Myself and a friend Emily, were recently invited on a mini tour of Digbeth courtesy of Digbeth Estates and The Relationship co.
I was in the office anyway and thought it would be a nice opportunity, to catch up with Emily, and see what Digbeth is like on a summer week night post pandemic.
We had limited time so it really was a whistle stop tour. Tram lines being laid, a great deal of development is taking place with much more to come, several sky scrapers are approved, and the residential developments will compliment HS2 when/if it’s ever completed. The tram line will be in place way before this I hope and progress does look good, the paving and greenery being planted will transform this gritty part of town into a more pleasant place to stroll.
My first stop was The Anchor, and what an oasis this place is, always open. Jules the Landlord is usually floating around for a chat but on this occasion I had the company of just my Guinness and the back yard – which was bliss. They have live music on Sundays, quiz nights, drinks offers, free pool on selected days and the best virtual jukebox around, it’s a proper boozer and the pirate flag flying outside, and the Wednesday words of wisdom on the A-Board just add to the independent feel of the pub.
There really is a diverse array of ways to while away the hours in Digbeth..
On next to The Ruin, where Rich the landlord popped out to chat over, another pint of Guinness ha! Emily joined us and we enjoyed the cool tunes which Rich carefully selects to make this a spot you can rest and sooth your ears, and gullet.. with a variety of beverages. The design, for those who have not been, is inspired by the Ruin bars of Europe, Rich pulls it off well here. The Sunday Roasts are superb too, I’ve dined here Sundays four occasions and all were tip top home made taste. Note to self, I keep forgetting about their roof terrace and really need to make more use of this as it’s fab on a sunny day.
From here we had to dash to Kilo Ziro, which is a zero waste bar on the edge of The Custard Factory. The style is Art Deco/Jazz/Cocktail/Wine Bar vibe.. great attention to detail in both design, menu and ethos. Our host for the hour, gave us a guide to the self serve wine bar which I first tried in Loki some years back. There’s a surprisingly extensive selection of delicious wines to choose from and ordering is simplicity itself with a card you insert allowing the juice to flow! We were lucky enough to sample some of the lite bites too, all of which were great, not your average bar tapas. It’s clear to see Kilo Ziro are going for something that little bit special with the food menu. The staff were friendly and they evidently take pride in offering something alternative, and unique, in Digbeth.. and Brum to be honest. I’d like to return for a more relaxed evening here, alas, we had to dash, on again to The Big Birmingham Bake.
The Big Bake opened in Digbeth as a second to its London enterprise around the time of the Pandemic. I will be honest, this kind of thing is not usually my idea of fun, I was permanently excluded from Home Economics the last year of school, and as such I turned my back on baking. As a kid, I loved it though. So this was a bit cathartic and there is no doubt in my mind, had Emily not been keeping me in line like a naughty school kid, I’d have been excluded once again. But nope, this was great! All the tables in the marque were taken, with couples busying away at their chosen designs for what was to be a Swiss Roll competition. All the ingredients and utensils are there for you, there’s help on hand with experienced bakers who were offering tips and checking everyone was on target to have a cake at the end of the session. It was, deeply satisfying to be ahead of the game and we had enough time to relax towards the end. Our cake was a concrete coloured mix, with a design inspired by Emily’s Keith Haring style dress. Our ‘Urban Digbeth’ Swiss Roll didn’t win.. but it tasted amazing! I can see why people travel miles to do this shizzle, it’s something totally off the wall and I’d recommend for stag or hen does, or work parties, or just friends and family. Great fun!
Next stop was Chance & Counters, again, friendly fun staff. We were seated right away with drinks arriving at the table and our choice of weapon, Scrabble! Good ol’ Scrabble, it never fails to entertain. I’ve eaten here in the past and the chicken wings were amazing, but this time although it was offered we just did not have time. So, Emily beat me with her word prowess and the nice pint of Cider helped ease the pain of losing, again. The bar was busy, a happy throng of gamers, some serious, some daydreaming, but all seemed genuinely happy to be immersed in a world of rules and game play. There really is a diverse array of ways to while away the hours in Digbeth and this is one of the best. A smooth concept and no doubt we will return.
Finally, Emily and myself made the short trip over the high street to The Spotted Dog where the skyline was gradually lighting up the night sky. We sank into the sofa and enjoyed our drinks, mine being.. you guessed it, a Guinness, and a fine one too! Do love The Spotted Dog, it’s a rarity these days and especially in Birmingham. John has been there forever and the rare glimpse of his sons add to the intrigue of what goes on upstairs and out back. So much live music here, the live contemporary Jazz Tuesdays are second to none in the Midlands. It just feels a safe quiet spot to immerse yourself in how Digbeth used to be, but not too much nostalgia, just enough to remind you that Brum has changed vastly in the last two or three decades and Digbeth will change yet again soon enough. As long as The Spotted Dog stands, Digbeth shall never fall!
A great night out, cheers all.
Nick Byng for Grapevine Birmingham.