Byzantium was colonised by Greek colonists from Megara in 657 BC. Not that anyone in Kings Heath was present, or can remember this. Partly because of heavy nights and days in the nearby Hare and Hounds and partly because well, the residents of Kings Heath have been silenced by their fear of more charity shops and the shock that a new ‘Subway’ sandwich shop has opened on the High Street.
But then if the Greeks were around today then I’m sure they’d be impressed by the quaint and intimate hideaway named after their great empire that sits cosily on York Road (almost opposite The Hare and Hounds and next to Fletchers Bar.)
For me Byzantium is the kind of tapas restaurant a Vegetarian could frequent often and still not get fed up of the same dishes. In fact there are numerous choices and daily specials that makes one scratch your head and shout out ‘if only I had one choice, life would be simpler.’ Yet, I have my favourite dishes, well why not, life’s too short!
Byzantium takes its inspiration from across the Mediterranean to create a tapas menu that’s reflective of the whole area. So you have, Spanish, Italian, Greek, French influences in the dishes which keeps the menu varied. Inside you’ll find religious art on the walls, church like seating, and ornate lamps which help to create a lovely exotic atmosphere.
I’ve been going with Ruth to Byzantium fairly regularly over the last few years. It’s our go to place. We had a lovely Valentines night meal there earlier in the year. For its elegance, romantic lighting and soothing gothic shadows lend itself perfectly to the occasion. In fact my very first restaurant review for Veggie Foodie was Byzantium back in April 2014.
This occasion too was a celebration for it was Ruth’s Birthday and her Mum was with us to celebrate. In fact Ruth’s Mum loves the restaurant.
I began with an aperitif. The Negroni. The classic Italian cocktail.
The Negroni was a well made aperitif, one part gin, one part Vermouth, one part Campari. Italy in a drink. Delicious.
We also shared an excellent bottle of Prosecco with our food. Well we were celebrating.
The vegetarian dishes we chose to share were:
Zaalouk: pan fried Aubergine dip with cumin, Tomatoes, and Corriander.
Olives: a selection of marinated green and black olives.
These were all eaten as a shared starter.
The flatbread was a beautiful unleavened bread, very large, served with a jalapeños chilli on top. Ideal for sharing it was a joyous thing, and probably due to its flavour and size the best plain flatbread in Birmingham. Taken with the punchy tomato and aubergine based Zaalouk its a perfect sharing starter. The pan fried aubergines perfect in a dip and the ideal accompaniment to the flattened doughy bread. A beautiful zingy flavour with a touch of cumin.
To follow Ruth and her Mum ordered a couple of meat tapas to share and I ordered the Halloumi Souviaki for myself and four veggie tapas to share between the three of us.
The dishes we shared were:
Croquetas: Cheese and spinach croquetas served with alioi and red onion jam.
Patatas Alioli: Crisp potatoes served with Garlic Mayonnaise.
Tortilla Con Queso: Spanish omelette with potato, spinach, cheese, caramelised onions.
Championes Rellenos: mushrooms stuffed with tomatoes, roasted red peppers and cheese.
Halloumi Souviaki: skewers of Halloumi cheese, Mediterranean vegetables, served with Tzatiki (creamy yogurt, cucumber and garlic).
A classic Spanish Tortilla, an indulgent blend of potatoes, spinach and cheese, topped off with the golden tinged caramelised onions to make s very satisfying tapas dish. One of the best. A Perfectly made tortilla.
A tasty tomato based stuffed mushroom dish which had a delicious lingering flavour and complimented the tortilla well especially. The cheese didn’t overwhelm the rich tomato sauce. I liked the bulky mushrooms as a contrast to the Patatas Alioli too.
Nice Croquetas with a good creamy filling. Served with the red onion marmalade gave it another dimension in flavour that elevated it. A recommended dish.
The star dish on the night. Who doesn’t like skewers of Halloumi? Served with Mediterranean vegetables, the peppers in particular offer a juicy accompany ment as does the side salad and the garlicky Tzatiki. Halloumi heaven on a plate.
crisp potatoes served with a garlic mayo. A classic tapas dish though not as fine as the Patatas Bravas which is also on the menu. Any potato dish whether Alioli or Bravas is essential for Vegetarians at Byzantium.
The most disappointing dish of the night. Both Ruth and I chose the Tiramisu. I’m in love with tiramisu and it’s often my first choice when in any menu. Yet in the UK it can be underwhelming, as this unfortunately was. The cream was over whipped and it didn’t ‘pick me up’ at all. Quite the opposite in fact. A disappointing pud. I can’t find anything positive to say about it at all.
Poached Pears soaked in Red wine.
So to counterbalance the bad, meet the good. The Poached Pears, Just lovely, decadent, the pear fragrant against the deep full bodied reduced wine, a beautiful strikingly simple desert that I’ve eaten before and found an old photo of.
Along with the Creme Catalan the best pudding on the desert menu.
Byzantium is a lovely tapas restaurant and one that Kings Heath is rightly proud. Our food on the night was delicious. The dishes were all well made, with the menu demonstrating a varied and sensitivity to vegetarians and meat eaters are well served too. In fact for veggies there’s enough choice for tears of joy and to return with Christmas bells on next week, and have a completely different menu.
The service was good, attentive, friendly and efficient. In fact everything that a neighbourhood restaurant should be. It has a strong drinks menu, with sherry’s, cocktails and a mixed selection of European wine, plus spirits, vin Santo (which we enjoyed) and a good strong espresso. If only their Tiramisu was up to scratch things would be perfect, but for now it will do, maybe the Greeks didn’t get to Venice or Verona, but thankfully South Birmingham and who can complain at that?
We paid for our food in full apart from the complimentary bottle of prosecco, kindly given as it was Ruth’s birthday. My opinions are honest and no review was expected or required.
She had a good night.
Byzantium, 11 York Road, Kings Heath, Birmingham, B14 7SA.
Thanks for reading.
Byzantium have also recently opened an up stairs function room for parties and large groups to dine and party.
For details and party menu see their website and my post here: