Michelin stars and internationally-renowned cuisine
Birmingham was once known as the city of a thousand trades. Today, with over 500 restaurants drawing on 29 different global cuisines it might well be called the city of a thousand tastes. Indeed, recent years have seen a veritable gastronomic explosion in the city with even more new arrivals and openings in the wings. Not only that, but Birmingham can boast four Michelin star restaurants, offering fine dining of the highest quality. Headed up by top chef, Luke Tipping, Simpsons in Edgbaston gained its star in 2004 for its classic French cuisine and ranks high in the Sunday Times Top 100 Food List. A second star resides in Waterloo Street at Adam’s, owned and run by the award-winning team of husband and wife Adam and Natasha Stokes.
The most recent star was awarded to modern British restaurant Carter’s in Moseley. Not only one of the best in Birmingham, this is one of the best in the country, the only other Birmingham restaurant to be named in the Sunday Times top 100 restaurants in the UK and ranked 66 in the 2018 National Restaurant Awards. However, the best-known recipient and the city’s best known chef, is Glynn Purnell. He opened his titular city centre restaurant in 2007, swiftly earning a star with his individual take on British cuisine.
Purnell, who won both Best Michelin Restaurant and a Special Recognition award at the 2018 Midlands Drink & Hospitality Awards, also runs Purnell’s Bistro in Newhall St, offering rustic home-cooking with an eclectic twist and the intimate (six covers) Living Room offering tasting bites of what he calls “Brummie tapas”. He was recently appointed to curate the menu for the new 40-seat Harvey Nichols restaurant, offering tapas-style small sharing plates, all-day afternoon tea, cocktails and Purnell’s special Harvey Nics burger.
Also in the Mailbox is Tom’s Kitchen, the first UK venture outside the capital by Michelin-starred Tom Aikens. The past couple of years have seen an explosion of new names, one of which is sited in Debenhams, Chi Kitchen offering something different from the usual department store cafe, with its pan-Asian dishes. Other new openings include 2017 European Street Food Awards winners Baked in Brick’s pizzeria at the Custard Factory, Gaijin Sushi in Bristol Street, which seats just ten people, the first Birmingham branch of world famous restaurant The Ivy on Temple Street, also home to Revolución de Cuba specialising in authentic Cuban food and drink. More cocktails can be found at Dirty Martini on Bennetts Hill where the Americana-themed Buffalo and Rye also specialises in rye whiskeys, smoked pit meats, burgers and hotdogs with quirky takes on classics and the Bodega Bar & Cantina adopts a South American theme as well as offering a vegan menu.
Birmingham was once known as the city of a thousand trades. Today, with over 500 restaurants drawing on 29 different global cuisines it might well be called the city of a thousand tastes
The street is also home to Amantia, serving tapas and authentic Spanish dishes, while Bristol-based Loungers (who own Harborne’s Arco Lounge) have transformed the former Midland Bank into their latest Cosy Club cafe bar. In addition to the Routiers-winning San Carlo, quite simply one of the best Italian restaurants in the country (now joined in Waterloo St by its smaller cousin, Fumo), Temple Street also features The Botanist, specialising in cocktails and bar food as well as “watering cans” for up to four people to share and South American restaurant Las Iguanas. In nearby Temple Row, Damascena, the popular Syrian cafe in Moseley, has a city centre base overlooking St Philip’s Cathedral, a favourite with the likes of Citizen Khan star Adil Ray.
A short walk from there will take you to Edmund Street and another new opener, Pinchos, serving tapas, Spanish wines and beers. The revamped Grand Hotel on Colmore Row has seen the opening of Italian restaurant Gusto and exclusive bar chain The Alchemist.” Meanwhile, Lasan’s award-winning former chef director Aktar Islam has recently launched his own restaurant, Opheem in Summer Row. Just off Colmore Row, in Church Street, you’ll find one of the best wine lists in Birmingham, with a classy French-inspired menu to match, at Hotel Du Vin’s bistro. Opposite, in Cornwall Street, Opus holds two AA rosettes and serves modern classic style dishes with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients, its Kitchen Table giving diners a unique opportunity to experience their meal from the heart of the restaurant’s kitchen.
