Heading up the M40 to Birmingham is always about seeing my lovely daughter, but the gourmet in me also loves the proliferation of wonderful little independent restaurants and cafes near where she lives. The very first one we tried out was Blue Ginger, a small restaurant in Kings Heath specialising in Singaporean and Malaysian cuisine. This was a couple of years ago when she was moving into her new flat and we’d gone up from London in a hired transit van full of her things. That evening, tired and dressed in ‘moving gear’, we decided to stop for something to eat on the way back to London and she suggested Blue Ginger – just a few hundred metres away from where she lives. She’d been there before and recommended the Mango Fish Sambal: white fish coated in tempura-style batter served with sambal chilli sauce, shallots and fresh mango. It looked like a kind of Malaysian version of fish and chips (rice instead of chips!) – just right for our mood and tiredness – but however one might describe it, it was one of the most delicious pieces of battered fish I’d ever encountered and I’ve been wanting to go back. Did our tiredness and hunger make it seem better than it really was, or was Blue Ginger as one of your local, easy-to-walk-to restaurants something to envy? It’s taken a while to return as there as so many other places to try, and Blue Ginger is closed on Sundays, which is when I often visit, but last night we made it … and definitely, it’s something to envy!
It’s very small inside, slightly cramped, but we had a nice table in the corner with pretty batik runs on the table and a decor that instantly let you know you’re going south-east Asian for food. Service was friendly and attentive and soon we had a jug of water and bottle of good Merlot – for the price of just (the Londoner speaking here!) £9.95 – in front of us. We decided to share two starters and went for Chicken Satay with spicy peanut sauce and – on Nicola’s recommendation – Carrot Cake. Carrot cake!? I asked. Yes, she always has it, she said, and it’s not sweet. It’s not like teatime carrot cake but a savoury starter combining carrots, rice flour and spices, served with some scrambled egg in the middle soaking up the delicious juices. It was brilliant. The chicken satay was also very good; tender and flavoursome and the peanut sauce just right.
The choice of main course was difficult. I fancied most of the things on the menu! I was tempted to the battered fish again, as it has been so wonderful and completely different to anything I’d had before, but decided on something new. Eventually I ordered Beef Rendang and Nicola had Fish Curry. We also ordered a side dish of Choi Sum – very like pak choi.
The Beef Rendang, a dry spicy Malaysian curry cooked with coconut was very good; a ‘dry curry’ but not dry with its wonderful, rich spicy sauce and tender bits of beef. The Fish Curry was cooked with tomatoes, okra and aubergine. It looked amazing and when I had a taste, it was as good as it looked. The whole meal, with wine, came to just over £20 a head, so, for the Londoner visiting Brum, excellent value … and I certainly won’t be leaving it so long to make another return visit!