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The Caterer

Birmingham's local hero

31 January 2005 by
Birmingham's local hero

There are two things you realise when you meet Glynn Purnell, head chef and partner at Birmingham's attention-grabbing Edgbaston restaurant Jessica's. First, he is genuinely proud to be back in his home city, with the chance of putting it on the food map; second, he loves Birmingham City FC - the Blues. Hence his reaction to setting up in the place of his birth: "This is the first time I have worked properly in Birmingham, so when Keith and Diane [Stevenson] gave me the opportunity to go into partnership it was like when Darren Carter scored for the Blues in the play-off finals against Norwich. He, like me, was also from Birmingham."

The comparison isn't just the bubbling-over banter of a talkative fan (though with Purnell there's also plenty of that). It drives deeper: up to 2002 - the year local entrepreneurs the Stevensons opened Jessica's with Purnell - the Blues, like the city's restaurants, had been perennial underachievers. Now both are in the ascendancy, and there is renewed pride in the city. For his part, Purnell has been pushing forward the change on the food front, and Jessica's won the 2005 AA Restaurant of the Year award for England - the first time a newcomer had picked up the title and the first time it had gone to a restaurant from Birmingham.

"My ambition is to be recognised in my own city. It would make my parents proud. It would make the people I grew up with say: ‘Oh look, that's that kid we went to school with,'" he says. "And after knowing that Birmingham was a bit of a desert for food, with all the knowledge I have picked up over the years I thought there was no better way to put something back into Birmingham than to cook here."

Purnell was born on a big council estate in the Chelmsley Wood area of Birmingham. While it was by no means a no-go area, "people there didn't exactly know what foie gras was," he says. Food did interest him, however. Left in charge of his little sister and brother he made them lunches - beans on toast perhaps, customised with curry powder and lots of chopped onions. "She never ate it ‘cos it was fuckin' horrible," he follows up, dead-pan, "but I just felt the beans weren't quite right."

Armed with little more culinary education than this curiosity (although he does remember going to the Bull Ring with his mother to buy food at the markets long before it became Europe's biggest shopping mall) he asked to go to a kitchen at 14 for work experience. That first taste of the industry was at the Metropole hotel - situated in Birmingham's other landmark (besides Spaghetti Junction), the NEC. Unfazed by endless mopping, he decided to carry on with the job when his supervisors offered him some paid work after school. He hopped on to the 966 bus, did more mopping, and was eventually promoted to making salads ("just a lettuce leaf and half a tomato, but I wanted to make it better"). He was then offered an apprenticeship.

It wasn't until he got a job at Simpsons, Andreas Antona's Michelin-starred Kenilworth restaurant (which last year re-located to Edgbaston), that his talent really shone through and he rose to the position of sous chef. Antona's support gave Purnell the chance to travel all over Europe on stages. "Every time I had time off I would go to do a stage," he says. He went to the Greenhouse under Gary Rhodes, Alastair Little's in Soho ("a legend"); and Aubergine under Ramsay's French style of service ("fuckin' awesome"). They inspired him to go further afield - most notably to the Pourcel brothers in Montpellier, France. "These stages kept me going," he says.

It was another trip abroad, to Zaldiaran in Spain's Basque country, that really caught his imagination and set up a series of events that led to Jessica's. "That was a big turning point," Purnell says. "The food was modern but also followed Basque traditions, just with a twist. And, most importantly, it was fun."

A look at his menu now reveals that influence. There is ham hock (which he would eat as a boy boiled with potatoes), which he puts with a confit pineapple. "It's so 1970s it's frightening," he laughs. He may not have been surrounded by fine food as a kid, but the flavours he did taste have stuck in his memory - and he isn't ashamed to glorify them now. So pigeon sits on quince purée and is accompanied by sweetcorn, and peanut butter is made into an ice-cream. It might be too early to talk of a regional fine-dining style for Birmingham, but at times Purnell seems to revel in exactly those kind of ingredients that - frowned upon in fine dining - would have once relegated Birmingham to the bottom of the culinary pile.