Over in Barwick Street is continental style eatery Primitivo while, in Newhall Street, Asha’s won the best Indian restaurant in the Midlands at the 2017 British Curry Awards for the second year. In the city centre, New Street’s Grand Central development has numerous cafes and restaurants, including Vietnamese street food chain Pho, Crepe Affaire, Giraffe and sushi and noodle bar Yakinori, its most recent additions being souk-style restaurant Comptoir Libanais and Tapas Revolution headed up by Spanish-born chef Omar Allibhoy, dubbed the ‘Antonio Banderas of cooking’ by Gordon Ramsey. Bull Street has the UK’s first German Doner Kebab while the Burlington Arcade, just off New St, houses the Macdonald Burlington Hotel’s Scottish Steak Club serving fine Scottish cuisine in a contemporary style and in the Great Western Arcade, Polish sushi chef Adam Glamacinski has opened Sushi Passion.
Over in John Bright Street you’ll find a taste of Caribbean sunshine with Turtle Bay with its corrugated metal open kitchen and beach shack vibe. Looking to revive the original street’s reputation for food and hospitality in the 1700s, Spiceal Street at St Martin’s Square includes Jamie’s Italian, a Browns Bar & Brasserie, Mission Burrito, Wagamama, Mount Fuji Tokyo Teriyaki Restaurant, Birmingham’s first branch of Bill’s cafe and, overlooking St. Martin’s Church and Selfridges building, two-storey Thai a la carte restaurant, Chaophraya.
Birmingham’s first Chinese restaurant opened in 1956, and today there are excellent eateries all over the city, but the cuisine’s centre is the bustling Chinese Quarter around Hurst Street’s Arcadian Centre with choices ranging from the Chung Ying Garden (it and nearby sister, the Chung Ying, awarded a prestigious Pagoda rating and listed in The Legacy of Taste Eating Out Guide) and the upmarket Ocean Dragon as well as buffets restaurants the Big Wok and China Court.
In the city centre, New Street’s Grand Central development has numerous cafes and restaurants, including Vietnamese street food chain Pho, Crepe Affaire, Giraffe and sushi and noodle bar Yakinori, its most recent additions being souk-style restaurant Comptoir Libanais
As the name suggests, Cafe Soya also specialises in Oriental and Asian vegetarian dishes. The Arcadian’s not just about Chinese, though; there’s Japanese at Miyako Teppanyaki with both Ten Ichi and Kyoto catering for sushi fanatics, Italian at Milano, Latin American at Las Iguanas and the refined Indian cuisine of James Dahl, while, opposite the Hippodrome, The Green Room is one of the city’s best cafe bars. A new addition to the scene is Taste & Liquor’s Global Food Festival is a weekly street food market with the best pop-up boutiques’ the region has on offer. Moving out of the centre, in Great Hampton Street, close to the Jewellery Quarter, the Birmingham Blue Nile serves up an Ethiopian menu while the Jewellery Quarter itself has culinary gems dotted around St. Paul’s Square.
Cucina Rustica offers authentic Italian in ample portions at slimmed down prices, there’s more Mediterranean cooking at Locanta, Henry’s is one of the Midland’s oldest Cantonese restaurants while the menu of multi-award winning Itihaas draws on North India, Mumbai, Chinese Fusion and Kenya for inspiration. The most famous, though, is Lasan in James Street, winner of the British Curry Awards West Midlands award four years running and listed among the UK’s Top 10 Indian restaurants by the Times. Heading to Broad Street, Five Guys have opened their third branch in the city, adding to those in the Bullring and New Street Station. Worth noting, too, that, next to Cineworld, is Dell Villagio, a specialist in back-to-basics Italian regional cooking. Joining the likes of Miller & Carter, Red Peppers and Chez Mal at Malmaison, the Mailbox site and canalside is home to Birmingham’s Adam Freeth and his urban neighbourhood kitchen, Gas Street Social, alongside Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which now also has a New Street branch.
Looking at longer established venues, Broad Street offers a good choice of watering holes and eateries. Pushkar and Barajee are two of the city’s finest upmarket Indian restaurants, the Brasshouse is one of the street’s longest-established pubs. In Gas Street you will find Le Bistrot Pierre, serving provincial French cooking. Around Brindleyplace, you’ll find top Italian at Carluccios, Piccolinos, Cielo and Zizzis, sushi at Oko, Argentinian-themed steakhouse Cau, fine dining restaurant Bank, new arrival Siamais serving Siam Thai food and American-styled The Smoke Haus. There’s also a Wagamama, Coast to Coast American Restaurant, and, one of three in the city centre, Café Rouge, while fine dining at Edmunds has been given a French twist under Didier Philipot.
