The Black Country’s dining culture is a little like that in Birmingham 20 years ago. There are few stand-out restaurants, certainly none gunning for Michelin stars or high ratings in the Good Food Guide. Just as Birmingham lagged behind in the days before Andreas Antona opened Simpsons and Glynn Purnell got his pre-Purnell’s gig at Jessica’s, so the Black Country has an unenviable reputation.
It’s good if you fancy two-for-one deals, bargain food or a steak and chips dinner that costs roughly the same as it would do if you bought the ingredients yourself at the supermarket, then it is the region for you.
Those seeking more elevated standards have to look hard – and The Bilash is one of the few bright lights for our region.
The Bilash has long been considered the best restaurant in Wolverhampton. It’s rated by Michelin, Harden’s and others and has been established for some 35 years. And, let’s be clear, you have to hand it to the family that owns it. It’s been part of the culinary landscape for decades; a rare bright spot on an otherwise unremarkable vista. The décor is modern, the menus largely mouthwatering and the service generally good – though one of the waiters mistook himself for Mr Moody while we were there.
The restaurant has more awards than you can shake a stick at. And that’s worth writing about. For while other restaurants have come and gone, while many struggle to get the basics right, The Bilash offers consistently high standards, albeit at a price.
The food was good. Chef-patron Sitab Khan offered subtle and sophisticated pricing, precision cooking and considerable finesse. There was passion on the plate. Instead of poppadoms being served with gloopy, syrupy mango and wan, watery raita, the dips were substantial and almost a course in themselves.
My shaslik starter featured deliciously tender chicken, beautifully blistered onion and capsicum wish a swish of sauce and a delicate side salad topped with pomegranate seeds. My partner’s king prawn starter was enveloped with a delicious bread and gently warming sauce. It was high quality cooking from an experienced team.
My main, a korma with a really posh name, was equally enjoyable while my parnter’s tandoori fish was delicious.
Desserts were okay, though the real action was in the starters and mains. A small, moussey white chocolate and berry number was like a mini fool while the gulab jamun was decent; sticky, sweet and utterly indulgent.
It was almost impossible not to be impressed by Mr Khan and co, who’ve created an exceptional business and survived the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune while maintaining high standards over many years.
They deserve their position at the top of the table in the Black Country. While others have offered inconsistent and indifferent food, the team behind The Bilash have gone the extra mile to offer something different, something better. They’ve built a dynasty by focusing on quality and avoiding compromise. Flavour and quality has been at the heart of their offering while front of house is polished and refined. There are too few restaurants who’ve set elevated standards and The Bilash continues to set the pace. And let’s hope that their example will encourage others to offer something out of the ordinary; something better than the average.
Food trends are interesting. Across the county border, in Shropshire; the small market town of Ludlow started a culinary revolution as first one, then two, then three restaurants set out to do something remarkable. Those standards inspired others to follow.
In Birmingham, the same thing happened. Simpsons and Jessica’s earned plaudits from Michelin some 20 years ago and now a city that was once down-at-heel is now rightfully considered the UK’s most interesting place to eat with the exception of London.
The Black Country won’t have such high levels of ambition. But if any existing restaurant has the ability to inspire and elevate standards, it’s The Bilash. Running a restaurant is no easy game. Keeping it going and consistently staying ahead of the pack is even more difficult. Yet Mr Khan and co have managed just that over a long and distinguished career in our beloved city.
When guests are looking for somewhere a little out of the norm for a special occasion dinner, The Bilash is an obvious place to go.
Silver service, interesting and exotic food and many years experience mean that it remains the go-to destination for discerning diners in the Black Country. All credit to Mr Khan’s team. They continue to lead the charge after many years at the helm.