And there's an added reason for making use of these mundane childhood memories. "I wanted to create a menu that wasn't just full of truffles and langoustines, but rather ingredients that you really have to work with," he explains. "A lot of people who want to cook at this level think it's just about putting expensive ingredients on the menu. But that's just cooking by numbers. Anybody can buy a fillet steak and put a slab of foie gras on it and say, ‘Ooh, that's steak Rossini.'"

There is a long line of exceptional chefs who, like Purnell, have refused to fall back on the obvious, and instead combined poor-man's ingredients with richer produce (think of Ramsay in his early days at Aubergine). It is often a sign of a real talent and a mind that needs a challenge. "Look, I respect those ingredients but it wouldn't make me get out of bed in the morning," Purnell says. "I'd probably stay in watching Richard and Judy or whatever," he laughs.

His attitude has also been influenced by his friends - Claude Bosi (for whom he was sous chef for seven months at Hibiscus, in Ludlow, before the chance came to open Jessica's) and Sat Bains of Sat Bains at Hotel des Clos in Nottingham. You might call them the Midlands mafia, and in cooking terms they have been known to play by their own rules. "There's more freedom outside London," Purnell explains. Think of Bains, Bosi, Paul Kitching at Juniper, Heston Blumenthal, of course, and now Anthony Flinn in Leeds - not all from the Midlands but not based in London - and the argument begins to take shape. "I think people get stuck in a London bracket," he continues. "There are only a couple of people in London who stand out. So many of the others are all solid, but just aspiring to pure perfection along a classical basis. Myself, I am still playing around to find my own style."

That independent spirit led him to follow the example of Bosi and another inspiration he mentions, David Everitt-Matthias of Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham, with a small operation where he and a tight team can stamp his identity on the kitchen. (At the same time as he got the Hibiscus gig he went for the sous chef job at Le Manoir, but shied away from the thought of a 50-strong brigade.) Throughout the interview Purnell also name-checks his brigade (Simon Szymanski the sous chef, Jason Eaves, and Leanne Edmonds the pastry chef) and his front-of-house team Pascal Cuny and Renaud Duhouvre. He is generous in his praise for them, and emphasises how much the success is a team effort - although he also stresses how he can't yet allow himself to be absent for service.

That spirit also means Purnell is not too worried about upsetting people. "I learnt that from Claude - you want to make it difficult for them to choose, asking ‘Shall I have that one or that one?' Then you are pushing them to have a bit of everything, which is the dégustation menu." Customer sheepishness is also not allowed. When people get funny about the roasted lamb tongue with Indian spices and lentils, and ask whether they can replace the tongue, he simply says no.

It is also Purnell's confidence in his own abilities ("I mean, you wouldn't tell a plumber how to do his job," he says) and also the desire to push back boundaries. "When I put snails on last year with pork belly and turnips they flew out," he says. "Now you wouldn't have thought snails would work in a culinary desert. You just don't do it. But we did and it was really popular." So does he try to be controversial? "I like to stand alone when it comes to style of food - and not just shuffle along behind the rest of them. I like it if some people say ‘I loved it' and other people say ‘I wasn't sure'."

He should get both responses with his peanut butter ice-cream, sweetcorn and ham-and-pineapple creations - but it isn't posturing. When he says he likes surf and turf (how many of you supposed gastronomes have just winced?) there's an honest reason behind it. "I like it because sometimes I find that if I just have a plate of one meat I get quite bored. There's nothing wrong with it, but it's just nice to have a little bit more."

He has received glowing write-ups in the guides, some of which please him all the more - such as Hardens and the Good Food Guide - simply because they are based on customers responding. "So if that means there are Brummies writing into food guides that's brilliant," he glows. "What a great pleasure it must be for a Brummie to write in and say I had a great meal in Brum rather than London."

And it doesn't stop there. Michelin is out this month and Purnell is an obvious candidate to pick up his first star. "That's what we were always aiming for," he says, "but it's in their hands. I won't be rushing out to kill myself if we don't get it." Anyway, whatever happens in that department, things are looking up, with Purnell and partner Kerry now expecting a baby. "It could be a boy, which would be good as he could be the new striker that we need at the Blues," he laughs. "Yes the family's coming. The restaurant's all there. And we got three points on Sunday. It's all going the right way."

