I don’t know why I do this to myself. What idiot thinks they can do a top 50 restaurant list and not come under fire from every angry chef who expects to be higher placed? That’s right, this idiot. It’s a list I’m willing to stand by – a carefully constructed list of what I believe to be the best places. I’ve eaten at all listed, so no place for Nocturnal Animals as I’m still to go, and the likes of Opus and Zen haven’t been visited in recent enough years to qualify. Go easy on me, please.
50. Blue Piano
Let’s be real about Blue Piano, they have one great dish and a menu full of dishes that are merely good in comparasion. That one dish – a savoury carrot cake – is worth the trip alone. It’s a stonker which can’t be appreciated until it’s tried. Follow it up with a tour around South East Asian classic dishes from a living room in Edgbaston, or just order more carrot cake. I know what my choice would be.
A good neighbourhood restaurant seemingly still trading off dishes made famous by the previous Head Chef. Beautifully redecorated and with a servicable cocktail menu, it is a nice place to enjoy more conventional Indian food.
A proper neighbourhood restaurant just off Harborne High Street. The owner knows the name of everyone who has dined here, and greets them in such a manner that suggests he may be their secret father. They do some stuff better than others, but on the whole it’s a wholesome tribute to the marginally anglicised Italian food that the majority of this country believe is ‘authentic’.
47. Rico Libre
Slightly schizophrenic tapas restuarant in the very spot my mother and father met, so extra bonus points for that. The menu is a voyage that never sits still: jerk mingles with raw dishes and then zips back over to the Canary Isles for roasted quail with mojo sauce. I’ve come to realise that this isn’t the most refined of food, but none of this matters; it’s always the joyous atmosphere that makes the trip to Rico worthwhile.
On paper somewhere that serves unlimited amounts of carved meat isn’t really my bag, but I’ve been four times since they opened and Fazenda is good. It’s very good. The meat is generally of high standard, accurately cooked and then carved. And that salad bar, fresh and well maintained. Disclosure; most of the four times have been driven by the want of the Malbec which is exclusive to them and is an absolute peach.
45. The Karczma
They have a rug on the ceiling. They have free lard to spread on bread. They have lots and lots and lots of Polish vodka. Yes, you may be the only person not wearing white Levis and a Helly Hanson puffer jacket, but don’t let that put you off. This is wholesome Polish food at it’s best.
It’s not cheap, but it is a very good Indian restaurant in an expensive part of town. On the rare occasions we’re feeling flush we’ll drive over to Harborne from Moseley to pick up a takeaway from here, which is as much a compliment as you need. The fish dishes in particular are excellent.
43. Sabai Sabai
For all the talk of ‘real’ Thai food, which is often delivered by middle class white boys who once backpacked through the Northern regions, it’s nice to have somewhere that does the food of the Southern islands well, cooked by Thai chefs, and served by a team who understand hospitality. I have a lot of time for Sabai Sabai, especially so the Moseley site which is cosy and ultra-consistent.
A very popular question I get asked is “are you still a member of a gym?”. Another is “what is the best balti in Birmingham?”. The answer to both is “SHABBABS” which makes considerable more sense with the latter than the former. Best enjoyed in large groups around 11pm with a table-sized naan and several baltis. Cans of lukewarm Carling from the off licence around the corner are optional.
Yes, the prawn bhuna is £21. Yes, that is a lot of money for a curry. Yes, it is worth it. There is more exciting Indian food to be had in Birmingham, but for those looking for a plush curry with good meat and excellent breads, this is my pick in the city.
Wonderfully cheap cafe in a corner of town best experienced through the visors of a suit of armour. Everything is under a fiver; pretty much everything will be new to those unfamilar with Indonesian cuisine. Whilst instant noodles with beef and cheese will never be my thing, I’ll never tire of the fried prawn dumplings. Excellent coffee, too.
39. Purecraft Bar and Kitchen
A few years ago Purecraft was probably my favourite place to go in Birmingham. Although the city has caught up, it’s still very good; turning out unfussy food and beers to the more discerning of clientele. The connection to Simpsons is strong; the produce is excellent and the technique strong. My Dad likes it in there, an achievement because he can complain about everything.
38. Sky By The Water
Sticking a signature restaurant on the top level of Resorts World was always going to tricky, but they’ve nailed it. The menu is a list of things that work together, prepared with the kind of classic French technique we don’t see enough of. Maybe the jewel in the crown is the pastry section, headed-up by ‘Bake-Off, The Professionals’ Darryl Collins. If you leave without trying his salted caramel chocolates you’ve failed.
Want the best falafel, fuul, and fattoush in the city? You need to come here. I’m a fan, mostly because I can feed two people for under a tenner. The meat dishes arent quite at the level of the veggie stuff, but this is a classy place for Syrian food.
36. Ken Ho
I won’t pretend to be an expert on Chinese food, so we’ll keep this one super short: super good dim sum. Probably my favourite in China Town, but then again I know nothing.
If charred bits of cow are your thing, then no.35 on this list should be your number one. The best steak house in Birmingham by a distance, the meat is well sourced and equally well cooked. It’s a shame that I don’t get overly excited by steak, or else I’d be here a lot more frequently.
