One of Birmingham’s more prolific exports is the famed romance novelist Barbara Cartland. Noted in her lifetime both for holding the world record for most books published in a year (a whopping 26!) and for being one of the bestselling authors of all time, Cartland was a self-proclaimed expert on the amorous – you kind of have to be if you’re going to write over 700 novels on the topic. Born in 1901 in Edgbaston, Birmingham, she would likely be thrilled to see how many spots the city now boasts that are perfectly-suited for the pursuit of romance. If Valentine’s Day has dried up all the inspiration for your love life, here are a few date spots in Birmingham that we’re sure an aficionado like Ms Cartland would approve of. Affairs of the heart are for all year round, after all.
Afternoon Tea at The Edgbaston
The Edgbaston is an effortlessly classy and welcoming hotel that prides itself on unobtrusive and diligent customer service. Their award-winning afternoon tea is served daily in the sumptuous cocktail lounge from 12 until 6 on Saturdays and until 9pm from Sunday to Friday. Whilst this may be stretching the definition of ‘afternoon’ somewhat, it offers plenty of flexibility if the idea of a date before the sun begins to set isn’t your cup of (evening) tea. Whilst the concept of ‘afternoon tea’ may sound like the kind of ritual you’d bring your grandparents to, the scrupulous attention offered by the staff and the decadence of the food and drink itself will make anyone you bring there feel incredibly special. It also sounds a little less pressurizing than a fine-dining dinner, if a more casual approach to courtship is you or your partner’s style.
Need we also mention that, should things happen to go really well, you’re also already in a gorgeous hotel…?
If you’re the kind of person whose idea of a good date is hearty food and rustic décor then The Karczma may well be the perfect spot for you. It resembles something like a cosy hunting lodge replete with animal furs, a straw-lined ceiling, robust wooden benches and murals of classically-romantic images such as… uh, a Polish farm being ransacked by the army. Sure, it may not sound like the most traditional date spot, but hey – who wants to be bound by convention in their relationships? Besides, the ample and homely nature of the food on the menu and the primal earthiness of the restaurant’s furnishings are perfect to get the blood pumping and the endorphins flowing. Whilst we aren’t sure it would be Ms Cartland’s first choice for a date, we can hazard – based on the content of some of her earlier works especially – that she’d appreciate the lusty and virile energy of the place and the manner in which it might perfectly complement an intimate rendezvous.
If you like dates to be as sweet as your tooth, Artisan is the perfect spot for a delectable soujourn with your lucky companion. Opened by Great British Bake Off contestant Ali Imran in 2015, the dessert parlour serves up freshly-made indulgences that will leave you utterly satisfied and ready to curl up with your partner until the food coma has worn off (if not for longer…). The sumptuous décor, with its quirky lighting and wide variety of differently-textured walls, may spark some interesting conversations alongside looking lovely, and its proximity to Birmingham’s town centre makes it ideally-situated as either a satisfying capper to earlier activities or the start of a wondrous night. We’re sure Ms Cartland would approve of Artisan as a romantic locale. She was once quoted as saying: “I keep going until my face falls off” – we’re not entirely sure, but we think she was likely referring to eating here.
John Cleese once stated that “it’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter”. With that in mind The Glee Club, Birmingham’s premier comedy venue, is a fantastic spot for breaking down the walls of intimacy with that special someone. The club’s 25 years of history and experience should ensure that the night will run smoothly, and the line-ups it regularly welcomes would make almost any other comedy venue green with envy. What’s more, there’s an extensive food menu and an array of beers, wines and cocktails to suit almost any taste. Your belly may ache by the end of the evening (hopefully from laughter and not overindulgence) but there’s a high chance that you’ll have had an unforgettable and magical date to make up for it. If for whatever reason you haven’t, why not head downstairs to one of the regular post-performance parties the venue hosts? An hour or two on the dancefloor should clear that right up.
Birmingham’s Art Scene
We certainly don’t believe every date has to consist of dinner or a show. This is the 21st Century, after all; they can be whatever you want to define them as! We’d be loathe to recommend any specific place, here – art is obviously deeply subjective and what draws different people will vary wildly. As a starting point, though, why not take the object of your affections on a tour of some of Birmingham’s many pieces of street art? Highlights include the graffiti-packed walls of Allcock Street’s, the Philth Street Art Mural or the (frankly terrifying) ‘Childcatcher’ by Peter Sheridan. If, alternatively, you’re after a more gallery-based experience then check out Vivid Projects or the Ikon Gallery for some varied, stimulating pieces that rotate regularly. It’s sure to stimulate some compelling discussion, and you’ll likely learn more about one another than casual conversation over dinner might teach. We don’t know what Ms Cartland would think of some the punchy, experimental and sometimes (technically) illegal nature of some of the artwork within Birmingham, but we’re sure she’d be all for the opportunity to show your date how creative and enlightened you are.
They say music is the language of love, so we’d be remiss to not include a venue such as this on the list. Ms Cartland would agree, too – alongside her countless literary works, in 1978 she also recorded and produced her own compilation (or mixtape, if you like) of love songs! We’re sure she’d appreciate The Sunflower Lounge, though she might find the music typically performed here a little modern for her palate – though who are we to speak for her? If you weren’t born at the dawn of the 1900s you’ll likely find much to appreciate here, with the venue playing host to numerous up-and-coming indie acts that you and your date can discover and enjoy together. And what better way to finish the night than to head down to the basement for their regular raves? Sure, it may not be everyone’s thing, but with almost 40% of Birmingham’s population being under 25 we’re confident there are plenty of energetic young folk who would love to spend date night dancing until the sun comes up. In that regard The Sunflower Lounge will deliver in buckets.