The critics' view

Matthew Fort in The Guardian

There is a sense of individuality, but not to the extent of having me suck my teeth and think, "I'm not sure about that." Jessica's is a restaurant with ambitions, and heaven knows Birmingham needs one.

Terry Durack in the Independent on Sunday

A smoked ham hock and beetroot terrine could have been ugly. Instead, it is an elegant baton of ruby red, jellied meat and beet; a blushing pink "jambon persille" with snail trails of beetroot purée, a little cucumber for freshness and a dill and lime cream for richness. The pattern has been set for the rest of the meal: rustic and robust flavours tamed into something quite sophisticated.

Jay Rayner in The Observer

I was so indecisive I almost chose my main course with a pin. It could have been the glazed milk-fed rabbit with honey, pistachios and almonds. Or the saddle of lamb and braised shoulder with a potato and cèpe gratin. Instead, I had veal loin, served in pink, creamy slices atop a fricassée of young squid, white beans, parsley and garlic. Who knew that the juvenile sweetness of squid and veal would work so well together? Well, Purnell.

Jessica's
1 Montague Street, Edgbaston, B16 9HN

0121-455 0999

Open: lunch Tuesday to Friday; dinner Monday to Saturday

Average price for three courses, without wine or service: £29.95

www.jessicasrestaurant.co.uk

A fairer face for the second city

Birmingham has undergone a huge transformation over the past 15 years and there's still more regeneration to come. Formerly synonymous with heavy manufacturing industry and the horrors of 1960s motorway planning, the city is forging a new identity.

The inner ring road has been broken to make way for a series of new quarters, expanding the city centre beyond its former stranglehold. The demolition of the dark, graffiti-strewn subways and the addition of benches and trees to the main shopping areas has given Birmingham a more cosmopolitan feel.

You can now walk, without crossing a single road, from Centenary Square (where Symphony Hall is home to the world-renowned City of Birmingham Orchestra) to Broad Street, with its bars and clubs, and on to the canal district at the Water's Edge. From Brindley Place, a mixed-use development including the Bank and Le Petit Blanc restaurants, you can enjoy a short canal walk to the Mailbox to shop for designer clothes, eat at restaurants overlooking the water, or stay at the Malmaison or Days Hotel. The newly reopened Bullring is now one of the biggest shopping complexes in Europe.

The catalyst for change came in 1991, with the decision to build the Convention Quarter in the city centre. The opening of the International Convention Centre, Symphony Hall, and National Indoor Arena spearheaded a programme of regeneration that shows no sign of stopping.

As part of this programme, about eight new hotels could open by 2010 (see table page 23). One confirmed for July next year is a 220-bedroom Radisson SAS, that will occupy the lower 19 floors of what will be the city's tallest building. Birmingham's new 39-storey Beetham Tower will also boast penthouses on sale at £2m each.

Hugh Frost, chairman of developer the Beetham Organisation, says: "Developing apartment buildings adjacent to or above branded hotels is a winning formula. We started this concept in Liverpool, and within three months exchanged contracts on 132 apartments, which paved the way for the company to repeat the Liverpool model in Birmingham and Manchester in 2005."

Travelodge has identified a number of sites around the city, some of which, according to agent Christie & Co, are in the early stages of negotiation for opening in 2005.

The challenge for operators and tourism chiefs will be to keep pace with this level of growth. In 2003, Birmingham had 24 million visitors who spent £1.3b. "We've got expectations to meet, and an industry built up around those visitor numbers that needs to be sustained," comments Tim Manson, head of leisure tourism for Marketing Birmingham. "Quality staffing will be the big issue for 2005."

Birmingham has emerged as a hugely successful exhibition and conference city, which means weekend occupancy has traditionally been low and demand can tail off in summer. In 2003, average occupancy of 74% during the week fell to 59% at weekends.

However, Birmingham's success in business tourism - the NEC and ICC account for 42% of the UK's total exhibition and conferences trade - is starting to be complemented by increasing leisure tourism.

