In 2015, whether you like it or not, Birmingham became cool. For decades the city tried to convince the rest of the nation that it was a superb place to live and for decades nobody listened.
This year, Brum found the confidence to stop caring and as if by magic, people started to take note. Thousands swarmed to Brum from London, it found itself in the Rough Guide's top 10 cities in the world and a fifth Michelin star was rightfully sent its way.
This new found confidence is most pronounced in Brum's food industry, where bars and restaurants are producing some of the most exciting feed in the country. Hark! It's the 20 coolest restaurants in Birmingham, compiled by Tom Cullen, editor of I Choose Birmingham.
Book in advance.
Two Cats, 27 Warstone Lane, B18 6JQ
After a volley of glowing reviews in the national broadsheets, Two Cat's "new Baltic cuisine" is currently the city's most sought after scran. It's an ever changing menu so we can't guarantee that the squab, caramel, artichoke, fennel and almond dish (pictured) will be available, but we guarantee that whatever is plated up will be eye-catching, original and stupendous.
Butchers Social, 175-177 Harborne High Street, B17 9QE
Two of the city's most exciting young chefs have landed themselves a strong following at their pop-up in a former butchers. Their salted caramel chicken wings are the thing of Brum legend and their brunches are an absolute must.
Sky Bar, Resorts World Birmingham, Pendigo Way, B40 1PU
Atop the city's newest development sits one 0f Brum's classiest bar-cum-restaurants. Just six seats are available at the theatrical chef’s table, which has a Teriyaki and Yakitori serving platform. Rumour has it Sky Bar managed to tempt a top member of the kitchen team from London's Michelin-starred Hakkasan to the West Midlands, to ensure their food is tip-top. The drinks are also insanely good.
The Wilderness, 1 Dudley Street, B5 4EG.
Experimental, but not to the point of inaccessible, this is exciting and daring cookery from a chef not afraid to use reindeer moss (no idea), ewe curds (no idea), sea buckthorn (no idea) and treacle oats (nope, no idea). Having toured Brum in pop-up mode they finally and deservedly have a permanent home at Bom Lab, near the city's new, all singing (it doesn't sing), all dancing (it doesn't dance) John Lewis. If they're booked up for dinner, which is likely this side of New Year, they're now serving lunch too.
Original Patty Men, Shaws Passage, Digbeth
Okay, okay, so it's not open just yet, but here's a heads up everyone needs to pay attention to. The Original Patty Men were, this year, winners of Britain's best burger and the National Street Food Awards and, in early December, they're setting up their first restaurant in the Digbeth area of Brum. For those out of towners, it won't be far from that Selfridges building you see in all and any image of Birmingham. Keep up to speed, here. We'll be the ones queueing from late November.
Adam's, 16 Waterloo Street, B2 5UG
Recently voted number 3 on Tripadvisor’s best restaurants in the UK, Adam’s is a contemporary British fine-dining restaurant which boasts a Michelin star as well as three AA rosettes. The restaurant was opened back in 2013 by chef Adam Stokes and his wife Natasha, quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best eateries not just in Brum, but in the UK.
Raja Monkey, 1355 Stratford Road, B28 9HW
The cooler little brother to Brum's brilliant Lasan (one time winners of Gordon Ramsay’s F Word) Raja Monkey is all about tip-top Indian street food served with style and without stuffiness. Try their thalis. And their panni puri. And their dosa. And their bhoti kebab. Oh, just try all of it for the love of God.
Sabai Sabai, 268 High Street, Harborne, B17 9PT
Hands down Brum's best Thai restaurant, you'll struggle to find a weak link in their fragrant, zesty and authentic food and their stonking cocktail offering is equally accomplished. Two branches exist, a cosy set-up in Moseley and a flagship venue in Harborne, both serve the spectacular jumbo prawns with lemongrass (pictured).
Bar Opus, One Snow Hill, B4 6GH
One of three restaurants in the Opus family (their high-end Cornwall Street main restaurant is incredible, but doesn't really fall into the "cool" bracket), Bar Opus is the edgier, most playful of the trio. Their standard menu includes a corking "Desperate Dan" pie made with steak and Peaky Blinder ale - an actual beer from the nearby Sadlers Brewery - but often Bar Opus is also the venue of choice for Brum's best barbecuer. Street food doyen Andy Low N Slow pops up regularly, right here, so follow him on that there Twitter to be first in the know.
