With superb Michelin-starred spots, some of the best Indian restaurants in the land, up-and-coming culinary stars of tomorrow, superb cheap eats, family-run favourites, long-standing spots standing the tests of time and those venues riding the crest of the hottest new food trend, Birmingham's restaurant scene is pretty much second to none. But with so many opportunities for fulfilling repasts, which to try first? We've put together our favourite Birmingham restaurants right here, so some of these might be good places to start.
Birmingham's best restaurants
Starting life as a small boutique restaurant on Bennett’s Hill back in 2012, Adam’s quickly outgrew its original location, wowing Birmingham diners and picking up a Michelin Star along the way. Now based in far grander premises on nearby Waterloo Street, the home of chef Adam Stokes serves contemporary fine dining. It isn't cheap, but if you’re after high-quality cuisine and a bit of gastronomic adventure, this is one for you.
Casual, lively and playfully Latino, Bodega is one of the most hard-to-book restaurants in Birmingham. The secret of its success lies in its combination of novel food, buzzing atmosphere and killer drinks menu. First, the food. When Bodega opened its doors back in 2011, there wasn’t really anywhere else to go for a quality South American street food experience (this was before the explosion of burrito trucks and other street traders, of course). Bodega’s moreish menu of burritos (£6.25), nachos and must-have sweet potato fries (£3.50) were the hook that pulled in the Brummie crowds.
Undoubtedly the place to find some of Birmingham’s very finest pizzas, Otto is an unpretentious pizza kitchen serving wood-fired delights in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter. Hosting just 40 covers, the restaurant is an offshoot of the Eight Foot Grocer (actual width) next door. The highly successful miniature grocery sells artisanal products to the discerning young professionals of the Jewellery Quarter, and recently made the move into restaurant dining. A capsule menu of just six pizzas keeps the focus on quality and finesse. All the dough is made in-house, and the ingredients are sourced carefully from suppliers in both the UK and Italy. There are flatbreads for starters, with garlic oil and rosemary, tomato and pesto or mozzarella. Ice cream is on offer for dessert, and they do a few Italian wines and cocktails including negronis and bellinis.
Widely believed to be on the edge of Michelin stardom, and already listed in the Michelin Guide, this is an intimate and elegant neighbourhood restaurant with ambition. It’s headed up by chef Brad Carter, who was trained at Birmingham’s renowned College of Food (now UCB), before a continental tutelage in kitchens across France and Spain. Back on his home turf, Carter and partner Holly Jackson set up the Moseley eatery with the aim of delivering ‘light and modern’ cuisine, with a particular focus on ‘clean flavours and seasonal ingredients.’
Bistro 1847 puts a decidedly gourmet twist on meat-free Mondays, without too high a price tag. A three course meal with a cocktail thrown in (Apple Kiwi Honey is divine) will set you back around £30. At the helm is established Birmingham chef Alex Claridge, known for his previous successes at The Warehouse Cafe, another famous vegetarian eatery in Birmingham. At Bistro 1847, Claridge put in place dainty creations like curried swede, masala slaw, roast cauliflower, cashew nut butter and cinnamon cornflakes.
As one sixth of the city’s Michelin-starred collection, Simpsons restaurant shines among its equals as the ultimate fine dining destination in Birmingham. Simpsons is located in the leafy suburb of Edgbaston, where large Victorian and Georgian buildings, such as the one it occupies, are the norm. The area is in the full throes of a bar and restaurant renaissance, with gastropubs and cocktail lounges springing up to cater to the area’s well-to-do clientele. Simpsons is well-placed at the heart of all this activity.
This heritage building in the elegant suburb of Edgbaston was recently refurbished and repurposed into a welcoming pub and restaurant. Formerly the Birmingham Medical Institute, the venue has been given a full dose of the gastropub treatment, with £2.4 million lavished on bringing the historic spot back to life. The bar is large and impressive, as are the fully functional fireplaces installed to ramp up the hygge factor at this cosy new venue. As well as two dining rooms for private events, The Physician features a courtyard garden and an orangery, ideal for a wander when the weather is better. The food is seriously high-end pub grub, and real ales and lagers from the region and beyond are available on tap and in bottle, along with wines, spirits and mulled cider in winter.
Turners at 69 is the latest incarnation of chef Richard Turner’s Michelin-starred venue on the high street in the quaint Victorian suburb of Harborne. The area is becoming a bit of a foodie hotspot in Birmingham, with a variety of independent restaurants, as well as a couple of gastropubs and independent coffee shops. The restaurant is intimate and atmospheric. However, the previously formal, heavily classic approach has been ditched in favour of a more casual attitude to dining. Has the quality suffered? Not according to the Michelin Guide. The newly revamped venue retained its Michelin Star in 2016.
Head to the lively suburb of Kings Heath and you’ll find probably Birmingham’s best tapas restaurant. Byzantium is on York’s Road, a little enclave of wine bars, cosy cafes and, of course, the famous Hare & Hounds pub and music venue. Small and elegantly decorated, Byzantium harks back to the exotic Eastern Mediterranean empire with its ornate lamps, religious art and chapel-like seating. The theme carries through to the food, which branches out from your usual Spanish tapas classics like patatas bravas (although they are present and correct).
