Birmingham foodie guide: where to eat and drink
Birmingham has long had a constellation of Michelin stars – and balti restaurants – but the city’s street-food stalls, brunch spots and wine bars also shine
Check out the best restaurants in Birmingham and other places to eat and drink in the city with our local foodie guide...
For more exciting restaurants and weekend ideas for food lovers, check out our best UK city breaks.
Where to eat and drink in Birmingham: the full list
Pulperia – best Argentinian dishes
Aktar Islam’s farm-to-table hotspot is a celebration of seasonality, fresh produce and the finest cuts of meat around. Settle into the foliage-filled interior and expect a warm atmosphere, an energetic buzz and open-flame cooking. If you need some expert guidance, the staff are all committed steak specialists and won’t let you put a fork wrong. Everything on the menu has regional South American flair, from the artfully plated pulpo to the chunky, chilli-laced prawns. For those taking their meaty odyssey seriously, don’t miss out on a slathering of smoked bone marrow on crunchy toasted focaccia. On to the main event, Pulperia boasts the best beef from around the globe, from 17-year-old Galician Blonde prime rib to share between two, to a young and tender sirloin. Any non-meat eaters won’t feel left out with a choice of seasonal plates including a suitably indulgent truffle tagliatelle. Top off your dining experience with a bottle from their extensive wine list, showcasing juicy South American offerings. pulperia.co.uk
Folium – best tasting menu
Chef-patron Ben Tesh’s dishes look almost austere in their sleek minimalism but never skimp on flavour, with an imaginative approach to British ingredients that makes a visit to Folium, in the city’s Jewellery Quarter, a must for foodies. The tasting menu changes daily, but might feature homemade bread (using flour milled on-site) and butter; light-as-air crab tart with crab meat hollandaise and a fluffy grating of frozen duck livers; crisp-skinned cod draped in silky cured pork fat with mussels and preserved white asparagus; and blushing lamb neck and saddle spiked with salty anchovy paste and umami seaweed jus.
Delicate desserts include sheep’s yogurt sorbet with aerated white chocolate, and salted milk ice cream with nuggets of cobnuts and caramelised ice cream crumbs. restaurantfolium.com
Medicine Bakery + Gallery – best bakery
Walk into this bakery in the city centre and you’ll be greeted with trays upon trays of baked goods, from baskets piled high with rye loaves and plump sourdough croissants to serried ranks of glossy white Chelsea buns, plus brownies, cronuts, cupcakes and more.
Make your selection (try the enormous passionfruit cronut – you’ll need two hands to eat it) then tuck in at communal tables in the bakery’s light-filled, grandly proportioned Victorian dining space (it doubles as an art gallery). Medicine is also a great spot for brunch, from masala eggs and falafel tartines to pesto ricotta on sourdough toast. medicinebakery.co.uk
Faculty Coffee – best coffee shop
Mellow tunes and spare, stripped-back décor define the vibe at this laid-back coffee den inside the city’s elegant Piccadilly Arcade. Take a break from shopping (and admiring the arcade’s hand-painted ceiling murals) and head inside for guest roasts that range from Square Mile Coffee Roasters to local Quarter Horse Coffee. Order a dinky, super-smooth piccolo and a jaffa brownie or matcha canelé (cakes and pastries are supplied by sister bakery Sixteen, next door), grab a seat by the window and people watch.
Kilder – best craft-beer bar
Next door to Digbeth’s Original Patty Men is their hip sister bar, which combines clean, sleek interiors with an impressive craft-beer offering ( there are around 15 on tap and more in cans and bottles - anything on the menu is also available to take away at a 20% discount). Find anything from IPAs and pale ales to porters, stouts, goses and saisons, and a brewery line-up that includes the likes of Alphabet Brew Co, Magic Rock. Northern Monk, Cloudwater, Siren, Mills and more.
There are also plenty of craft ciders on offer (think the likes of Tom Oliver and Little Pomona) and natural wines, including a scrumpy-like orange wine and Austrian pet nat on our visit. Line stomachs with the bar’s speciality, grilled cheese sandwiches, including ’nduja with cheddar, Ogleshield, mozzarella, honey and mint.
40 St Pauls – best gin bar
There’s a decidedly speakeasy feel to this multi-award-winning gin bar in the Jewellery Quarter, where you have to knock on an unmarked door to get in. Inside, discover a low-lit, intimate drinking den with a 140-strong gin collection that’s meticulously and informatively detailed in a book-like menu – gin novices will find it especially helpful.
