What to Eat in Birmingham: 9 Treats You Should Not Miss
Eat like a local and taste the delicious Brummie cuisine inspired by dishes across the globe. From the best street food in Birmingham to its stylish fine dining eateries and Michelin star restaurants, you’ll be spoiled with endless dining options in this dynamic British city.
While exploring the city centre, take the time to stop at a seafood restaurant or the Fish Market for some shrimp and grits. While you’re at it, why not head to the Jewellery Quarter in the north-western part of Birming City Centre? It’s a must-stop for food lovers with trendy bars, modern Italian eateries, and some of the finest Indian restaurants with mouthwatering Indian food. You can also find plenty of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Birmingham that will surprise you with their veggie bites and tasting menu.
Whether you’re a local looking to try something new or a visitor wondering what to eat in Birmingham, this Britain’s second-largest city won’t disappoint your taste buds. Once you leave your bags at a luggage storage facility in Birmingham, you can go on with your culinary adventure without burden.
Birmingham Food: Birmingham Soup
If you want to make your trip to Birmingham worth it, one food you shouldn’t miss out on is its own Birmingham soup. You can warm your bellies, especially during the rainy season, with this homely soup that goes back to the 18th century.
During the late 18th century, a series of poor harvests affected England, which resulted in a sudden increase in living costs and food prices. One of England’s industrial pioneers, Matthew Boulton, created the Birminghan soup, which is both hearty and nutritious to feed his workers. The soup was made with inexpensive ingredients such as vegetables and stewed beef and is often served with bread.
This savory broth remains a crowd favorite, especially to locals who are reminded of the warm presence of their loved ones. Like other classic dishes, the original recipe of this soup has evolved over the years. Now, you can find the best servings in fine-dining restaurants in the area. But if you’re on a budget, the local cafes will never disappoint.
Birmingham Food: Pork Faggot
One of the most popular British foods associated with Birmingham is the faggot. Pork faggots are traditional offal-based meatballs that are also popular in Wales and throughout the Midlands region. It is made from cheap cuts of meat like liver and heart, as well as pork offal, then mixed with fresh herbs and spices. When cooked, it becomes an inexpensive yet highly nutritious and hearty meal.
Pork faggots were most popular during World War II rationing. During those times, meat was scarce, but organ meats weren’t. It was one of the fast foods put together using left-over meat to satisfy the workers’ food cravings in the 1900s. Today, even locals would queue up at restaurants selling this dish to satisfy their cravings. It’s also considered a farmer’s food for it is not only cheap but also nourishing.
Faggots, also called “savory ducks” in other counties in England, are often served with mashed potatoes and peas, with a rich and meaty gravy. You can make it at home, but there are still plenty of traditional butcher shops, pubs, and even the best restaurants in Birmingham serving this dish.
Birmingham Food: Pork Scratchings
You can’t go to a bar in Birmingham and not try pork scratchings. It’s probably one of the oldest snacks in the world and is eaten worldwide. Although very little has been recorded about its history and origins, many believe it originated in the Black Country or the West Midlands. They said it’s a food of the working classes that can be traced back to the 1800s. Centuries may have passed, and this crunchy snack remains popular not just in the city but also in most of the United Kingdom and beyond.
No matter its past, there’s no doubt pork scratchings are among the must-eat snacks and street food when visiting Birmingham. This popular snack is made by deep-frying the pork skin from the shank of a pig until crispy and golden brown. It is then lightly salted for flavor.
Pork scratchings are immensely popular as a snack in pubs and are usually served with peanuts and crisps. You can find it in almost every menu of cafes and pubs. But if you love homemade food, you can definitely try it at home.
When in Birmingham, you should meet the seller of Black Country pork scratchings just outside New Street station. Dean Jones sells fresh pork scratchings on a mobile trolley, attracting visitors and locals walking around Birmingham city centre. He has been selling this delicacy in the city’s German Christmas Market for over fifteen years.
Birmingham Food: Balti
A genuine Birmingham creation, Balti is a type of curry cooked and served in a thin steel bowl over a hot flame. The specific Balti bowl is designed to keep the curry hot after being cooked over high heat. The pressed carbon steel bowl is unlike a wok with its flat bottom that provides stability on the stove.
Balti was invented in Birmingham in the mid-70s by a Pakistani Brummie restauranteur. The balti bowl he had designed and manufactured for the hot dish was made in the city. It is still in the city’s Stirchley area by the Birmingham Balti Bowl Company.
The fabulous food is cooked using vegetable oil, lamb or goat meat, and other spices. For the sauce, you need to use garlic, onions, turmeric, fresh ginger, and garam masala. The ingredients are cooked quickly over high heat and served in the same special bowl in which it was cooked to retain the heat.
Balti became a well-known dish that a neighborhood in Birmingham was named after it, the Balti Triangle. It was popular from the early 1980s as the home of inexpensive yet delicious curries. It was an area of numerous Balti houses clustering along Stoney Lake, Stratford Road, and Ladypool Road, forming a triangle that points toward the Birmingham City Center, hence the name Balti Triangle.
