Birmingham has transformed itself into an exciting dining destination over the past few decades. From the city’s invention of the Balti in the 1990’s, to presently more Michelin star restaurants than any other English city outside of London.
Brum has a great and innovative food heritage, which dates back way before the Balti Triangle though. From the mid 1800s, Birmingham had established its own food trade connections with the West Indies which involved the importation of limes and cocoa. The Sturge family (also instrumental in the British anti-slavery movement) produced lime juice which was then exported for use in the manufacture of citric acid.
By the turn of the 20th century, Birmingham had over sixty tea merchants selling mostly large leaf tea, and two famous brands to emerge from the Bull Ring were Typhoo Tea, and Ridgways (the later moving to London where they received a Royal Warrant to make Her Majesty’s own tea blend). Birds Custard began life in Digbeth, Cadbury’s Chocolate started out in Bull Street and Davenports on Bath Row, with HP sauce arriving in the city around 1903.
Corporation Street was home to The Pitman Vegetarian Hotel and health food store. Opened in 1898, it was the first of it’s kind and claimed to be “The Largest Health Food Dealers in the World” with one very famous customer ‘Mahatma Gandhi’.
Fast forward to present day and there are some varied high quality food stores & suppliers dotted around the city’s suburbs. A diverse array of food brands still exist such as Cadbury’s, Wing Yip, East End Foods and Lashford’s award winning Sausages. Dine Birmingham organises events showcasing the city’s finest restaurants, bars and food producers. It’s also worth taking note that the current trend of ‘street food’ vendors in the city, such as Digbeth Dining Club and Brum Yum Yum, are completely reinventing the ‘hot dog van’ concept with an excitingly creative and alternative twist.
Tradionally, many popular food & drink brands eminated from the city/town centre. However, over recent decades, the city centre has not been a popular choice for food shopping, mainly due to the mistakes of the 1960s inner ring road developments . This is gradually changing though. Visitors and residents of the city centre are now able to choose from a variety of food stores and delis which compliment the city’s busy restaurant scene.
Here are a few recommended food stores within walking distance of New Street & Snow Hill train stations:
All Greek Delicatessen
All Greek Delicatessen is a small family run business, offering consumers in Birmingham and the Midlands an assortment of high quality Greek food products.
All products have been carefully selected by the owners and are sourced directly from the best producers in Greece.
In the range of premium Greek products are cheeses, extra virgin olive oil, olives, honey, charcuterie, confectionery, traditional pasta, appetisers and many more.
For those who adore honey, All Greek stock Vasilissa from Stayia Farm which is located in the Evia region.
The growing selection of food products are certified and many have won awards for their quality.
The idea for the shop came after realising that apart from themselves, there were many others (family & friends) bringing all kinds of lovely Greek food products back to the UK to remind them of home.
All Greek Delicatessen, 33 Stephenson Street, B2 4BH. Tel: 0121 4485600
Anderson and Hill
Anderson and Hill are an independent fine food store situated in the lovely Victorian setting of the Great Western Arcade, Birmingham.
The store stocks a wide variety of specialist fine foods such as cheese, charcuterie, sandwiches, wine and a host of jarred and canned foods from around the UK and beyond.
Anderson and Hill also cater for canapé parties and special events which require that extra special touch.
If you love cheeseboards to go with your wine, then a visit to Anderson and Hill is essential. You may like to choose a fine wine or brandy to go with it!
Anderson and Hill, Great Western Arcade, Colmore Row, B2 5HU. Tel: 0121 236 28 29
Loki Wine is currently Decanter UK Wine Merchant of the Year outside London, a title won in part by the innovative wine shop and wine bar concept which is completely unique in Birmingham.
Not only does Loki have more wines by the glass than any other bar in Birmingham, they also dispense the wine using state-of-the-art wine preservation machines.
This unique concept allows customers to sample wines from 25ml, half glass and full glass samples, meaning Loki is more than just a bar, it is a wine tasting experience.
As well as sampling the wines you can also choose from over 900 wines to drink in or take away with a vast array of wines from award-winning sub-£10 wines through to some of the most expensive wines and Champagnes in the world.
The food offering is continental, with charcuterie, cheese, olives and freshly baked bread on offer.