34. Chung Ying Central
The cold hard truth about this city is that good Chinese food could not be found outside of Chinatown. Chung Ying Central changed that; bringing the quality food they were famous for to the business district. The standards are still the same, except this is in far nicer surroundings, with a nice bar stocked with quality drinks. I know it would be far cooler for me to put in some backstreet restaurant where no English is spoken, but I like the deep booths and the fact that the staff smile and treat me like I’m wanted. It’s a bloody good restaurant.
33. The Plough
Have The Plough ever turned out a bad dish? I’m not sure they have. The reason why it’s busy every single day is because they never miss a beat. They have tacos and pizzas and beers and cubanos; the kind of food you want to eat alongside Birmingham’s most expensive pint. The people of Harborne have it lucky, The Plough is pretty much the perfect pub.
32. Early Bird
The question of brunch is a big one in Birmingham. The answer is easy; Early Bird is the best by a distance. They do sweet better than they do savoury, and they happen to do savoury very well indeed. Superb cakes, a healthy ethos on keeping wastage to a minimum and some solid cooking (ginger marinated bacon sarnies anyone?). I always order too much because everything is so good.
31. Pint Shop
I’ve never had a bad meal in Pint Shop. I’ve never had an average meal here either. I’m particulary partial to the kebabs, but then the burgers are also very good. And the scotch eggs whilst I think about it. And the sausage rolls. You get the gist. The potential choices here are huge; it’s making them which is the hard part.
My girlfriend misses living around the corner from these. Maybe that’s her way of telling me she wants to get back with her ex. Crap. Really superb pizzas topped with carefully sourced ingredients. I’d love this place to be within walking distance. Maybe I’ll get with her ex.
29. Tap and Tandoor
A genuine game changer; take the standard desi fare and make it with quality meat. The results are stunning; some of the best chicken tikka you’ll eat and seekh kebabs that taste strongly of lamb. The butter chicken will knock five years off your life so order two and save the kids a decade of visiting you in a home.
If I haven’t been murdered by a chef and this list reappears next year, I expect Legna will be much higher. At the moment its a little inconsistent, but when it is good it is mindblowingly so. My call would be to stick the pasta which is made fresh everyday and treated to Aktar Islam’s refined take on Italian food. This isn’t traditional Italian, but an homage from a chef who loves cooking this style of food. Beautiful dining room to boot, too.
The best fried chicken in Birmingham award isn’t a difficult one to attain, but it is one that Bonehead has ran away with. Free range birds, brittle batters, served from a concise menu in a dive bar setting. It’s real good fun.
26. Hen and Chickens
Not the first desi pub in Birmingham, but the first to make tracks into the city centre. Some people will say they prefer it when it was a little grubby and the prices were cheaper, but those people are idiots. The mixed grills are the reason why people come here in hordes, though the curries aren’t shabby either.
Birmingham’s best Turkish food is served in a chip shop style location next to a Wetherspoons. Wasn’t expecting that was you? Me neither. Stick to the skewers of grilled meat and you’ll have a great time here, they are all excellent. Yes, you might be sat next to an angry taxi driver, or a drunk from next door, but this all adds to the fun. It’s a gem.
24. Little Blackwood
I cried for weeks when they closed Cheval Blanc. I had nothing to worry about; Little Blackwood is everything you want from a neighbourhood restaurant, getting better and better with every new menu release every month. How chef Ben Taylor manages to produce food of this standard from a kitchen the size of my bathroom is beyond me. One to keep an eye on and could well be Birminghams first Bib Gourmand.
23. Baked in Brick
After cleaning up every award possible in the streetfood world, the transition to oning a restaurant has been seamless. The staple might be very good pizzas, but don’t overlook other dishes; in particular the chicken tikka flatbreads, or the best Sunday roast in Birmingham.
22. El Borracho de Oro
Charming Spanish restaurant that oozes class. What makes it special is an understanding of seasonality, taking the best of this country’s produce and turning it into plates that still feel true to its cuisine. Grab a few friends and pre order the whole suckling pig – it is superb.
21. Oyster Club
If the goal of Oyster Club was to prove that Birmingham could finally have a properly class fish restaurant, they’ve suceeded. Utilising the fish suppliers from their sister restaurant, Adams, the produce is king here; treated simply and cooked with total precision. It’s pricey, but worth it. The fish and chips is about as good as life gets.
20. Laghi’s Deli
The fact that Laghi’s is the only ‘Italian’ restaurant in Birmingham to make fresh pasta speaks volumes. Classical and unapologetic, the best meals here are the ribbons of taglietelle with ragu, or the authentic carbonara that has high spec guanciale bound in a dressing of just warm egg yolk. A real taste of Northern Italy.
19. Atrium at UCB
It’s impossible to overlook the importance of the UCB in this city. Without them churning out the finest of chef talent, we wouldn’t have the five Michelin stars. It’s at Atrium where most of these chefs cut their teeth, a smart restaurant that is far too cheap for it’s own good. A meal here is a glimpse at the next generation, and a tasty one at that.
