Saturday, 8 September 2018

Where to Eat in Birmingham

Going out to eat is one of my favourite things to do when I'm spending time with my friends, celebrating something, need cheering up about something, I'm bored and fancy getting out and about... Literally any excuse! I've been going to uni in Birmingham now for 3 years and have been to loads of different places around the city, so I thought I would take the time to share some of my favourite places to go as I come to the end of my time here.

Meals Out
Gas Street Social
GSS is in the Mailbox, where there's an outside space that you can sit out in the summer and be by the canal, or the atmosphere inside is always really lovely. It's got really gorgeous decor, with exposed pipework and a very industrial vibe, but it also has little huts over to one side that can be really cosy to sit in.
They do a bottomless brunch at the weekends which I've never done personally, but I have been for non-alcoholic brunch before and it was divine! My personal favourite is the pancakes - last time I went, they did a variety with clotted cream and fruit compote which felt like brunch and afternoon tea combined into one!
I've also been for dinner and the menu was really varied, so there's something for everyone. In the evening they also have a little hut with a Photo Booth in which I've definitely been to a few too many times after some glasses of wine...
Overall it's just a really good go-to if you're looking to go out for a meal at any time of the day and you're not in the mood for anything specific - GSS will have something for you!

The Plough
The Plough (or as we call it, The Pluff) is a really lovely pub in Harborne, so a bit of a way out of town, but well worth a trip for the afternoon! Again, the decor is quite industrial, and there is a big beer garden and bar out the back which has a really lovely atmosphere in summer evenings.
The brunch menu is a bit more limited but has some really lovely options on, including homemade baked beans! I've had the pancakes with maple syrup and bacon and blueberries before, and although I wasn't convinced at first, they were really good. If you order a tea, it comes in a pot with a hand knitted cosy, and a jammy dodger as well, which I just think is such a cute touch!
The evening menu is also really good, with homemade stone baked pizzas that they make in their pizza oven there. I've also heard really good things about the Sunday roasts, although it's always been too busy to get a table whenever I've tried to go, so maybe one to book in advance.

Bar Estilo
Bar Estilo is a Tapas restaurant in the Mailbox. I've been a few times now and have yet to try anything there I don't like. The calamari comes in little bite size pieces, the halloumi and chorizo skewers are really tasty, the spiced chickpeas and feta is really nice and a good portion size, and the patatas bravas are a winner as well! We tend to order one meat, one vegetable and one fish dish each when we go, then maybe a few sides to share, and it's always a good amount of food. There's a long drinks menu as well, with the Mango and Peach Sangria being a personal favourite of mine! Whenever we've been in, we've had to wait at the bar for a while before getting our table, even when we've booked in advance, so just a warning for that one. Also, the tables aren't very big so you spend quite a lot of time shuffling dishes around, although I've noticed that at a lot of tapas places. Can end up being a fairly expensive night out, but definitely worth it.

San Carlo Fumo
I only went to San Carlo Fumo for the first time this week but I was so impressed with it that it has to make the list! The concept of it is 'cicchetti', which are small Italian dishes traditionally from Venice. Essentially, it's Italian tapas!
We ordered a variety of different things from the menu, with the highlights being the bolognese, the pizza and the seabass baked in salt and pepper. They brought it over to our table and showed us how it had been baked and removed the skin for us, which was an interesting experience. They also had Pizza Fritta which was basically a calzone, but we chose the one with 'Nduja sausage and it was a bit too spicy for me personally.
The atmosphere in the restaurant was really nice - very clean, modern and the table service was astonishingly fast. Unlike Bar Estilo, it never felt like we were running out of room on the table because food was brought over as and when it was ready, and taken away as soon as we had finished it.
One think I would say is that the wine was quite expensive for what it was, and we were a bit disappointed by the mini burgers for the price. Otherwise, we actually thought the whole thing was really good value for money, and would definitely go back there again.

Tamatanga is another restaurant fairly new to Birmingham. It's a really vibrant Indian restaurant which is really different to your traditional curry house. Again I've only been once, but was so impressed it had to be included. I got the Thali with two curries, so it had a selection of small dishes, including 3 vegetable dishes which the restaurant changes regularly. I can't remember what ours were but they were something with butternut squash, potato and chickpea with the main ingredients. You can then pick 2 meat or vegetable curries of your choice, and it comes with rice, naan and popadoms as well.
In case you couldn't guess, it's a LOT of food! But it was all really tasty and not too spicy either, would definitely recommend.

