The UK's second city has a diverse food culture that can be enjoyed on any budget, from Michelin-starred restaurants to street-food venues and cheap eats.
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Looking for the best eats in Birmingham? Our city guide is here to help! Our top experts have the best insider knowledge.
Tony Naylor has spent over a decade writing about food and drink for a variety of national outlets, most regularly The Guardian, Restaurant Magazine and BBC Good Food.
Paul Fulford was restaurant critic for the Birmingham Mail for 20 years, giving him an inside track on the city’s food culture. Here's his pick of the finest eateries Birmingham has to offer.
Best for special occasions
Birmingham has an unusually high concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants (four, currently) and Folium – a chic, boxy room in the city-centre’s quiet Georgian Jewellery Quarter – is surely in the running to join that glittering firmament. Ben Tesh’s seasonally-driven, modernist dishes reconcile creative flair and bold flavours with rare maturity. For instance, oyster tartare sauce served with salt ‘n’ vinegar cod’s skin (a piscine take on the pork scratching, designed to look like an oyster shell), is as aesthetically striking as it is outrageously tasty. A Noma-esque dish of cured mackerel with tart cucumber spheres and horseradish snow is clean and beautifully balanced. Front-of-house work hard to imbue this comfortable but potentially rather austere dining room with a relaxed warmth. Menus from £27.50 Reviewed by Tony Naylor
Adam Stokes brings huge flair and skill to modern dishes that look and taste spectacular at this Michelin-starred restaurant. The £39.50 three-course lunch menu is a snip; the eight-course tasting menu (£95) is a blow-the-budget meal, with spot-on dishes such as wagyu brisket & sirloin or a Yorkshire rhubarb souffle. Choose a table in the stylish main room for a romantic meal, or book the chef’s table overlooking Stokes’ kitchen for a livelier experience. Reviewed by Paul Fulford
There’s nothing noir about the airy, contemporary Nordic look at this established Michelin-starred gem in Edgbaston. Dishes like Orkney scallops with fermented carrots and black garlic, or meringue, raspberry & lemongrass ice cream (right) are on trend and have a lightness to them. Menus start at £39.50 Tuesday-Friday for the three-course lunch, which includes half a bottle of wine. Reviewed by Paul Fulford
Born and trained in France, Olivier Briault is creating magical afternoon teas with a twist at this smart art deco-style cocktail bar and boutique hotel. Go for the basic afternoon tea at £26.50, or indulge in a luxury experience with Krug champagne at £145. Expect a sense of theatre and stunning cocktails. Reviewed by Paul Fulford
Glynn Purnell comes over all cheeky Brummie when on TV, but he’s a chef with an audacious, winning touch who creates modern dishes that draw on Birmingham’s varied cultural heritage. Try the carpaccio of Herefordshire beef or the elevated cured sea trout. Enjoy 'A Purnell's journey' menu for £75 per person or the Brummie tapas from £60 per person. Reviewed by Paul Fulford
To step into this split-level seafood restaurant is to leave the bustle of Birmingham city centre far behind. The second restaurant from Adam Stokes (better known for the Michelin-starred Adam’s), the Oyster Club has the feel of a glitzy Mediterranean hotel bar; all mirrors and marbles. Naturally, oysters are a big draw, but the large, well-executed menu (be warned: it can get expensive), runs from an East Asian-style crispy squid salad, to a classic whole roasted Dover sole with brown shrimps and beurre noisette. Large plates from £16. Reviewed by Tony Naylor
This small, relaxed and welcoming place in the fashionable suburb of Moseley landed its first Michelin star in autumn 2015, and rightly so. Chef-owner Brad Carter cooks technically accomplished, imaginative, modern seasonal food, while his partner Holly Jackson leads a polished front-of-house team. The amuse-bouche of chicken liver cereal is a star dish. There are also some impressive vegetarian options, including cauliflower, grains, seeds & truffle. Prices on the short but balanced wine list kick off at £23, and there’s a great list of craft beers, including three from the wonderful Warwickshire brewery Purity. Reviewed by Paul Fulford
