On my way to a convivial lunch, I walked through Grand Central, that shopping area that seems to have got Birmingham’s collective knickers in such a twist that I fear for the wellbeing of its strangulated nether regions.
As I forlornly observed a space that resembles the duty-free area in a provincial Eastern European airport circa 1999, I grew puzzled at the celebration of mass brands at the expense of small, independent places.
Not least in the area of food and drink, where high street names dominate with their largely mediocre and overpriced fare.
A word of advice to the hungry: forget Brum’s main shopping ghettos and take a stroll to nearby China Town for brilliant value, filling food and authentic flavours.
Places such as the excellent Ken Ho next to the Hippodrome, which, on Monday lunchtime I ate there was a friend, was packed with Chinese punters.
Large windows overlooking Hurst Street ensure that the atmosphere is light and airy – qualities emphasised by mirrors on one wall. The decor is rather plain, but contemporary and smart. Table settings are simple.
A touch slow, but that wasn’t an issue on an afternoon I was happy to sit chatting and scoffing. The staff were friendly and polite.
We ate and drank
Dim sum – those small, almost tapas-like dishes which are painstakingly difficult to craft – make a wonderfully filling and and satisfying lunch.
For once in a Chinese restaurant, I didn’t over-order and we shared three types.
First out was a turnip cake with salted meat: an unprepossessing description of something that packed a savoury punch. Imagine a kind of Oriental bubble and squeak and you’ll get the idea. A few more slivers of salted meat (pork, I believe) would have improved the dish, though.
Shanghai dumplings were delicate little morsels – their hearty, dense porcine fillings encased in a light acting.
There was a similar lightness of touch in the rice flour blanket that was wrapped around a filling of minced beef with a real umami whack.
That some of the dim sum remained uneaten as we finished our pot of Chinese tea was a result of the generosity of the portions rather than the quality of the food.
This was a hugely enjoyable lunch. And great value.
You need to know
- We paid less than £12 for dim sum and tea.
Ken Ho offers a wide range of dishes other than dim sum.
It is licensed.
The restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.
41-43 Hurst St Birmingham B5 4BJ
0121 622 1323