I have no idea what goes on inside Dom’s head, but the results at Caneat are always staggering. He gets acidity and umami, understands the importance of texture. He’s a proper chef. Stirchley is super lucky to have Caneat; it’s the kind of place that would thrive anywhere.
Everything about Poli excites me. They’ve nailed the pizza, the small plates are superb, and the wine choices impeccable. It’s the best opening in Birmingham this year. I plan on spending a lot of time there.
16. Peels at Hampton Manor
Had I been to Peels more than once it is likely they would have been much higher. The meal we had was very good; precise and loaded with flavour. Coming here is an experience from the welcome drinks in the conservatory, through to dinner in the handsome dining room. Thoroughly deserving of its Michelin star.
15. The Wilderness
My mate Jim reckons this is the best restaurant in Brum, a statement that many others echo. It defies convention: rock plays loudly in the dining room, dishes are paired with cocktails, and dishes occasional contain profanities – “Oh Bollocks” for dessert anyone? The food has a touch of DiverXO about it; in your face and boldly presented. Everyone should eat at The Wilderness at least once.
14. Dezhou Style Braised Chicken
The clue is in the name for the signature dish here. Utterly brilliant chicken in a broth with noodles made fresh to order. Don’t neglect the rest of the menu; it’s all excellent, even the dishes that on paper might not sound appealing. World’s loveliest owners.
I really love Zindiya. We have it about once a week, and have nailed our order; chicken tikka, aloo tikki chaat, chilli paneer. It never lets us down. In a city brimming with Indian ‘streetfood’ restaurants, Zindiya stands head and shoulders above the competition
12. Original Patty Men
Drake loves an OPM and for good reason. Cult classic burger stuff in an archway in Digbeth. Superb patty with crazy level attention to detail. No list for top burgers in the UK would be complete without OPM.
11. The Meat Shack
Humble brag time; I have a mate who is a Michelin starred chef who swears that the R’n’B is the best plate of food in the city. It is a corker. Big flavoured burgers that crucially let the beef shine.
10. Gaijin Sushi
Sushi isn’t really my gig, but even I can appreciate the level of skill here. The knife work of the chef is a sight to witness, and he utilises his previous tenure at the fish market to source only the best of ingredients. The rave reviews it’s getting up and down the country are fully justified.
The original of the starred restaurants shows no sign of slowing down, churning out classical combinations with a few modern touches. I’ve been coming here consistently for a over a decade because it’s a personal favourite of mine.
Folium gave me one of my best meals of the past year; a complex, technically sound riot that showed chef Ben Tesh’s Nordic-esque use of bright acidity. Service is totally charming and in the celeriac riff on carbonara they have a future classic. Seems a given it will get a star later on this year.
Kilder is pretty much perfect. Choose anything from the short menu and it will be executed with the level of detail usually associated with far grander establishments. It is the proof that when done properly a sausage roll, a pork pie, or a cheese toastie can be as good as any other dish.
Glynn Purnell sees the world differently to you and I. He has a Willy Wonka like ability to see the humour in the smallest of detail, and transmit that onto the plate. But this is very much a serious restaurant led by one of the stars of the industry, Sonal. A meal here will guarantee to make you smile, a detail too often overlooked.
5. Tiger Bites Pig
It’s number five for a simple reason; when I think about food, my mind goes immediately to here. Not a day goes by when I don’t want the braised beef with confit egg yolk, or the unctuous pork belly. It’s better than Bao in London, something I thought I’d never say in this city.
Aktar Islam’s progressive Indian is a special restaurant destined for accolades of the highest order. It rewrites what we consider to be this style of food, with complex spiced dishes created with the most modern techniques. Opheem is for me the best Indian food not just in Birmingham, but the entire country.
There are people who would expect Adams at number one, and I understand that completely. In my opinion they are the closest of all our restaurants to Birmingham’s first two Michelin starred restaurant, delivering the precise, intricate style which the guide love to promote. They have an incredible front of house team; polished and knowledgeable, backed up by a stellar wine list. It is impossible to find fault with it as a restaurant. But there are two other places that raise my pulse just a little higher. That said, if you want the complete Michelin experience in Birmingham, it is Adams you should be hunting out first.
2. Harborne Kitchen
If money were no object and this blog didn’t require me to eat at the arse ends of the food spectrum, I’d be at Harborne Kitchen to eat every single week. That’s why it’s number two on this list. It is a rare treat of a restaurant which blurs the line between casual and smart, where shorts are perfectly acceptable clothing, staff will have a giggle with you, and the food speaks for itself. The cuisine is hard to define; modern, it struts confidently around the continents. The wagyu lasagne from the start of the year remains one of the best things I have ever eaten.
The first time I ate in Carters it struck me as a homage to the places they were eating at – it was all a bit familiar. But something has clicked into place over the last few years, Brad Carter is now cooking food that is uniquely him; it is his wild personality on a plate, using the larder of the UK. Fire is always present, the ingredients treated with maximum respect. It is the most exciting restaurant we have in this city; a place not afraid to challenge the palette and take a few risks. Carters is presently in the form of it’s life. There has never been a better time to visit.
Top one taxi firms in Brum goes to A2B