Sited at the nearby Ikon Gallery, Yorks Bakery serves such brunch temptations as shakshuka and Arabian buttered eggs. In the same vicinity you’ll find Ju Ju’s, Birmingham’s only restaurant with panoramic views over the canals, where you can breakfast on the delightfully-named Eggs In Purgatory. Sited on the 25th floor of the Cube, next to the Mailbox, Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse Bar and Grill offers panoramic views of the city and a Laurent Perrier champagne lounge designed by Perrier himself. White also owns Italian cafe and restaurant Bardolino. On other floors, Rodizio Rico offers Brazilian Churrascaria barbecue, French chic coffee house and cafe Madeleine, Osteria’s Italian crowd-pleasers and the Shogun Teppan-Yaki’s Japanese eating experience. On Bennetts Hill, off Smallbrook Queensway, you can explore The Wilderness with preserved moss on the walls, theatrical-style leafy canopy and a windowsill trough of plants. Run by Alex Claridge, the restaurant’s sous chef, Louisa Ellis, was recently a finalist on BBC2’s MasterChef: The Professionals 2017.
Pushkar and Barajee are two of the city’s finest upmarket Indian restaurants, the Brasshouse is one of the street’s longest-established pubs. In Gas Street you will find Le Bistrot Pierre, serving provincial French cooking
Burgers and the Balti Triangle
Heading out to Digbeth, Shaw’s Passage is home to the self-styled Patty Pimps and Purveyors of Filth, the Original Patty Men offering a small but select burgers menu that includes a beefy variation on the Krispy Kreme donut. If meat’s not your scene, just around the corner, you’ll find the recently refurbished Warehouse Café, and, just a few paces further on Bordesley Street, there’s Karczma, the city’s only Polish restaurant, decked out like a traditional Polish mountain chalet, offering such delights as weird duck and polish trough. Moving out of the centre, in Edgbaston, gastro pub The High Field has made a strong impression while at Five Ways on Hagley Road there’s the new Praza by Pushkar and Argentinian barbecue Fiesta del Asado or, if you just can’t decide if you want Indian or Italian, heading out of the city in the other direction, you can get both at Duet Cuisine over at The Fort.
Out of town, alongside the familiar franchise names, Resorts World at the NEC is also home to Waters, its fine dining menu, created by owner and chef, Andy Waters, a mix of classic British comfort food and French dishes. There’s also the Robata Bar & Grill, a fusion of western European, Australasian and Pan Pacific cuisine, served around a Japanese robata charcoal grill. Birmingham, of course, has a long tradition of Indian restaurants, the first, The Darjeeling, evolving from a 1945 curry and rice cafe. However, today it is best known for the famous Balti Triangle of Sparkbrook, Balsall Heath and Sparkhill. Introduced to the UK in the mid 1970s, the balti has become Birmingham’s signature dish.
With over 50 restaurants in the area each offering menus featuring anything up to 100 choices, there’s quite literally thousands of different meals to try. With chefs happy to fine-tune the heat to suit, huge portions for around a fiver and take your own drinks, a balti night out’s guaranteed to be as cheap as it is cheerful. There’s also a Turkish restaurant, Antep, on Ladypool Road in the heart of balti country. It’s certainly worth exploring Birmingham’s other suburbs too, where a wide variety of cuisine awaits. In Moseley, there’s Spanish restaurant La Plancha and Moroccan cuisine at La Fibule as well as the award-winning Thai restaurant, Sabai Sabai which, in addition to its city centre branch, also has one in Harborne, where you’ll also find Henry Wong’s, one of the longest established names on the city’s restaurant scene.
Also in Harborne, Harborne Kitchen serves modern British while there’s tapas to found at MFDH winner El Borracho de Oro. In King’s Heath, recommendations include King’s Balti, The Spice Merchant, Sylhet Spice Cuisine and Mezbaan for the curry fan, Byzantium tapas restaurant and the convivial surrounding and excellent cuisine of the Kitchen Garden Cafe and its bistro offshoot Fletchers Bar. Travelling a little further, Hall Green is home to Jyoti, Birmingham’s only Indian Vegetarian restaurant, as well as also the much-praised Raja Monkey, a Lasan offshoot serving Thali-style dishes. The Stratford road is also the new site for Moroccan restaurant Marrakech. The Lasan Group is planning to open a second Fiesta del Asado restaurant on the Stratford Road. There’s a very good reason why the BBC Good Food Show is held in Birmingham!
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