WHAT’S COOKING IN BIRMINGHAM
Birmingham today is hardly recognizable to those who may have visited in the past. Britain’s second city has re-invented itself over the past couple of decades, and not least in recent years leading up to and including last summer’s Commonwealth Games – an event city officials consider a global coming out party for the West Midlands city.
But beyond infrastructure improvements and an increasingly enticing urban environment (such as the delightful historic canal district), the city has also cooked up a mouth-watering gastronomic scene, packed with award-winning restaurants and an abundance of food and drink highlights.
The city is packed with every kind of eatery from street food to fine-dining restaurants, super-stylish bars, and excellent curry houses in its Balti Triangle. In fact, Birmingham and the surrounding area boasts 11 Michelin-starred restaurants and hundreds of restaurants from all over the globe.
Michelin-starred fine dining
Birmingham alone is home to five different Michelin-star restaurants, the most of any British city outside of London. They are:
• Carters of Moseley offers a blend of modern and classic dishes and champions a sustainable approach, with lots of produce coming from its own garden and a selection of natural, organic, and biodynamic wines on offer
• Chef Adam Stokes serves up an array of modern cuisine amid the art deco surroundings of Adam’s
• Purnell’s is renowned for its contemporary fine dining, with chef Glynn Purnell creating British classics influenced by Europe and the Far East
• Simpson’s Restaurant offers flavoursome modern dishes in a sleek suburban Georgian mansion
• Opheem is a boldly decorated Indian restaurant, where patrons can enjoy dishes packed with distinct flavours and a delectable tasting menu
The Michelin Guide also reveals further fine dining options in the city.
Known as the original home of the Balti curry, a trip to Birmingham wouldn’t be complete without sampling the spiced dish, which is inspired by traditional Kashmiri recipes and fast-cooked in a thin-pressed steel wok to burn off excess oil and is also as individual as the chef cooking it.
Foodies looking to sample the local delicacy can choose from a variety of family-run restaurants, including Shababs, and legendary Adil’s, which is said to have introduced the method of cooking to Britain in 1977. Located about five kilometres from the city centre, the Triangle spans Stratford, Alcester, and Wake Green roads, and includes popular Ladypool Road and Stoney Lane. The area received its name due to the high density of restaurants (over 100) using the Balti technique.
From small food wagons to collections of street vendors, travellers don’t need fine dining to enjoy the best of what Birmingham has to offer. Digbeth Dining Club operates at a number of venues and events across the region, welcoming a diverse mix of vendors and cuisines. Two permanent sites at Digbeth Dining Club and Hockley Social Club can be found a short distance from the centre of Birmingham, as well as another permanent site, Herbert’s Yard.
Fish & ChipsA staple on any visit to the UK requires fish and chips, and one of the worthiest venues is the Hobbs & Sons Restaurant located in the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley (about a 30-minute drive north of Birmingham). The museum is a recreated village that recalls life, both physical and social, in the West Midlands during the Industrial Revolution through historical interpreters (mine manager, chemist, chain maker) in a replica town cobbled together from real buildings transferred from elsewhere in the region. And that includes Hobbs, a working bakery and chippy, which is renowned for its fish and chips fried in traditional, but now rare, beef drippings.
A varied array of vegan and plant-based options can be found, including at Birmingham’s Indico Mailbox, which serves up a selection of Punjab-style street food from a dedicated vegan menu, while Mowgli in Grand Central offers moreish Indian street food packed with flavour. For something a bit different, trot down to The Birmingham Stable to tuck into delectable plant-based and veggie sourdough pizzas.
Craft beer & cocktails
Craft beer has surged in popularity in Britain, and there are plenty of breweries, microbreweries and tap rooms where visitors can sample their creations. Birmingham Brewing Company is a short walk from Bournville Station and serves a delicious selection of vegan and gluten-free beers, as well as natural wines, local cider and an array of spirits and soft drinks.
Alternatively, stop off at Brewhouse & Kitchen in Sutton Coldfield (20 minutes from city centre) for freshly brewed craft beers, as well as experiences including beer and gin tasting masterclasses and even the chance to be a brewer for the day.
Meanwhile, a crawl along Brindley Place, is just the ticket for pub-goers. The large mixed-used development near the city centre is distinguished by its picturesque, industrial era canal (Birmingham is said have more miles of canals than Venice) and its attendant restaurants, cafés, and pubs. Options include:
• The Malt House: Closest to the city centre end of Brindley Place, making for an ideal place for a pre- or post night-out drink before a concert or the theatre. Famous patrons are said to have included Lady Gaga and Bill Clinton. But despite the pedigree, the pub is thoroughly traditional, split across two levels, and offering a welcome outdoor patio to help drink in the sparkling canal-side atmosphere.
• The Canal House: Located mid-way along the waterway, Canal House was recently named 2022 Pub of the Year by West Midlands Tourism. Overlooking the Gas Street Basin, with dozens of moored boats, the two-storey venue has an intimate upper balcony and a spacious ground level outdoor patio with picnic tables. Inside, it’s barnboard chic, and bright and open, not stuffy. In or out, the venue touts “live music, flowing drinks and delicious food.”
• Canalside Café: Across the Basin from Canal House, the compact Canalside Café overflows with flowers in summer, and with its whitewash façade, suggests a Greek island setting rather than the UK’s former industrial heartland. But its real ale bona fides, along with honeyed cider and mulled wine, prove otherwise. The venue, uniquely long and narrow inside, is said to be “the smallest pub in Birmingham,” virtually guaranteeing that patrons will soon be happily chatting up their neighbours, whether they want to or not.
Meanwhile, Central Birmingham is home to several cocktail bars renowned for serving up a collection of bold and colourful signature creations. With canal-side views of The Mailbox to accompany its menu of carefully crafted cocktails, Gas Street Social also has a range of brunch and other dining options. Alternatively, head into the heart of the historic Great Western Arcade to sample the handcrafted cocktails on offer amid the funky surroundings of The Pineapple Club.
World of chocolate
Chocolate fans will want to visit Cadbury World, an immersive self-guided journey through the magic of chocolate making “from bean to bar,” and including the origins of Cadbury in Birmingham in 1824. Tour highlights include tasting zones, a 4D cinema experience, and the largest collection of Cadbury memorabilia in the world (note: there is no factory tour). The massive attraction, which makes 1.2 million Cadbury Cream Eggs per day, amongst other treats, also boasts the world’s largest Cadbury shop. It can be reached via train from New Street Station to Bourneville in about 15 minutes (plus another 15-minute walk). Opening days and times vary. Pre-booking tickets is recommended.
Held in the medieval ruins of Ludlow Castle, Shropshire (about 90 minutes from Birmingham, the Ludlow Food Festival (Sept. 8-10, 2023) celebrates the delectable array of produce found in the Welsh Marches, which run along the border of England and Wales. Alongside the Ludlow Spring Festival and Ludlow Magnalonga, it’s also one of a trio of events making the town a must-see spot. And with more than 180 local food and drink producers offering tastings, sampling and more, it’s an unmissable feast for foodies.
First published at Travel Industry Today