The leisure market accounts for 29% of overnight tourism by expenditure, and 36% by volume, according to Marketing Birmingham. Manson says weekend promotions focusing on Balti cooking, jewellery-making, or football, are driving leisure business into the city. In a similar effort to stimulate weekend business, Hotel du Vin offers weekends for wine enthusiasts that are available at its Birmingham hotel only. They have been running successfully for five years.

  • by Ben Walker

A restaurants revival

Bank

Bank is a small enough chain to feel that every link counts, and the Birmingham connection (opened after the Aldwych original and before the most recent Westminster branch) is consistently considered one of the best places to eat in the city. Overseen by operations manager David Colcombe (previously executive chef for the whole group and a Birmingham lad by birth) with head chef Stephen Woods (another Brummie), the 150-cover restaurant in the heart of the spick-and-span Brindley Place development serves up a generous selection of contemporary dishes such as grilled goats' cheese with beetroot salad (£6) and roast lobster with a spiced mussel and saffron broth (£16). Other dishes include reworkings of more traditional numbers such as chargrilled calves' liver with crispy bacon and sweet and sour onion (£16.75), and there are also daily-changing specials and breakfast till 11am every weekday. The long bar and big windows add to the bright, buzzy feel and there are good deals to be had on late or early evening dining (two courses for £12.50).

4 Brindley Place, B1

0121-633 4466

Open: Monday to Friday, 7.30am-11am and 12 noon to 2.45pm; Monday to Thursday, 5.30pm-11pm; Friday to Saturday, 5.30pm-11.30pm; Sunday 5pm-10pm; Saturday and Sunday brunch, 11.30am-2.30pm

Average price for three courses, without wine or service: dinner £27; lunch, early/late evening £15

www.bankrestaurants.com

Lasan

Tucked up a side street off St Paul's Square in the smart Jewellery Quarter, the cool cream interior of Indian restaurant Lasan sets it apart from the city's traditional curry houses. Originally an art gallery, the 70-seat open-plan restaurant and adjoining bar is spacious and chic, with modern art dotted around the walls. The highly creative menu draws on Bangladeshi influences, with head chef Munayam Khan placing emphasis on authentic raw ingredients and stylish presentation, with no artificial colourings or additives used. Specialities include braised sea bass in sour mango sauce with mushroom rice (£10.75), and lau chingri, a king prawn and exotic marrow curry (£11.75). Vegetarians can try the best-selling koyful, or green papaya, dansak, served with a purée of lentils (£5.75), or a chana yellow lentil curry with spiced courgettes (£4.95). The innovative dessert menu (from £3.95) includes kulfi, or Indian ice-cream, as well as a saffron-flavoured bread-and-butter pudding and a baked coconut and honey custard, with caramel sauce.

3-4 Dakota Buildings, James Street, B3

0121-212 3664

Open: Monday to Saturday, 6pm-11pm

Average price for three courses, without wine or service: £20

www.lasan.co.uk

Paris
Only in Birmingham might a restaurant with such lofty aspirations appear in a shopping complex, but (despite a mixed critical reaction at the start) the creation of chef-restaurateur Pat McDonald now seems firmly established in the hearts and minds of Birmingham's fine-dining set. It's situated just down from Harvey Nicks in the Mailbox, but the decor effectively banishes any trace of its location by using rich chocolate browns, mahogany walls and soft lighting to elegant effect. The menu is, of course, French, with starters such as lobster tortellini, potato salad, lobster and basil vinaigrette (£12.50), and mains such as duck breast truffle risotto, served with seared foie gras (£22.50) and fillet of beef, oxtail bitok and sauce bourguignonne (£26.50). The two- and three-course lunch menus offer good value at £16.50 and £21.50, but for something more lavish a seven-course tasting menu is available at £60 per head. There's a good selection of Champagne and dessert wines by the glass, and an extensive, albeit pricey, wine list.

