Break ups, job stress, money woes or just that general “I hate the world so much that I’ll even snarl inanimate objects” PMT – we can all have a shitty time of it now and again. You tend to just hide under your duvet; binge watching Netflix, whilst simultaneously scoffing junk food and moaning about your weight gain. At least, I think that’s what happens – I wouldn’t know, as when you’ve got Scouse Bird as a friend she doesn’t let that happen. She tells you to pack a bag and whisks you off for a glamorous weekend away. The destination? Birmingham. Now, don’t scoff; the Midlands city and the word glamorous may not be synonymous to you but, after this weekend, I’m calling bullshit on anyone who slags off England’s 2nd city (That’s right – Birmingham officially has that status so pipe down Mancs.) Here’s what the West Midlands has to offer:
Liverpool, I love you but you really need to up your shopping game. While Liverpool One is a welcome alternative to generic shopping centres like The Trafford Centre and Westfield, we desperately need a designer injection (first world problems and all that). While I personally sometimes struggle to justify splurging on a River Island bag, it would be nice to see Selfridges, Harvey Nichols or Louis Vuitton open their doors in Liverpool for those able to finance the #WagLyf. Birmingham residents don’t have this problem; not only have they got the high street shops for my fellow Primark Prins, they also host a flagship Selfridges amongst their abundance of designer stores -Lucky Brummies.
Although the stunning building is filled with enough bag porn to make you consider selling a kidney on the Black Market, the highlight of the shopping experience was discovering a stall that created personalised Nutella tubs. For just £3.99, you can wander round town with that iconic yellow shopping bag and no one will know that all you’ve actually bought is a tub of chocolately goodness that literally has your name written all over it.
The Hotel & Spa
Birmingham New St station may have recently had £600 million redevelopment but when we arrived on a Saturday morning, we discovered that they seem to have neglected to get a good few taxi pick up points on the go. In what was set to become a recurring theme of the weekend, we struggled to flag a cab down. I swear to God I will never slag off Delta again –black cabs in Birmingham are harder to get hold of than an interview with Lauren Goodger in which she doesn’t mention Mark Wright (together 10 years, yano?).
Trusty Google Maps informed us it was only a 10 minute walk but obviously didn’t factor in the fact we were in heels and Birmingham loves a cobbled street almost as much as Liverpool. When we finally arrived at Hotel Indigo, situated in The Cube within The Mailbox (yeah, it all got a bit Marc Jacobs Inception-ish) we were certainly ready to abuse the hotel’s spa facilities (excluding the gym – ain’t nobody got time for that on Saturday.)
Now, we all know the best massages you can get are the ones your fella gives you, before he gets bored after 5 minutes and stops (it really is sod’s law) but the hotel’s masseuses are some serious competition. The hour was ridiculously relaxing and, due to the fact we accidently booked a couple massage, I even heard Scouse Bird doze off; I had to resist temptation to whisper to her masseuse “Pssttt, it’s a waste of a massage on her now – double team me and get working on my feet.”
The hotel room was stylish, modern and had actually been designed by someone with a bit of common sense; plug sockets located next to beds and mirrors! A nice little extra was the TV speakers in the bathroom so you can listen to Louis Walsh chatting shite on The X Factor while you’re getting ready (although, come to think of it – I’m not sure whether that’s a plus after all).
Another rather big bonus is that breakfast is served until a Godly hour – 11am! Of course, we still managed to miss it and had to head to Bar Bodga for their offerings of burritos and hair of the dog cocktails, but still, the thought was appreciated.
Food and drink
Our first sampling of Birmingham’s food scene was a Saturday night dinner reservation atCielo – a premier Italian restaurant by Brindley Place. After a taxi drama (of course there was), we were running a bit late and found ourselves wandering around an area of chain restaurants, trying to locate, and correctly pronounce when asking for directions, Cielo. However, silver lining – as we wandered around the streets of Birmingham, we learnt just how admiring the local lads can be. Seriously, they are not shy about telling you that they think you look good. If you can’t afford Paris for an ego boost, head down the M6 to be showered in compliments (in an appropriate way, not a creepy street harassment way).
Back to the important stuff – food. Italian’s love their carbs and cheese so we knew we were onto a winner before we even ordered but Cielo really exceeded expectations. With accompanying vodka cocktails, Prosecco and a gorgeous ambience, Cielo was a warm, scrumptious dining experience.
Next on the itinerary were cocktails at The Edgbaston. While our taxi driver struggled to find it, he can be forgiven as the exclusive drinking spot is seemingly unmarked and, to the unknowing eye, just appears to be an old stately home. From the second you enter, you feel like you’re at a Great Gatsby party (a classy one, not the ones students have with a job lot of their mum’s pearls and kitten heels).
Taking residence for the evening in one of the bars of the boutique hotel and cocktail lounge, we steadily worked our way through their extensive offering of drinks – all for research purposes, of course. Their cocktails are a little pricier than your average ‘241’ offerings of Sex on the Beach but the quality of the alcohol, exceptional service and general environment makes it worth splashing out. Example? Well, order the ‘Crumble’ cocktail and as you sip on the mix of dark rum, fresh lime and Bramley apple, pear & crumble syrup, the area around you will be sprayed to smell like custard to ‘accompany your crumble’! Well played, Birmingham – well played.
It’s easy to see how you can enter The Edgbaston, intending to just have one, and still be there, hours on, drinking your way around the world’s cocktail offerings – we certainly did. Before we knew it, it was half one and we realised we’d missed last entry to the club we planned to attend – whoops.
Does the second city get a second date?
It most certainly does. Like Liverpool, Birmingham suffers from an unfair image problem now and again but it’s an extremely cosmopolitan city with plenty on offer. Next time a tour neglects to visit Liverpool, rather than nipping over to Manchester and rushing to get the last train home etc, I’ll seriously consider nipping down for the Birmingham date and making a weekend out of it. The Midlands is much closer than I realised too – just 1 hour 40 minutes on a train.
With Christmas sneaking up on us, and Birmingham hosting the biggest Christmas markets outside of Germany, it’s the perfect UK destination to go and give the credit card a work out.
Originally published for Scouse Bird Problems. Below are some links to more content I have provided for the site: