Qavali Review by Ning-ning Li

It feels quite mystical when first entering Qavali. Immersed in an interior of dark greens and golds, the room I realise, is accompanied by a distant deep house beat, the kind that makes you excited for what’s to come. Like in films, music is more important than we realise when it comes to painting pictures and feelings. Qavali succeeds in this detail, keeping the atmosphere modern and classy throughout.

Situated handsomely on a newly renovated Broad Street, I watched Qavali slowly be born into existence, passing it often on my errands. With its ethereal decor covering the windows – what would it be? I wondered. Admittedly, I never researched; I love the element of surprise! It had an air of mystery from the beginning.

And that mystery grows into appreciation. After being seated by welcoming staff and taken through the Indo-Persian menu, you can sit back and admire the restaurant itself and the rich history it’s embracing. An outside-inside theme is carried through with ceilings layered in vines collaborating with the greens, golds and spacious booths making the experience feel like one of regality.

Regality doesn’t stop there, with the menu offering a wide selection of the same quality dishes. We went for The Mixed Platter to start, which had a lovely selection of different textures and flavours – my favourite bowl was the garlic; boy, were they magical! Smoky, velvety and moreish, without leaving an overpowering flavour in your mouth. These were complimented with tangy marinated olives, beetroot hummus, Mast-O-Musir (Persian yoghurt and shallot dip), Mirza Ghasemi (smokey aubergine, tomatoes, garlic), Sikandari Falafel, Shirazi salad (cucumber, tomato, onion) and butter naan.

..we kept the leftovers from our starters, no bowl was to be left unturned. We wanted to polish it all off!

I chose a Turkish white wine to have alongside, the crispness matched the full-flavoured food well.

For mains, I went for the Saffron Jujeh Kebab which translates to ‘grilled chick’ in Persian. This was marinated in yoghurt, lime, cream and cheese, seasoned with saffron, cardamom and burnt butter. I’ve always liked being able to taste the rich smoke from the grills on food, I find it adds an authentic depth and usually brings out the flavour. The chicken had a kick to it and tasted beautifully smoky. I ordered saffron rice as a side and we kept the leftovers from our starters, no bowl was to be left unturned. We wanted to polish it all off!

My companion chose the Persian Lamb Shank, advertised as “meltingly tender lamb shank braised in a perfectly seasoned spiced broth, finished with pomegranate seeds and crumbled pistachio.” I tried this also, and can confirm the lamb was “meltingly tender” and aromatic. We both mentioned that both naan and rice would accompany this dish equally as well, plenty of spicy sauce to mop up.

Finally, dessert. We were curious to try, having had such an awesome meal. I wanted something refreshing to round it off, so Qavali’s own artisan ice cream was a perfect choice! You can have a choice of two flavours: mine was a scoop of figs and cinnamon and one of Jalebi. Jalebi is a historic dish dating back to the early 10th century in Persia and was brought to Southern Asia by Persian Traders and artisans, their menu informs. It is a popular sweet fritter deep fried and soaked in saffron and rose syrup. This ice cream is truly delicious! It really made us smile.

Nick mentioned at the weekends they host a live violinist – Magdalena Olszewska – to perform to guests around the restaurant, adding another layer of enjoyment to your visit. As a fellow violinist, it was great to hear they have included this style of entertainment, it’s important now more than ever that music and instruments are integrated and involved into experiences where people may not usually access live instruments. Qavali lends itself elegantly for all kinds of possibilities with a well-spaced room and thought-out design.

The staff were attentive the whole evening, very friendly and welcoming. Something I really enjoyed about Qavali was the care over the quality of food and service; you can sense the celebration of the culture throughout, which as a customer is gratifying.

We had a brilliant time there, I’m happy to finally have tried this new wonder in the centre of Brum. I will definitely be returning with friends!

Words by Ning-ning Li @ningningli for Grapevine. *photos © by Ning-ning Li & Nick Byng.