109-111 Wharfside Street, The Mailbox, B1

0121-632 1488

Open: Tuesday to Saturday, 12 noon to 2.30pm; Tuesday to Friday, 7pm-9.30pm; and Saturday, 7pm-10pm

Average price for three courses, without wine or service: £45

www.restaurantparis.co.uk

Toque D'Or

French chef Didier Philpot arrived in Birmingham about three years ago after five years as head chef at Brockencote Hall. Although his diminutive restaurant has something of the bistro about it - copper pans hanging over the stove and wine bottles lining parts of the exposed-brick walls, all hidden away down an alleyway in the Jewellery Quarter - the set-price menu speaks in far grander tones. Witness a dodine of Perigord duck foie gras, with Armagnac and salt flower and toasted mousseline brioche, for instance, to start, or a suprême of free-range Guinea fowl with garden pea mousseline as a main. In truth it's not complicated cooking, but good ingredients are a must, and in this way Philpot has certainly played his part in lifting the culinary expectations of the city. Not far from good music at the Jam House, if after dinner entertainment is needed.

27 Warstone Lane, The Jewellery Quarter, B18

0121-233 3655

Open: Tuesday to Friday, 12.30pm-1.30pm; Tuesday-Saturday. 7pm-9.30pm

Average price for three courses, without wine or service: lunch £18.50; dinner £24.50

www.latoquedor.co.uk

The Boot

Paul Salisbury is something of a local restaurateur with several food-led pubs in the Warwickshire area around Birmingham, including the Orange Tree at Chadwick End. His latest refurb has taken place at the Boot in Lapworth and if you don't mind a short(ish) drive from the NEC you'll find starters such as Serano ham with Manchego (£6.95), salmon gravadlax (£6.75), and seared squid with sweet chilli (£5.95), while mains plump for rustic comfort along the lines of duck confit with white bean cassoulet (£12.95) or pork cutlet with baked apples (£10.75).

Old Warwick Road, Lapworth, B94

01564 782464

Open: Monday to Sunday, 11am-3pm and 5.30pm-11pm

Average price for three courses without wine or service: £22

www.thebootatlapworth.co.uk

Simpsons

Andreas Antona has not only relocated his one-Michelin-starred restaurant from Kenilworth to Edgbaston but added four rooms into the bargain. So while he may have lost the star (not for long, you feel) he has gained an exclusive boutique hotel pretty much unmatched in Birmingham. The classically rooted food (developed together with executive chef Luke Tipping) shows a strong balance of flavour and texture - nothing is heavy handed. Dishes might include seared scallop, smoked salmon, cabbage and pomme mousseline (£8.95) or roast loin of Finnebrogue venison, foie gras spätzle, spiced red cabbage, chestnut cream and sauce porto (£19.50). There is also a daily three-course set menu for £20 at lunch or £30 in the evening - all framed in a very elegant dining room in a beautiful listed building.

20 Highfield, Edgbaston, B15

0121-454 3434

Open: Monday to Sunday 12.30pm-2pm; Sunday to Thursday, 7pm-9.30pm; Friday to Saturday, 7pm-10pm

Average price for three courses at dinner without wine or service: £36

www.simpsonsrestaurant.co.uk

Also check out the Brasserie de Malmaison (0121-246 5000); the bistro at Hotel du Vin (0121-236 0559) and Mixatmechu on Summer Row (0121-710 4222). Another stalwart in the city centre is Le Petit Blanc (0121-633 7333) while very close to the NEC in the village of Barston is the Malt Shovel pub (01675 443223), a converted mill serving above-average food and good beers.

The Balti Triangle

Jyoti

For brothers Josh and Suraj Josh, owners of Indian vegetarian restaurant Jyoti in Birmingham's Balti Triangle, the restaurant scene in their neighbourhood has changed dramatically over the past three decades. "When we first came here in 1975, there were maybe four Indian restaurants. Now it's more like 70," Suraj explains.

Balti first appeared in Birmingham as a type of curry, introduced in the 1970s by the Pakistani community. Made with marinated meat, fish or vegetables cooked very quickly over a high flame and served sizzling hot in a balti dish (a type of round-bottomed wok with handles, literally translated as "bucket") and traditionally scooped up from the dish using naan breads (famously blanket sized) or chapatis.

The explosion in restaurants sees Pakistani-, Indian- and Bangladeshi-owned restaurants all compete side by side. Today the area's annual turnover is £7m and although the "Balti Triangle" has always been known as that to Sparkbrook area locals, Birmingham's marketing bods are now trying to brand it as that to the rest of the world.

