We may be the UK’s second city, but Birmingham is definitely top when it comes to Indian food. We love the stuff; we even invented the balti. But don't think that we're stuck in the past. A new wave of Indian restaurants has been taking the city by storm. Gone are the white tablecloths and heavy meals, now it's all about small plates, street food and funky décor. The latest arrival on the scene is Tamatanga, a second incarnation of their Nottingham site.
The Venue and Atmosphere
Tamatanga promises a ‘Turtle Bay for Indian food’ kind of vibe, and on arrival, I could definitely see the similarity. Bright colours, patterns, nods to Indian culture and mismatched furniture are abound, along with enough light features to land a plane. Personally, I find it a bit much - it’s all a bit up-in-your-face for me - but the colourful appeal and eclectic approach is sure to be a beacon for passers by. Despite it being quite the large restaurant space, it was full and buzzing on our visit, which is likely owed to both location, and head turning interiors.
The Food and Drink
First things first, the menu here is HUGE, and very busy. Luckily the staff here are brilliant; warm and attentive, without being intrusive. They’re on hand to offer menu suggestions and supply poppadoms to keep us going whilst we mull over the mammoth menu.
We’re told we must try the gunpowder paneer at £5.25 and willingly oblige. It’s easily the best thing we eat all night. The cubes are packed with flavour and slightly charred, the texture a million miles away from the chewy rubber that is so often served up. Peppers and onion gives extra bite to the dish, and all is brought together with a punchy mint and coriander dip. It’s as good a paneer dish as I’ve eaten anywhere. Calling something 'legendary' on a menu is a bold claim, and one which we are unable to resist. Sadly the Legendary Tamatanga Chips - fries tossed in chilli, herbs and spices - are not legendary, but they are very nice dunked in curry.
The Tamatanga Thali seems like a no-brainer for main; for £15.45 you get - wait for it - a choice of two of their signature curries, two veg dishes, daal, raita, rice, naan, chutneys and salad. It’s a lot of food; even my endless appetite struggles to get anywhere near finishing. I like the two curries (railway cabin lamb and homestyle chicken), the meat is tender and the sauce full of flavour, though perhaps lacking a little depth. Sadly the veg dishes and daal feel like an afterthought. The daal is thin, the green beans overcooked and the veg curry bland and forgettable. I bloody love Indian vegetarian dishes, so these were a massive disappointment. Better is the curry as a standalone dish. You get a hefty portion of curry along with a choice of rice or naan. I've heard from friends that the grill dishes are brilliant, although I didn't manage to try them.
We already have so many amazing choices in Birmingham (think Zindiya, Indian Streatery etc) and for me, Tamatanga does well, but needs to elevate a few of the dishes. That said, it will definitely appeal to the younger generation and with a large (and overtly cheap) cocktail menu and a location near to John Bright Street, it's bound to do well. With such a large menu, there's bound to be standout dishes as well as a few duds, so if I visited again I'd definitely avoid the thali and go for more small plates.