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Food review: Curries rule supreme at The Vine

Andy Richardson visits a restaurant that serves up pleasing mix of Indian, Chinese and pub grub as well as an efficient ordering service.

Chicken Biryani, Chicken Tikka Massala, Chicken Balti, Chicken Dopiaza. From The grill Chicken Tikka,                 Methi Tikka and Sheesh Kebab
Chicken Biryani, Chicken Tikka Massala, Chicken Balti, Chicken Dopiaza. From The grill Chicken Tikka, Methi Tikka and Sheesh Kebab

It used to be a pub. The Vine would have been like so many backstreet Black Country boozers back in the day.

It is tucked away in a heavily industrialised area where a motorway junction, factories and terraced housing collide, mixing commerce and community. Workers would have gathered to drink away their troubles.

Covid-secure bar

The death of the pub, however, led to a change and The Vine has long been a popular, casual restaurant in this bustling part of West Brom.

Not far from the town’s Premiership Football Stadium, it’s a hub for good times, mid-week sustenance and a place of celebration after Chris Brunt has scored the winning goal against a team of also-rans.

Run as a family business since 1978, it has weathered all manner of storms; the desolation of Thatcher’s 1980s, the hard times brought about by the financial crash and a decade of austerity. And then came Covid-19.

Covid-secure

The Vine, however, is resilient.

Like so many well-run businesses that embed themselves in a community, it has that most important of ingredients on its daily menu: trust.

Locals know they’re not going to get ripped off, that standards are high, staff are friendly and they can relax and switch off as though they were at home.

It keeps up appearances, too. The Vine is nicely furnished, a mix of modernity and tradition.

Covid secure dining at The Vine

A neat website and fresh branding give it a contemporary edge but inside there are plenty of nooks and crannies in which to hide.

Once upon a backstreet boozer, drinkers would have gathered there for mild and scratchings. Not it’s sheesh kebab and rice.

The Vine is smart enough to avoid slavishly attaching itself to a particular type of food.

Lunch time mixed platter

Though it markets itself as an Indian grill and curry pub, the menu is the acme of diversity. There are few things as stolid and English as fish and chips or jacket potatoes.

Both feature in a tucked-away corner labelled Pub Grub.

Then there’s a Chinese menu, though The Vine calls it fusion. Assorted stir fry dishes, honey-chilli numbers and variations on a sweet and sour theme are given an Indian twist as the venue positions itself as an everyman, catering to all people and all tastes.

Chicken Methi Curry with Boiled Rice

Curry, however is the dominant theme and a nicely designed, no frills menu provides a list of classics, from saag, korma, dopiaza and bhuna, to madras, jalfrezi, balti and rogan josh.

You pick a sauce, decided on a protein – chicken, paneer, goat, lamb or prawn – and Robert is your mother’s brother.

The onset of Covid-19 has changed the way restaurants operate – and diners dine. So while eating at home might once have been a last resort, in the summer of 2020, it’s been normalised.

Chicken Madras and Bullet Naan Bread (spicy)

The smartest operators have adapted to that paradigm shift by making it easy for people to click and collect, providing efficient, utilitarian web pages that allow you to browse, click and buy with consummate ease.

The Vine scores top marks for the way it engages with people online. Ordering a takeaway is easier than picking up a box of chicken from Nando’s.

A neat time-keeper tells you how long you’ll have to wait – in my case, 18 minutes – so you can judge your journey and literally arrive as the food comes from the kitchen.

Hydrabadi Biryani

There is one slight problem, of course, and it’s this.

If you place an order and the kitchen gets it wrong, as happened when I bought a midweek blow-out, it’s hard to make amends later on.

So when I endeavoured to sample The Vine’s much-trumpeted BBQ Grill by buying a chicken tikka, I ended up with a half-full plastic tub of tikka sauce – and no chicken.

Mixed Wrap – Chicken Tikka and Sheesh Kebab

Gremlins, I’m sure, were to blame. The sauce, incidentally, was fine, though the flame-grilled pieces of tikka has become an itch that remains unscratched.

Covid-19 is neatly tucked away in The Vine experience.

While there are plastic screens, address cards for customers to fill out and plenty of hand sanitisers, visiting this particular corner of West Bromwich doesn’t feel like a visit to A&E.

Kashmiri Tikka

The precautions necessary to maintain social distancing and prevent the spread of the disease are all in place without ever being overwhelming or interfering with the enjoyment of the restaurant.

The food was decent-to-good – with the exception of the missing chunks of chicken tikka.

A claypot chicken was the highlight. A spicy, slow-cooked dish was a flavour bomb primed to explode. Subtle and with pleasant heat – like a warm day at the beach, rather than a day to get sun burned – it comprised gently cooked pieces of moist and tender chicken with a fabulous coriander chutney.

Chicken Rogan Josh with Pilau Rice

Aromatic and light, it was served with fluffy basmati rice and was a stand-out dish. A peshwari naan was fine, filled with sweetness and fluffy like a pillow, it acted as a scoop for the claypot dish.

A king prawn biryani was equally fabulous. Generously filled with prawns, the rice was lightly spiced and seasoned while the curry was a treat.

We finished with a taste of The Vine’s fusion menu: chicken Manchurian.

Sheesh Kebab & Chips

By any other name, it was sweet and sour chicken balls with a slightly hot finish; the much-vaunted Indian twist. They were delicious, crisp on the outer and with bags full of flavour, they made for a pleasant ending to dinner.

Service was good – and very, very quick. I’d used their booking system to arrive dead on time and the food had literally just arrived from the kitchen to the counter.

Having sanitised hands, filled out an address form and already made pre-payment, there was nothing left to do but acknowledge the smiles of the front of house staff and take it home.

Chicken Biryani, Chicken Tikka Massala, Chicken Balti, Chicken Dopiaza. From The grill Chicken Tikka, Methi Tikka and Sheesh Kebab

The Vine impressed on pretty much all counts.

Competitively-priced, generously-proportioned food that’s easy to order from a warm and helpful team help to explain why it’s been a fixture for so many years.

The Baggies are back in the Premiership next year and business should be booming. Boing Boing.

Sample menu

Starters

Chicken wings, £4.25

Spare ribs, £5.75

Methi tikka, £4.95

Mains

Claypot chicken curry, £7.95

Goat curry, £8.50

Lamb dhansak, £8.50

Sides

Boiled rice, £2

Cheese naan, £2.95

Chips, £2.50

Contact information

The Vine

152 Roebuck Street, West Bromwich, B70 6RD

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