Looking for somewhere different for lunch in Birmingham? Rola Wala have a twist on Indian street food that is both delicious and nutritious.
New offerings turn up at the Food Hall at Selfridges in Birmingham every so often, but the opening of Rola Wala definitely got me excited. So I was very happy to accept their invitation to pop along one Thursday night to try out the menu.
The Selfridges restaurant is the fourth Rola Wala location to open, following on from venues in Leeds, Oxford and Spitalfields in London. Rola Wala’s tagline is ‘Twisted Indian Street Food’, and Indian street food is very popular in Birmingham city centre right now.
But this isn’t a restaurant to linger in, sharing a feast with your friends – this is an Indian twist on fast food. And I love the idea of being able to grab a quick fix of Indian food while I’m shopping in Birmingham.
One Feeds Two
Rola Wala are also a partner in the One Feeds Two movement. This was established in 2015 to bring together food companies, charities and consumers to help feed school children in some of the world’s poorest countries. So every time you buy a meal in Rola Wala, they donate money to help fund school meals. One Feeds Two have provided over 2.6 million meals so far – click here to read more.
Exploring the Menu
Rola Wala Birmingham has a small menu, but the options can be combined in a number of ways, so you’re not short of choice.
First of all you have to decide to opt for a soft sourdough Naan roll or a Spice bowl. The Spice bowls are based on a red rice imported from Sri Lanka, which is apparently even higher in nutrients than brown rice.
Next, you need to choose from three vegetarian and three non-vegetarian toppings, and an optional range of sides. You can pay extra to double up on the toppings if you want to mix and match or just want more of your favourite.
And finally you get to pick from five different chutneys, ranging from mildly spicy to blow-your-socks-off hot. This allows you to set your own level of heat for your meal.
There is just one option on the children’s menu (grilled chicken and fries), and two of the vegetarian toppings are suitable for a vegan diet. I didn’t see any gluten-free options on the menu at this Rola Wala. However the London restaurant does offer cauliflower rice as an alternative to the red rice in a Spice Bowl.
There is a small selection of beers, wines and soft drinks available. I was driving, so I stuck to the alcohol-free and was intrigued to see a couple of different options as well as the more standard offerings. Unfortunately the Mango and Turmeric soda was unavailable on the day I visited, but the Karma Cola I chose was delicious, with a lighter taste than your regular cola.
Rola Wala Birmingham: The Food
Rola Wala doesn’t have full table service, so you place your order at the counter and wait for it to be brought over to your table. I didn’t have to wait very long for my tray to be brought over to me.
Although I really fancied the idea of the naan roll, I was wearing my blogger hat on this occasion and decided that the Spice Bowl would look better in photographs. And as it happens, I think I made an excellent choice, because it was really delicious.
I chose the Bengali Beef, tender beef brisket which tastes as if it has been slow cooked for hours. It’s slightly spicy and very flavoursome, with fennel, cumin and mustard. The other options for meat-eaters are charred Chicken Tikka and slow-cooked Nagaland Lamb.
I also decided to double up my Spice Bowl with the addition of Chargrilled Paneer, which was very tasty. I definitely think that it would carry the Spice Bowl on its own. If you’re looking for a meat-free meal, the other two options are Sweet Potato Saagwala and Keralan Chickpeas. Both of those options are packed full of nutrients, and suitable for vegan diners.
I’d picked the middle chutney from the range of five, which is Mint, Lime and Pineapple. It was zingy with a healthy dose of spice, and really lifted the overall flavour of the bowl.
A mound of fresh salad and crispy samosa pastry complete the Spice Bowl, which is a very satisfying meal indeed. I was quite surprised to hear that a standard Spice Bowl with one topping and chutney will come in at 500 calories or lower!
For my first side, I decided to go with the soft sourdough naan bread, which is lightly toasted and smeared with bombay chutney. This tasted really good, but I think I’d have liked the bread to be slightly more toasted. It felt a little too soft, but I could see that it would be great as a wrap.
My second choice was the Avo Chaat Salad, which was probably my favourite thing that I ate all night. It’s a salad of avocado, mango and pomegranate, with tamarind cutting through the sweetness. Crispy samosa pastry adds a little extra crunch. This salad was incredibly moreish, and I think I could have happily eaten this as my main course!
Other Options are Available
I was eating with Erica from 92three30, and she had opted for the same Spice Bowl as me, but without the additional Paneer. She’d also plumped for the Avo Chaat, but was trying out the String Fries as well.
I thought that the fries themselves were a little underwhelming – they’re just chips, there’s nothing that makes them stand out. The spice and bombay chutney topping helped to make them a little more interesting, but I do think they could have been better.
To round out our selection, we were given some extras to try. A portion of the Kashmiri Cauliflower Popcorn was brought over, together with some String Fries and the full range of chutneys. The chutneys from left to right are
- Pear and Tamarind: This was mild with just a hint of warmth on the aftertaste
- Mango, Lime and Ginger: A delicious, sweet chutney with a little spice as well
- Mint, Lime and Pineapple: This was definitely my favourite, very refreshing with a nice level of spice
- Tomato and Naga Chilli: If you like a spicy meal, then this is a great choice. I nearly went for this one
- The Scorpion: This one is not for beginners or the timid. The flavour starts off with a moderate amount of heat, which builds into steam-out-of the ears heat before long
I wasn’t overwhelmed by the Kashmiri Cauliflower Popcorn, to be honest. The menu describes it as “baked cauli florets in turmeric, fenugreek, chilli”. But I found the texture and flavour quite uninspiring, and I was glad that I hadn’t picked this over the delicious Avo Chaat.
Save room for pudding!
I only saw one option for pudding at Rola Wala, which was this gorgeous Spice Cream sandwich. Salted caramel, cheese cake icecream and chai spices are sandwiched between two slices of chocolate brownie. It looks pretty amazing, but after my Spice Bowl and sides, I was just too full. Next time!
Rola Wala: The Verdict
I was impressed by my visit to Rola Wala. The restaurant has a slightly industrial look and feel which I really like, the service was friendly and my food arrived quickly.
The menu is inspired by street food flavours from Bombay, Kolkata and Kerala. Now, I can’t judge how authentic this is as I have never visited India. But what I can say is that my meal was full of flavour, with some great options for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike.
With the additional sides and second topping, I struggled to finish everything on my tray. And I certainly couldn’t have managed a pudding, even though it did look good. I might have tried to squeeze in a second portion of that amazing Avo Chaat though!
That’s not to say that it’s perfect. I definitely think that the String Fries and Cauliflower Popcorn were underwhelming, even a little disappointing.
But for less than £8, a Spice Bowl from Rola Wala makes a quick, delicious and filling meal. It would make a great change from a burger or sandwich for a quick pit-stop during a long day of shopping. I certainly think that I’ll be calling back with Mark for a visit in the future.
* I visited the Birmingham Selfridges restaurant as a guest of Rola Wala, but all opinions remain my own.
Are you a fan of Indian Street Food? Have you visited a Rola Wala restaurant? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below