Post-war migration to Britain saw many arrivals from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, who in turn brought incredible cuisine with them. And since the 1970s, south Birmingham became the birthplace of the Balti, named after the bowl it is served in. Cue national obsession. Ever since, multicultural Brum has been serving sensational South Asian dishes singing with coriander, cardamom, cumin and cloves.

Clearly if you live anywhere near Birmingham and you care even slightly for curry, you are in the right place. Baltis, thalis, vegetarian, street food, fine dining – it’s all right here in our fair city. 

Opheem chef director Aktar Islam may be an award-winning TV star, but he’s also a friendly chap, always happy to say hello (we chatted briefly while dining at his next-door Italian, Legna). The interiors are stunning, complete with blossom tree by the bar and a mass of bare lightbulbs illuminating the chic grey colour scheme. All those years working at his dad’s restaurant have clearly paid off, because creative Opheem gives Indian food a 21st-century makeover to remember. Think morel and fennel korma, and pakora with Orkney scallops. Out-of-this-world good.

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Based on Fleet Street, at the southern edge of the JQ, Itihaas is a multi-award winning curry powerhouse. Once you’ve finished ogling the 18th-century Indian paintings, carved stone elephants and 300-year-old doors, taste your way through India, from the north down to Mumbai, by way of Kenya. And if you’re feeling especially decadent, hire out the historic Tiffin Room; it seats just 12 guests and comes complete with a bar, library and your very own butler.

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Craft beer and Indian street food have always been a triumphant combo, and the team behind Indian Brewery have done this classic pairing proud. With fifteen beers on tap, the original under-the-arches spot near Snow Hill (there’s also a branch in Solihull) remains a magnet for spice-loving foodies. Be sure to try the moreish pakora pops and fish and chips liberally sprinkled with their secret spice blend. Meanwhile, the generous mixed grill will make a hearty dinner for two or even three.

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Once described by Jamie Oliver as ‘wicked,’ Brum’s only Indian vegetarian restaurant has been serving great-value, outstanding Gujarati dishes since 1977. More than 40 years on, and they’re still going strong. Try, if you can, to pick from the vast menu, which offers dozens of vegan and veggie curries, as well as dhosas and more substantial thalis. Top picks include the malai kofta – balls of paneer with potatoes and cashews – and the dahi puri: crispy puris stuffed with potatoes, onions, chick peas and yoghurt served with tamarind juice.

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It’s always nice when a pop-up becomes permanent. From humble beginnings trading from a stall at Digbeth Dining Club to its city-centre digs on Bennetts Hill, the family-run Indian Streatery has come a long way, and grown its fanbase in the process. The menu is all about authentic Indian street food and cocktails named after the owners’ personalities. The grab & go lunch deals are especially great value, with most dishes £4.95 or £5.95, including the deconstructed samosa chaat and chicken curry hotpot.

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Part of the prestigious Lasan Group trio of restaurants, Hall Green’s Raja Monkey puts the emphasis firmly on authentic road-side fare. The menu boasts a tantalising selection of southern Indian delights, from street snacks and dosas to classic curries. It’s the thalis, though, that will have you at namaste. Comprising a collection of small meals on a platter, enjoy your chosen main accompanied by rice, dhal, bread and a veggie dish of the day. The decor may be nostalgic for a former life in a far-away continent, but modern classics rule the roost at this place. Thali-ho!

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Multi-award winner Al Frash is named after the Persian word for butterfly. Which is apt, because after one of their dishes, your taste buds will be all a-flutter. Based in the heart of the Balti triangle on Ladypool Road, it has all the easy-going, no-frills charm of a neighbourhood gem with the food quality of a top Indian kitchen. Get yourself down to Sparkbook, order a ridiculously fluffy naan, and use it to scoop up mouthful after mouthful of unforgettable curry.

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There’s something to be said for a restaurant that can remain – since 1987 – near the top of the Balti Triangle league table (if this doesn’t exist then it should). Y’see, Ladypool Road favourite, Shababs, is not only fun to say, its food is also consistently excellent, serving up beautiful Baltis uniquely cooked on a high flame. From the off, it’s gone down a storm and it still delights today. Interiors are on the pattern-heavy side, but what comes out of the kitchen is pure class.

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Claiming to be the first restaurant to serve Balti curries back in 1977, Adil’s is another Balti Triangle heavyweight, serving meals inspired by the cooking of northern Kashmir. Top picks include the ginormous table naan and the Balti sheesh dall – minced lamb balls and lentils. Save room for the grilled starters: the seikh kebab is a triumph. After a much-needed refurb back in 2018, the prices remain as reasonable as ever.

