Birmingham To Do List Weekender #2
You’ve probably heard about the canals, but there’s more to Birmingham than unrealistic comparisons with Venice…
To Do List escaped the confines of the M25 for a weekend in Brum: the home of the Balti, some pretty amazing burgers, and a top-notch arts venue!
How to Get There
Sure, you can get to Birmingham pretty quickly on one of those tilting Pendolino’s from Euston to New Street, but for a more relaxing journey head to Marylebone and catch a Chiltern Railways train to Moor Street (or Snow Hill). The journey might take longer, with a few more stops, but the trains are clean and often nowhere near as crowded as their Virgin counterparts – and you can snap up some startlingly cheap tickets too.
Both Moor Street and Snow Hill are centrally located in Birmingham, neither more than a 10 minute walk from New Street, so no need to worry about arriving into some obscure part of town. Moor Street in particular is a little gem – you’ll alight the train thinking you’ve slipped back in time.
Where to Stay
Pentahotel is a growing chain of hotels, with UK outposts in such glamorous locations as Ipswich and Warrington, but also further afield (Vienna, Prague and Beijing to name just three). While the prices might suggest a cheap and cheerful stay, the Pentahotel brand is all about stylish design and a grown-up fun vibe.
The Birmingham outpost has free pool tables and pinball machines for guests, a snazzy bar, and decent sized, attractively furnished rooms. The standard bathrooms might be a little small, but the cheekily packaged toiletries more than compensate. There are city-view rooms available for a bit extra, but if you’re planning on spending most of your time out and about it’s probably not worth it. If you do find yourself spending much of your waking hours in your room, however, you’ll be pleased to find a decent selection of on-demand films available for free, including some fairly new releases.
What to Do
The mac (Midlands Art Centre) is a real gem of a multi-arts venue, offering a huge and varied range of theatre performances, music, comedy, plays for children, dance, literature and poetry events, courses in crafts and creative arts, magical family shows, films and free exhibitions.
We caught two great shows in two nights: the first, Kein Applaus für Scheiße (pictured) was a eye-widening, gasp-inducing joyride of a dance/performance ‘piece’. performed by cheekily provocative duo Florentina Holzinger and Vincent Riebeek – if you ever get the chance to see this pair, and particularly this show, SEE IT! The second show, Scary Shit, explored issues around anxiety, friendship, being a woman and asking for help – another mind-expanding piece of dance theatre, this from Rhiannon Faith.
What to Eat
Be prepared to queue! Original Patty Men, hidden down a dingy back street behind Moor Street station, doesn’t take reservations, but their burgers are worth the wait! Winners of Best Burger in the UK 2014′ at The British Street Food Awards, the Original Patty Men serve up a small but perfectly formed menu of amazing burgers and finger-lickin’ sides – and there’s an excellent selection of bottled and draught craft beers too!
A 10-minute walk from mac, in the suburb of Selly Oak, The Royal Watan on Pershore Road is home to super-friendly staff, super-tasty food, and one of the biggest naan breads we’ve ever seen!
You can’t go to Birmingham without seeking out a Balti, and while the most obvious destination might seem to be the famous Balti Triangle – Ladypool Road, Stoney Lane and Stratford Road – you’re also strongly advised to try some of the great Balti houses that are scattered around the rest of the city.
The Royal Watan is a gem – a shortish bus journey from the city centre yet surprisingly quiet at 10pm on a Friday night, serving up some very very tasty Kashmiri food and those table-sized naans!
I am Joint Editor at To Do List. I like free, cheap & offbeat London, especially: cabaret, art, theatre, pop-ups, eating out, quirky films, museums, day trips, social enterprise & much more.