There’s always a fantastic reason to head to Birmingham and the West Midlands, including any one of 50 annual festivals held in the city and on its outskirts. The highlight for this year will be the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, which kicks off on 28 July. It’s the first time the city has hosted the Games, which will be at the heart of the six-month-long Birmingham 2022 Festival, created to celebrate the region’s creativity, diversity and innovation.
The best bit? In recent years, Birmingham and the West Midlands has emerged as a foodie hotspot, which is why we’ve come to the rescue of rumbling stomachs everywhere with the ultimate guide to where to eat in Birmingham and the West Midlands for foodies heading to the region.
Birmingham and the West Midlands are home to some of the world’s biggest food names, and Bird's Custard, Bournville Chocolate and Typhoo Tea are just a few of the brands founded here.
For the ultimate sugar fix, head to Cadbury World, which you’ll find in Birmingham’s Bournville village. Founded by George Cadbury, Bournville village had houses for employees of Cadbury’s chocolate factory, as well as for those on low incomes, and the village is still managed by the Bournville Village Trust, which was founded in 1900.
At Cadbury World, there are several fantastic zones to explore. Our favourites include the manufacturing area, where interactive exhibits provide an insight into the world of chocolate production, and Bull Street, a replica of the Victorian-era street on which John Cadbury founded his business.
You’ll never get bored in West Midlands, home to over 50 festivals and food-related events every year. Many of these are dedicated to celebrating the diversity of the region's culinary offerings.
Great examples include July’s Birmingham Cocktail Weekend, when bars roll out special cocktail menus which showcase the mixology skills of the West Midlands’ best bartenders, or June’s Vegan Market at the beautiful Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens. Head there to sample local food and drink from a wide range of vendors, including craft brewers, butchers and bakers.
We’re also huge fans of the BBC Good Food Show. In 2022 the summer event kicks off at the NEC on 16 June.
Solihull Food and Drink Festival makes a triumphant return in 2022 (23-25 September). The free family festival will feature over 80 food and drink traders in Mell Square, Mill Lane and Solihull High Street.
Such is the West Midlands vibrant foodie landscape that new restaurants are always springing up. Kibou in Solihul is a glamorous new restaurant that takes guests on a culinary adventure to Japan, while The Coconut Tree brings Sri Lankan food to the streets of Birmingham.
Partial to a spot of fine dining? You’re in the right place, because Birmingham’s restaurants have the most Michelin stars of any UK city outside London. Eleven restaurants in Birmingham and the surrounding area have bagged at least one of the coveted stars, and the venues are wonderfully diverse.
Renowned chef Glynn Purnell - otherwise known as the “Yummy Brummie” - owns one of Birmingham’s top restaurants - Purnell’s Restaurant on Cornwall Street, which was awarded a Michelin star in 2009. For pub grub with a sophisticated twist it’s got to be The Cross, in the Warwickshire town of Kenilworth - a 40-minute drive from Birmingham. Head to this Grade II-listed nineteenth-century inn for dishes such as the crispy duck egg with Wye Valley asparagus, or opt for the six-course tasting menu.
Set in a gorgeous Grade II-listed Georgian villa, Birmingham's Simpsons restaurant offers a contemporary take on British cuisine. The restaurant won Taste of the West Midlands at the West Midlands Tourism Awards, and is well worth a visit.
We also recommend Birmingham’s Opheem. It was the first Indian restaurant outside London to bag a Michelin star, and the dishes reflect the diversity of Indian cuisine. We suggest the delicious jangalee soar coord (wild boar).
Birmingham’s Balti dishes have always been extra special, although it’s often claimed that their story begins in the 1970s, when chefs at Birmingham’s Indian restaurants started tweaking Balti dishes to enhance their appeal with westerners.
The new versions were lighter, healthier and quicker to prepare. Many people don’t realise that Balti isn’t a dish, but a style of cooking – more specifically the use of a metal bowl to prepare the food, whether it’s tandoori or rogan josh.
Balti dishes (especially those in the West Midlands) are all about freshness. Curry powders are frowned upon, and almost all Balti houses use a secret sauce as a base. Where to eat in Birmingham for the best dishes? Head to the city's Balti Triangle, which encompasses Ladypool Road, Stoney Lane and Stratford Road, to the south of Birmingham’s city centre.
Although Birmingham might be famous for its Indian restaurants, you can find every type of cuisine in this city and in the wider West Midlands, along with a fantastic selection of festivals created to highlight specific cuisines. The Thai Festival, held in Warwick in early July, is a brilliant example.