Carters of Moseley, 2c Wake Green Road, B13 9EZ
Brummies will be quick to tell you (ad nauseum, to be honest) that the city has five Michelin stars to Manchester's none but, incredible as they are, not many can be classified as "cool". The latest star winner absolutely is. Carters of Moseley is Brum's least pretentious of the top foodie accolade winners serving stunning plates (obviously) alongside cans of local brewery Purity's Longhorn IPA. Outrageously affordable, too, all things considered.
El Borracho de Oro, Harborne Court, Edgbaston, B15 3BU
Probably Birmingham's most authentic tapas, you'll hear nothing but Spanish voices from the bustling kitchen. Their scallops and black pudding (pictured) may be portioned perfectly to share, but sharing is not an option. Order it and have it pre-agreed, ideally contractually, that your dining partner has zero rights over either parcel of piquillo packed perfection.
Purecraft Bar & Kitchen, 30 Waterloo St, B2 5TJ
A huge favourite for city centre folk, Purecraft is part owned by Purity, a multi-award winning brewery from nearby Warwickshire, with many a dish incorporating their beers in the recipe. Expect pub classics with a gourmet spin. Always, always, always worth checking the specials board too. Always. Really can't emphasise that enough.
Otoro Sushi, Unit 30d, Bullring Indoor Market, B5 4RB
Technically not a restaurant, but in a city scandalously short on decent sushi, this gloriously cosy market stall is the brightest of beacons. With only six seats it's best to book ahead and if you're wanting Otoro (top grade belly tuna) you'll also need to let Maciek, the stall owner, know in advance. His number: 07860 811371. Poor guy's going to regret giving us that.
Peel & Stone, 33 Water Street, B3 1HL
Under the arches of the Jewellery Quarter is a bakery and lunch time takeaway unlike anything else in the city. Herein lies all your sandwich and salad needs, while at weekends they're pioneers on interesting pop-ups and foodie projects. Hound them over Twitter mercilessly to keep up to date.
The Plough, 21 High St, B17 9NT
Homely and warm, the Plough pulls in people from far and wide, not least for its awesome beer garden. But if you're sticking around for some chow then you're in very safe hands. Pizzas? Good. Burgers? Good. Breakfasts? Really, really good. And when it comes to coffee The Plough stake claim to being only one of only a handful of places in the UK that own a slayer coffee machine. Staff train for 10 weeks to be able to use it.
Mughal-e-Azam, Stratford Road, Sparkhill, B11 4DA
Because where else can you eat Indian cuisine in a former church? This is a real dining experience from beginning to end - bright and bold, it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea. And by that we mean boring people won't like it.
NB: This place is BYOB
Buffalo & Rye, 11 Bennett's Hill, B2 5RS
Barely a week old at the time of writing, (the restaurant, not the writer) Buffalo & Rye is a meat and whisky joint from the people behind Brum's Jekyll and Hyde gin parlour and the much loved Victoria pub. Top picks include anything with pulled pork, burnt ends, mac 'n' cheese and the hard shakes.
Nosh & Quaff, 130 Colmore Row, B3 3AP
A refreshingly small food menu features a Big Apple Hot Dog, a stunning dry aged, naturally reared beef burger (one of the very best burgers in Brum), ethically fished Nova Scotian lobster (a steal at £20) and fist-bumpingly bounteous. beef and pork ribs. Dine upstairs, at this time of year, for the perfect view of Birmingham's Frankfurt market. Fancy lunch? Lobster rolls are new to their daytime menu.
The Harvey Nichols Restaurant, Harvey Nichols, The Mailbox, B1
Glynn Purnell is Brum's darling chef and it would be easy to pick his outrageously good and eponymous Michelin-starred restaurant for this list. However, in terms of pure cool it's gazumped by the stylish restaurant at the new Harvey Nics, the menu for which is actually curated by Purnell. An inventive craft beer menu includes Hitachino Nest White Ale as well as Van Bulck's masterful Organic Blonde. Food-wise the spiced smoked haddock and sour crème fraiche potato with poached free-range egg yolk is one of those dishes that looks like one thing, but is made of something completely different. SPOILER ALERT: The egg white isn't egg white.
Min Min, Unit 4, Latitude Building, Bromsgrove Street, B5 6AB
Big bowls of beautiful brothy goodness, the menu even includes a visual guide to the selection of six noodles you can choose (porcini is our pick) to fill your eager tum. Pre-order if you're wanting lobster and accompany any meal with their Saigon beer. Beauteous, bounteous and an absolute bargain.