Tag Archives: places to eat

Vee’s Deli

Just like much else in the Jewellery Quarter, Vee’s Deli is small but perfectly formed. The solid wooden door looks a little unwelcoming, but once you step inside, the atmosphere is warm and cosy. Vee has a friendly, bubbly personality and she finds time to chat to all of her customers, while remaining efficient.

The menu is quite limited, but all of the food is freshly prepared and delicious – the homemade soup is particularly recommended. Even the side salads are fresh and crisp, not limp as in so many places.

Even though there are only a few tables and the place gets busy, you don’t feel as though you are being rushed to finish to make room for the next people. In fact we lingered for a while with a second drink after we had finished eating.

As well as being a café, it is also a delicatessen, where you can buy cheeses and pates and locally produces wines amongst other things.

The place is a true treasure amongst the gold and jewels in the area, and the ideal place for a lunch stop.

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Top Ten Things to Do in Birmingham

Birmingham is such a huge, thriving city that it’s hard to choose just ten must-do things. My original list was much longer, and it took a long while to whittle it down, but (in no particular order) here goes…

1     Pay a visit to Cadbury World. Amongst its many claims to fame, Birmingham is home to Cadbury’s chocolate, and Cadbury World is one of the city’s biggest attractions. Discover how the chocolate is made, find out more about the Cadbury family and the impact they had on work and social conditions in Birmingham – and of course eat plenty of chocolate.

2     Wander around the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Here you will find the Staffordshire Hoard, ancient Egyptian relics, silver goods made in the city, Victorian toys, the world’s leading collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings and the recently opened Birmingham History Galleries, so wherever your particular interest lies you’re bound to find something to please. When you’re ready for a sit down you can try out the museum’s delightful Edwardian Tearoom for drinks, snacks or even a hot meal.

3     Have a drink in the Old Joint Stock. This former bank is possibly the most ornate pub you will ever enter. Make sure you look up at the ceiling while you are waiting to be served, and be sure to check out what is on at their little theatre upstairs.

4     Go shopping. You’ll definitely need your wallets as Birmingham has some of the best shopping around – from the Bullring, the largest indoor shopping centre in Europe and home to Selfridges, and the Mailbox, home to Harvey Nicholls, to the Rag market where you can pick up vintage clothing at bargain rates.

5     Have a look round one of the small but fascinating museums in the Jewellery Quarter. Choose between the JQ Museum, where you can discover what a small jewellery factory looked like a hundred years ago, and the Pen Museum which tells the story of one of the city’s most lucrative trades – or why not visit them both?

6     Relax with some of the city’s greatest talents: watch the Birmingham Royal Ballet perform at the Hippodrome theatre, or listen to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at the spectacular Symphony Hall, which was designed to give the best acoustics possible.

7     Go for a balti. This is Birmingham’s signature dish, and we have a whole area, known as the Balti Triangle, devoted to this particular cuisine. No visit to Brum is complete without a taste of one!

8     Head over to Aston to see Aston Hall and gardens. The house holds the history of the English Civil War as well as a ghost or two, and the gardens are beautiful in the summer.

9     Stroll around Sutton Park – 4 square miles of woodland, common land and lakes. It’s only a short bus ride from the city centre, but the trees screen traffic sounds so well you will find it hard to remember that you are in Britain’s 2nd largest city. Keep an eye open for the wild ponies while you are there.

10  Book a walking tour with Midlands Discovery Tours. I admit I am a little biased here as I run these, along with my business partner, Michael, but you don’t just have to take my word for it. They are a good way to see parts of the city you might otherwise miss, and to find out some interesting facts to impress your friends with. Choose from a variety of routes and themes: City centre, Canals, Jewellery Quarter, City of 1000 Trades, Heroes and Villains, Ghost Walk.

Above all, enjoy your visit to the city. If you would like a private tour with a Blue Badge Guide, tailored to your individual interests, you can always get in touch with me at IAB Tours.

Think we’ve missed out something that would have been in your Top Ten? Let us know in the comments below.

The Food of Love

As a tourist guide, it is always important to have a selection of good places to eat and drink that I can recommend to groups when they have free meal times in a town or city.  Stratford actually has a mind-boggling selection of options, but if I am asked this is one that I always recommend, and where I often eat too if I have a lunchtime in the town myself.

Yes, it is a tourist restaurant.  So the menu is not especially imaginative and they are geared up to cater for large numbers of visitors pretty quickly.  But like any other kind of establishments, there are good and not so good tourist restaurants, and Food of Love is definitely one of the good ones.  The menu has a wide selection of choices – sandwiches, baked potatoes, omelettes, salads, pasta dishes, cakes and desserts – and prices are reasonable considering the location.  Quality of food and drinks is consistently very good, OK so they will not be gaining any Michelin stars but that is not their business, and they manage to serve large numbers of guests quickly without compromising on portions or taste.  They have seating inside and tables outside on the pedestrianised Henley Street and although they are generally busy, especially in summer, you can normally find a space.  Having said they are busy, they do not try and rush you like many tourist restaurants do and I actually find it quite a relaxing lunch venue.  The staff are excellent – helpful, friendly and efficient – despite working flat out most of the time.

