Birmingham may not be the first word on people’s lips when they think of the UK’s culinary delights, but those in the know have been tipping this place as the next hot spot for some time now.
In fact, in 2017, it was named one of the top food destinations in the county, based on the 118 million traveller reviews posted on Booking.com.
Along with the fact that there are currently five Michelin-starred restaurants in the Midlands city, this should put any preconceived notions firmly to rest that Birmingham is only good for curry. And while Asian cuisine remains at the beating heart of the city with its delicious range of regional restaurants and dishes, there’s so much more to the buzzing food scene to explore. Here’s our list of the top six places to add to your must-eat list when visiting next.
Sabai Sabai is the place to head to for authentic Thai cooking - and there’s now a choice of three outposts in the city; Moseley, Harborne and in the centre of the city. The first restaurant opened in 2013 and the food is - quite rightly - award-winning. Start with the fiery-yet-sweet papaya salad, then splash out on the Massaman braised beef short rib - totally dreamy. Finish with the classic sticky coconut rice and mango. Bonus points: they’ve got an extensive vegetarian and vegan menu too.
Chef Glynn Purnell was one of the first foodies to introduce Birmingham to the retro-favourite dining trend of nose-to-tail cooking, and his skills in the kitchen at his previous restaurant, Jessica’s, won the city one of its first Michelin stars. Since then, he’s branched out with his own self-monickered restaurant, Purnell’s, which offers gourmet modern British cuisine with an occasional French or Asian twist. The Brummie Tapas set menu at £60 a head is not to be missed, and includes a cool twist on the ‘70s party favourite, cheese and pineapple on sticks.
We could probably start and end a mini-review of Original Patty Men with this: Drake once ate here. If that’s not enough to get you queuing out the door at their Digbeth restaurant, then you should also know this: in 2016, they won the award for Britain’s Best Street Food for their awesome burgers. Try the locked-and-loaded ODB fries - triple cooked and topped with slaw, spices and Sriracha mayo - or stop by midweek for Wings Wednesday, when all their chicken wings are just £6 a plate.
Local gourmet foodies are not only drawn to Opus for their seasonal, sustainable menu that has a strong focus on fish, but for their super-cool one-off Source dinners. These dining events shine a spotlight on the movers-and-shakers in the food industry, as they host themed evenings where they plate up some speciality dishes, discuss cuisine-based issues or pair food with some excellent wines. Coming up later this year, they have a night dedicated to beef with HRH-approved butchers Aubrey Allen and a vegetarian dinner which will showcase the fruit and veg of Worcester Produce.
Indian cooking: but make it small plates, please. Moseley’s Zindiya restaurant takes a delicate and super-fragrant approach to their cooking, all served up in a fun, casual and bright setting. It’s the brainchild of husband and wife team, Ajay and Shivani Kenth, who wanted to recreate the bustling street market vibes of cities like Mumbai and Delhi. After chowing down on pani puri, a kati roll and okra chips, make sure to save room for their signature dessert: sweet samosas and ice cream.
Branded an “utter delight” by The Observer’s Jay Rayner last year, we’re inclined to rhapsodise about Gaijin Sushi in the same way. It’s an intimate, minimalist setting - like all the best sushi joints - and seats just 12 people. Make sure you’re one of these dozen, as the assorted nigiri set meal for one is not only a masterclass in sharp, fresh fish-and-rice bites, but is also a bit of a steal at just £25. The spicy tuna hand roll is a winning choice too.
Main image credit: Purnell's