Reasons To Be Cheerful #11
(If you're wondering what this is all about, click here.)
One night not long after J first moved to Birmingham, nearly four years ago, we went wandering down to the Arcadian and the Chinese quarter on the hunt for a quality restaurant. We soon spotted what we were looking for. After passing a few near-empty joints, we came to a cafe packed full of Oriental diners and instantly knew that the Noodle Bar was the place to be - and so it proved, with enormous portions served up for minimal cost.
An evening in the upmarket Chung Ying Garden Cantonese restaurant nearby only convinced us even more - though the food was very good (incidentally, we passed up the chance to try "duck webs and fish lips" as a starter...), we didn't feel it justified the extra expense. So, for the next three years, the Noodle Bar it was.
Until, that is, Andy was kind enough to point us in the direction of Cafe Soya, just round the corner in the Arcadian itself.
Slightly classier and more restauranty in its decor than the Noodle Bar, Cafe Soya serves up absolutely fantastic Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine at prices to suit even the smallest of budgets, to the extent that it received a commendation in last year's Observer Food Monthly Best Cheap Eat awards. The ingredients are always incredibly fresh, the dishes lipsmackingly tasty and the service friendly, quick and efficient.
I highly recommend the lemongrass chicken skewers for starters, followed by the hot and spicy Vietnamese noodles - but, as the name might suggest, Cafe Soya is also a haven for veggies, the menu packed with veggie alternatives. Just steer clear of their speciality soya milkshake - I'm told it looks and tastes like frogspawn.
Unfortunately the cafe doesn't have a licence to serve alcohol, but for a small corking charge you can take your own booze.
All of which means that our allegiances have very definitely shifted - but, though we feel a bit guilty for being fickle and abandoning somewhere which served us so well for three years, it doesn't last long once you take a slurp of the hot and sour soup...
(You can read Andy's own proselytising in favour of Cafe Soya here.)