And let’s just talk about the name for a moment. In Stratford, there are obviously hundreds of places with Shakespeare-inspired names.  Many make be cringe, this one doesn’t.  And it is certainly fitting to be named after a Shakespeare line, bearing in mind the location right opposite Shakespeare’s Birthplace.

All in all, a great choice in Stratford if you are looking for somewhere serving good quality, simple lunches and snacks in a convenient location and in a time frame that will leave you lots of time for sightseeing and shopping during your visit to the town.

If you and friends or colleagues want to discover Stratford in the company of an expert Blue Badge guide, why not book a private tour.  Coach transport can be arranged on request, or travel by train from Birmingham.

Birmingham’s Christmas Markets

Birmingham's German Christmas market by nightThe latter part of the year can mean only one thing in Birmingham, and that’s market time!  Since it began more than 15 years ago, it’s become as much a part of Christmas for Brummies as carol singers, presents and decorations.  Seeming to get bigger by the year, it is a fantastic way to get into the festive spirit, although you need to pick your time to go if you don’t like crowds and noise.

Centred on Victoria Square, and extending down New Street in one direction and to Chamberlain Square and Centenary Square in the other, the market includes plenty of stalls, and also plenty of places to get food and drink.  The kind of things you can buy don’t tend to vary much in the main market, essentially what you would find in any German Christmas market – candles, wooden decorations, hats and gloves, ornaments and the like – but the craft market in Chamberlain and Centenary Squares features much more variety and also a number of local craftspeople getting a chance to sell their products.

To be honest, most people go to the market for the atmosphere and to eat and drink rather than on a shopping spree.  Mulled wine is abundant, as are German beers and typical delicacies such as sausages and pretzels.  As with the stalls, there is more variety in Chamberlain and Centenary Squares, with lots of international cuisine and local suppliers too.  Prices are on the high side, especially drinks, but comparable to places like concert venues and sports stadiums so affordable for a special pre-Christmas celebration.

While I enjoy the markets, I am aware that not all Brummies share my enthusiasm.  Certainly it is not to everybody’s taste.   But whether you want to mooch around the stalls for a present, spend an evening getting festive over drinks with friends, or just soak up the Christmas atmosphere, it’s something you should do at least once.

Victorian Restaurant

There is nothing quite like a traditional English breakfast.  Whether you’re about to go to work, shopping, sightseeing or just enjoying time with family or friends, it can set you up for the day ahead.  In Birmingham, one of the best places to enjoy breakfast is definitely the Victorian Restaurant, situated in the Great Western Arcade.  Upstairs, you will find a traditional café decorated with loads of Victorian memorabilia and designs, and a no-nonsense breakfast menu, whether you want a full English, Continental, cereal or their delicious hot buttered toast.  The surroundings are pleasant, the staff are friendly, service is generally pretty fast unless they are absolutely packed to the rafters, and prices are reasonable.  Above all, the quality of the food is consistently high and it is an ideal start to your day in the city, whatever you are planning to do.

Adding to the appeal is the location – the Great Western Arcade is one of Birmingham’s most delightful shopping areas, looking almost exactly the same as it did when it was opened well over a hundred years ago.  It’s a real step back into a bygone age, where you can find a number of very interesting independent shops and businesses before or after your breakfast at the Victorian.

Box Brownie

As anyone who knows me will already be aware, I love coffee and I also love to support independent businesses wherever I can.  So an independent coffee shop pushes all the right buttons.  While we have a thriving independent scene in Birmingham, it’s not always so easy when I’m working elsewhere.  As the most important tourist destination in our region, Stratford is somewhere I inevitably spend quite a bit of time.  In the past, I had to settle for either a chain coffee shop or a tea room to satisfy my pre and post-tour caffeine urges.  But that has changed now, with my discovery of Box Brownie on Henley Street, a great independent.  Box Brownie ticks all the boxes.  Excellent coffee with no gimmicks, delicious (and generously portioned) cakes, muffins and biscuits, as well as a tasty range of savoury snacks, sourced from named local suppliers wherever possible.  Service is always friendly and efficient, and there is plenty of seating inside, along with several tables outside for those (all too rare) sunny days.  Add in the wonderful location – on the main pedestrianised street, just a few steps from Shakespeare’s Birthplace – and Box Brownie makes the perfect place for a guide like me to grab a proper coffee before meeting a group, or to chill and watch the world go by when I get some free time in the town.  So next time you’re in Stratford, keep walking past the chains and support a quality independent business.

If you and friends or colleagues want to discover Stratford in the company of an expert Blue Badge guide, why not book a private tour?  Coach transport can be arranged on request, or travel by train from Birmingham.  Visit  our website for more details.

Related posts: Birmingham’s Independent Coffee Shops

Juri’s Tea Rooms

There are tearooms, there are great tearooms, and then there is the award-winning tearoom that is Juri’s. Located in the lovely Cotswold town of Winchcombe, family-run Juri’s serves more than 15 types of tea, and probably the best cake you can buy, baked by a Cordon Bleu trained chef! We particularly recommend the scones and the chocolate mousse cake.

In the warmer weather you can relax outside in the pretty garden; if it’s raining you can take advantage of the conservatory and drink your tea under the grapevine.

It’s only open from Thursday to Sunday, so make sure you time your visit accordingly. You’ll be sure of a warm welcome.