• kristenevelyn

Midlands Middle-Eastern Vibe

As a child growing up in the States with an Italian-American father, Italian influences were never far from our meals. As an adult with 7 years living in Bangkok, I gained an immense love of Thai food, from the silky curries to the super-spicy salads.

I have never lived in any country in the Middle-East and have no connection with the region, but I have an obsession with middle-eastern cuisine and a good shisha; I could indulge every night. Fortunately for me, my partner shares my appreciation. From our trials and errors, below is a list of 5 Middle-Eastern inspired places in the West Midlands that we would recommend.

1. H20 Shisha Lounge

Recommended by a friend of a friend, H20 is the only place I will smoke shisha now. Located on Spon St. in Coventry, the venue is solely for shisha and the staff know what they are doing.

Upon entrance, you must buy one pipe, per 2 people, and a drink, per person. A standard pipe will cost you £13 and you may "top up" by choosing imported US flavors or picking a higher-end pip (for a price).

On the weekend they turn the atmosphere into more of a nightclub by playing the music really loud, so if you want to chat with friends it may be better to come during the week. H20 is open to until 2am. No alcohol is served and we notice that everyone stays civil and "chill" even into the wee hours of the morning. Cash only.

2. Damascena, Turkish coffee

A restaurant and cafe in Birmingham City-centre, we visit Damascena almost weekly for their killer Turkish coffee. Served traditionally with cardamom, sugar and a piece of Turkish-delight on the side, it's a treat. I usually order a few pieces of baklava as well and then we sit by their large class window and watch the city go by.

No matter when we visit Damascena, it is busy. They also serve food and most customers come for a meal. Try to visit on off-peak hours to guarantee a seat.A large Turkish coffee will cost just over £3.

3. Antalya, Great Turkish Cuisine

Located on Walsgrave Road, just outside Coventry city-centre, Antalya serves lovely Turkish cuisine. What is most striking is that you must take a care to get to it (it's not in walking distance to the CC) but it is always busy, Monday, Tuesday, it doesn't matter. Cash only.

4. Habibi, Cosy vibe & yummy food

"In 2002, Manal Timraz, a Palestinian had a vision of bringing a little taste of her homeland, Palestine, here. Habibi was born in June 2003 and since then has gone from strength the strength. The menu was chosen by Manal to represent food from her homeland and the Arabic countries surrounding Palestine. Using her mother and grandmother's recipes, Manal has bought her lovingly home-cooked style into a comfortable arabic-style restaurant setting. Everything in Habibi has been sourced by Manal from countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, Jordan and of course her beloved homeland, Palestine." Located at the start of Far Gosford Street, near Coventry University, Habibi's food is just lovely. They do a great chicken shish, but also fabulous Moroccan chicken/lamb tagines. The decor is cosy and they have an outdoor seating area under a Bedouin style tent with a fire-pit. Shisha is available. Cash only.

5. Cafe Reem, peaceful & delicious with lots of choices

Another great find, Cafe Reem is located in the Harbourne area of Birmingham, outside of the city-centre.

Like Habibi, Cafe Reem is a family run business with Palestinian roots. The interior is peaceful and they pride themselves on their customer service. Don't miss this place when you're in Birmingham.

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