Service is attentive and friendly, and tutored gin tastings are also on offer. Go classic and order a G&T, or try the silky dirty martini, with its subtle lactic notes. 40stpauls.co.uk
Bonehead – best fried chicken
Fried chicken and beer is a winning combo and this casual city centre outfit does it to perfection. Set in grungy, dive-bar-style surroundings, Bonehead serves up wings, strips and ultra-stacked burgers coated in a winningly crispy, flavourful batter. There’s also craft beer galore (including Bonehead’s clean, easy-drinking, own-brand lager) and waffle fries to accompany your deep-fried chook. Flavourings range from punchy Nashville hot seasoning to buffalo pepper sauce with blue cheese. boneheaduk.com
Tiger Bites Pig – best bao
Just two minutes from New Street station, Tiger Bites Pig is all about soft, pillowy baos stuffed with moreish fillings such as peppery chicken with crispy sesame chicken skin; red-braised pork belly with pickled mustard greens, and salt and pepper tofu with fish fragrant aubergines. Choose from house-made XO sauce and Szechuan chilli oil to pep up your buns (or one of their rice bowls) and wash them down with an array of Japanese drinks, from ice-cold Kirin beer, to Suntory whisky and Haku vodka. tigerbitespig.co.uk
Chakana – best Peruvian restaurant
Having left Michelin-starred Peruvian restaurant Lima in London to set up shop in Moseley, Robert Ortiz’s first solo project combines light and bright interiors with seriously colourful, flavourful plates of food. Kick the meal off with elegant flutes of creamily foamy pisco sours at the cobalt-blue bar before feasting on classic and modern Peruvian dishes.
Ceviches are well represented on the menu – try the sea bream, with butter-soft chunks of fish swimming in a zesty tiger’s milk with creamy sweet potato and crunchy, nutty canchita corn – as well as tiraditos (think Peruvian sashimi) and causas, a spicy potato terrine (order the king crab version, with potato coloured bright red with achiote, spicy avo purée and sweet morsels of crustacean). Mains lean towards hearty, from confit sucking pig with yucca root to seabass fillet in tiger’s milk and pisco broth. Finish with Amazonian chocolate mousse and a pisco from the restaurant’s extensive menu. chakana-restaurant.co.uk
The Vanguard @ 1000 Trades – best for unusual drinks
The award-winning 1000 Trades is worth a visit on its own for its cracking selection of craft beer (including its own house brews, a golden bitter and a pale ale) and natural wines on tap. For something different, however, head upstairs to hidden sister bar Vanguard, set in a former Victorian jewellery workshop, to discover a drinks offering structured around mead, a fermented honey wine. Enjoy it in cocktails, or sip neat (there are more than 20 available) – those unfamiliar with the drink should treat it like a deliciously sweet and fragrant dessert wine. vanguardbar.co.uk
The Oyster Club – best seafood restaurant in Birmingham
A few minutes’ walk from central New Street station, The Oyster Club is chef Adam Stokes’ second Birmingham restaurant.
Grab a seat at one of the luxe leather barstools at the counter and order a platter of oysters – there’s normally six different varieties on ice, ready to be shucked, with the option of having them as nature intended or with a Japanese or rockerfeller dressing. There are also three different types of caviar, served with crème fraîche and blinis.
Or, of course, you can visit here without trying oysters at all. There’s a comprehensive menu of small and large plates (aka starters and main courses) covering anything from sea bass sashimi and a selection of cured meats, to fish pie with an Old Winchester cheddar mash top and a wagyu beef burger in a brioche bun.
Opheem – best Indian restaurant in Birmingham
Originally from Aston, North Birmingham, with Bangladeshi parents, Aktar Islam has made a name for himself as one of the Birmingham's leading chefs, and Opheem is his first solo restaurant. Focussing on Indian culinary traditions married with modern techniques, this is fine dining with dialled-up flavour. Choose from Herdwick lamb loin with tongue beignet and bone marrow sauce, or tandoori cauliflower with lentil bhaji and coconut milk, and curd dumpling with milk sorbet and finger lime.
The room is dark with a large twinkly-light chandelier dominating the dramatic space, with brown leather chairs, clothless dark wooden tables and grey walls. There’s also a private dining room, and a bar, where you can have small plates and snacks.
Purnell’s – best for service and fine dining in Birmingham
“Fine dining doesn’t have to be stuffy,” says Sonal Clare, sommelier and restaurant manager of Glynn Purnell’s eponymous Birmingham restaurant. Sonal won Best Sommelier at this year’s GQ Food and Drink Awards – a timely accolade for his 10th year of working at Purnell’s, where he started as a waiter.
