Few things irk me in the writing world like list posts that contain places, dishes, restaurants, bars or drinks that the author has not experienced. I simply don’t believe you should, or can, recommend anything which you personally haven’t tried. And as I’m frequently asked for the best places, and I frequently dodge answering them, here is my definitive list on where to grab the best items. All endorsed and eaten by this gluttonous bastard.
Best Caesar salad – The Plough
Let’s start with an easy one; The Plough’s Caesar salad is a work of art. Huge portion, properly dressed and loaded with anchovy, it’s pretty much the ideal rendition.
Best fish and chips – Oyster Club
If we’re talking chippy tea, then this is a straight toss-up between George & Helens and Dads Lane, but it’s not. We’re talking best, and for that the answer is Oyster Club. Battered fish from the same excellent supplier as Adam’s and 12 of the most perfect triple cooked chips. It’s pure indulgence.
Honourable mentions; George and Helens, Dad’s Lane
Burger – Hell Shack, Meat Shack.
On the list because it’s my favourite burger, the Big Verne doesn’t exist anymore, and the High Flyer doesn’t have a permanent home. That simple. Spicy, beefy happiness from a true master of their craft.
Honourable mention; Original Patty Men
Pizza – hot honey ‘nduja, Poli
Hotly contested category given that Brum is going through a resurgence of stuff on dough at present, and whilst there is little to choose between them, the heavily blistered dough of Poli’s just edges for me. In these eyes it’s this quality that makes for a more contrasting and interesting eating.
Honourable mentions; Peacer, Baked in Brick, Otto
Best Fried Chicken – Bonehead
It’s Bonehead. Case closed. I’d still really like a Chick’n’Sours in Brum for those who are interested.
Honourable mention; Qbox.
Full English – The Plough.
Very few places can execute all of the elements of a full English, because it’s a lot harder to get right than you imagine. Trust The Plough; high quality ingredients, the star of which is the sausage and always – and I repeat always – the perfect egg.
Honourable mention; The Ivy.
Balti – Shababs
When it comes to cultural importance, only the birth of Simon Carlo pips the birth of the balti for first place in Birmingham. Whilst the best Simon Carlo can be found drinking in Harborne, the best Balti can still be found on Ladypool Rd. Go to Shababs, take your own cheap lager, order a Balti, any Balti, and live your best life. A table naan is non negotiable, even if you’re dining alone.
Honourable mention; Adils, The Moghul.
Roast – Baked in Brick
Lee stole Brad Carter’s Yorkshire pudding recipe so you know it’s going to be good. High quality meat cooked with flair and skill, killer gravy and obscene value, Baked in Brick pips it for me as the best roast in Brum.
Honourable mentions; 1000 Trades, Low’n’Slow, Pulperia
Negroni – Otto
Gary Anderson understands the simplicity of the negroni so much it is possible that he was one in a former life. A classic ode to a classic drink, this is the go-to negroni in Birmingham.
Honourable mentions; The Edgbaston, Couch, 40 St Paul’s.
Mixed grill – Hen and Chickens.
A huge portion of protein that manages to be consistent despite being full on most evenings. They seem to cook chicken particularly well, though it’s generally all very good.
Honourable mentions; The Merrymaid, The Grove.
Steak – Pulperia
Seriously good cattle cooked by seriously good chefs. This one is a no-brainer in Birmingham. If it’s a lump of cow you want and you’re not in Pulperia you’re doing it all wrong.
Sandwich – Grace and James
Winner because I’ve never had a sandwich from here which wasn’t excellent, despite them changing on a weekly basis. The bread is the dough from Poli, and the cured meats are sourced from the finest farms in the UK. Bonus points for the occasional inclusion of crisps in the fillings.
Honourable mentions; Caneat, Tropea, Anderson and Hill
Tacos – A La Mexicana
A true taste of Mexico from the nicest family in the world, cooked from the most unassuming spot in Bearwood. Only the coldest of hearts could eat here and not fall in love with it. Top tip; on Saturdays they do a conchita pilbil special. You HAVE to order it.
