Heading to Birmingham? Chef Glynn Purnell has the lowdown on the best places to eat and drink in the city…
I’ve lived in Birmingham all my life. It’s full of hard-working, friendly, down to earth people with a good sense of humour. In all honesty, it used to be the worst place in the country for food, but it’s now one of the finest cities to visit. With Birmingham now offering everything from curries to fine dining to street food to cocktails, Brummies can finally push their chests out and be proud of their city being a culinary destination.
Birmingham was built around its markets, and they’re still the beating heart of the city. I’ve been visiting them since I was five or six years old. I vividly remember my mum buying her fresh ingredients and haggling with the traders. She was very good at it, and we’d often walk away with a free bag of pigs trotters that I’d then eat while watching Blind Date in my pyjamas on a Saturday evening! I still buy produce from the markets for my restaurant and bistro today. We turn up at George Smith’s shellfish stall first thing in the morning and wait for the van to arrive from the coast – the fish I serve in Birmingham is as fresh as any seaside restaurant.
The Balti Triangle
Birmingham’s Balti Triangle can be a little bit of a cliché, but at the end of the day, a good Balti is a good Balti! It always arrives at the table sizzling in the same steel bowl it’s been cooked in, and you should never eat it with a knife and fork – always with your hands and a table naan, which is basically the size of a duvet! Balti is the perfect example of fusion food going back years – it’s a Pakistani/Brummie invention, and we’re all very proud that it came out of Birmingham. Balti-birmingham.co.uk
Without a doubt, Sushi Passion is my favourite place to eat in Birmingham and it’s widely recognised for serving up the best sushi in the city. The original Sushi Passion sits within the markets, where you will literally see the fish being delivered and then eaten straight away. The second restaurant is in the Great Western Arcade – I often take my team there for a bite to eat. sushipassion.eu
Digbeth Dining Club
Digbeth Dining Club is actually a street food event that takes place every Friday and Saturday night. It’s changed the face of our city’s alternative food scene and has been voted the best street food event in the UK. You can get anything from tacos and slow pulled pork to pizza and pies. My favourite stall is Andy Stubbs’ Low ‘n’ Slow. He specialises in amazing slow cooked meats and is one of the longest standing stall holders there – his brisket and ribs never disappoint! digbethdiningclub.co.uk
All of Birmingham’s Michelin Star Restaurants
I was the proud holder of Birmingham’s first Michelin Star, and the city now has six: my own restaurant, Turners at 69, Simpsons, Adam’s, Carters of Moseley and Peels in Solihull. This is not only fantastic for Birmingham, but also for us chefs as we get the chance to eat at each other’s restaurants! Wing Yip Oriental Grocers I often walk around Asian supermarkets to pick up ingredients and bring them back to the restaurant to have a play with. I’ve experimented with a raft of authentic foods from this store including dehydrated squid and mooli. This shop never fails to give me plenty of inspiration. Wingyip.com
Find out more about Glynn Purnell at purnellsrestaurant.com