For the past five years, he has been restaurant manager, during which time he has stamped his personality on the relaxed-but-professional service style. Sonal has also curated the Book of Wine, a 25-page drinks list that includes a section of wines currently being enjoyed by the staff, as well as vintage champagnes at £3,400 a pop.
“We don’t have linen tablecloths or serviettes, but what we try to do is pass on the philosophy, ethos and personality of Glynn through the food and service. People see his fun personality on TV, so that’s what they come to the restaurant for.” With a Michelin star since 2007, Purnell’s has forged a national reputation for its food and service; Sonal says it’s all about adding theatre to a meal.
“I don’t see a problem with a bit of romanticism or ‘va va voom’ during the dining experience. There’s nothing nicer than a smart and sophisticated waiter or waitress attending to your table, and as long as the table chat is genuine and in good nature, then everyone leaves feeling happy. Personalities are very important here at Purnell’s – we certainly aren’t robots who all look and act the same.”
Loki Wine – best wine bar in Birmingham
A wine merchant and bar with its own tasting rooms, Loki has two sites in Birmingham and more than 800 wines on its list. Customers can enjoy any of these bottles on site for a nominal £7 drink-in corkage charge and Loki’s wine dispensing machines enable the bars to serve tasters of some 70 wines, which tend to be exciting new discoveries such as bottles from Japan, China and Israel, alongside classic wines from the New and Old Worlds. As well as charcuterie and cheese, sandwiches and scotch eggs, Loki also works regularly with street-food businesses to provide guest pop-ups.
Baked in Brick – best pizza in Birmingham
The 60-seater pizzeria in Birmingham's funky Custard Factory is seriously relaxed with rough-and-ready wooden-clad booths, tables and chairs, exposed industrial ceilings, with looming fans, and a Mini Cooper breaking through the wall.
There’s charcuterie (learn how to make your own charcuterie here) and cheese, and the odd salad, but obviously the star attraction here is the pizza (discover our best pizza recipes here). The majority are served with mozzarella and San Marzano tomato sauce, which is a good start. Beef shin ragu and wild mushroom calzonewon the title of best street food dish at the British and European Street Food Awards, and its meltingly tender meat with rich sauce stands up. The dough, too, is impressive – bouncy, crisp and with plenty of flavour – and works well in another iteration, topped with goat’s cheese, caramelised red onion and grape chutney, with wild rocket and a slick of onyx balsamic.
The Wilderness – best British restaurant in Birmingham
Cooking that focusses on native, often foraged, British ingredients and a theatrical, boundary-pushing approach (don’t be surprised to find an arrangement of ants on your plate) have made The Wilderness the hottest restaurant in Birmingham. Book early and enjoy the ride.
Digbeth Dining Club – best street food in Birmingham
Multi award-winning Digbeth Dining Club was the city’s first street food event and continues to welcome some of the best vendors in the country to Birmingham every Friday and Saturday (plus local favourite Baked In Brick, which cooks chicken tikka over charcoal under the bonnet of a Mini). digbethdiningclub.com
Original Patty Men – best burgers in Birmingham
Cutting their teeth on the street food scene before partnering with Siren Craft Brew to launch their own restaurant, Original Patty Men serve the best burgers in Birmingham. Big Vern’s Krispy Ring is a meat patty encased in a doughnut; it sounds weird but it works. originalpattymen.com
Where to stay in Birmingham
High Field Town House – best boutique hotel
This listed Victorian villa in leafy Edgbaston has 12 high-ceilinged, elegantly decorated bedrooms filled with antiques and expansive beds. If your budget can stretch to it we suggest opting for one of the premium rooms with roll-top baths set in front of bay windows – perfect for a morning soak.
It’s self-check in (with free coffee and an honesty bar in the cosy, newspaper-filled lounge) which keeps things pleasantly low key, and you can head next door to gastro pub The High Field for hearty, free-range breakfasts such as classic fry ups, shakshuka, creamy mushrooms on sourdough or coconut yogurt with berries and granola (you can book either on a room-only basis or a breakfast-included basis). Doubles from £78 per night, check availability at booking.com
Words | Laura Creaven, Laura Rowe and Mark Taylor. Laura Craven runs Full to the Brum, a Birmingham-based food and drinks blog (fulltothebrum.co.uk).
Photographs | Jack Spicer Adams, Team Loaf, Tom Bird Photography, Wesley Alcorn