New Soho Tavern
Handsworth's Revolution in Humble Pub Grub
With over 200,000 South Asians living in the city of Birmingham, the competition as to who makes food that represents the region best is hotly contested. The New Soho Tavern is a true contender for the title; mixing it’s ‘Desi’ heritage, with the local Birmingham Roots.
As a re imagining of the once dearly beloved Soho Tavern, The New Soho Tavern is a fresh start of a once local hotspot which fell into trouble during the early 2000’s.
Now marketed as a ‘Desi’ Bar & Restaurant, which is a loose term to refer to the peoples of the South Asian Diaspora; The New Soho Tavern revitalises your idea of ‘Pub Grub’ by not being a pub at all- but by instead being a local restaurant in which you can come for the Bar.
So what is it like?
Well, taking a seat in one of the high-backed booth style chairs is certainly a comfortable pleasure since the tables aren’t bolted to the floor, allowing you to get comfortable. If you’ve been stuck with a wooden chair, your buttox won’t cry torture either as the tableside experience is pleasurable.
Each seat is in view of one of several televisions around the restaurant. Though keep in mind that the New Soho Tavern does stay at least a little bit true to it’s former pub origins and as such, sports will be playing on the television.
If you’re hungry and want to start that dinner order, making the order is a piece of cake.
Split into two sections, The New Soho Tavern allows you to order food from one booth (the one in front of the kitchen) and your drinks from the bar (the one in front of the alcohol.)However, since the manager of this lovely little local spot used their brains, you don’t have to order and pay twice. After making your food order, head over to the bar to complete your drinks order and simply pay once on one receipt.
Admittedly, this may sound like a poor use of spatial awareness, but when you remember that this is a low-volume, fairly quiet place to dine and drink, the separate areas gives the tavern a little bustle as people move about between the space.
Yet one clear upside to this arrangement is that since The New Soho does take away too, making your eat-in or drinks order is not stopped by someone else who wants to make an entirely different query from you, speeding up the process just a little bit.
In a way, it reminds me of the hot and cold line at Wasabi. You stand in the line where you know you’re getting what you want.
There’s an outside dining area too, allowing the two of you to sit in the sun, under an umbrella at a wooden table on any particularly sunny day. Finding it is simple too, as you simply walk in through the front entrance and follow the signs to the toilet and garden and park your bottom on a seat if the door is unlocked.
Other than that, there is nothing to object to. NST is absent of any cringe inducing neon artwork and there wasn’t anything noticeable about the music to the point where I question if any was even playing. The bar staff are friendly, helpful and observant, even if you are a bit spaced out in your attention span and can’t hear what they are saying.
So the food. Let’s talk about the food.
I’m going to say that this is a case of saving the best till last; because thankfully, if you’re a lover of South Asian food in general, there’s not much here to make you form a protest.
The Vindaloo is spicy, the rice is soft and fluffy and the promises of anything being chargrilled are sufficiently met.
It’s a short and unflattering line based on the livelihood of this establishment, but honestly It’s the highest compliment I can pay. And without sounding too cliché It’s so good that I’ve been rendered speechless. There was nothing objectionable about my meal and for the first time in a while I was allowed to forget that I was reviewing the experience because I was so caught up simply enjoying it all.
I will say that a small word of warning is that the dishes, when ordered with rice and naan are large enough to serve two- so unless the two of you can come to an agreement on what to have, expect to be taking home some left overs.
Other than that though, I don’t have much more to say. Critics may simply regard it as another home for Desi food, but to the supporters and locals it’s worth a lot more.
A quick google sees the average rating at 4.5/5 and I don’t disagree; nor does the Birmingham Mail who have ranked it as one of the best Desi Pubs you can visit in the city.
I recently reviewed Coffee & Bean and spoke about how symbolic it is for regeneration in the area. The New Soho Tavern is worth even more in that symbolic image because it was the first to do it.
So like Coffee & Bean it’s the gold standard, the Gold Bar of what the competition needs to be. However, unlike Coffee and Bean the New Soho Tavern is worth making the trip to, especially if you’re somewhere on the Metro. Hop off at Soho Benson Road, take a right and the shell of a pub is at the end of that road. You really shouldn’t miss it.
Getting your date here isn’t exactly easy as transport options are limited. Ideally, you’d take the metro as that is the easiest way to get here; whilst taking a cab may be just as easy albeit more expensive.
If you’re on a budget you can take the bus. The 101 is your only option, but it’s the 5-10 minute walk that will get you more so than the limiting bus choices. Of course, you can drive, there’s plenty of parking in and around the area surrounding the school- just keep it off the ample number of yellow lines.
If Desi dining is your thing, then there really is no location that I know of in Handsworth that can match it let alone best it. If you’re a newbie to South Asian cuisine, the New Soho Tavern is a great place for you to dip your feet into the water too. It’s more than a curry house, but not so many things it loses what makes it great. A great, smart-casual date location.
- A well renovated and thoroughly modernised spot.
- Great value for money.
- Clean and comfortable- if this is your local spot, date night doesn't have to be a trip into town away.
- Truly gorgeous and flavourful food with a menu that leaves you wishing you ordered more.
- Doggybags/take home boxes are free!
- Fun and well stocked bar with both popular and Indie favorites.
- Lack of accessible public transport options
- Food prices do not include rice or other relevant sides.
- Huge portions.