Who can deny that one of the great pleasures in life is a freshly made pizza? Whether you are enjoying one on the warm cobbled streets of Naples or amongst the slightly less salubrious surroundings of Birmingham, if the quality is right then there are fewer more satisfying food experiences.
To that end, I recently found myself in Kings Heath sampling the delights of the newest pizza joint in town, POLI. This was a place I was excited to try, not just because of the delicious looking menu, but because I had heard a reasonable amount of what you might call ‘buzz’ beforehand. A variety of my sources had already labelled this the best pizza in Birmingham, so my expectations, as well as my saliva glands, were primed and ready.
Located on York Street, POLI is among a vibrant community of businesses. There are some top-notch eateries here, perhaps in part due to one of the best pubs/music venues in the city – The Hare & Hounds being a stone’s throw away. Indeed, this was the reason for our particular visit to the area, as after the meal we hot-footed it across the road for a gig.
The people behind POLI are the same folk that own ‘Grace and James’ – a popular York St bar and deli situated just two doors down, and presumably the reason for the quality ingredients and drinks you will see when reading the menu. However, I must say that I was a little sad when I realised, with quick Google Street View search, that the new pizza restaurant has taken over the unit previously and gloriously named ‘we
But onwards and upwards. Pun-based electrical shops are the old way and trendy restaurants are the new, and this place certainly looks trendy enough. It manages to be both minimalist but also eye-catching, with its loud turquoise shop frontage and pink logo. Inside, the layout is simple with pale walls and furniture complemented with tasteful and strategically placed pieces of wall art.
We were actually pretty lucky to get a table on the night we turned up. The waiter apologetically informed us that there wouldn’t be any room as we hadn’t booked, but luckily a couple sat outside offered to share with us the large bench table that they were occupying. Not really sure why the waiting staff couldn’t have worked this solution out for themselves, but I will chalk this up to teething problems, surely exacerbated by how busy they have been so soon after launching.
We really liked the look of these options, which consisted of rustic Italian-style dishes, so decided to share a couple and then share a single pizza afterwards. After much deliberation we decided on the roasted bone marrow and the meatballs, both priced at £7 each. However, we could have easily also gone for the burrata or the intriguing pickled grapes.
In short, both of these small plate dishes were sublime. The roasted bone marrow came with delicious home-made sourdough bread – perfect for dipping into the rich, sticky marrow which was nicely seasoned with salt. The meatballs were equally as tasty and came served with a fresh ricotta cheese and a sauce that had real depth of flavour and a subtle fennel taste to it.
For a pizza we decided that, after the richness of our opening choices, we would go for the most basic topping on the menu. The Marinara is simply a tomato sauce with basil, oregano, garlic and no cheese. This may sound boring given the other more exciting options available such as the ‘Vodka’ (house sausage, mozzarella, vodka tomato sauce, red onion) but a basic pizza can really expose the quality.
This pizza was quality. The bread was exactly how it should be – thin, chewy yet crisp in the right places. The sauce was fresh but with a flavour that separates it from most other premium pizzas you will find, certainly in the Birmingham area. This tells me that these people know how to cook, and not just how to mix
We did also have a couple of their optional dips at £2 each: the ‘fermented hot sauce’ (delicious) and the ‘Squid ink aioli’ (a bit weird to be honest and would’ve probably preferred some regular aioli).
Overall, the quality was perhaps slightly unexpected, given how modest the descriptions on the menu are. Those amazing meatballs are simply listed as ‘Meatballs. Tomato sauce, fresh ricotta.’ Such modesty won’t dissuade the punters though. It was busy on the night I visited but I would expect tables to become even harder to come by in the future.
The service was a tad haphazard, but always cheery and courteous, and the total price of the meal was just over £40 including two glasses of tasty pale ale and a couple of Aperol Spritz cocktails. You would probably find that this is more expensive than many of the gourmet pizza places out there, but here the menu has options that are not only a little bit