I’ve walked past Jojolapa in the Jewellery Quarter a few times and paused to read the menu, wondering if it was worth a try – I know a few mates have eaten there and enjoyed it thoroughly.
With that said, a recent opportunity to review Jojolapa’s cuisine at the stylish Jojolounge bar and restaurant on Newhall Street was greeted with a little bit of excitement.
Jojolounge is one of Birmingham’s newest bars and restaurants that seems to have gone under the radar a bit, with the distraction of lockdowns and the ridiculous wealth of new places opening in the last year or so, it really does deserve a closer look.
From the outside, the building is brilliant white and impressive, with Grecian pillars beckoning in passers-by. Inside, you are greeted with a super cool New York style bar – industrial, functional and stylish with a hint of America in the 1940’s & 50’s.
First of all, I can compliment both the members of staff who were professional and attentive on our arrival, allowing us to sit at the bar and enjoy a very welcome, well poured pint of Guinness. We just missed their happy hour but the prices are brilliant when you consider we paid over £6 for a Guinness in the Old Joint Stock an hour before hand – If I lived locally I’d be in here for the Guinness alone.
..mince lamb blended with spices from Nepal Himalayan Valley, slowly cooked in a clay oven and then lightly fried in a dollop of custom curry sauce..
We made our way to the table, noting the perfectly dimmed lighting, and attention to detail of the decor around us. It was quiet as we were early but the restaurant began to slowly fill as the evening progressed.
So far so good..
As stated, the new menu, is provided by Jojolapa chefs who are expert in Nepalese cuisine. We were recommended the grilled meat feast to begin, which was served on a large sharer plate. This was a sight for sore eyes, and stand outs for me, were the Himalayan Kebab – mince lamb blended with spices from Nepal Himalayan Valley, slowly cooked in a clay oven and then lightly fried in a dollop of custom curry sauce which was so delicious and spicy. Then the Kashi Chops – Tender lamb chops marinated overnight in a special garlic and yoghurt blend sauce, then slow cooked in a clay oven and finished off with a drizzle of lemon dressing and coriander garnishing, were gnawed to the last morsel, not to mention the jumbo sized prawns which were mouth wateringly good! It was explained the meat is bought in day by day which made sense.
With a slight pause, to catch up on ‘man chat’ with my pal Ben, we moved onto mains.
Ben opted for the Kathmandu Biriyani, which is home made in a clay pot sealed with the dough of a nan bread and then baked in the oven accompanied with a small side of curry sauce and Raita. His verdict was “I’ll be back here to bring Róisín” and “everything is presented so beautifully”.
My choice was the Ra Ra Chicken – Nepalese version of the classic Indian ‘Jalfrezi’. Boneless chicken thigh pieces, cooked to perfection with chunky onions, peppers and then simmered in a thick Nepalese bhuna sauce. Jalfrezi is one of my favourite curries and so was curious to see the Jojolapa Nepalese take on it. The sauce was so tangy and fresh, the chicken thigh hearty and moreish, the portion looked smaller than it actually was, served in the small traditional metal pots, but I struggled to finish after the meat feast which was frustrating, because the taste was immensely satisfying.. it was accompanied by rice which Ben shared, and a chili, cheese & garlic naan which the chef cooked upon my request – always a good sign that a menu is cooked to order and not all pre-made. The naan was a superb addition to the Ra Ra and it is, without doubt one of the best Jalfrezis I have tried.
We both felt the overall experience from start to finish was 10/10 and I do not often say that. The stylish design and atmosphere of the venue, the friendly helpful staff, the affordable well presented drinks (they also do a wicked wine and cocktail menu) and the sheer unadulterated mouth watering taste of the Jojolapa menu.. that score is well deserved and I wholeheartedly encourage others reading this to try it out for yourself, not just when passing, but as a destination in itself.
Words by Nick Byng for Grapevine Birmingham