Rodizio Rico Osteria
Rodizio Rico is a Brazilian meat buffet restaurant in The Cube, which is out the back of the Mailbox by the canal. Their meat restaurant was so successful that they decided to branch out and try something new, so they launched Osteria.
Osteria is an Italian all-you-can-eat restaurant, wherein the chefs prepare big bowls of pastas or large stone baked pizzas and bring them around to all of the tables in the restaurant, so you can try a bit of everything. You get given a beermat with Stop and Go on either side, so you can turn it to Stop to take a break from eating and they'll leave you to rest until you turn it back to Go again.
The pizzas and pastas were a broad range from garlic breads to bolognese to carbonara to seafood pastas. They asked us if we had any dietary requirements when we sat down, I assume so they could cater what they were cooking to their clientele as it wasn't a massive restaurant, but I'm not sure how they would be for gluten or dairy free needs etc.
We went for my birthday last year and they were very generous when they found out we were celebrating, giving me a free cocktail and a free dessert. Access to the food is only £15 per head so I considered putting it in as a cheap eat because that's really good value for money for the quality of food we were getting, but as with San Carlo Fumo, they were definitely making their profit margins on their drinks!

The Chains
Boston Tea Party
Boston Tea Party is a chain that I want to say originated in Bristol? I've personally not been to the Bristol one but I have been to both of the Bath ones and two different ones in Birmingham, and they all have a slightly different vibe to them! My favourite of the Birmingham ones is the Edgbaston one because it's relatively new, has a lot of greenery and in one of the rooms there's a skylight so it's a really light and airy space. Plus I find that the Harborne one tends to be a lot busier, and always filled with kids!
The menu is really varied, including some great brunch options - my favourite being the pancakes (are you sensing a theme here by any chance?) They also do amazing toasties and their portions of fries are not only massive, but they're really nicely seasoned with salt and pepper. All of the portion sizes are pretty generous actually!
They also have a selection of cakes daily, including some really good gluten free options. A recent initiative they've undertaken is that they don't offer reusable coffee cups anymore, which I really appreciate as well! All in all, all of the venues I've been to have had a really lovely vibe, and it's clearly a chain that wants to have a positive benefit on the world which I'm all for.

The Stable
The Stable is a pizza and cider chain dotted around the country, although the one I've been to the most is the Birmingham one, which is right near New Street station. The pizzas are always really good, with interesting combinations of ingredients (potato on a pizza?) and the cider menu is extensive, including one from my hometown! If you don't know your ciders, they do a platter of 5 different 1/3rd pints so you can try a variety, and they have different cider tasting sessions you can do which definitely appeals to the South Western gal in me.
The tables are all long with wooden benches and you end up sat in with people you don't know, and there's usually some live music being performed in there. It's a really lovely, casual atmosphere and a great place to just pop in for a pint and some pizza.

Okay so not really a recommendation because everyone and their mother has heard of Nando's. BUT if you're looking to go to a Nando's, don't go to the one in the Bullring because it's always rammed, and don't go to the one on Broad Street because the service isn't the greatest... (unless you're halal, then it's a convenient one to get to for you!) - the best one to go to is the one in the Mailbox!
I don't think many people know it's there and people usually only go to the Mailbox for more expensive food so don't tend to go for a Nando's, so it's got really good service and is usually pretty quiet. You're welcome!

Cheap Eats
I know there's a Yakinori in Bristol on Park Street now but it's basically only in Birmingham so I'm not including it in the chains. Yakinori is a Japanese restaurant and takeaway, with one in New Street station and one in Selly Oak, which is where all the UoB students live after first year.
I've not actually been in for a sit-down meal, but I think the Chicken Katsu Curry from there was one of my core food groups last summer. And the best part? It only costs £5! I'd say it's easily better than a Wagas katsu curry, and the portion sizes are the same, if not a bit bigger.
Pro tip - ask for your sauce on the side when you're getting a takeaway so the chicken doesn't get too soggy. Also, if you ask nicely, they'll sell you a box of just the katsu fried chicken for £5 as well, so we tend to get an extra box of just chicken to nibble on if there's a group of us getting it.
Great value for money, always super quick service, and the food is always a winner!

Argi's Pizza
Argi's Pizza is mine and my flatmate Greg's go-to takeaway, mainly because of their chips. It's hard to explain, but it's like they're battered? They're crispy and delicious and perfect dunked in curry sauce. It's one of those weird takeaways that do a little bit of everything so I've tried their fish and chips, their kebabs, their burgers, I think even their pizzas? It's just a good go-to if you need some greasy comfort food. If you order direct from their website it tends to be cheaper, but try to avoid giving them your mobile number because they text you every Friday afternoon and make you crave fish and chips for the rest of the day!

If you enjoyed listening to me ramble on about food, I've actually just started a food instagram - @Foodie_Megan because my best friend Greg started one called @Foodie_Greg (follow him too!) and I tried to be @Foodie_Meg but it was taken. Close enough!

Sadly my time in Birmingham is up now so I can't really ask for recommendations of other places to try, but I hope I've been able to pass on some to you if you're looking for inspiration!

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