If you’ve ever studied philosophy, you’ll be familiar with utilitarianism; the greatest good for the greatest number. It’s also a good summation of the attraction of multi-cuisine, all you can eat buffet type places. Frankly no one is likely to win a Michelin star doing it, but you’re guaranteed to find something that everyone will tolerate.
And this is pretty much what I found at Peachy Keens. Located on the Coventry Rd near the Swan, it was a Harry Ramsdens when I was growing up and then became a pub. It has retained some of the pub interior up front, with the all you can eat out back. It’s frankly a little strange but seems to work for its customers.
I went down with my friend Andrew on a Monday night and was surprised to see it pleasantly busy; meaning most of the tables in the section we were seated at were full, but not so much that you were queuing for food. The staff, who were consistently excellent throughout the night, asked if we’d ever been before (neither of us had) and then asked if we’d like to be shown round. Ordinarily the irreverent side of my personality will wonder why on earth you’d need to be, but she had some good tips.
First off were the starters. A line of fried foods from chicken nuggets to onion bhajis I was worried that this was going to be a coronary disaster, but the crunchy seedweed was lovely and located just at the end of the counter which gave you ample view of the salad bar. And it was a pretty decent salad bar at that. I measure most salad bars on if I think my mum would be content to eat there (she loves salad and hates carbs, some times I wonder if we’re really related) and I think she’s be alright with it.
For mains I did a double dose, because it feels rude not to at an all-you-can-eat. The first plate was chicken panang with egg-fried rice. This was pretty indistinguishable from most Thai red curries I’ve eaten and was as hot as them (medium-hot I’d say), but actually quite nice. My second main was Goan fish curry with pilau rice and naan bread. Again the sauce was on the medium-hot side and the fish was chunky but well cooked, not too dry nor too flaky. Andrew, at some point, ate the paneer mhakani which he too said was hotter than he expected too. It’s clearly a bit of a theme. There were also lasagnes and chicken meatballs for anyone who fancied things a bit closer to home, cuisine wise.
Pudding was standard all you can eat fayre. There was an ice cream maker with psychedelic sauces and an array of mini desserts which looked bought in, bulk buy – some more successful flavours than others. There was tradition gulab jamun and the buffet traditional chocolate fountain, but I had space left for neither.
All in all though I was pleasantly surprised by Peachy Keens. It’s not the sort of place I’d ordinarily choose to go and some of the decor was a bit tired looking, but the food exceeded my, admittedly low, expectations. Surrounded by groups of people, including the celebration of a sixteenth birthday, it was a bit unusual to see a restaurant so busy on a Monday night but evident that they’re clearly doing something right to retain regulars. I’m not sure if go out of my way to visit but if I were staying in the hotel next door or looking to organise dinner with a large group with different food tastes, it wouldn’t be a bad idea.
1741 Coventry Road, Birmingham, B26 1DS
Disclosure: I was invited to Peachy Keens by their PR team and our meals were complimentary in exchange for an honest review – I wasn’t required to say anything nice, nor was I required to include Utilitarianism 101 or the history of the venue as remembered by trips to the Swan when it was a treasure trove of tat (and I mean that fondly).