A Brummie at Home: 2015 was the year to really embrace Birmingham and all it has to offer. Some may knock the city – its architecture, its accent, its football… – but if you cannot appreciate the town in which you live then it’s probably time to move. In 2015 we ventured out from our familiar drinking and eating venues, and embraced the independents rather than gravitating towards chains. We discovered new and old places, in the Jewellery Quarter and in Digbeth, areas that have undergone something of a cultural revolution. Here are some of my Birmingham highlights from 2015.
Independent Birmingham: Part of the problem of trying to steer away from the larger chains is knowing where’s independent, where’s good, and importantly, where’s recommended by those in the know. This is where Joe Schuppler’s “Independent Birmingham” has been a godsend. Not only does the website, app and various social media accounts point us in the direction of where’s best to eat, drink and shop, but there’s also a handy membership card which gives its members discounts on purchases on some of the best venues. Joe’s site has been invaluable this year, with some fab blogs too, and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with in 2016!
Street Food: Before this year, I steered away from street food as it conjured up images of a greasy burger, cold chips and potential food-poisoning. The success of Digbeth Dining Club, Brum Yum Yum et al. however has put street food not only on the map, but has also knocked conventional dining out of the playing field. When a street food vendor opens up their own restaurant, you know that this is a market that’s here to stay. This year I’ve tried jerk chicken from Esmies, po’boys from The Southern Oven, Persian flatbreads from Open Sesame, kebabs from The Kebab Cartel, a pork belly burger from La Grande Viande, amazing roast potatoes from Fat Duck, bunny chow from Savanna Grill and cheesy chips from Caribou Poutine. Oh, and not forgetting waffles from the Bourneville Waffle Company, cider from a bus, and gin from a converted horsebox. And not a dodgy tummy in sight.
New openings in Birmingham: Seems like you can’t turn round without hitting a new building or business in Birmingham City Centre and beyond. Grand Central sprang up from the foundations of the old Pallasades; its lighter, it’s brighter and there’s definitely a better choice of food and drink establishments to while away the time before your train out of Brum. The Mailbox finally re-opened after what seemed like years covered in scaffolding; and although it will only ever remain a thoroughfare for me to the bars and restaurants, there are some lovely elegant chairs to rest your weary feet on the long trek between escalators. As for new bars and restaurants there are far too many to name, and I can’t confess to visiting even a tiny proportion of them but there are some great Birmingham food and drink bloggers such as Full to the Brum, Good Girl Gone Brum and Positive Fridays who can definitely create me a “must-visit” list for 2016.
The Big Hoot: One of my favourite sights of the summer was the 89 large owls creating a “Big Hoot” trail around Birmingham and its suburbs. Each owl was decorated, named, placed in a prominent position (some not so easy to spot!), and finally auctioned off to raise over £500k for Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Some even had their own Twitter accounts! The trail encouraged both locals and tourists to track down owls, whilst discovering previously undiscovered areas of the city. Whilst I was sad to see them go (although there is a special Christmas owl in Great Western Arcade at the moment!) I look forward to seeing what we can do next summer to continue to capture the imagination and celebrate Birmingham’s architecture, history, people and cultural diversity.
Tomorrow: A Brummie Abroad – Stuff About Me