Rather than viewing newcomers as increased competition, the Josh brothers see benefits arising from the changes. "It's good for the area to have added trade. Customers have been eating traditional baltis for 10 years or so, but people's tastes have moved on," Josh says. "It used to be impossible to get decent vegetarian food, for example, but now it's a big market and growing. People come to us because they want to eat our food." The brothers say they'd even welcome Mexican, Italian or whatever cuisines into the Triangle - just to boost custom.

Not that they are short of business. Although this might not be the first place you'd think of for a business meeting (they don't open at lunch), the food is impressive. Customers, they say, come from as far away as Gloucester and Bristol to eat, and displayed with pride on the restaurant's walls are photographs of one of Jyoti's more famous supporters, Jamie Oliver. Apparently he visits whenever he's in town, and has previously brought Brian Turner and Anthony Worrall-Thompson along to see for themselves.

With 275 dishes on offer, the menu is all-encompassing, with a mixture of north and south Indian dishes as well as thali specialities from Gujarat. Starters include deep-fried mogo (or cassava) chips with tangy tamarind sauce (£2.20); meanwhile the chaupatti (meaning seaside) section features the type of dainty snacks traditionally eaten by families taking a Sunday afternoon stroll, such as pani puri, a delicate crispy pastry, stuffed with diced potatoes, chickpeas and onion and served with tamarind sauce.

Mains range from southern Indian dhosas (riceflour and semolina pancake) stuffed with vegetables, lentils and chutneys, to bengan masala, a spicy aubergine curry (£6.75), or a chef's choice thali, served with dhal, raita or yogurt, pickle, poppadom, roti and rice (£13.25). There is also, of course, their own version of the balti, this time vegetarian.

Everything is made on the premises, including the vast selection of traditional sweets sold in the sweet centre next door. And continuing on the family theme, the brothers' two wives, Harsha and Bhavna, work in the kitchen. Josh points out that this is unusual. "In 99% of UK balti restaurants you won't see a woman in the kitchen. I think the food is different here because women do the cooking. And I'd rather have a woman than a man cooking for me any day," he grins.

569-571 Stratford Road, Sparkhill, B11

0121-766 7199

Open: Tuesday to Friday, 6pm-9.30pm; Saturday, 1.30pm-9.30pm

Average price for three courses without wine or service: £13-£14

Imran's

Set right in the heart of the Balti Triangle, on one of its main streets, Imran's has been a traditional favourite with locals and tourists ever since owner Afzal Butt opened it in 1981. This makes it one of the "forefathers" of balti, reflected in the menu of more than 50 different types of balti, ranging from a simple vegetable balti (£3.80), to a king prawn tikka with chilli (£7.50), and even a quail balti (£4). There are also grilled meat starters, biryanis, kebabs and even omelette and chips for the unadventurous. Home-made sweets are a big draw, with specialities including the fudge-like barfi, made with sugar, skimmed milk and either pistachio, almond or chocolate, and gulab jaman, small deep-fried dumplings of flour and milk poached in syrup and served cold. Imran's isn't licensed but diners are welcome to bring their own, and although the interior is a little shabby (a proposed refurb won't have happened in time for Hospitality) it's worth a trip on your way back to town from the NEC.

264-266 Ladypool Road, Sparkbrook, B12

0121-449 1370

Open: Monday to Sunday, 12pm-12am

Average price for dinner: £12

Kababish

With its white walls and bright pictures, Kababish has a more contemporary feel than some in the Triangle, and unusually for a Balti house it's licensed. Parties of four or more can choose to start with the chef's platter (£12) of tandoori chicken, kebabs, samosas and bhajis - or opt for a "sizzler" (£7), a mezze-type selection of tandoori meats and vegetables. Traditional balti-lovers will be kept happy with the usual lamb, chicken and vegetable variations, but if something a little more creative appeals, add any extra ingredient for £1, or try the pick-and-mix option (£6.75) which allows you to create your very own balti dish. Choose from a range of ingredients listed on the menu, such as lobia dhal (red kidney beans), spinach paneer or bhindi (okra). The restaurant's tandoori roti (£1.40), a type of unleavened bread, makes an interesting alternative to naan bread to mop up rich sauces.