The latest restaurant in the Birmingham area to receive the coveted Michelin Star, Peel’s is housed within an upmarket manor hotel in Solihull. The venue has strong credentials, holding three AA rosettes as well. A succession of locally rooted chefs with ambition have helped to renovate and elevate Peel’s to its current high standard. The menu focuses on simplicity, with emphasis on sourcing high quality produce to put together informal but well thought out dishes. With a small capacity of just 28 diners, and opening for dinner only, the restaurant prioritises quality over quantity.
Chef Glynn Purnell is a lynchpin of Birmingham’s gastronomic scene. Thanks to countless television appearances on ‘Saturday Kitchen’, the bearded Brummie is becoming a household name beyond the boundaries of his home city. Having won Birmingham one of its first Michelin Stars at a previous restaurant, Purnell set up shop on his own soon after, where sure enough the Michelin gods came knocking again to award a star in 2009.
Billing itself as ‘Birmingham’s favourite Chinese restaurant’, Chung Ying is certainly one of the most established. The word ‘institution’ is overused, but it might be appropriate in this case. The restaurant has been serving Cantonese fare at the heart of Chinatown since 1981, and is very popular with Birmingham’s Chinese community - both resident and visiting.
Birmingham has long been famous for its South Asian cuisine, with a proliferation of curry houses, balti restaurants and Indian eateries. However, there are a few that have risen above the crowd and carved out a superior niche. Itihaas is one of them. Well-placed at the boundaries of the historic Jewellery Quarter and the Colmore Business District, Itihaas has long been popular with hard-to-please corporate professionals. Nowadays, however, it is also attracting growing admiration from Birmingham’s army of dedicated food lovers.
Meander through pots, plants and every shade of green via an unassuming opening in the York Road to discover this thoroughly chilled-out spot. Sharing a courtyard and ethos with a neighbouring deli and organic farm shop, the Kitchen Garden Cafe does a steady, loyal trade throughout the week. For the meaty-minded, the smoked dry cured bacon stands out and can be found in the full English or taken as part of a chunky breakfast sandwich.
Moroccan cuisine often flies under the radar as other, shoutier food trends like Mexican or Thai grab the limelight. But the subtle flavourings, patient slow cooking and rich variety make La Fibule a perennial Birmingham favourite. The bohemian suburb of Moseley is the setting for this North African restaurant. The interior is beautifully decorated in authentic Moroccan style, with traditional hanging lanterns, intricately patterned tiles and comfortable cushioned seating. The menu is broad and offers the opportunity to go beyond the quintessential couscous and lamb tagine.
Possibly Birmingham’s best-known Indian restaurant, Lasan has ridden a wave of publicity ever since it was featured on Gordon Ramsay’s ‘The F Word’ in 2010, and is one of the showpieces of the city’s rich Indian food tradition. The decor is a fusion of modern and traditional; fancy mirrors and ornaments – including a large wooden sitar – adorn the space. Fine dining is the guiding principle at Lasan, and every dish is carefully constructed and beautifully presented.
Despite offering over a hundred beers, Pure is as often the pick of Brum’s gin-swigging contingent as it is the protectorate of boys’ business lunches or post-work ales. As well as a more substantial food menu – itself featuring an array of ales and lagers – a plethora of moreish, pastry-based bar bites keeps the rabble on the right side of lively all evening. We’ve been known to get very enthusiastic about the dense and juicy pork pie, which is served with the house piccalilli or mustard.
Sabai Sabai is a Thai restaurant with outposts in the restaurant-friendly neighbourhoods of Moseley and Harborne. Both areas are hotspots for independent eateries, but Sabai Sabai stands out with its great quality Thai food. The menu is generous in its variety, excelling at all the familiar Thai staples like chicken satay (£6.95), pad thai (£9.95) and green curry (£10.95). But for the more inquisitive, there are less trodden options like sweet corn cakes, jungle curry and holy basil stir fry, which is gorgeous and a definite must-have.
The highly successful San Carlo Group started life right here in Birmingham back in 1992 and continues to enjoy its reputation as one of the best restaurants in the city. After two decades, the glamorous Italian establishment has become a firm favourite. Temple Street in Birmingham city centre is the spot where San Carlo Group began its quest for world domination, going on to open restaurants in Bristol, Manchester and London, before turning its attention to Thailand and the Middle East.
The word ‘karczma’ is Polish for inn or tavern, and this unique restaurant sets out to recreate the hearty rustic feeling of a Polish country cottage inn. Its ‘discovery’ by Guardian food critic Jay Rayner in 2012 brought a wave of new interest to the quirky old favourite. The decoration is really something – you almost feel as if you’ve walked onto the set of a TV program. Bring on the yummy stuffed dumplings (£7.50), creamy pickled herrings, beef stew on potato pancake (£14.70) and beetroot soups (£6.20).