Birmingham Food: Pease Pudding
Another beloved dish in the Black Country and Birmingham is peace pudding. It is made with peas boiled with ham or bacon with spices and salt, which is why some call it pea and ham soup, pease pottage, or pease porridge. It’s regarded as a savory version of the frumenty, making it a perfect local substitute for the sweet pudding on Mother’s Day.
It may not be a common dish you’ll find at a vegan restaurant, but pease pudding is undoubtedly a veggie eater’s meal. It’s easy to make and only requires minimal ingredients, including peas, pepper, and salt.
However, modern versions added meats, like gammon or cured hind leg of pork and boiled ham. Alternatively, you can have the meat-free pudding as a comforting side dish to be served with cooked meats. It also goes well with pork faggots, which is more like gravy with mashed potato for a hearty meal. It may not be something you’ll offer in a private dining room, but it makes a great accompaniment to some elegant dishes.
Birmingham Food: Pikelets
Quick to make and tasty, pikelets are a favorite snack in the city. Locals often have this snack mistaken for a crumpet, when actually, pikelets are Birmingham’s version of thin pancakes. Although crumpets and pikelets differ, Brummies often use the word pikelets for both. If you’re in a rush but still want to have a tasty breakfast or snack, a pikelet is a go-to choice.
These tasty snacks are cooked over a thin pan and left to bubble before flipping on the other side. They don’t contain yeast, so they’re much flatter than a typical pancake. You can enjoy it any time of the day, but it’s best served in the morning, paired with your toppings of choice.
In Birmingham, pikelets are enjoyed as a snack in most households and are generally eaten with whipped cream and jam. It’s easy to find in local cafés, bakeries, and even restaurants.
Birmingham Food: Pork Pies
Savory meat pies are favorite meals and pocket-sized snacks in British food culture. And though it didn’t specifically originate from Birmingham, you just can’t leave the city without getting your hands on a good pastry filled with chopped pork.
The pork pie’s first recorded recipe was in 1390 in King Richard II’s kitchen. Like numerous classic British dishes, the origin of pork pies comes from the purpose of meat preservation. It’s different from other preservation methods like air drying, curing, and salting. Still, it was a way to extend the meat’s time so that it could be eaten even long after slaughtering the pig.
They made the hot water crust from salted water and boiling lard. Then, it is poured into the flour. After mixing and creating a mold, the meat is used as a filling. Once cooked, the meat lasts longer and can be transported in good condition.
Today, rather than as a way to preserve the meat, we eat pork pies because they are savory, filling, and delicious. Several changes were also made in terms of preparation and cooking, but the main ingredients to make pork pies remain the same even after centuries have passed.
Birmingham Food: Brummie Bacon Cakes
Brummies have claimed this as their savory dish, so there’s no question it should be added to the list of must-eat food in Birmingham. Brummie bacon cake is flavorful, easy to make, and something that will remind you of bacon scones and eggless cheese. It’s an ideal afternoon snack and goes well with your favorite breakfast, dinner, or brunch dishes.
The Brits love to combine pastry and meat, and Brummie bacon cakes are proof of it. It originates from Birmingham, hence the name. It is made from chopped bacon and cheese combined into the dough to form flat cakes and baked. You can also add Worcestershire sauce and tomato ketchup to enhance the bacon and cheese flavors and give them a bit of color.
Birmingham Food: Shrewsbury Cake
Shrewsbury cake, from the name itself, is a dessert that originated in Shrewsbury, a county town of Shropshire. This traditional dessert is said to have been around as early as 1602. Locals in Birmingham quickly adopted this dessert, which is one of the highly ranked Birmingham foods everyone should try at present.
Shrewsbury cake is a traditional dessert that is often regarded as a cross between a biscuit and a cake. This sweet dessert is easy to make and contains flour, butter, sugar, and eggs. Twists have also been done on the recipe, and modern versions include adding dried fruits and a touch of lemon zest.
Shrewsbury cake can be bought at many bakeries and cafes in the area and eaten as a snack or a dessert. You do not have to worry about where to get it if you’re in town since there are several bakeries around Birmingham that still proudly make Shrewsbury cakes.
Casual to fine dining in Birmingham
You don’t have to worry about going hungry in Birmingham. With the city’s booming food scene, you’ll find plenty of places to drink and dine, whether you want to order food à la carte or prefer a set meal. If you want to try something different, pork scratchings are available in virtually all pubs and bars.
There are also the classic Sunday roast, steaks, and fish and chips, which are all favorites in the UK’s second-largest city. But don’t miss out on faggots, bacon cakes, traditional meat pies, and of course, Balti curries you should try while discovering the Birmingham city centre and beyond. For an extra treat, head to Cadbury World near the New Street Station.
Once you’re done with your food tour and want to burn some calories from all the delicious dishes you’ve enjoyed, try one of the best hikes in Birmingham. You don’t have to be an expert hiker, as the West Midlands hills and peaks offer great hiking experiences for all levels.