Loki Wine, Great Western Arcade, Colmore Row, B2 5HU. Tel: 0121 212 9440
100% Vegan have a wide range of products suitable for vegans, which of course means they are also suitable for vegetarians, those with dairy or egg allergies, as well as those following various diets for religious purposes including Halal and Kosher.
100% Vegan are passionate about all things vegan, from good honest wholefood staples to the extraordinary little treats that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.
100% Vegan have a large range of vegan alternatives to traditional products (cheeses, meat, ice cream etc.), as well as dried fruits, flours, nuts and seeds.
There is a chiller with ready-to-eat hand-made pasties, pies, wraps, and cakes. They also stock a wide range of gluten free products including breakfast cereals and biscuits.
100% Vegan, 54-57 Allison Street, Digbeth, B5 5TH. Tel: 0121 246 1212
Vee’s stock a range of British farmhouse, local and Continental cheeses. The “King of Cheeses” Colston Basset, award winning Brie de Meaux and the popular Snowdonia range are just a few.
You can sample before you buy and can complement your purchase from their selection of quality chutneys – caramalised onion, quince and apple and spicy garlic – many of these are produced to traditional homemade recipes. A selection of cheese biscuits – from the Fine Cheese Company and speciality “Toasts for Cheese” make wonderful accompaniments.
Vee’s also have a range of mouth watering pates for example, wild boar and game and chicken with truffles. You can also purchase Lashford’s traditional pork pies, sausages, faggots and pasties and gammon ham from Wenlock Edge Farm, authentic parma ham and a range of salami.
Also available are scotch eggs from the Handmade Scotch Egg Company – chilli, scrumpy and smoked bacon are just some of the varieties you can try. Whilst the flavoured oils and vinegars will add those finishing touches to your meal.
Vee’s Delicatessen, 83 Vyse Street, The Jewellery Quarter, B18 6HA. Tel: 0121 5233272
The Bread Collection
The Bread Collection is a baker boutique offering customers a wide selection of delicious pastries, speciality breads and authentic French recipe breads.
Owner Gilles Zidane is originally from the south of France and recipes are continually changed and updated by the patisserie’s small team of professional artisan bakers.
The bakery is especially renowned for its sourdoughs with the bakers working all night to prepare everything traditionally by hand and ensuring that all produce is fresh for customers at 9am the following morning.
Customers can choose from a variety of different breads including walnut and sun dried tomato.
Those with a sweet tooth can enjoy a wonderful assortment of cakes and pastries including the ever popular Millefeuille, Fresh Fruit Tarts, and Eclairs made by the Bread Collection’s very own French confectioner.
The Bread Collection, Great Western Arcade, Colmore Row, B2 5HU. Tel: 0121 246 1212
Bull Ring Market Food Hall
The Bullring Indoor Market which now contains the Bull Ring Market Food Hall provides a fantastic selection of fresh meat, poultry and widest range of fish any where in the country as well as fresh fruit and veg from all over the world.
When busy the atmosphere can be very lively with bartering and shouting from traders, offering enticements from the stalls as customers walk by, it is a throwback to the past and a fascinating experience.
Traditional British butchers sit along side Halal butchers, all of Birmingham’s diverse cultural backgrounds are represented here in some way, from spices to fruits, nuts, meats and much more – the stores are extensive and smells enticing.
You can expect to find fruits and vegetables from around the world and also local produce, fresh fish delivered from British fishing ports and coastal markets, fresh farm meats, an array of exotic spices, shell fish stalls, sweet stalls and even a stall dedicated to nuts of every kind. It’s a food gem not to be ignored!
Watch this great video on the markets featuring award winning TV chef Glynn Purnell: Click here to view.
Bull Ring Market Food Hall, Digbeth, B5 5BB. Tel: 0121 622 0200
Since opening in the Great Western Arcade in 2002, Chouchoute Chocolaterie has earned an enviable reputation as Birmingham’s only luxury, independent chocolate store.
French for ‘pampered’, Chouchoute specialises in gourmet chocolates, lovingly prepared by its artisan chocolatier and beautifully presented in hand-packed boxes and traditional giftwrapped ballotins.
There’s even a range of fine champagne and dessert wine hampers and exclusive French confiserie to delight the discerning gourmet palate.
The store has a wide range of various types and flavours of chocolate, simply gorgeous gifts to delight anyone who receives them.
