“ Address: 2065 Coventry Road / Sheldon / Birmingham / B26 3DY „
Going out for a group meal is something Vicky and I enjoy a great deal. There is something fundamentally social about the experience that other forms of recreation cannot match. However it is vitally important to us that the experience the restaurant gives be equal to the quality of food provided. Needless to say, Jilabi has remained a favoured spot for years.
Jilabi is an Indian restaurant on the Coventry Road in Birmingham, which on Sundays offers you the option of an all you can eat buffet or a fixed menu dinner. During the week you can only choose from the fixed menu, which is why we tend to stick to it as our Sunday afternoon retreat. I myself favour the buffet as I have always thoroughly enjoyed the experience and find it to be an excellent value service.
It is very easy to book a table for a small group as the management tend to be very friendly. To be honest this is no exclusive club and you can generally get a small table whether you have pre-booked or not. If you would like to take a bigger party though; 15-20 people, then it would be advisable to pre-book as the friendly staff will make the deluxe room upstairs available at no extra charge. I have yet to find this room unavailable for the dates I need, and find it a comfortable way to enjoy the experience with friends.
Unfortunately whether you book in advance or not you will find getting into the restaurant the hardest part of the experience. Jilabi is located on the Coventry Road but is a small restaurant that lacks a private car park. Finding somewhere to park will involve driving up the long road until you can find a space. Fortunately Vicky has always been able to squeeze into a spot quite close, but this is by no means guaranteed. Other times people have needed to park quite far up the road, and for a disabled person this can cause a lot of problems.
Fortunately once you have managed to park the car then the entire experience picks up nicely. The entrance to the restaurant includes an inviting sign letting you know where you will be eating. Once through the door you walk along a small corridor with glass walls looking into the restaurant. A friendly staff member will then greet you at the end and show you to a table. It is here that you discover Jilabi to be a decidedly quaint restaurant with a simple greeting atmosphere. A small food area is laid out next to the entrance, with tables running through the rest of the small building. Some of the tables can be a little close to each other, but if I'm honest I was never distracted by any of the other diners and could enjoy conversation freely. Besides which, we generally have a larger group and can enjoy the party room upstairs. This has a few larger tables spread out into a smaller room. I feel obliged to point out that in both instances there was enough room to walk around the pre-set isles, and never once did we feel that we were in any danger of tripping.
You will also notice that the overall cleanliness visible in the restaurant is top notch, and the service from the staff is second to none. Whenever we got the room upstairs the staff would bring up a selection of their main dishes so that the disabled customers could avoid walking up and down the stairs. The manager has provided us with a complimentary spirit on every visit (slightly watered down sometimes) as well as a few complimentary coffees, and some complimentary sweets after the meal. The last time we were there he brought up two bottles of complimentary Champaign (not watered down either) and some Christmas crackers that we gratefully declined. Needless to say we always feel that the entire team is looking after us wonderfully.
As far as food in concerned I have always found Jilabi to be fantastic. I am generally not a fan of Indian restaurants as I find the quality is never as good as a home cooked curry. Jilabi is different though. Their site proudly advertises that they offer a variety of curries from all areas of the Indian continent. It is not often that I eat from the set menu, but the curries I have tried have never been less than amazing. They combine a variety of meats and vegetables to produce a wealth of taste sensations, and I have never known anyone to walk away dissatisfied by the food.
What is most impressive is the quality of the food available on the Sunday buffet. To be honest the variety of food is a lot smaller than other buffet restaurants, however there is always enough to avoid boredom and the quality is amazing. Every week they seem to pick a selection of three or four curries from the fixed menu, and I have yet to find one I haven't liked. Alongside the curries are a selection of starters including some delicious Samosas, and some of the best Masala Fish I have tasted. Others options include a selection of warm Naan breads, Pakoras, Kebabs and other Indian specialties. Children are also accommodated with chips, chicken nuggets, and wealth of fresh salads and dressings. To be honest we have been many times, and I don't think the selection has been the same for any two visits, but it always remains fantastic. Particular props must be given for the fact that the food on the buffet is kept on hot plates with closable steel lids. A staff member will always be around to close the lids, and so the food remains piping hot. I think this is why it is my preferred buffet, as many specialty buffet restaurants still manage to serve up lukewarm food.
The desert option is also really fun. There's usually one large cake available, a fresh fruit salad, cream, and syrup. However you also get to pick up a few classic sweets including rainbow drops, flying saucers, and a selection of Indian sweets. It is all freshly made and a very tasty way to tie up your evening.
Thankfully for a restaurant with this high quality of food the price is incredibly reasonable. The price of appetisers starts out at a generous £1.50 and moves up to an equally generous £2.50. You can also get combination platters for a mere £3 and sharer starters for £10 between 4 people. The main curries start out cheap at around £5 to £6 for the basic Masalas, and stay below £8 when you order a fancy curry with Salmon or King Prawns. Rice or Naan options are just £2.50 each, and even the mixed grill comes in at just under a tenner. You could literally order a three course dinner for a mere £10 if you select your dishes wisely. However the best value remains the Sunday afternoon all you can eat buffet at just £7.99 a head. If you want any poppadoms with this then you'll have to buy them separately at just 50p each. Sometimes the management will be nice and give us a few inclusive to the buffet, but we generally don't like to ask.
Before I conclude I feel it is important to mention the toilet facilities. Jilabi has a very basic gent's toilet with one stall and one urinal. The ladies toilet is a similar size with two cubicles. Both are very clean and always well maintained. The downside is that they are located upstairs next to the party room. It is not such a bad thing for me, but for Vicky and her sister getting upstairs can cause problems. Thankfully the stairs are very wide and easily navigated by both, but anyone bound to a wheelchair will need to make alternative toilet arrangements. Waiting outside the toilet is a little awkward whenever the party room is in use, but this is a rare occurrence and hardly worth mentioning.
There's not much else to say about this restaurant except "Give it a chance yourself." The warm neutral colours of the décor provide a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy a meal in. The service is amazing, and the food both delicious and cheap in equal measures. Even the drinks are surprisingly reasonable considering they should be hiking the bill up. Who really cares if the parking is difficult when the restaurant itself offers this much quality? Trust me; you will be glad you tried the place if you just give Jilabi a chance.
2065 Coventry Road
0121 722 3205