Birmingham is in the heart of England. A city easily reached from just about anywhere in the country. In collaboration with Hotels.com for Hotels in Birmingham, we set out to find the hidden gems of Birmingham. Throughout this article there are ideas on how to spend the perfect day in the city.
Where to Eat…..
Set in the hub for street art in Birmingham, Digbeth, sits a not-so-secret dining club with street food vendors and small bars set up underneath a large viaduct.
Vendors change every few weeks offering the chance to try various cuisines from around the world. During our visit we caught sight of Thai Curries, Pizza and Jerk Chicken but what really swayed us was the stall ‘Urban Cheesecake’.
This place offers huge wedges of creamy vanilla cheesecake customised by your choice of topping. We opted for Reese’s butter cups and salted caramel sauce. The ultimate indulgence and perfect for sharing at £5 per slice. Card payment is also accepted.
Digbeth Dining Club does get busy late into the evening as revellers stop by for a warm up session before a night on the town. Entry is £1 per person.
Opening Times: Thursday, Friday 1600-2300
Nearest Train Station: Bordesley
1580 Contemporary Indian Dining
Birmingham is famed for its Indian Cuisine. The Balti Triangle is legendary in the Sparkbrook area of the city but a little further north sits a restaurant with a reputation for superlative Punjabi food served with style.
1580 can be found in Erdington, a short hop from the city centre. Parking is also available at the front of the restaurant completely free of charge. Reservations are also easy to secure online through the restaurant website.
The restaurant has a modern feel to it and the smells coming from the kitchen catch your senses the moment that you walk through the door. The staff were welcoming and friendly with the restaurant nicely busy early in the week.
Prices on the menu are slightly higher than most Indian restaurants but the ingredients and dishes more than justify them. We were instantly hooked by the Kesar Paneer Tikka – marinated pieces of paneer cheese cooked in a tandoor oven.
Also highly recommended is the Kochi Kekraa – soft shell crab deep fried and tossed in curry leaves, ginger, chilli and spices. A spectacular presentation on both dishes and the flavours were unique to any other Indian restaurant that we have ever visited. Subtly spiced and big on flavour.
Once you have tried the Quail Railway Curry, you will want to book a plane ticket to The Punjab. This probably ranks as the best curry that I have ever tasted. The quails are tricky birds to get the meat off but that meat is delicious. The curry is offered spicy or medium and I couldn’t fault it. Creamy, smokey from the tandoori quail and rich – excellent.
Across the table the Murgh Makhani is equally rich and delicious. To go with our curries we ordered Garlic and Peshwari Naans, both were thin, crispy and amazing in flavour. Full marks to this place on every level.
After sipping a well made Mango Lassi each and a couple of lemonades, we grabbed the bill. For £48.03, this is money well spent for this level of cooking. Outstanding Indian food and well worth a short journey from central Birmingham.
Opening Times: Tuesday – Saturday 1700-2300
Nearest Train Station: Chester Road
Where to Shop…..
The Bullring is the epicentre of retail therapy in Birmingham. Parking can be found easily around The Bullring with access also by train from Birmingham New Street and Moor Street. The bus station at Digbeth is around a 10 minute walk from the shopping centre.
Over 200 shops can be found at The Bullring and many more in the offshoot mall, Grand Central. The centre gets packed on weekends particularly after midday so a good tactic is to try and get around the shops in the morning and use the lunchtime period to eat, drink and take a well earned break.
However, the most popular aspect of The Bullring isn’t the stores or the restaurants – it’s the statue of a bull outside the centre. On our visit, the bronze bull was getting into the spirit of Chinese New Year. Many people stop here for a photo opportunity.
Opening Times: Monday – Friday 1000-2000
Nearest Train Station: Birmingham New Street/ Moor Street
The Electric, Birmingham
Did you know that the oldest working cinema in the UK is actually right here in Birmingham? Well, you do now! The Electric Cinema on Station Street first opened its doors back in 1909 and after falling into a state of disrepair, the cinema was fully restored to its former glory.
The cinema, just like any other, shows mainstream films. The cinema also shows foreign films and classic movies also so there really is something for everyone. We chose to go and see the film ‘Can you ever forgive me?’ starring Melissa McCarthy and Richard E Grant as a double act selling counterfeit letters from famous authors.
Walking into the cinema was strange. It reminded me of a cinema back in Loughborough that I used to go to all the time, it was the place also that I did work experience back in school. Getting to watch films all day was a great gig, no doubt, and this cinema really took me back to those times.
The foyer is quite tight for space when people are waiting to get their tickets and drinks from the small bar set up next to the box office. The staff here are really nice and reservations for tickets can easily be made online. Our seats came to £12.50 each for the front row sofa seats – yes you read that right. Sofa seats.
Sofas in a cinema, what a great idea! This is my idea of comfort while watching a film. Sofa seating is also available at the back complete with tables for your food and drinks. You can even text the bar to bring you food and drinks directly to your sofa. An amazing idea.
The regular seating is just how I remember it in years gone by. Red fold down seats that match the wall decor. This was so eerie, like winding the clock back 15 years. It was a great feeling to experience something from the past that I remember fondly.
Both McCarthy and Grant gave tremendous performances in the film. If you haven’t seen it yet, go and see it. This is a humorous and interesting watch with great interplay between the characters. We really enjoyed it.
This has to be Birmingham’s best kept secret. Near enough every seat was taken and everyone left with a smile on their face. A step back in time such as this is a pleasure when it comes along. We really couldn’t fault the experience.
Nearest Train Station: Birmingham New Street
Collaboration: The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com but all views are my own.