A cramped space. Plastic cutlery. Food served on polystyrene trays or paper plates.
But probably some of the tastiest and best value food in Birmingham.
The awkwardly-named 40 23 Mediterranean Food, tucked away in a side street near New Street Station, is an absolute gem.
The small space is dominated by an L-shaped counter behind which two charming guys frantically take orders, prepare the food and serve.
There are tables near the window and walls and stools around the counter.
The food and drink
The menu is Greek, but not the sort that you’d find in a restaurant whose main business relies on tipsy women pretending to have fun at noisy hen parties.
There are pastries, kebabs, wraps, stews and desserts of such sweetness that I’m surprised dental health specialists don’t mount a protest outside the joint.
The food is unfussy, but well-crafted and bursting with flavour.
On an evening when my wife and I were heading home after an early event in the city centre, we over-ordered ridiculously and wobbled back to our car with leftover stuff in take-away boxes.
Two beautifully flakey filo pastry parcels began the meal – one stuffed with spinach, the other with a well-balanced combo of feta and olive paste.
The souvlaki that came next combined tender chunks of pork with fresh, crunchy salad, good quality pitta bread, slices of fried spud and the yoghurt, mint and cucumber dip tzatziki.
Lynn’s moussaka – also served with salad and flatbread – was equally well-received and looked like a proper rustic version of a classic dish.
We shared a salad of roasted peppers and onions sprinkled with dried oregano.
Then, despite being replete, ordered pastries to take home.
And it was worth the indulgence for I have never eaten such a glorious kataifi – that’s the one that looks like a small Shredded Wheat but is stuffed with nuts and drenched in syrup.
The place is unlicensed, so we drank water. Which I suppose saved us piling on even more calories.
Need to know
We spent £27 for two, but massively over-ordered.
40 23 does take-aways.
It’s closed on Mondays but open most days from midday until 10pm.
Tables bookings aren’t accepted.
Payment by card is.
40 23 Mediterranean Food
34 Stephenson St, Birmingham B2 4BH. 0121 643 5297.