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Voted best curry in the Midlands and a favourite stop-off for the Indian cricket team when they’re in town, this upmarket restaurant and cocktail bar adds a touch of class to brassy Broad Street. Like other fine dining spots in the city, the Punjabi and north Indian venue has a plush feel to it, offering eclectic dishes made from the freshest ingredients. Highlights include the masala crab cakes flavoured with ginger, lime and chilli and the overnight-cooked dal makhani, complete with cream and butter. The diet can do one.

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Don’t let the name fool you, this popular Soho Road spot has nothing to do with Italy or sweets and everything to do with astonishingly good-value veggie treats. In fact, Milan translates from Hindi as the meeting of two people, so it’s a great reason to catch up with mates over lunch. Trading for more than 40 years, the Milan Sweet Centre’s menu covers most of India, from Gujarat and Rajasthan, to the Punjab and northern India, as well as Mumbai and southern India. Table space is limited but it’s worth the wait.

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The JQ’s Viceroy Tandoori is yet another example proving that Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine in the second city is exceedingly good. The interiors are cosy-contemporary, in neat contrast with its historic surroundings. This is the kind of place to order a few glasses of vino while tucking into the likes of king prawn rogan (think juicy Bangladeshi prawns in a stupidly delicious tomato-based sauce) and the colossal onion bhajees fortified with lentils, ground chickpeas and herbs.

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There are 2 reasons this place is still going strong after more than 35 years: superb service and sensational flavours. This much-loved Pershore Road restaurant offers brilliant Kashmiri food at reasonable prices. Our favourites include the mutton tikka shasklik and the lamb rogan josh served alongside the fluffiest, freshest naans you ever did see. One word of caution: they don’t hold back on the chilli, so even mild dishes are on the spicy side.

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Among the many shining culinary stars of Moseley, fun street food joint Zindiya is right up there with the best of them. Be sure to share some chilli paneer and samosa chaat. Meanwhile the trio of dosa (southern Indian savoury pancakes) with a choice of masala aloo, paneer, chicken or lamb makes a great-value and filling lunch for one. Other standouts are the chicken and salmon tikka served with a yoghurt dip. Cool your mouth down with a lassi, or try one of their excellent Indian-inspired cocktails.

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The slogan for this popular spot is ‘pals, pakoras and pints,’ which, frankly, is three of our favourite things. Punters enjoy an impressive international range of ales and lagers, as well as whiskey and gin. Meanwhile, H&C’s curry game is tip-top – bring a flock of peckish friends and you’re in for a great night. Locals and out-of-town visitors alike gush over the fantastic quality of the food, the buzzy yet relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff. Just what we like.

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Gone are the days when Indian restaurants were the default budget option, bottles clinking in a plastic bag by your side. Brum’s Indian fine dining scene is in fine fettle and Broad Street’s Varanasi is testament to that. Hardly surprising, really, considering the effort that’s clearly gone into the experimental and carefully curated menu. The venue is just as extraordinary: with space for more than 350 diners set over three sumptuous floors, Varanasi is the largest restaurant in Birmingham. You gotta see it to believe it.

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There’s a reason Umami has scores of five-star reviews and multiple awards. This charming restaurant’s superb hospitality and exquisite home-style cuisine have something to do with it. Offering high-quality Indian food at affordable prices, favourites include the lamb saagwala and butter chicken alongside the oregano-infused king prawns. All of which are there for the gobbling on the set menu for £30 per person.

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As if the JQ wasn’t dazzling enough, award-winning Rajdoot takes the humble curry house up a notch with its twinkling candle-lit interiors and gleaming brass tables. Many Brummies declare this to be their favourite Indian in the city – and after you’ve been, you’ll soon see why. Having served the likes of The Beatles and Princess Margaret, as well as Simon Cowell and Jamie Oliver, Rajdoot’s skilled chefs have been nailing the art of traditional north Indian dishes for more than 50 years. And by gum, the result is scrumptious.

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The title for best Indian food in Birmingham could quite easily be won by Sheldon’s Jilabi. With hundreds of glowing reviews, people travel from across the UK to enjoy the exceptionally warm service, as well as its mouth-watering food. The vibe is relaxed and welcoming – especially fun to rock up as a big group and tuck in. Jilabi was nominated for best Midlands restaurant at the prestigious curry awards in 2017, and while it may not have won that time, it’s always a winner for us.

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Published -7th October 2019