious – I didn’t even miss my tikka masala. The parsi murgh (new on the menu) was a Mumbai style curry – spring chicken with spinach simmered in spiced gravy flavoured with masala of lightly pickled sun dried chillies and homemade garam masala. It was refreshing to have something so different, and I loved the spinach touch.
The balti milli juli was a meat extravaganza – chicken tikka, lamb tikka, and tandoori chicken off the bone all cooked in chef’s special balti sauce with tomatoes, onions and peppers. It was rich, meaty, and with a wonderful kick. The two dishes were a delight together amongst our mountain of rice and bread.
Sadly though, so full we were from the starters, our main course defeated us and we had to package up a bit of it to take it home (but really is there anything better than leftover Indian for lunch?) and were therefore hesitant to view the dessert menu.
But, unable to resist a taste of something sweet, we grabbed a pistachio kulfi to share, and two coffees. The perfect end to a meal.
Simla Spice says its philosophy is based on sustainability and satisfaction and the long term assurance that your experience will be an ‘unforgettable one’.
And I can certainly vouch for that.
The restaurants offers a diverse and varied menu, featuring more than 100 items to choose from, with something to suit all taste buds.
It is based on authentic recipes from north and south India, and each dish is freshly cooked by a number of dedicated chefs.
And while the food is just delicious, it’s the friendliness of the staff that clearly gets people back to Simla time and time again.
The managers, chefs and waiters are close with their regular customers, knowing many of them by name. But for new faces they are kind and helpful without being intrusive.
While we went on a quiet Wednesday evening so didn’t need to book, a handful of tables were still taken and the restaurant was nicely buzzing with hungry diners. But it’s often fully booked on weekends and during special events, and is a popular spot for Great Barr curry lovers.
Altogether our meal came to a cool £55 – an absolute bargain for three courses, two lagers and two coffees – and I delighted in heating up the leftover mains for lunch the next day (they were just as tasty as the previous night).
The restaurant hosts a Monday Night Special each week where guests can enjoy a fabulous four course meal for just £10.95 – something I’d definitely like to go back and try.
They also allow diners to bring in their own alcohol – should they wish – and offer a takeaway and delivery service too.
Overall a tasty menu, friendly staff, and an intimate feel to the restaurant means we’ll definitely be back to Simla.
We’re looking forward to being one of their regulars in the future.