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 pop-up in a former sandwich shop on Bennetts Hill back in 2013, 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 for you.
Casual, lively and playful, Bodega is one of the most hard-to-book restaurants in Birmingham. The secret of its success lies in its combination of great food, buzzing atmosphere and killer drinks. When Bodega opened its doors back in 2010, there wasn’t really anywhere else in the city to go for quality Latin American street food (this was before the explosion of burrito trucks and other street traders, of course). Bodega’s moreish menu of burritos, nachos and must-have sweet potato fries with chipotle mayo may no longer be a novelty, but it’s still pulling in the Brummie crowds.
Home to some of Birmingham’s finest pizzas, Otto is an unpretentious little place serving wood-fired delights in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter. The restaurant is an offshoot of the Eight Foot Grocer next door, a hugely successful miniature grocery selling artisanal ingredients to discerning local foodies. A capsule menu of eight pizzas keeps the focus on quality. All the dough is made in-house, and toppings are sourced carefully from suppliers in both the UK and Italy. Start with flatbreads or a charcuterie board, finish with ice cream or tiramisu and wash it down with Italian wines, craft beers, Aperol spritzes and negronis.
This intimate and friendly neighbourhood restaurant has wowed the critics and counts a Michelin star among its many awards. It’s headed up by chef Brad Carter, who trained at Birmingham’s renowned College of Food (now University College Birmingham), and his partner Holly Jackson, who looks after front of house. Carter’s creative cooking focuses on great British produce, with each dish made up of three key ingredients. Without doubt the best food you’ll find in trendy Moseley.
Veggie restaurant 1847 puts a decidedly gourmet twist on meat-free Mondays, without too high a price tag – a three-course meal will set you back just £27. Set up in 2011 by Damien Davenport, the 1847 family now extends to Bristol and Manchester. The Birmingham branch is headed up by chef Tony Cridland, whose seasonal dishes might include asparagus with avocado mousse or risotto of roasted cauliflower, pearl barley and almond topped with a cured egg.
One of the city’s first Michelin-starred restaurants, Simpsons is still a shining destination for fine dining. Located in the leafy suburb of Edgbaston, the pretty garden of this grand Georgian house is a draw in summer and makes a perfect backdrop for chef Luke Tipping’s seasonal menu. Recently renovated and now offering three guest rooms for well-heeled weekend getaways, it’s well-placed at the heart of a local bar and restaurant renaissance, which has seen smart gastropubs, cocktail lounges and boutique hotels popping up nearby.
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.
The latest incarnation of chef Richard Turner’s venue on the high street in the quaint Victorian suburb of Harborne. The area is a bit of a Birmingham foodie hotspot, with a variety of independent restaurants, as well as a couple of gastropubs and independent coffee shops. The restaurant is intimate and atmospheric, but the previously formal, heavily classic approach, which won Turner a Michelin star back in 2009, has been ditched in favour of a more casual attitude to dining.
Head to the lively suburb of Kings Heath and you’ll find probably Birmingham’s best tapas restaurant. Byzantium is on York Road, a little enclave of wine bars, cosy cafes and the famous Hare & Hounds pub and music venue. Small and elegantly decorated, Byzantium is filled with ornate lamps, religious art and chapel-like seating. The theme carries through to the food, which branches out from usual Spanish tapas classics such as patatas bravas (although they are present and correct).
The first restaurant in Solihull to receive a Michelin star, Peel’s is housed in an upmarket manor hotel with a walled Victorian garden. A succession of locally rooted chefs with ambition have helped to renovate and elevate the place to its current high standard. The menu focuses on simplicity, with an emphasis on sourcing high-quality produce to put together informal but well-thought-out dishes. With capacity for just 28 diners, and opening for dinner only, the restaurant prioritises quality over quantity with its creative tasting menus.
Chef Glynn Purnell is a lynchpin of Birmingham’s gastronomic scene, famous for his nose-to-tail cooking. Thanks to countless television appearances on ‘Saturday Kitchen’, the bearded Brummie has become 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. Try the ‘Brummie Tapas’ menu, which spans from papadums to slow-cooked beef.
One of Birmingham’s best-known and best-loved Chinese restaurants, Chung Ying is something of an institution in the city. Since the original restaurant opened in the heart of Chinatown in 1981, the family has grown to include two other sites: Chung Ying Central and Chung Ying Garden. The classic Cantonese fare here scores points with hungry Brummies, as well as visiting tourists.
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 more than a hundred beers, Purecraft is as often the pick of Brum’s gin-swigging contingent as it is the protectorate of craft beer fans. As well as a more substantial food menu – itself employing an array of ales and lagers as ingredients – 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 such as chicken satay (£7.45), pad Thai (£10.95) and green curry (£11.45). But for the more inquisitive, there are less-trodden options such as the geng bha ‘jungle curry’ and the must-try aromatic holy basil stir fry.
The highly successful San Carlo Italian restaurant group started life right here in Birmingham back in 1992 and its original restaurant continues to enjoy a reputation as one of the best eateries in the city. The joint’s winning mix of Italian food, fresh pasta, pizzas and lip-smacking gelato has now been rolled out to Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Leicester, London and Bristol, as well as Thailand and the Middle East, with spin-offs including Cicchetti and Fumo. In Brum the smart Temple Street site has been joined by two branches of Fumo (in Selfridges and on Waterloo Street).
The word ‘karczma’ is Polish for ‘inn’ or ‘tavern’, so it’s no surprise this unique restaurant sets out to recreate the hearty rustic feeling of a Polish country cottage inn. Its ‘discovery’ by food critic Jay Rayner in 2012 brought a wave of new interest to the quirky old favourite. With its thatched ceiling and bucolic murals, the decoration is really something – you’ll feel like you’ve walked on to a TV set or accidentally taken a load of hallucinogens. The food though? Yes, please. Bring on the yummy stuffed dumplings (£7.90), creamy pickled herrings, beef stew on potato pancake (£16.90) and beetroot soup (£6.50).