Exciting things are occurring in the Jewellery Quarter. My Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of new bars that are taking up residence, and new events happening in the area. No longer is it just the place you venture for an inexpensive but good quality piece of jewellery. Now it is a lively and vibrant area where you can shop, eat and drink without even having to venture across the Queensway to the city centre.
So for non-Brummies…what the heck is the Jewellery Quarter, and why is it special to Birmingham? Time for a short history lesson – bear with me!
Jewellery businesses have thrived in this area for more than 250 years, and even now there are over 500 jewellery businesses that call the jewellery quarter their home. During the Industrial Revolution, a considerable trade in small metal items and buttons prospered; this developed into a wider range with workshops and factories moving in the Vyse Street and Warstone Lane, before spreading out towards the St Paul’s area.
It’s a “unique historic environment in England – a national treasure” according to English Heritage, and there are over 200 listed buildings in this designated conservation area. The beautiful St Paul’s is also the city’s last remaining Georgian square, with its picturesque 18th century church and gardens providing a tranquil space for reflection. It’s not all about history though, and the area is now a lively residential, retail and entertainment hub, made up primarily of specialist and independent businesses.
The Jewellery Quarter Festival was introduced in 2015 as a way of celebrating its heritage, culture and creativity, introducing new people to the area, and promoting the local business from within. This year it combined with the Birmingham Jazz Festival meaning that live music was abundant throughout both St Paul’s and the Golden Square “hub” close to the Chamberlain Clock, as well as within many venues. The Jewellery Quarter website lists other events which are happening in the area in 2016.
The new stuff
The JQFestival 2016 gave me and Mr Fletche a good excuse to check out some of the new bars that have sprung up in the area, even since our last visit at the end of May.
The Button Factory
This bar has taken over the prime spot that was occupied by Vertu… prime mainly by dint of its roof terrace overlooking Frederick Street. Rumour has it that this did actually used to be…shock, horror, a button factory. It’s all industrial looking, exposed brickwork…and a lot of smoke and flames coming from the open kitchen which the staff assured us there was nothing to be worried about.
Two words. Craft Beer. And one more (long) word. Chillidogdogs. This is the newest kid on a block of new kids. Bare brick walls. Mismatched furniture. A serving hatch from where hot dog magic is produced. The wine is also cheap. It’s from a box mind you, but that’s never bothered me. This will definitely be a regular stop on the Fletche JQ crawl. And the name is a nod to the fact that this city is indeed home of a 1000 trades.
Pig & Tail
There’s been a public house on this site since the 18th century – the historic George & Dragon has now been refurbed, rebranded and recently reopened as a light and bright café bar/ pub, retaining its beautiful frosted windows. It’s very narrow around the bar area though so be prepared to get very up close and personal with your fellow drinkers…
And an old favourite: Rose Villa Tavern.
Well, it was on the way back to the station. So there was just time to pop in for one cocktail. And then we were between train departure times so there was just time to squeeze in another. I love the Rose Villa with its Grade II listed exterior but quirky interior (I love a pub with a red phone box inside); it has a great cocktail list, lots of Belgian beers which also pleases Mr Fletche and also a great American-influenced food menu. I do love the Bitter & Twisted venues, but this one remains my favourite.
Other honourable mentions…
I should love The Lord Clifden… old man’s pub interior, huge beer garden, table tennis, frozen cider… but we’ve always been there when there has been some rather “unsavoury” types hanging round and the vibe has been slightly on the unnerving side. We’ve given it a couple of chances, but we’ve just never taken to the place. The Church on the other hand – amazing cocktails, great soul food and a rooftop terrace. It’s another pub that surprises, promising something different outside from what is delivered inside. But in a good way. And for Sunday lunch (and more of those frozen cider thingy’s) you can’t beat The Red Lion. Mr Fletche still talks about his pork belly here with a touch of reverence. The Drop Forge is another good one, ridiculously close to the station if you can squeeze one more drink in before your train leaves the platform. It is hired out for private functions quite often though, so check beforehand if you want to make a special visit. We’ve also spent many an evening memorising all the Trivial Pursuit questions at the Queens Arms. We even remember when their beer garden was a tiny six foot by six foot space…none of these old cinema seats that they have now!
Have I missed any of your favourites? Where can you recommend for our next bar crawl?