Alex Claridge and his team have created a small slice of nature in the middle of Birmingham city centre. The innovative menu is designed to evoke memories of everything from a quiet stroll through the woods to a childhood seaside holiday. Expect fresh, seasonal, British ingredients, paired expertly with a variety of specially devised cocktails, craft beers and wine. Make time to sample the tasting menu with an accompanying flight of drinks, or the five-course lunch tasting menu (£40). Reviewed by Georgina Kiely
Best for casual dining and cheap eats
Located in the Edwardian Piccadilly Arcade by New Street station, this hip brew bar not only dispenses supremely silky flat whites and perfect pourover coffees, but also incredible baking. Co-owner Lucy Lam oversees the creation of croissant and pan aux pistachio, stunning madeleines, brownies and macarons, many of them vegan. Specials such as individual chocolate fondant cakes, served with pipettes of crème anglaise, are slickly stylish, mature in their well modulated flavours and several rungs above the standard coffee shop offer. From around £1.90. Reviewed by Tony Naylor
A few years ago, local chef/ cookery tutor, Lap-fai Lee tipped Good Food off about a dish apparently unique to Birmingham’s Chinatown, the ‘three rice roast’, a large portion of Cantonese pork belly, roast duck and char siu pork roughly chopped over rice. It is impossible to choose between Look In (6 Ladywell Walk, £8.20) and Peach Garden on quality, so why not get takeaway from both and stage your own face-off? Expect honey-lacquered char siu and pork belly whose Chinese-style crackling – a crumbly, aerated crust, rather than the glassy UK version – delivers a staggeringly intense flavour: somewhere between Frazzles and the best crispy bacon fat ever. This is not food for the squeamish - expect skin, fat, bones. Both venues are friendly, no-frills café-canteens, but Peach Garden edges it on back-street atmosphere. Triple £8.50, other dishes from £6.50; 6 Bath Passage, off Ladywell Walk, 0121 666 7502. Reviewed by Tony Naylor
This wood-fired pizza joint retains a feel of the Jewellery Quarter workshop it once was. The bar is a basic construction of planks and plywood, while its whitewashed walls are stacked with slabs of beer, sacks of flour and huge cans of Italian tomatoes. In the open kitchen, embers glow in a huge domed oven. That artisan-maker lineage is further emphasised by Otto’s slowly-proved dough and its use of quality ingredients, from Campanian buffalo mozzarella and British charcuterie to roasted leeks. The result is a seriously on-point pizza, its puffy, lightly chewy base persuasively leopard-spotted with char. Pizzas from £6.50 Reviewed by Tony Naylor
The family behind Indian Streatery graduated from the Digbeth Dining Club street-food market. They now have a permanent restaurant, but have not forgotten their street-food roots. The centrepiece of the restaurant is a mocked-up food cart, where, from 11.30pm to 3pm, staff serve eat-in/takeaway lunch curries and jazzy chaats, that include chicken, samosas and pakoras in the usual perky salad of chickpeas, onions, crunchy sev, yogurt, pomegranate and tamarind chutney. In the evening, a full menu is served. Lunch from £4.95. Reviewed by Tony Naylor
A large, street-art-bedecked restaurant on the edge of Chinatown, Paul Collis’s Meat Shack specialises in smashed burgers, where the patty is squashed down on the griddle to give it an impressively caramelised exterior, while retaining plenty of grass-fed, beefy juices inside. Packed into durable buns and slathered in homemade sauces, eating here is a messy business, but well worth the clean-up operation. Burgers from £7.75. Reviewed by Tony Naylor
This tiny Jewellery Quarter spot – a takeaway kiosk with a few benches outside – only serves on weekday lunchtimes (11.30am-2.30pm), but hunt it out. The kitchen team has spent time at Ottolenghi and have also worked in Lisbon, hence the Portuguese slant to a menu that might run from salt cod fritters and arancini, via a pork stew, to a frango assado sandwich: roasted marinated chicken in a spicy tomato sauce on Madeiran bolo de caco bread (a soft, chewy flatbread like a cross between an English muffin and a pitta). Salcooks’ pastel de nata are deliriously good, too. Note: no cash, card-only. Meals around £5. Reviewed by Tony Naylor
A railway arch spin-off from Original Patty Men next door, this high-end craft beer bar is a rather more grown-up affair. Ballast for all its hoppy treats comes in the form of British cured meats, cheeses and killer grilled cheese sandwiches that make fine use of roasted garlic, Ogleshield cheese and n’duja. If wine is more your thing, Arch 13 (food from £5; arch13bar. co.uk) does similar things in a railway arch across town. Light meals from £5.50. Reviewed by Tony Naylor
