Why Birmingham is a must-visit for foodies

Birmingham’s food scene is one of the best in the country, whether you want to sample award-winning cuisine from celebrated chefs, explore the Balti Triangle or eat the best burgers in the Midlands.

Think about Birmingham and food. You’d be forgiven if the first thing that pops into your head is “curry”. After all, this is the city that invented the balti and has an entire neighbourhood named in its honour. Legend has it that a local Pakistani restaurateur was searching for a dish that could fuse together the traditional one-pot slow-cooked curries with the demands of his western customers. And so, the balti was born. If you want to be sure you’re getting the real deal, there’s only one place to go.

But there’s a lot more to Brum than balti – even though that’s an excellent place to start. To omit the city’s edgy take on Michelin-starred dining would be to deny your stomach some of life’s finest pleasures. And that’s before we even get into Birmingham’s contribution to the craft beer and a burger trend. If you love your food, here are several reasons why Birmingham needs to be on your to-do list.
Starry starry nights
The Michelin star is the pinnacle of recognition in the food world and Birmingham has plenty of spots that have reached those levels of peak excellence. Adam Stokes’ Adam’s started life as a pop-up but proved so overwhelmingly popular that it became a permanent fixture before moving to even bigger premises to accommodate the demand. Reviews have been glowing across the board so it was no surprise when it joined Birmingham’s Michelin star set. Stokes definitely has an eye for style but never at the expense of substance and the food here is boundlessly creative and consistently excellent. 

You can’t talk stars and Birmingham without mentioning local culinary celebrity Glynn Purnell. A regular fixture on BBC shows such as Saturday Kitchen and Great British Menu, Purnell earned his stripes working for some of the best in the business, including Gary Rhodes and Gordon Ramsay, before becoming head chef at Jessica’s, which became the first restaurant in Birmingham to earn a Michelin star in 2005. He now heads up his own place, Purnell’s on Cornwall Street, which is now also Michelin-starred and has won several ‘restaurant of the year’ awards. The emphasis is on the dishes he recalls fondly from his youth, with some creative updates, and that personal touch has made Purnell’s one of Birmingham’s best. The Brummie Tapas is a stroke of genius.

Another undoubted highlight on the city’s food scene is Simpsons, a Birmingham institution which is widely credited with kickstarting fine dining in Brum. Restaurateur Andreas Antona mentored Glynn Purnell and has discovered another star in current head chef Nathan Eades. It does a roaring trade a lunchtime due to a great-value three-course lunch deal and the stylish new dining room makes for the perfect setting for food this good.
High times
So, there’s no shortage of challengers for the title of the best restaurant in Birmingham. But there is only one that can claim the title of the city’s highest and that’s Rofuto. This pan-Asian restaurant sits a lofty 16 floors above Broad Street and has taken advantage of the location with windows that provide widescreen views over the whole city. The sushi, dim sum, sashimi, tempura and kushiyaki here are a step above the usual fare, employing daring flavour combinations to create special dishes to complement the astounding views.
Currying flavour
As we’ve already said, Birmingham is famous for its exceptional Indian cuisine and you’d be missing out greatly if you didn’t go for a Balti during your time in the city. If you’re looking for something that’s a bit different and a bit more special than your average curry house, Lasan will fit the bill. None other than Gordon Ramsay called it the “best local restaurant in the UK”, while it’s a regular fixture on The Sunday Times’ list of the UK’s top 100 restaurants. 

Mughal-e-Azam is another highlight, its location in a former church making for a slightly different experience, while Adil’s claims to have invented the balti in the first place, so naturally they know a thing or two about making a great one. Finally, the less salubrious setting but excellent food at Al Frash is a must, especially with the lowest prices of any restaurant on this list.
Buns and beers
It’s amazing that it took us all so long to figure out how well burgers and craft beer go together. For decades, we were just eating them with soft drinks or milkshakes, oblivious to what we were missing out on. The wool has been well and truly pulled from our eyes and nowhere in Birmingham does this winning combination as well as Original Patty Men is a sure-fire hit. Head to Digbeth to try the city’s best burger and the truly American sensation that is white barbecue sauce. Their range of beers is just as good as their burgers.
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