Stay.com recently asked me to compile a list of my favourites spots for working in central Birmingham:
Urban Coffee Co (Church St)
Good coffee in the heart of the business district.
Coffee Lounge (the one on Newhall St)
A vast menu in a scrumptious setting.
A pick-a-mix of old theatre seats with a view. Usually opens from 12.
Bottomless coffee (or tea) and legendary breakfasts.
Urban Coffee Co (Jewellery Quarter)
A big space to work right in JQ’s creative community plus breakfast or lunch to keep you going.
Boston Tea Party (Corporation St)
Baked beans on toast for breakfast or lunch.
The Studio (Cannon St)
Space to think, meet and get things done. Call/tweet to check availability as on occasional days, this meeting venue opens its quiet atrium bar to the public. £5 for all drinks and if you're lucky, snacks.
All have WiFi and large cups of coffee. Obviously.
Starting right at the edge with St. Paul's, Birmingham's last Georgian square, there's the Jam House and just around the corner, the Actress & Bishop for your live music mix. The JQ residents are lucky to have a choice of restaurants including the long-standing Pasta Di Piazza and Henry’s Cantonese.also the award winning Lasan or you can enjoy the private booths of the Vaults. Further into the heart of the quarter, Big Nanny’s give you a warm Caribbean welcome and the Blue Nile is worth eating at just for the stunning Ethiopian coffee ceremony.
There are a couple of traditional watering holes in St Paul’s Square or at the other end of the quarter, there is the smart casual Drop Forge, great for private parties. Around the corner on the Hockley side, The Lord Clifden, with its garden, seemingly larger than the pub itself and with focus on music and food. A few steps down The Church Inn opened in 2013.
At the heel of the clock outside the Big Peg which marks the centre of the area, there’s a diner menu available from Rose Villa Tavern, the 100 year old pub to restored to some of its former glory in 2011, complete with an array of global beers, real ales and cocktails. Beyond the RVT the traditional Red Lion not to be confused with the recently re-opened Brown Lion.
For a long time, Saints Caffe was the lone warrior of independent coffee shops in the city centre. That itself has recently changed hands to end a superb era but in recent years It has been joined by version two of Urban Coffee Co, Brewsmiths, the fantastic old school café just by the back entrance of Snow Hill, and Pomegranate, the gift shop/tea shop. Coffee can also be partaken in Fredericks which turns into a sleek bar in the evening.
The Quarter has more heritage than I can fit in a cluster ring but highlights are the RBSA which displays and sells affordable local crafts and jewellery and St Paul’s Gallery which is famous for its album cover and pop artwork. There is JQ’s own theatre, the Blue Orange, the Newman Brothers Coffin Works is currently being restored plus the must-see Pen Museum run brilliantly by volunteers. Finally if you’re going to the Jewellery Quarter Museum pop into the delightful Vee’s Deli.
Oh, and there are over 100 jewellery shops and makers that get very busy on a Saturday as visitors come from all around the Midlands to buy quality jewellery at a good price.
All of this is just touching the solid shiny surface of this nugget in Birmingham’s history. You can find out more here or by booking on a tour with the wonderful IABTours. Or pop along to the residents social every third Tuesday of the month in the Drop Forge run by @MyJQ or Likemind on the third Friday of the month, which is open to all at the aforementioned Brewsmiths, who serve bottomless coffee. Get it while it’s hot!
Monday to Friday I spend a lot of my time in the business district of the City at Urban Coffee Co where I work. And, don’t get me wrong, I love it. Fantastic architecture, LOADS to see and eat. There’s that real city buzz. Often though by Friday night I’m ready for something else, something smaller and I love those ‘village’ areas of cities which nuzzle just outside the centre.
Friday evening. Work’s done, and 15 minutes on – what is often claimed is Europe’s most regular bus service - the 50 later I’m in Moseley. If there’s a whiff of sunshine I make my way up to Lewis’s Deli, pick up something fabulous, and head over to Moseley Park and Pool for a picnic. It’s one of those places where I’ll normally bump in to people I know, it’s quiet, relaxing and really quite wonderful*. It’s such a change in pace and one of those magic places where you really can forget you’re in the country’s second city! Then it’s a drink in the Fighting Cocks before heading home…
I am not a retail therapy kind of guy in the normal sense of the word. I can take or leave clothes and shoes, but food, well, that’s another story! Saturday morning it’s off to do the weekly shop. This isn’t the weekly boring- lug-around-the-supermarket-shop for me! It’s a walk down Ladypool Road to pick up spices and daals, grabbing a samosa from Milan’s on Stoney lane. Then on to Chinatown and maybe lunch in Café Soya. After that, it’s the markets. They may not be the prettiest markets in the world but they are great. Wonderful fresh fish, great meat, fruit and veg from the UK, as well as exotic produce too! You name it, it’s there! And it seems as if the whole city meets here on a Saturday! I walk around wondering HOW I’m going to get all this stuff in the fridge and, with a smug feeling, try to work out how much it would have cost me if I ‘d got it from a supermarket.
Saturday night has to be the Prince of Wales in Moseley. I don’t think there’s anywhere else in Birmingham that is a proper old local but with the bonus of a Cocktail Bar, Wine Hut and Tiki Lounge all in one Pub filled with people from every walk of life! So it’s a cocktail (or two) and a pint (or two) of Old Rosie Cider….
Sunday morning…. (Meat in the oven on slow) Time for a walk to clear the cobwebs,
A walk to the MAC to see what’s on, and on through Cannon Hill Park. You can walk through Cannon Hill and all the way through to Highbury Park, a great river of green space through the city, and a fantastic way to spend a groggy morning. Once I arrive in Kings Heath, it’s off to Cherry Reds with lovely staff who know your name, great drinks, (I’m normally ready for a Bloody Mary by now) and the Newspapers.
I could, and often do, sit there all day. Before walking home to cook some of that market fresh veg, carve the slow cooked meat for Sunday dinner with friends. Still miles away from the men and women in suits, and buildings of glass which I’ll be surrounded by bright and early tomorrow morning.
*If you don’t have a yearly subscription to the park you can always get a daily pass!
If you can’t see Peter in any of the above places you can contact him via Twitter.
All photos by Peter.