Students seem to have changed a lot since they survived on a diet of cheap lager and the penicillin they were prescribed after ill-advised amorous encounters.
Take the history post-grad who told me that she saved hard from her meagre income and looked out for special deals at one of Leeds’ best restaurants so she could spoil herself to a meal there.
Or the University of Birmingham students who were crowded into Cafe 55 on a mid-week evening eating freshly-cooked hearty Oriental food based on great ingredients and prepared with great skill and care.
These kids know a thing or two about eating well.
This place was a discovery for me and – cards on table – only came on to my radar because I’ve been doing consultancy work with the excellent Wing Wah, part of the group that owns Cafe 55.
However, providing coverage for Cafe 55 isn’t part of my contract and I visited anonymously as a paying customer with no intention of posting a review.
But, sod me, I was so impressed that I’m determined to spread the word unpaid and unasked.
Let’s describe Cafe 55 to put it into context.
It’s a large space with wooden tables, metal seats, bare concrete walls and a semi-industrial feel.
You order from the counter, but food and drinks are brought to your table.
The menu is pan-Asian, with dishes from various parts of China, Korea, Japan and elsewhere.
There are sweets, bubble teas and other soft drinks, wine and beer.
It’s a gaff that’s understandably popular with students because of its location, but is equally suitable for a casual meal with friends, colleagues or family.
I visited with my wife and younger son and we ate well and heartily for just over £50, with two beers and a glass of wine.
Shared starters of yuk sung and spare ribs were a treat – with the fat, juicy ribs richly coated in a sticky sauce a particular joy.
But the main course that I ate was a absolutely triumph.
Dolsot Bibimbap is not a minor character from Lord of the Rings, but a Korean classic.
Rice, a wide variety of vegetables and herbs and a scattering of shredded meat come in an earthenware bowl heated to temperature high enough to melt Katie Price’s boobs.
On top lies a raw egg yolk which cooks because of the heat of the food and bowl.
Alongside this iteration lay a pot of punchy kimchi and another of a rich dark red sauce with chilli heat and tomato sweetness.
This was a dish full of contrasting flavours and textures that was deeply satisfying.
Oh the utter joy of digging through the mountain of nosh to reach the bottom layer of rice turned crusty and deeply savoury through contact with the searing heat of the bowl.
Opposite, my son enthused over a bowl of strips of beef in a spicy chilli oil sauce and Lynn spoke highly of her chicken and rice combo.
This is food that’s straightforward and which delivers simple pleasures, but is well-crafted and precise.
And it’s a destination to which I’m sure to return.
Lucky students to have it on their doorstep.
Need to know
You can eat a main course for around £10.
There are lots of smaller plates, too.
Vegan and vegetarian dishes are served.
Take-away and deliveries are available.
539 – 541 Bristol Road, Selly Oak, Birmingham B29 6AU. 0121 471 4464