29 Woodbridge Road, Moseley, B13

0121-449 5556

Open: Sunday to Thursday, 5.30pm-11.30pm; Friday to Saturday, 5.30pm-midnight

Average price of three courses at dinner: £15

Other suggestions

For those of you who balk at the idea of straying from the city centre to experience the true balti flavours in the Triangle, here are some of the better-rated curry houses in town:

Shimla Pinks, 214 Broad Street, B1; 0121-633 0366

Maharajah, 23-25 Hurst Street, B2; 0121-622 2641

Coconut Lagoon, 12 Bennetts Hill, B2; 0121-643 3045

Recent and future hotel developments

Development nameSizeEstimated completion date
Mailbox: Malmaison hotel370 bedspaces Completed: September 2002
Express by Holiday Inn120 bedroomsCompleted: January 2003
Beetham Tower220-bedroom Radisson SAS conference hotel. Within mixed-use developmentJuly 2005
Jewellery BoxPossible hotel option at site of former Museum of Science and Industry on Newhall/Charlotte Street. Within mixed-use development in Jewellery Quarter; interest expressed by Alias Hotels2006
Edgbaston Shopping CentreRedevelopment to shopping centre, including two hotels and an extension to the nearby Marriott Hotel2007
Eastside Quarter: Masshouse, sites 3 and 7350 bedrooms; interest expressed by Hilton2010
Park Central (Phase 1, Attwood Green)Planned hotel 2010
Snow Hill Within mixed-use development, proposal for hotels2010
Auchinleck House & Square250-bedroom hotel within mixed-use development off Broad Street2005
Custard Factory Small artistic hotel within Custard Factory development on Gibb SquareTBC
Deritend Bridge Mixed-use scheme within Irish Quarter; hotel is plannedTBA
Fort DunlopMixed-use development fronting A47 and M6 to include 100-bedroom hotel and high-quality officesTBA
Priory & Cannon HouseKey access point to the Bullring; proposal for possible hotel useTBA

Source: Development Monitoring Schedule, Locate in Birmingham, 2004

A better class of bar

And, of course, if you want to hang out before or after dinner (or during - all these listed serve food), Birmingham city centre has a whole host of bars - and we're not talking about the nightmare on Broad Street.

Popular with both after-work drinkers and students from Birmingham's College of Food and Tourism across the street, Après recreates a vague Alpine theme, shows football on big screens, and serves simple burgers and pizzas (39 Summerrow, 0121-212 1661). Its more upmarket sister bar two doors down is Mechu, with clean-cut bar and furniture, and a more cosmopolitan feel to its concise menu (59 Summerrow, 0121-212 1661).

In the Mailbox, Epernay (0121-632 1430) sells Champagne and white wine to a well-heeled after-work crowd, against a backdrop of the newly developed Gas Street basin - with piano player to boot. A more relaxed operation in the same complex is Café Estilo, while the Malmaison Brasserie also has a popular bar.

A younger crowd tends to congregate at the Arcadian centre on Hurst Street, especially at noodle and DJ bar Sobar (0121-693 5084), and at 52° North and Poppy Red. If you find yourself on Broad Street and need to take shelter, duck down to the Gas Street Basin canal area, where the Living Room (Regency Wharf, 0870 442 2539) and Conran's Zinc (Regency Wharf, 0121-200 0620) offer a friendly crowd and good cocktails.

Charm from an older era can be found under the Burlington hotel in the form of Bacchus (off New Street, 0121-616 7991), all high-backed armchairs and secluded corners. Currently the most sought-after venue for out-of-office business meetings is Metro (Cornwall Street, 0121-200 1911), a smart leather-and-wood effort serving up plenty of Champagne and fairly serious food.

Finally, if one of the city's less-than-elegant nightclubs is not your scene, a good alternative is the Jam House in the increasingly cool Jewellery Quarter (St Paul's Square, 0121-200 3030). It has live music every night, and with Jules Holland as the musical director you can be pretty sure it will be up to scratch.

Hospitality

Hospitality, featuring Hostec, will take place from 24 to 26 January at the NEC, Birmingham.

To book your place or for more information, visit www.hospitalityshow.co.uk.

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