Last month I had an unscheduled trip to Birmingham (unfortunately my uncle passed away in February and his funeral was 8th March). While in Birmingham, I visited a few establishments I thought I would tell you about.
Arriving quite early into Birmingham city centre on a wet Thursday morning, I needed something to eat to get me through the day. I asked some Twitter friends for recommendations and came away with three; York’s Bakery, Urban Cafe and Cherry Reds. I had a quick look at the menus and locations and decided on Cherry Reds. I’d been before but it was a long time ago and I’d only had coffee the last time.
I met my mom and one of my sisters outside the cafe. We went inside and were greeted by a loud and smiley young lady behind the counter. I had a quick look at the menu and went for a bacon sandwich and a latte. My sister also had a bacon sandwich and my mum had scrambled egg on toast. I have one gripe with bacon sandwiches when I eat out; they rarely have enough bacon. I think for a decent bacon sandwich you should have at least 3 rashers of bacon.
Cherry Red’s bacon was very tasty. It was thick and cooked just enough. The bread was thick cut and lightly toasted. There were only 2 rashers of bacon, though. I know it adds to the cost of things but for 3 quid you’d expect 3 rashers!
That was my only problem with the experience. The coffee was very nice also. Probably the best part of the visit was the server. As mentioned she was loud and smiley, in a way only Brummies seem to manage. It was refreshingly personal for someone used to the detachment of a lot of London establishments.
South Birmingham is spoiled at the moment for beer. Cotteridge Wines has been the Best Bottle Shop in England for 4 years running and just down the road you have the second best, Stirchley Wines.
You can see why when you walk in to Cotteridge Wines. Two long aisles rammed full of beer, bottles and cans from all over the world. There’s apparently more than 1400 beers on site. They also have a taproom at the back of the shop with seating and a patio area for warmer days. I met some friends there before we headed on to Akram’s for dinner. I had time for a couple of beers before we had to leave, and I had time to pick up a few more for the road too.
In the taproom I tried Brew By Numbers 08|07 Stout Coffee & Milk and Magic Rock Brewing Sour Passion. Both of these beers were great in their own way. The BBNo beer was great for a cold evening. The Magic Rock could easily keep you going for a session sat in a hot beer garden during the summer and I could happily have sat there all night trying the remaining taps but we had to be off for our reservation at Akram’s.
Akram’s is a Birmingham institution. They’ve been at the same location on in Stirchley for as long as I can remember. Akram’s is a “family run restaurant offering only the best in traditional Kashmiri cuisine.” They have an extensive menu to chose from so everyone should find something to eat.
There were about 10 of us at the table so we kind of broke off in to factions. The 5 at my end of the table decided to share a large naan. This wasn’t as big as the legendary Birmingham table naans but as you can see it was still huge. Fresh flatbread stuffed with flavoursome spiced lamb mince. I could probably have eaten that on my own with a bit of sauce to dip it in.
My friends around me started picking their mains while I was still making up my mind. I remembered what I’d been told by a friend of mine – “You can always recreate the sauced dishes at home but how many of us have a tandoor in our house?” With that, I chose the Akram’s Tandoori Speciality, or Mixed Grill.
It took a little longer for mine to come to the table than it did for the others but it was absolutely worth the wait. The plate was sizzling hot when it was put down in front of me. Not only was it hot, but it was also very spicy. I loved it. There was sheek kebab, tikka lamb and chicken and tandoori lamb chops and chicken. This was all sat on top of onions and peppers which soaked in the juices from the meat above it. I would not hesitate to order this again. Next time though, I’d make sure that there was some bread left by the time the dish got to the table!
As it’d been suggested to me, Urban Cafe on Church Street was to be my breakfast destination before I started heading back to London. It’s a good location just a short walk from Colmore Row and St Philips Cathedral square (also known as Pigeon Park by the locals).
The cafe itself is actually really nice. It felt lively but not busy when I walked in. I had a quick look at the menu and, as I was really rather hungry, I went full on hipster and had the Avocado Smash with bacon and poached eggs. I tell you what – this cafe is not cheap. The avocado smash and a coffee cost me more than £10. Can you believe that? In Birmingham! It did taste good but for that amount of money I would expect to have had 2 slices of toasted sour dough with avocado along with the bacon and eggs.The coffee was delicious so I would go back for that alone (and it wasn’t extortionately priced).
I’d passed 200 Degrees on my walk from the car park to Urban Cafe and I thought it looked interesting. On my way back to the car I decided to get my cup filled for the journey home. I made my way inside and found a frankly massive coffee shop. Taking up 2 units the place is vast and the coffee bar is very long indeed! I went for a filter coffee to keep me going on the way home and, as expected, the coffee was great.
I did have a little look around while I was inside and found that downstairs from the cafe they have “Barista School”. The offer 4 different courses from Basic Barista to Latte Art, so if you love coffee and want to learn more about it, you should take a look.