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Photograph: Andy Parsons

The 6 best desi pubs in Birmingham

Local institutions they may now be, but these brilliant desi pubs in Birmingham once shook up the city’s food scene

Written by
James Brennan
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When Malcolm X visited Smethwick in 1965, he found a community fraught with racial tensions. Asian migrants were not welcome in some bedsits, shops and those most English of institutions, local pubs. Fast forward 50 years, and many of those Birmingham pubs have been transformed – saved, even – by entrepreneurial British-Indian Sikhs. Revitalised with traditional Punjabi food and a unique spirit of optimism and inclusion, here are the best desi pubs in Birmingham and the Black Country. Want to make a crawl of it? There’s a whole host of superb craft beer joints and other cocktail bars in Birmingham

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best bars in Birmingham

Best desi pubs in Birmingham

Indian Brewery Company
Photograph: Courtesy TripAdvisor.com

Indian Brewery Company

A bit of a wild card, this micro-brewery-cum-restaurant is more of a hipster joint than a desi pub. But don’t let that put you off. Grab a pint of their very own Birmingham Lager and work your way through a menu of street-food inspired classics. With an interior that’s part Bollywood, part industrial chic, this is what the future of desi pubs might look like.

This handsome Victorian pub is considered something of a gem among desi aficionados. It serves traditional home-style curries, from rogan josh to keema mutter. People come to watch football on the big screens, but it’s the towering mixed grills that steal the show. Great value too.

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Formerly the Gough Arms, this city centre pub was saved from the wrecking ball by its transformation into a desi destination. The mixed grill is a small hillock of chicken wings, lamb shaami kebabs and more. While the veg platter offers samosas, spring rolls, bhajis and even some nice tandoori tofu.

Nestled in the industrial heartlands, the Soho Tavern was a weary old boozer given the full desi treatment. Where once all you’d find to eat was a bag of scratchings and a knuckle sandwich, now you’ll find a warm welcome and an extensive menu. The décor is modern and functional, but the landlord won’t mind if you nip over the road to the cosier Black Eagle for an ale (he owns that too).

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This is the West Brom institution that lit the coals beneath the desi pub revolution. What looks like a small traditional corner pub is in fact home to an open grill that fills a large dining area with glorious aromas of tandoori spice. The Hawthorns is just down the road, so it’s a much-loved spot for a pre-and-post-match pint and bite.

Local artist Steven Cartwright created the pub’s stained-glass windows to tell the story of landlord Jeet’s journey to the Black Country. The Red Lion has been a haven for many migrants over the years with its warm atmosphere and hot grub.

Still thirsty?

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars

You can’t go too far wrong when your hand is cradling a carefully crafted boozy concoction, and Birmingham’s best cocktail bars really know a thing or two about muddling, mixing, shaking and generally showcasing an art that just keeps getting better.

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