Bread is a very good thing and any restaurant that serves quality stuff should be applauded.
There’s a problem, though, when the bread is the best thing you eat, which was the case with the flatbread at Byzantium, a place I desperately wanted to like more.
There wasn’t anything particularly wrong – it simply seemed a little dull.
Byzantium is a tapas restaurant that offers dishes from across the Mediterranean.
Thus classics from Spain rub shoulders with those from Greece, Italy and North Africa.
But there are no serous clashes: all is harmony.
The flatbread with which we and my two companions began was fabulous stuff – thin sheets with just enough bounce to retain their lightness and a good background hint of smoke.
But I found the three dips alongside – an aubergine dip called zaalouk, the chickpea standard hummus and the yoghurt, cucumber, dill and mint combo tzatziki – a little underpowered and in need of more seasoning.
A pan-fried sea bream served wrapped in Parma ham was well-cooked and flavoursome
But I was disappointed by slow-cooked pork belly flavoured with garlic, ginger, thyme and fennel and, to my taste buds, ruined by a balsamic glaze with far too much tang.
And a broad bean, artichoke and mint salad benefited little from a slice of grilled goats’ cheese plonked on top.
A Moroccan lamb tagine was good, a sweet and savoury combination of succulent meat, almonds, prunes and honey.
A shared dessert of orange cake was appreciated.
There’s a wide range of cocktails, spirits, beers and wines, including sherries, a hugely underrrated drink. The Pedro Ximenez I drank with dessert was a beautiful rich and sweet mouthful.
Prices are reasonable.
The decor and service
It’s a small and narrow space with lots of Byzantium imagery on the walls.
Chairs could be more comfortable and certainly the temperature should have been higher on the chilly and damp night I visited.
But the place has charm and service was friendly and efficient.
Need to know
Expect to pay around £30 a head for tapas and drinks.
It’s possible to eat more cheaply.
Vegetarian dishes are available.
Parking can be a challenge in the street.
11 York Road, Kings Heath, Birmingham B14 7SA. 0121 444 5444.