Launched in 2012 in an industrial-cum-arty part of the city, this award-winning Friday evening venture goes from strength to strength. There’s a changing line-up of street-food artisans each week, including Indian bites from Goody Gujarati, Canoodle's Vietnamese and Cambodian dishes, Low ‘N’ Slow’s US-inspired barbecue and much more. Expect to pay around £6 per dish. Reviewed by Paul Fulford
Set on a grimy street behind New Street station, Bonehead – dark; loud music; walls plastered with street art and music posters – is an unusually convincing homage to the kind of boozy, late-night dive-bars you might find in Amsterdam or Berlin. Fans flock here for Bonehead’s fried chicken: juicy, high-quality poultry in an admirably light, moreish savoury coating that, as you eat, reveals its seasoning complexities and lingering heat. Its wings, thighs and chicken burgers are served with an A1 selection of craft beers. Meals from £8. Reviewed by Tony Naylor
Pared back, contemporary decor, skilfully made pub-grub classics, plus a range of fantastic beers – there’s lots to like about this buzzy venue. Pop in for a pint and snack on a beer-glazed pork pie and a few homemade pork scratchings, or settle down for something more substantial. Purecraft is universally popular, particularly with beer buffs. Reviewed by Paul Fulford
Launched in 2014, this quaint, atmospheric Syrian coffee house in the heart of Moseley has already had to expand because it proved so popular. Snack on freshly made kibbeh, shawarma, falafel, fatayer, kofta and hummus while sipping mint tea, Arabic coffee or the salted yogurt drink ayran. Generous meze platters are priced from £6.95. Reviewed by Paul Fulford
Located in an 18th-century cellar, this is probably Birmingham’s most atmospheric restaurant. Choose a steak – the 10oz Aberdeen Angus flat iron steak at £16.95 is especially good – or the blackened Cajun cod for £16.95. Reviewed by Paul Fulford
These Birmingham street-food legends are now permanently housed in a railway arch on the edgy edge of the city centre. It offers makeshift decor but well-crafted burgers – the Alabama slammer costs £8 and combines crispy chicken with a lime and ginger slaw, along with plenty of hot sauce. Reviewed by Paul Fulford
This family-run, unfussy cafe has funky decor and food that’s freshly prepared and brilliant value. The Vietnamese rolls stuffed with prawns, fish and seaweed are a joy, and the bowls of noodles are fragrant. Expect to pay £22 per head for two courses and drinks. Reviewed by Paul Fulford
This huge Cantonese restaurant has been going since 1981 and is popular with Brummies, including the local Chinese community. The menu is vast and includes an enormous selection of good-quality dim sum available all day, standards like steamed duck in orange sauce, and lesser known specialities (such as ostrich) for the more adventurous. Mains from £10. Reviewed by Paul Fulford
This small corner pub is tucked away in the city centre and serves Punjabi grills and curries at a bargain price, along with a craft ale or two. The large grill at £14.95 is a mountain of feistily-spiced meat that serves several people. Reviewed by Paul Fulford
Run by a Polish chef with a flair for Japanese cuisine, this a beautiful space with well-crafted food. Sit at the bar and choose a sharing starter of mixed sashimi for £13.50. If you're here for a celebration, they can even make you a sushi birthday cake. Reviewed by Paul Fulford
Feast on oysters, cockles and whelks at the counter of this long-established stall in the Bull Ring Indoor Market on Edgbaston Street. Reviewed by Paul Fulford
Find slow-leavened loaves, cakes and pies at this artisan bakery beneath the Midland Metro tramline at Arch 33, Water Street. Reviewed by Paul Fulford
Visit this 150-year-old pub in Moseley for a Tardis of a beer garden, a wine shed and cocktails. Reviewed by Paul Fulford
Where to shop
This specialist wine bar has a range of over 600 bottles for sale, available for sampling by anyone with a Loki tasting card. Be sure to check out the featured wines selected by the staff, from as little as 69p a snifter. The intimate lounge area upstairs is the perfect place to relax with a nice rioja and one of their cheese and nibble platters. Whether you're a seasoned wine enthusiast or keen to sample and find your favourite, Loki's selection can't be beaten. Reviewed by Georgina Kiely
Buy rare and unusual whiskies from around the world at this small shop in a Victorian arcade packed with specialist retailers. Reviewed by Paul Fulford
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