Discovering the Second City
I moved to Birmingham from the beautiful and earthly depths of Cornwall in 2012. After nearly three years, three different places to live and countless amazing experiences, it’s only now that I feel like I’m finally starting to understand and appreciate the real Birmingham.
On first arrival, as with most students that have left home and ventured to an alien city, I stuck with what I knew. Everywhere has a run-of-the-mill Walkabout, a cheap and cheerful Wetherspoons and a towering Vue cinema. As time went on I dipped my toes into some of the quirkier sides of the city. Walking along the canals, tucking into a lovely pie and chips from The Malt House, watching a band (other peoples shoulders) at an intimate gig at The Institute and painting the town red in Digbeth or the flamboyant Hurst Street nightlife.
It’s only now that I know I’m discovering the real Birmingham and if I thought I couldn’t love the city anymore than I already did, I was mistaken.
There are some crazy good initiatives and companies within the city that are the ‘brummie lovers’, they know everything there is to know about the past, present and future for the city, because they care. Birmingham isn’t a vessel for them, it’s life. I CHOOSE Birmingham and Independent Birmingham are where to find and build your Birmingham TO-DO’s for the year ahead.
I’ve picked out some of my favourite things to do in ye’old Brum and asked others to tell me what they love for restaurants, drinking, music, comedy and days-out. I even asked them as Birmingham connoisseurs for simple tips and tricks for becoming one yourself. Whether you’re a born and bred ‘brummie’ or a newbie to the area, you will definitely thank me for bringing them to your attention. Take a leaf and discover the greats of the city.
- Grab a ‘banging’ roast – Take a different approach to your average joe Toby Carvery and dive into a famous plate from The Plough in Harborne.
- It’s neat on the streets at Digbeth Dining club – DDC is purely flavour in abundance and a proper good time. Theres a huge variety in what the vendors have to offer and it’s an alternative dinner experience at Spot*light.
- It’s all heart with Cherry Reds – Cherry Reds have two independent and cosy cafe/bars situated in King’s Heath and on John Bright Street in the city centre. It’s was described to me as a home from home.
- Everything is shiny and new at The Sunflower Lounge – After a revamp and relaunch in January, The Sunflower Lounge have been making food headlines. Street food heroes Big Papa’s have taken over the Kitchen and are cooking up a storm so head over and grab yourself some yummy buttermilk fried chicken or cola-pulled brisket (dribbles).
- Hidden Hurst Street gem Topokki – This Korean restaurant will have your tastebuds smiling. With fresh and crisp spices and a truly authentic menu, it provides something a bit different in a diner style environment, truly delicious food.
- Bonjour to Le Truc – Not having experienced Le Truc myself yet, this recommendation says Oui! Oui! “Absolutely delicious French food. Uses all fresh produce and is something a bit fancy but affordable.”
- Colourful Bodega – Bodega has been more than raved about. As part of the Bitters N Twisted chain it provides good eats, cocktails and atmosphere that can do no wrong.
- The delicious Peel and Stone bakery is a gem within the Jewellery Quarter, offering a wide range of baked goods for every taste.
- Carters of Moseley – Carters is an award winning restaurant boasting seasonal and affordable fine dining with expert wine pairings with a warm atmosphere. Slightly costly but the experience is more than worth it for special occasions.
- Pigeon park star, Fumo – The sister to celebrity dining favourite San Carlos is a classy Italian, perfect for a lunchtime catch up with a friend or a well priced and quality date.
- Always be jamminnnnn at Turtle Bay – Caribbean through and through, Turtle Bay’s heart and soul shines through in its excellent menu and tooty-fruity cocktails.
- The social hub of Sidewalk, Hurst Street – either sit back and relax with a drink on the sofas or party with the best of them on the dance floor.
- It’s all go at Boho, Bohemian Bar Moseley – Indie bar Bohemian has a lovely upbeat vibe with plenty of signature cocktails to keep you entertained all night. The personality of the venue and it’s staff are what makes it special, paired with it’s ability to become a night club’esque venue at the weekends.
- ‘Not so slow’ Slug and Lettuce Harbourne – a high end, classy and modern take on the chain that can sometimes be a bit same old.
- Get your gin and juice at The Jekyll and Hyde – boasting over 80 types of gin and offering Mr. Hyde’s Main Bar and Dr. Jekyll’s Gin Parlour, this bar has made a name for itself and continues to maintain it’s weird and wonderful offering, wowing customers every time.
- Pricey but nicey – For the view it’s worth heading up to the top floor of The Cube to Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse. Grab a tasty cocktail and enjoy the city and it’s night lights from the heights.
- Get loose at The Goose, Selly Oak – This pub is vibrant and full of life. A definite student venue which does a fabulous quiz every Sunday evening.
