If you’re out hunting the incredible street art of Digbeth [read more here], you should know about the mural map on the side of The Ruin that details 12 of the best bars and restaurants in the area, providing perfect respite from a day’s exploring. Now that you’ve found it, the difficult thing is to choose where to go! Luckily for you, we’ve been to all 12…
Opened by ex-banker Richard Hughes inspired by his travels and the bar culture of Budapest, The Ruin bar certainly lives up to its name in terms of its aesthetic; shabby chic – without the chic – mismatched furniture, bare walls, and salvaged artworks make this bar distinctly cool in comparison to the more polished city centre bars. DJs play every Saturday, there’s an open mic every Thursday, and the food on offer is on the right side of pub grub. There’s a variety of draught beers and cask ales on tap, as well as a great selection of cocktails.
A trailblazer in the tapas scene having burst onto the streets of Birmingham in 2014, this former greasy spoon is now a hotbed for authentic Spanish cuisine. Like a member of MI6, Head Chef ‘H’ has created an inventive menu of tapas favourites such as Patatas Bravas, but has given a subtle spicy twist with whatever fresh produce he can find in that day’s market. The menu is scrawled across a bar top blackboard, while the casual interior reflects the family-run feel. What’s more, there’s a BYO booze policy. It’s little wonder why they are one of the best-rated restaurants in Birmingham.
One of the stalwarts among the up and coming craft-brewing scene in Birmingham, Dig Brew Co is a factory-like wonderland of real ale, craft beer, and German-style lagers. The simple and minimal interior is perfect for allowing every other sense to enjoy every aspect of the beers on offer. And what could be better than washing down a freshly made sourdough pizza, made in the pizzeria at the back of the brewery? The large open space and shared tables make it a perfect venue for group catch-ups, or subtle dates.
Name a better combination than cocktails and crazy golf? I’ll wait…You can’t miss the place. The exterior is covered wall to wall in monochrome graffiti, while the eye-popping interior is the product of 130 local artists. Neon paint, UV lights, and some very risqué décor is a perfect ode to the evolution of graffiti in Birmingham. Each hole has a different theme, but just make sure you wipe your hands after indulging in the smoked BBQ street food from onsite restaurant Apocalypse Cow so you don’t drop your club!
Lining the stomachs of post-work Brummies sine 2012, Digbeth Dining Club is an artisanal food market that takes over Digbeth every Thurs-Sun, 16:00-23:00. A festival like atmosphere pervades this weekly street food event, with live music and honest food. Traders are often on rotation meaning you’ll always discover something new each week.
Having quenched the thirst of punters for the past 100 years, the foundations of the building actually date back to at least the 1700s – with only the cellar surviving of the original farmstead. Although the vibe is very much a locals’ pub, it is friendly, welcoming, and very quirky. You only have to walk into the beer garden and be faced with a giant statue of Pingu to realise this. The front bar is oak backed with stained glass windows and memorabilia everywhere, masking the insane beer garden with a traditional frontage. Bar snacks are the usual scotch eggs and pork scratchings, while there is a plethora of events throughout the year including weekly jazz nights.
If you’re a Digbeth native, then you’ll know The Anchor well. As one of the oldest pubs in the area – dating back to the late C18th – this is modern drinking in a traditional old boozer. This is the kind of place where they know your name and your order. The Grade-II listed building was completed in 1901 for the Holt Brewing Company, and has retained much of its charm and character. Unpretentious, there’s a great selection of cocktails, craft beer, and real ale on tap.
In 1906 Alfie Bird changed the dining tables of the UK forever when he founded Bird’s Custard Factory. Little could he have imagined that over a century later, his Custard Factory would still reign supreme in Digbeth, acting as the cultural hub for the area. The vast space is home to numerous businesses and independent venues, of which The Mockingbird Cinema and Kitchen is among the most popular. A fully independent cinema they showcase a mix of new blockbuster and classic favourites, every movie handpicked by the movie buff team. A community project, the cinema is fully immersive and one of the best places to settle in with a local craft beer and plate of halloumi fries (seriously, their movie snacks are next level.) There are themed events throughout the year, and for something a little more special, you can hire out the whole cinema.
Also among the Custard Factory elite, welcome to your new favourite brunch spot: Kanteen. Even the interior aesthetic is enough to lift the hangover. Offering a superbly healthy – and incredibly tasty – menu of breakfasts, brunch, and lunch, everything on offer is sourced locally and natural, i.e. no preservatives or additives. Walk in hungry, leave feeling restored. From the team behind one of Birmingham’s oldest pubs, The Crown, they certainly know how to fit in with the local community; on sporadic evenings they hand the keys over to pop-up kitchens to try out new menus on hungry locals, or offer the space for community events. What’s more, for every hotbox sold at lunch, their “One for One” program sees them offer a meal to a local vulnerable person.
With their foundations dating back to c.1368 – to be precise – The Old Crown is the oldest extant secular building in Birmingham. The present building dates to the C16th, during which time it is thought the first Inn was opened (although the earliest documentary evidence dates to 1626.) After its conversion into houses 1680-90, it would take another 300 years before it was to open as a pub again. Good things come to those who wait… Now a wonderful boozer, step into history (ducking the beams if you’re tall) and indulge in a number of cask ales and craft beers, or tuck into their hearty food menu. Their beer garden is huge and extremely popular during the summer, with the pub holding numerous large-scale events throughout the year; the Guinness Tent for St. Patrick’s day is not to be missed.
Aside from a champagne cork popping, is there a greater sound than the clink of glasses as your cheers your friends over drinks after a long week at work? So-named after this great British tradition, Clink is an independent craft beer bottle shop and taproom. Choose from over 250 craft beers, handpicked from all over the world (if you struggle to choose, the staff are more than happy to direct your taste buds.) Discovered your new favourite in the taproom? Rent a ‘growler’ (a two litre glass bottle), and fill from one of their pressurised taps to enjoy at home. The selection is always changing, so for the beer connoisseurs among you, this makes for a very exciting establishment.
Starting life as a street food stall at Digbeth Dining Club, Baked in Brick have taken inspiration from their name and have gone all bricks n’ mortar. That isn’t to say they have got rid of owner Lee Desange’s hybrid Mini Cooper bonnet x wood fired oven x BBQ… Retaining Lee’s love of live fire cooking, as well as his love of spicy and seasonal ingredients, Baked in Brick is now a permanent street food venue in the heart of Digbeth. The stuff is so good, in 2017 lee won ‘Best Main Course’ at the European Street Food Awards.