It would be all too easy to miss Red Oven, situated as it is above a branch of Superdrug on Bearwood High Street. Ignore this slightly unusual set-up though and you’ll find a surprisingly light and airy restaurant with a simple elegance and relaxed atmosphere. On top of the 90 or so covers in the main dining area there’s also a function area on the floor above that seats around 25 if you fancy a private party and access to all floors is a doddle thanks to a lift.
The cuisine’s a loving homage to all things Punjabi and the owners have secured the services of a chef with over 20 years’ experience to do it justice. The menu’s reasonably extensive too, with plenty of choice for vegetarians. To test this out we ordered Shakahari Shashlik for one of our starters which cleverly uses chunks of soya marinated in yogurt and spices then cooked in the tandoor to replicate the texture and taste of chicken. It’s a pretty impressive substitute and there are rumours of disgruntled veggies claiming they’d been fed meat in the past! We plumped for the real thing for our other starter though courtesy of the Mixed Platter, a delicious seekh kebab with a decent texture and smoky heat, a couple of portions of garlic chicken and, star of the dish, moist chicken tikka cooked on the bone for extra succulence. A veritable bargain at £3.95.
For mains we plumped for Lamb Tikka Punjabi Masala and Chicken Tawa Masala. Both dishes zinged with freshness and it was nice to be able to taste the individual ingredients in different mouthfuls, a refreshing hit and crunch of ginger here and a spicy blast of chilli there. Discussing this style of cuisine with the owner after our meal he explained that the emphasis was on fresh ingredients and well balanced spices rather than the use of ghee and creams that give many other restaurants’ dishes their flavour. This lighter touch extended to the Garlic Naan too, a flatter, crisper cousin of the ‘sink to your boots’ version that you may be used to. As a result the meal, whilst perfectly filling, sat more comfortably on the stomach.
There are plans to tweak the menu in the next few weeks to introduce some Indian Chinese fusion cooking and we were able to try a sneaky sample of one of the dishes, Paneer Chilli, which blends all of the sweetness and crunch of a stir fry with the spice and heat of a curry. Delicious and, no doubt, a pretty healthy option as well. To cool our taste buds down a couple of delicious scoops of well flavoured Kulfi (mango and pistachio) did the trick.
Service was very friendly and professional throughout, nice to have Cobra beer on draft too. To encourage you to give the place a try (and we heartily recommend that you do!) they have a variety of tempting offers in place right now including a £9.95 deal which gets you a starter, main course, rice and naan (Monday – Wednesday, they do ask that you book first). We can’t imagine you’d be able to buy and cook all that much cheaper at home...plus you don’t have to do the washing up which has to be a result. All in all a hidden gem of a restaurant.
Red Oven, 607 Bearwood Road, Bearwood, B66 4BJ
Tel: 0121 429 2884