There is no doubt to any Birmingham locals that the city centre currently looks something like a construction site. New Street Station has been shrouded in scaffolding for what seems like years now, although the new Grand Central is to be unveiled next month. Front access to the Mailbox has only recently been reopened after the Harvey Nichols revamp. Where we used to run the risk of being run over by a bus on Corporation Street; now we have to wend our way through the maze of half-constructed tram tracks. And who knows what’s happening with “Paradise” – a misnomer if ever I’ve heard one. However one thing that is still thriving is the food and drink scene, with new bars and restaurants sprouting up almost daily. Finances, my waistline and my liver prevent me from trying out all of the new offerings, but last month Mr Fletche and I had the opportunity to test out a few of the new venues on a “Celebrating my Degree” night out. Here’s my unbiased thoughts…
I was excited about trying out this bar/restaurant on the site of the old “Bar Room Bar” at the Mailbox, and Mr Fletche booked a table in advance, although surprisingly there were plenty of tables available when we arrived early on a Friday evening. The cocktail menu is extensive, and having just returned from Italy, I enjoyed an Aperol Spritz before trying out their house cocktail Mule which is sold on tap (free with a meal as an Independent Birmingham cardholder). Failing to agree on social plate choices, I choose the Tidenham Duck Breast – which tasted amazing – and Mr Fletche went for the healthy option of the Roast Chicken Salad – which was nice but went overboard on the mozzarella and rocket, and not enough variation of other flavours. The service was excellent, and we liked the early evening “after-work” vibe – lively but not too loud, making it a good place to go for food and chat. As with all the Mailbox venues, the views are great over the canal. Will definitely return for cocktails, and apparently the weekend brunch is fab so must return for this soon!
A return visit to this quirky independent in John Bright Street (does anyone else remember when John Bright Street was all about Sam WeIlers, Bizzy Lizzies and Orleans? And you had to get a taxi by shouting up at a little man in a window?). The selection of Belgian beers available in this tiny café/bar/coffee shop always excites us, and Mr Fletche nurses his favourite Chimay whilst I opt for a fruity beer to evoke memories of Brussels. We find the only available table upstairs, where mismatched furniture and a map covered wall add to the laid back but friendly ambience. The food looked and smelled good, and this is another place to try out for breakfast. I also love the selection of scrummy looking cakes in the display downstairs… who doesn’t want a huge slice of gateau with their late-night beer?
I REALLY wanted to love this place. Interesting concoctions served in bathtubs and watering cans. An excellent beer and real ale selection. Pages of the menu dedicated to gin. And first impressions met expectations. Amazing décor, upbeat live music playing, the place was buzzing. I’m surprised to get to the bar reasonably easy, quickly opt for a Cherry and Sage number from the cocktail menu, and I wait to get served. And I wait. And I wait. I’m patient – the bartenders are after all making cocktails more suited to a laboratory than a bar. But when two people either side of me – and appearing after me – are served, and my attempts to even engage with the blank-stared staff are rebuffed, I tuck my money back into my purse and leave. Really disappointed. I will give The Botanist another go some time but definitely not on a busy Friday or Saturday night.
This quintessentially British lounge bar divided opinion in the Fletche household. I love the armchairs, standard lamps, wood panelling and “gentleman’s club” vibe. Mr Fletche is not impressed with the drinks offering – after being dazzled by huge cocktail menus and craft beer selections elsewhere, the drinks offered here are just…average. However I am happy as long as the red wine is good. The funk/jazz background music is loud enough to be heard, but not loud enough to smother conversation – definitely one to return to with the girls for a catch-up over a bottle of wine or two.
This Nicholson’s pub, tucked away under the Burlington Hotel in New Street, is often our final port of call on a night out. Thrones, candlelight, cosy corners, red velvet… quirky but grand underground gothic meets romantic. Have never eaten here, but we have sampled and enjoyed Nicholson’s fare elsewhere so we assume that the menu is similar. Unusually we found that the air con had been ramped up to arctic temperatures (even British summertime doesn’t warrant this) and so our final drink was a little less cosy romantic, and a little more huddle together to keep warm. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt this time around!
Disclaimer: All food and drinks were paid for ourselves, and thus all opinions are my own or those of my husband.
So, over to you. Where else should we try?