Nothing good to eat in Birmingham? Think again. We caught up with Ahmed Ahmed, editor of Dine Birmingham, an online restaurant guide, to hear about why the city’s culinary scene is starting to cause a stir on the national stage.
He shares his knowledge of some of the best restaurants in Birmingham, as well as his top tips for quick bites, special occasions, romantic meals, and some of the hidden gems beloved of Brummies.
[Digbeth Dining Club – picture: www.digbethdiningclub.co.uk]
The best thing about the Birmingham restaurant scene?
It’s so underrated. This has its downside – we do have a while to go until everyone gets the message about the city’s great food scene.
But on the plus side, it means more for us locals, at lower prices than you would get in similar large cities. Did you know we have four Michelin star restaurants in Birmingham? We also have a growing range of medium-priced, independent eateries specialising in anything from Moroccan to Mexican to Mongolian – you can try over 30 different cuisines in this city.
And it’s quality, not just quantity.
Your favourite place for a quick, no-nonsense bite to eat?
It’s not even a restaurant. Anyone who’s into food knows about street food by now. We have a lot of these vendors of casual but carefully-sourced snacks in the city. Some do gourmet burgers, some do stone-baked pizza, some do East Asian food, and so on. They visit the city’s various farmers’ markets and outdoor events. One place I like to drop into is the Digbeth Dining Club, a weekly gathering of street vendors. Good for kicking off a Friday night.
[Simpsons – picture: www.simpsonsrestaurant.co.uk]
Best place for a special occasion?
The other day I visited Simpsons, one of the earliest Birmingham restaurants to get its Michelin star. And I was very impressed by the food and the atmosphere. I’d definitely recommend it. Here’s the review I wrote.
For a romantic night out – or first date?
Specialist restaurants you would recommend?
For vegetarians, The Warehouse Cafe does great things. The Karczma (Polish) was a very well-kept secret until the Guardian went mad for it, and now I hear it’s very hard to get a table. And then in Chinatown, there are several Cantonese, Vietnamese and Korean places. You can tell they’re authentic, because a lot of their visitors are people from those countries.
[Le Truc – picture: www.dinebirmingham.co.uk]
An old favourite you keep going back to?
Bodega is the first restaurant I ever reviewed, and it does draw you back again and again. It’s laid-back, it’s original, and its menu of South American food and cocktails hit the spot when you just want a fun meal out.
New restaurants that have impressed you?
Le Truc is one of my new old favourites. It’s a little bit wacky – very tongue-in-cheek about its Frenchness – but the food is genuinely good. Every Tuesday they feature a different region of France, in a special set menu that includes wine.
The best hidden gem?
I really like the Kitchen Garden Cafe in King’s Heath. It’s tucked away behind the street, and the approach is filled with viney plants and garden sculptures. It’s the perfect sun-trap when the weather’s nice – good for chilling out at weekends.
[The Plough – picture: theploughharborne.co.uk]
Your perfect foodie day/night in Birmingham?
A big brunch at The Plough (gastropub) in Harborne, then later on a leisurely lunch at Bodega or Le Truc. As soon as it’s socially acceptable, head down to Purnell’s Bistro, which doubles as a cocktail bar and a casual gourmet restaurant. So that would be drinks and dinner sorted.
Want to know more about restaurants in Birmingham? Have a look at Dine Birmingham’s A-Z restaurant guide.