Honourable mentions; Low’n’Slow, Tierra
Triple roast – Peach Garden
Honestly, I only like two of the three meats on the roast here, but don’t tell anyone that. The quality of those two, along with a chilli oil heavily spiked with dried shrimp more than keep me going back for well over a decade. Given the portion size it’s one of the true bargains of Birmingham.
Honourable mention; New Sum Ye
Sushi – Gaijin
Proper sushi using the best of ingredients, prepared with real skill. Gajin remains the only place I would take anyone for sushi at in Birmingham.
Cocktail – Gambler, Couch.
Better than the time JC turned water into wine, this is my vote for the greatest drink of all time. I’m not even sure if they still do it – it’s two menus ago – but I think I saw someone post about it on Instagram so I’m chucking it in.
Honourable mention; everything else on Couch’s menu.
Pasta – Carbonara, Laghi’s
The first Italian to bring fresh pasta to Birmingham still lays claim to the best dish. The carbonara is a true reflection of Luca’s upbringing in Bologna; top quality pasta made in-house joins the best in imported hard cheeses and guanciale, bound in just-warmed through egg yolk. A real hug in a bowl.
Honourable mention; Tropea
Jerk Chicken – Portland Lagoon.
A Jewellery Quarter spot where this jerk goes for jerk. Spicy, flame grilled, and utterly addictive. Open late for those who like those midnight munchies.
Noodles – Dezhou Style Braised Chicken.
The Ronseal of restaurant names, you know what you’re getting, how it’s been cooked, and where the recipe is from. Except those in the know know this is also the place to slurp noodles like the naughty little noodle slurper you are. Hand pulled; just how your Daddy likes it.
Brunch – Upstairs
The newbies have it. A completely compelling Brummie St John’s minus the organs which is all killer on the menu. Go for the black pudding, duck egg, and beef fat hash brown combo, stay for the banana bread, and absolutely never leave without the madeleines. Absolute class.
Honourable mentions; The Plough, Caneat, Tamu Cafe.
Kebab – BOP Kebabs.
Wonderfully inauthentic work from the team running the kitchen at The Old Crown. A properly world class flatbread is the base for a choice of proteins, each dressed with a plethora of acidity and heat. Look at me using the word ‘plethora’. Whatever you order insist on the chicken skin dukka being present.
Honourable mention; Marmaris
Coffee – Faculty
Best coffee in Brum. Worth having to use the loos in Grand Central for.
Honourable mentions; Qbox, Flock, The Grand, The Plough, Pause.
Cakes – The Bakery at Hampton Manor
In Min, Hampton Manor have unearthed another superstar. A heavy focus on grains and sustainability, this isn’t your place for pretty cakes; more an exploration of flavour and the unexpected. I love it and personally can’t think of much better than eating a custard tart overlooking their beautiful grounds.
Honourable mention; Early Bird
Small plates – Caneat
Ingredient led, flavour focused small plates from a team who can look to just about any part of the globe and produce a faultless plate of food. Owner Dom Clarke understands flavour as good as any chef in the city. This place is a gem.
Afternoon tea – The Grand
Gorgeous dining room, excellent drinks, and a rather excellent afternoon tea. There is much to like about The Grand, but here let’s focus on the excellent cakes from their affordable and classy afternoon tea. It’s one of the bargains of Birmingham.
Honourable mention; The Edgbaston
Dim Sum – China Court
Been in the same spot for many, many years, never changed the decor and still heaving every day with people who know far more about dim sum than me.
Honourable mention; Chung Ying
Mondays – Dishoom
Monday’s are rubbish. Very few decent places are open. Go Dishoom.
Honourable mentions; The Plough, Itihaas, A La Mexicana
- mixed grill,
- Sunday Roast,