Birmingham Uncovered

Birmingham UncoveredWhether you're looking for a new site, a new job, or simply a place to eat, drink and get inspired, Birmingham has it all. From being Britain’s Balti capital and big brewer, Birmingham has evolved into a city brimming with excitement and promise. With access to incredible seasonal produce from the surrounding areas and a growing supply of home-grown hospitality professionals, Birmingham is a culinary hotspot.

Walking out of this West Midlands city’s revamped New Street station, the site of roadworks and cranes is testament to the massive programme of building and renovation. When even a city’s suburbs are developing, it truly speaks of its ambition.

Simpsons is one of the city’s Michelin starred restaurants and head sommelier Corin Ireland* explains that the growth in Birmingham over the last four to five years has been immense – “in 2004 we were the only starred restaurant, now there are five, while there’s also a constant influx of new chains, independents and street food pop-ups.”

The Lasan Group has truly experienced this continued growth, with four outlets in the city – including the high-end Indian Lasan Restaurant and newly opened American-style lobster and meat set-up, Nosh & Quaff.

Operations manager Tan Uddin explains, “After the millennium, Birmingham experienced too big a boom, which was followed by the recession. But this growth seems more sustainable – there is a lot of investment, with building and development throughout the city, including banking headquarters moving to the centre.”

So what is driving this change?

Gas Street Social
in the waterside Mailbox development is one of a number of new independents in the city and managing director Adam Freeth believes that this growth is simply down to people having the proverbial ‘balls’ to do something and take a leap of faith.

Carters of Moseley is the city’s latest recipient of a Michelin star and restaurant manager Alex Smith explains that “so many restaurants are pushing the boundaries of gastronomy in their own way, which is spurring everyone on.

“Our wine offer is dynamic and always reflects chef Brad Carter’s style of cooking. We focus on local, seasonal and sustainable British food, which is as natural and organic as possible. And our wine list reflects that.”

There’s no doubt that the city’s food scene is top notch, with customers keen to embrace the many different cuisines. Cocktails are another big player – it makes up 60% of the sales at Gas Street Social, a lot more than Adam expected. But while customers have developed a real taste for quality food and cocktails, the wine scene is lagging behind.

“Birmingham is very price conscious and we sell a lot of Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. But we’ve put together a list of breadth and depth, which offers good quality, with recognisable and affordable wines on offer. We also recently installed Frizzante on tap, which is extremely popular, especially during our bottomless brunches,” Adam says.

At Simpsons, Malbec, Sancerre and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc are still the most popular, but Corin explains that customers are starting to trust staff more to make recommendations. Tan agrees, noting that people are happy to experiment with food, making them more likely to be experimental in their wine and beer choices too. “A tasting menu and wine flights are great to introduce new styles or grapes,” he says. “We also work closely with the Bibendum team, who help us to analyse new market trends and provide in-house staff training.”

A growing hospitality sector

With the renewed energy around Birmingham’s hospitality sector, property prices are soaring and Adam explains that the exponential increase in rents has become a massive barrier for independents, opening up more opportunity for the bigger chains that are now flooding in.

Others fear that the continued influx of new bars and restaurants might make it more difficult to retain and hire quality staff in the future. But compared to most other places, Birmingham’s hospitality sector seems to have a great element of ‘togetherness’.

Alex believes that one of Birmingham’s key differences is its connection to the city’s industrial and urban history. “The chefs of the area are a reflection of that – your typical ‘Birmingham lads’ who don’t take themselves too seriously,” he says. At Simpsons the average age of staff is around 25 years old and Corin explains that many of the young locals are interested in being a part of the industry. Carters of Moseley similarly has a very young team and Alex believes that more young people will be inspired to become involved with Birmingham’s food and drinks industry if this growth and development continues.

With many local youngsters helping to elevate the city’s food scene, Tan explains that the University College of Birmingham plays a big part. “With UCB, we have a constant flow of locals who received good training in hospitality. Many of them do internships at establishments in the city and end up staying on,” he says.

The future looks particularly bright for Birmingham and its constant development seems to be nowhere near its peak. From street food and national chains, to independent restaurants and Michelin-starred fine dining, Birmingham isn’t just growing, it’s undergoing a revolution.

Operating in Birmingham or looking to expand to this city? Email us at or contact your Account Manager to make sure you stay ahead.


*Corin has since left Simpsons

21st December 2016

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