Tinseltown, Star City Birmingham – A Proper Review
Anyone who knows me personally knows I take my food seriously. I’m not into expensive cuisine but I like a proper meal and one that’s worth its money. On occasion, a nice relatively expensive dinner with friends, at about £30+ per head (OK I haven’t done Michelin Stars yet), isn’t too bad – especially when the food is amazing and the company with friends is even better. I like my local chippy just as much; ideal for when you want a quick bite to eat – the freshly made chips and the donner kebab sizzling away in the polystyrene container… perfection, my mouth is salivating at the thought (even though some would gasp at the thought!).
More recently however, those of us in Birmingham, have experienced a boom in the halal restaurant game. A few years back, Nandos (controversially) announced it is to do halal chicken, and KFC followed soon after. Add to this the myriad indian restaurants, steak houses and other food joints dotted around the city, you soon begin to realise that us Brummies spend quite a lot of our hard-earned cash on food.
And so we should. My mum always said if you ever spend your money on something, spend it on good food. Her attitude to food, as well as the fact that my Dad was a restaurateur for many many years, meant that I was always surrounded by the talk of what good food and more importantly, good service, should be. Till this day, my Dad still comments on shoddy service at restaurants (cutlery with fingerprints is a sin!) whenever we go out to eat and my Mum appreciates recipes that bring a smile to her face. This doesn’t make me special of course, it just means I take more pride in what goes in my stomach – some call it being fussy, I call it wanting good food!
Right, onto Tinseltown. Tinseltown is a well established brand that has recently branched out by opening it’s doors to the Birmingham crowd in Star City. It’s an American Diner style restaurant serving anything from steak to burgers and everything in-between. As you approach the restaurant, the decor is quite sleek, modern and grey. Take a few steps inside and you’ll soon see photos of Hollywood stars dotted around the place (hence the name).
As you get shown to your seat, and get told to remember your table number when you order, the waitress (more than probably from an Eastern European country – nothing against this, I actually find it quite nice *wink wink*) will hand you a menu. My friends and I have been twice since the opening and on both occasions, our eyes got hungrier than our stomachs. The menu looks brilliant and the variety of choice is actually amazing. Then you get to the milkshakes section and you can’t help but want one just to see if the hype is true – everyone says Tinseltown’s milkshakes are good, and my God, I’ve so far only tasted the Ferrero Rocher one and it is to die for!
Sadly however that’s where the good news stops. With all that I was expecting, Tinseltown is, in my books, a let down. Yes, I know this may be premature as I’ve already said I’ve been only twice and I certainly haven’t tried all the menu but I don’t think I’ll ever bother. This is why…
Food: I’ve had a Western Burger thingymajig (which is essentially a beef burger with more meat in it, plus the addition of what Tinseltown are stylising as ‘Halal Bacon Rashers’ – otherwise known as thinly cut beef that looks a tiny weeny bit like bacon) and Lamb Chops. One with mash and the other with seasoned chips. The burger was good, and very meaty. The lamb chops were shocking – so much so, me and my friend who ordered the same thing never finished them, we quit after 3 each.
The mash tasted like it came out of a tin somewhere; hardly the fluffy stuff you get at Nandos and the chips are your bog standard types that you make in a frying pan at home – I was expecting thick steak chips or something more than what Tinseltown serve, especially when considering the average meal costs £12+. Not to mention, when I asked for seasoned chips, whoever dashed on the seasoning (equivalent to the powder you get when ordering peri-chips at Nandos) thought it would be OK to sprinkle what I can only describe as a very very very fine layer on my food. I hate when they’re cheap like that; how much does this stuff cost that you’re so stingy with it?!
Service: Weird staff aside (you’ll understand what I mean if you ever go), the service is OK. It’s obvious that the waiting staff are all new so they’re not used to being asked a million questions about the menu – fair enough. I have no complaints; it’s adequate but wouldn’t deserve a hefty tip. I like to tip. Shame that.
Atmosphere: As briefly mentioned before, the modern sleekness of the restaurant is quite nice, and I find it appealing. It suits the style of the food and certainly doesn’t come across cheap. No expense spared. The brand has done well to maintain the standard – even the gents is nice.
Price: So we know the quality of the food isn’t amazing, but nor is my local chippy’s. What does annoy me though is the price premium you seem to pay for the Tinseltown brand. The price doesn’t reflect the food you get. This is the most disappointing aspect of the whole experience. If I had paid around £5-7, I’d have put up with the food. But at £12.99 for the burger meal and £11.99 for the lamb chops, I was expecting something on par with Nandos or that of Mogos in Solihull. With both of these places, I know what I’m getting and I know that the food will be great. I don’t feel ripped off and I certainly don’t feel like I could’ve had a better go on my own at home, but I do at Tinseltown. Take my Western Triple Burger as a prime example – I can get that whole meal (minus the rashers) for £7 at Chicagos, a burger place near Aston Uni in the Jennens building. And at Chicago’s, the food is better. Much better. As it is in Nandos and Mogos.
Verdict: Go try it out for yourself, but go when Tinseltown have offers running (available from their Facebook or twitter pages). The menu offers variety but it doesn’t do the quality I was expecting from the price. I can’t say I’d ever pick it over a trip to Nandos but I guess I’d go there for the deserts and milkshakes. Maybe it is because the Birmingham branch are trying to create a space in the flooded Birmingham Halal food market, but for me, naivety and lack of awareness of what the competition offer is unforgivable – especially for such a big brand like Tinseltown. I didn’t feel like I was paying for the food on my plate, rather my money went towards the brand and the cost of the restaurant. Overall, as it is, a 4 out of 10 – but only because I love the milkshakes. I’ll give it another go in the not-too-distant future and see if it’s any better. If you do go now though, don’t set yourself up for a disappointment.