- Prince of Wales, Moseley – A renowned regal pub situated in the heart of Moseley, it’s the ‘best ‘secret’ beer garden in the city bar none’. It has it’s own Tiki cocktail hut, wine coneisseur ‘hut’ and cigar shed.
- BrewDog – Not for the feint hearted, this craft beer specialist brings you some of the best from around the world.
- A well needed pit stop along the canals at The Malt House - A warm and friendly place for a bit of grub and a beer, especially if the sun’s out.
- The Sun on the Hill – It does what it says on the tin, provides a busy and bright music scene every weekend featuring the best DJ’s and live music.
- The Hare and Hounds – Described to me as ‘the sticky floor and the scent of a hot and sweaty night…I LOVE it!’ The Hare and Hounds is an all singing, all dancing venue that entertains, entertains, entertains.
- The Asylum – built by musicians, for musicians. This 600 capacity venue keeps the city’s rock and roll scene at the top of it’s game.
- The Jam House – an eclectic mix of music genres and attractive to a wide range of ages, this venue makes you ‘want to get to the front of the crowd and love life’.
- The Old Crown – Digbeth’s go-to venue for a few beverages before a night on the town, also known as Birmingham’s oldest inn!
- Thrifty and nifty charity shopping in Harborne – Ten minutes from the city centre, Harborne is a treasure chest of charity shops and you’ll find yourself browsing for hours before walking away with some bargains, maybe even stop at Boston Tea Party for a relaxing coffee afterwards.
- A mooch around the Custard Factory – peruse some cracking shops see some of the ever changing street art.
- Loki wine tasting – Loki’s amazing range of wines get the palette tingling – you can buy sips by topping up a card and dip your toes in many varieties of the grape juice.
- Famous curry’lovin – You cannot come to or live in Birmingham without heading to the Balti Triangle to tuck into Birmingham’s signature dishes.
- Get pumped at Fuel, Bullring – Treat yourself to a tasty treat from Fuel…not to mention getting your five a day at the same time.
LOLS and GO-TO VENUES
- MAC - Make art a part of your life by experiencing their extensive programme of theatre, dance, independent cinema, music, spoken word, comedy, exhibitions and special events.
- You’ll leave smiling at The Glee Club – featuring the likes of celebrity comedians and rookies, the Glee Club is a nice alternative to a night out and will have you belly laughing no matter who’s on the stage.
- The Dark Horse – there aren’t many quiet nights for TDH, the calendar is full of comedy nights, open mic nights and live music.
- Ikon Gallery - Showcasing some of the best in contemporary art within the stunning neo-gothic school building at Brindleyplace.
BEFORE AND AFTER THE SUN GOES DOWN
- Get some air in your lungs – Birmingham has a wide network of canal systems. Do take a stroll along them and experience the beauty and serenity of it all.
- A few pounds to go around – If you aren’t partial to a stroll, put a few quid towards a cruise along the canals, you’ll see some wicked derelict buildings and interesting architecture.
- ‘Round the bend’ crazy golf at Golden Putter, Cannon Hill park – After opening in 2014 this attraction provides a super time for some friendly competition.
- Electric Cinema – Not your normal cinema experience, sit back and relax on a sofa and order your treats and enjoy a classical flick.
- Find pretty places, venture across brum and appreciate the beauty of it. There are so many hidden gems and sites like BrumPic will help you to find your way.
- Visit the Brum YumYum markets – take a wander and experience some of the best street food brought to you by The Street Food people and producers of the new KingshEATh streetfood market. It’s all about StreetEats, StreetTreats and StreetBeats.
- Go for the looks and the books to the Library of Birmingham – whether you want to just gaze upon the city from the balconies or take a pew and get lost in a book, the Library of Birmingham is perfect for both.
- Canalside Cafe – grab a cuppa and sit back and ponder…or just watch the canal boats and birds.
- Sign up for I CHOOSE Birmingham – Brought to you by passionate Birmingham-born writer and editor Tom Cullen, I CHOOSE will give you the most up to date information and advice on the best places to go to to discover the city.
- Read the local news – You can only discover the city if you know what’s happening, where it’s happening and why it’s happening.
- Independent Birmingham – you’d be silly not to sign up and purchase an IB card, offering some crazy deals for some of the best.
- Use Twitter – for some of the fastest information about Birmingham and it’s offering, head to the Twittersphere and follow EVERYTHING ‘Brum’.
- Open your mind and step out of your comfort zone – not your type of music? Not your type of food? Not where you’d usually go? You might find a new love if you take chance on something you might not have done before.
- Ask others – the more you talk to people about their experiences in the city the more you can start creating your own.
- Save splashing out on nights out you wont remember and put the dolla you save to doing some of the things on ’50 Shades of Brum’.
- Spread the word… the more the merrier! Join the Birmingham revolution and spread some pride in how much of a great time there is to be had here.
Fall in love with Birmingham and let me know how it goes!