Chouchoute Chocolaterie, Great Western Arcade, Colmore Row, B2 5HU. Tel: 0121 233 1300
Bullring Open Market
Bullring Open Market is situated next to the Indoor Markets and sells authentic and great value ingredients from Asia to the Carribean and English fruit and veg too.
It’s an old style traditional market and the fruit and poultry market traders are colourful and loud with plenty of bartering going on, as has been the case for nearly a thousand years in this location – the original Anglo-Saxon heart of town.
The outdoor fruit and veg market is often described as vibrant, colourful, noisy and aromatic.
The fruit stalls sell by the bowl, which come top heavy with bananas, sweet chillies and other fruits and veg.
Bullring Open Market, Digbeth, B5 5BB. Tel: 0121 4648349
Hindleys Bakery started out life way back in the late 1800s in Lichfield, Staffordshire. The main Bakery still operates out of Lichfield but there is now also a Birmingham outlet for this lovely traditional bakers.
The bread and cakes are a unique combination of traditional recipes handed down through the generations and new product innovations by Duncan Hindley.
Hindleys believe that local should mean local and fresh should mean made and baked fresh each day from scratch. It may be old fashioned but that’s how they do it!
Hindleys have been using the same family run flour mill in Driffield, East Yorkshire for over 15 years, because they can trust that the flour delivered weekly will be of a consistently good quality. The best flour makes the best bread!
Hindleys Bakery, Fountain Court, Steelhouse Lane, Birmingham. Tel: 0121 236 2886
Casper Polish Stores
Casper Stores is situated in an unassuming, slightly scruffy looking building opposite Digbeth Police Station (a five minute walk from the Bullring).
However, inside is an interesting and well stocked Polish supermarket and food store.
The shelves are filled with tins and jars imported from Eastern Europe. While Poland is not traditionally known for fine foods in the UK, this reputation is slowly changing with some great Polish restaurants springing up across the UK, and indeed in Birminhgam itself such as The Karczma.
The meat counter at the back of the store is stocked to the brim with spicy sausages, meats, hams and cheeses while front of store there is a diverse and wonderful array of fresh cream cakes and pastries. Well worth a visit if you fancy a slight change of inspiration.
Casper Polish Stores, 89 Allison Street, Digbeth, B5 5TH. Tel: 0121 634 3309
Day In Oriental Supermarket
Day In Supermarket was established in 1981 and has quickly grown into one of the leading suppliers and retailers of oriental foods.
Their two outlets are conveniently located on the heart of Birmingham Chinatown. Day In carry over 500 product lines and have all the ingredients and accessories required for Oriental / Asian cooking.
With their bulk purchasing power, Day In import directly many items from China, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam. This ensures prices are kept low whilst simultaneously they are able to ensure the high quality and authenticity of the items.
With well-trained & knowledgeable staff Day In aim to provide helpful and informative service, quality produce and maintain an ever-expanding product range to meet customers’ ever changing demands.
Day In provide healthy, fresh produce. They try to stock as much organic, locally grown produce as possible and are always on the lookout for new suppliers to extend the range of food they have in store. Day In adapt to the seasons and can advise you on what’s best to try when. So whether it’s mushrooms in autumn or spring greens, your kitchen table will always be full of perfect fruit and veg.
Day In Supermarket, Wrottesley Street, B5 4RG. Tel: 0121-6226055
If you’re looking for a fine food supermarket in the city centre then try Selfridges Confectionary & Wine Hall (The Bullring), Little Waitrose (Colmore Row), Harvey Nichols Foodmarket & Wine Hall (Mailbox) or Marks & Spencer (High Street).
For those with a sweet tooth there are Cakes and Bakes (UCB, Summer Row), Frost & Snow Cupcake Bakery (Old Snow Hill), Wah Kee Bakery (Chinatown, Arcadian), Hotel Chocolat (Middle Mall. Bullring), Cybercandy (Bull Street), Cafe Chino Bakery (Chinatown, Arcadian), Cherry Reds Vegan Cakes (John Bright Street), Yorks Bakery Cafe (Newhall Street) and Olde Sweet Shoppe (Great Western Arcade).
It’s also worth noting that the long established and very knowledgable Connolly’s Wine Merchants have a store in Livery Street. Lituanica, the UK’s largest Eastern European food retailer & wholesaler, also have a store on Livery Street, and Holland & Barrett provide a wide selection of health foods in both The Pallasades and The Bullring.
*Image featured is The Bullring Outdoor Markets.