The World Wakes up to Birmingham’s Food

By now most of the newspapers have picked up on the New York Times’ choice of Birmingham as a “place to visit in 2012”. Generally stories plough the same tired furrow. After covering off the obligatory line of ‘Birmingham!? Really? Yeah, I know I bet you thought it was a shit-hole.‘ will go on to point out the regenerated Bull Ring and Selfridges, mention our three Michelin-starred restaurants, and perhaps the Balti Triangle (it’s got loads of curry restaurants!). Maybe a mention of the canals, of defunct industry and if you are lucky a little dig at the accent too. And Cup-a-Soup. And Tizer.

To many, this is all old news at this point.

So I was very happy to get the opportunity this week to speak to Nick Wyke from the Times and give him my (opinionated) view of the cities food offerings and perhaps help represent a more interesting view of Birmingham’s offerings.

And I was absolutely delighted yesterday when I read his piece that that he’d managed to get so many of my suggestions into the piece. Of course he mentioned the great Turners, Simpsons and Purnells but he also covered:

  • my favourite farmers markets, Harborne (2nd Saturday of the month) and Moseley (4th Saturday of the month), and a few local producers including Lightwood Cheese
  • the two best delis in town, Anderson and Hill and Capeling and Co
  • our burgeoning coffee scene including Urban Coffee Co and Six Eight Kafe
  • the incredible Birmingham Wholesale Market (save our markets!!) – mentioning sea urchins and alphonso mangoes, two seasonal imports available at this fantastic place
  • the Chinese quarter, including the Golden Pond where we like to have dim sum
  • alternative (and superior) options to the Balti Triangle: Lasan and Jyoti’s as well as stalwarts Al Frash and Al Faisals
  • my favourite meal of all: the dripping-cooked fish and chips at the Black Country Museum

I also re-iterated my thoughts that Birmingham has great high-end options and decent cheap eats (mainly Indian and Chinese) but very little in the middle bracket, with the exception of the awesome Carters of Moseley.

So now we have risen above the cliches, I am hoping this article (and this blog) will show the city council that there are other options than reflexively granting permission for new Nando’s, Pizza Express or Cafe Rouge when they sit down to plan.

In the long run, as demonstrated by the interest from the New York Times, this could do a great deal for Birmingham’s tourism industry as well as our own enjoyment of the city.

3 thoughts on “The World Wakes up to Birmingham’s Food”

  1. I’m curious as to what you define as the ‘middle bracket’ – is it in terms of cost, intended clientele, etc.? Having looked at the A La Carte for Carters and compared to some Michelin-starred or similar style restaurants, I’m not sure that price is much different. I guess to me the term might mean places like Bodega, Cafe Ikon, Blue Ginger, Bohemia, etc. but not sure really. So just interested to know what you were thinking this area might be, and what specific elements you think the food scene here might be missing at the minute?

  2. It’s not (just) about price but that’s a factor. Somewhere I don’t have to book ahead long in advance, where I can pitch up in casual or work clothes, with a wine list with good bottles at less than £20. Where the cooking is of the highest quality, but the dishes are simpler and less fussy than at a *’d place. So Carters pretty much hits the mark. The kind of place that would maybe get a bib gourmand in Michelin. Ideally I could get out for less than £70 for 2 including wine. In an ideal world we’d have places like Hawksmoor, Goodman as well as Spuntino, Polpo etc. in Birmingham but perhaps that’s an unreasonable ask.

  3. Cafe Ikon is nearly there in that I can get a cold bottle of manzanilla sherry and some olives and I’m already quite happy, but the cooking (such as it is) is so hit and miss and the environment not that convivial that it doesn’t hit the mark.

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