Fancy exploring beyond the Balti? The Yak in Stourbridge is famous for its Nepalese dishes, while visitors to Herbert’s Yard, operated by street food supremos the Digbeth Dining Club, can try a huge range of delectable street foods in one place.
Love a caffeine fix? You’ll be spoiled for choice in Birmingham and the West Midlands. Top of your list should be Damascena, a fantastic café, deli and bakery which opened in 2014, and which proved so popular that it opened three more locations across Birmingham. Need a pick me up? Opt for the black Arabian coffee made with cardamom, paired with one of the flatbreads.
We’ve also got a weakness for Simply Delicious in the town of Aldridge, a short drive from Birmingham city centre. The owners are passionate about local, seasonal ingredients, and standout dishes include the farmhouse breakfasts.
Birmingham and the West Midlands are a shoppers’ paradise filled with independent stores, although this independent streak also applies to its restaurants and delis, many of which are run by owners keen to put their unique stamp on the West Midlands’ vibrant food scene. Whether you’re a budding baker or simply a keen chef passionate about local ingredients, there’s no shortage of inspiration.
The West Midlands has some of the UK’s best butchers and one of our favourites is Coopers Family Butchers in Darlaston (the black pudding is legendary). The friendly staff aren’t just experts in all things meat-related – they love to offer expert advice on which sauce goes best with which cuts, too.
For delicious bakes and brunch options, it's worth popping into The Early Bird Bakery too – a fantastic coffee shop and bakery on Birmingham's historic Kings Heath High Street.
Finally, Cafe Maxsim in Wolverhampton is a fantastic Mediterranean tapas restaurant and coffee bar located right at the heart of the city centre, where you can choose from 43 delicious dishes.
Whether you’re a cocktail connoisseur or a fan of micro-breweries, there’s no shortage of places to quench your thirst in the West Midlands. Dhillon’s Brewery in Coventry (it takes around 35 minutes to drive between the two cities, which are also connected by rail) relies on both modern and traditional brewing techniques to produce a fantastic range of delicious beer.
Cherry Reds, in Birmingham’s city centre, is a fabulously laidback bar with a great range of wines, beers and cocktails (grab one of the marshmallow-like sofas by the windows if you can). Another essential stop-off is the Jewellery Quarter’s Indian Brewery Snowhill, next to Snow Hill Station. Part brewery, part restaurant, it’s a great place to sample Indian street food, washed down with beers created as perfect partners for Indian cuisine.
Another shout out to Loki Wine, which stocks 400 wines - including plenty of British varieties – across its branches in Knowle, Edgbaston and Birmingham city centre.
Noteworthy watering holes to sample a craft beer (or three) are Burning Soul Brewing Company in Birmingham city centre, and the Stirchley taproom Attic Brew.
Birmingham and the wider West Midlands region is a hive of innovation, something reflected in the independent stores you’ll find here. Take Birmingham’s The Borrow Shop, which isn’t just a café and gift shop but a place where visitors can borrow a wide range of items (ranging from drills and ladders to steam cleaners and sewing machines) for a small fee.
Another great option is the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, where an exploration of the galleries and gift store (the most sought after items include the tote bags emblazoned with Birmingham landmarks) is the perfect excuse to sample the delicacies on offer at the museum’s Edwardian Tearooms.
For the ultimate shopping and dining combo – and to enjoy a dizzying array of fashion brands under one roof – head to Birmingham's Bullring and Grand Central.
Birmingham and the West Midlands is a region filled with historic buildings, fantastic museums and beautiful green spaces – many of which are great places to sample local cuisine. One example is Walsall’s Victorian Arcade, with its sculpture-like wrought iron roof. When you’ve had your fill of retail therapy, visit the Sweet Shop for a retro-themed sugar fix.
Some of the region’s top food festivals have equally impressive settings. The annual Burger Fest event, which kicks off on 16 July 2022 and provides an opportunity for local chefs to showcase their most delicious, innovative burgers, takes place at Aston Hall, a magnificent Grade I-listed 17th century mansion house which is one of Birmingham’s most iconic buildings.
Find your pefect Birmingham hotel and start your foodie adventure through the West Midlands.
Top image: Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery © Birmingham Museums
This article is brought to you in partnership with West Midlands Growth Company
Tamara is a former snowboard instructor who's been a freelance travel writer for 12 years. She loves snowboarding, hiking, mountain biking and scuba diving, and the regions she knows best are Asia, America and Africa. Europe-wise she knows Germany and France very well. In normal times she does two or three trips a month. Follow her on Twitter