There's loads going on in the suburbs of Birmingham at the moment and Harborne, which is just four miles from the city centre, is fast becoming a great place to eat and drink.
We asked our foodie friend and Harborne resident Stephen K Chand to let us in on some of the area's not so hidden gems.
The food and drink scene in Harborne is coming along nicely, and I’ve never been shy in recommending a few of my favourite places to friends, work colleagues or even complete strangers; usually anyone who will listen. My wife and I are all about good food and good service. We visit Japan quite a lot and anyone who’s been will know they take their food and service to another level. In Harborne, we usually end up returning to the same places because this is exactly what they deliver; good food and good service.
When the PA Guide asked if I wanted to write a short piece about my favourite places in Harborne I thought it would be a good way to showcase what in my opinion are #HarbornesFinest! A quick disclaimer - if you are a Harborne establishment reading this and you did not make my list, don’t hate me, hate the word count.
Anyone who knows me, heard of me or met me on the 24 bus from town to Harborne after a night out (yes, it’s happened!) will know I love Harborne Kitchen. I cannot recommend this place enough and it still surprises me when people say they have yet to visit. You are no friend of mine if you have not been. Firstly because we have taken all our friends there already, and secondly because I just met you…probably on the bus.
Quality food with bags of flavour at affordable prices. Dare I say it? Go on then - I will - it’s Michelin Star standard (although they have not got one…yet!). Gorgeous looking food is delivered to your table (or the Chefs’ Table if you choose that option) at probably half of what you would normally pay in some of the top end restaurants in Brum. The service is always on par with the food. From the bar to the restaurant it’s all smiles from a team who love their jobs and just want to please.
Lunch starts at £35 for 4 courses inclusive of some awesome bread and snacks. For the quality of the food and the service, that’s ridiculous value right? Go give it a try, I’m sure you’ll come back for more or even that 6 or 8 course tasting menu. We go at least once a month, and the food just gets better and better! Get yourselves booked in and thank me later.
Top Tip: Their lovely sourdough is available to buy whole and it will be the best £3.50 you ever spend! They also do the best “Eggs Benny” in Brum which regularly features on their Bar Menu and my twitter feed! For those tempted by the Slug and Lettuce across the road, pay an extra quid or two and change your life for the better.
A firm favourite with all Harbornites and surrounding areas; you're almost guaranteed to see me there on Mondays (241 Pizza) or Tuesdays (241 Burgers). I love a good BOGOF deal! Oh and I can’t forget Sundays, not only for their enormous Sunday Roasts, but for Lickin Chicken and their Street Food pop-ups too. Wednesday to Saturday my go-to dish is the Beef Brisket Cubano. If you have room (you won’t, but order them anyway!) their desserts are massive and always leave us literally rolling home.
It never ceases to amaze me how busy the Plough is, and yet how easy it is to get served at the bar. You’d think it would take forever to be served food too, but nope, they’ve got that covered as well. I know some may find the price point for drinks and food to be a little high, but what you spend you get back in quality and portion size. And look at what they’ve done to their garden! You can’t fault the Plough for re-investing in itself to make it bigger and better for you and with the amount of staff they have on at any given moment makes the wait for a pint or some lush food virtually non-existent! For that I’d pay a little extra for my pint any day of the week… mostly Mondays and Tuesdays!
Top Tip: I’ve heard they have extended their already humungous garden even more and will bring Taco Wednesdays back. With a range of Cubano’s as a fixed menu item, they have all the days of the week covered. Go check it out!
If you are a member of the Harborne Community page on Facebook you will know that everyone is obsessed with Gabriels; an eat in or take out fish and chip shop that’s leaving locals with full bellies and nothing but good things to say about the place. The portions are ginormous and considering how much you pay (which is not much at all) the quality really stands out.
It’s not only the food but also the service that keeps us coming back for more. You will always see the man himself, Gabriel, manning the fryers and making sure the fish is as always cooked to order. I usually see him on the high street driving to work. We don’t know each other well, but we always exchange a smile and a wave like we are old friends. This could be you too. Go check it out, make a new (old) friend and get fed like a king whilst you’re at it.
Word on the (actual) high street is that their pizzas are giving the Plough a run for its money (especially since it’s a third of the price!) and currently at the time of print we in the Harborne Community Page are freaking out that they are now delivering!
Top Tip: When Gabriel asks whether you want salad with your order… have the salad! Trust me, just do it. Also, the “small” chicken kebab is far from being a small chicken kebab. It’s huge! Order it with chips and salad (always have the salad!), you will be very well fed and happy with your purchase of less than a fiver!
We used to live in China Town, Brum and what we missed most when we moved to Harborne was a decent Chinese Takeaway…and Café Soya. Step in Wokchi Kitchen - this is now our go-to place for fresh and tasty Chinese food in Harborne that doesn’t break the bank. This is a family run business, and you are always guaranteed a warm and friendly welcome. Alfie, the manager is possibly the nicest man in Harborne. He will go out his way to make sure you have a great dining experience. Want something different, more/less spicy, more healthy, etc. just ask and he’ll see what the chefs can do.
Between my wife and I, we must have tried everything on and off the menu, however my ‘must order’ dish is and always will be the salt and pepper squid, fried rice with a side of sweet chilli sauce. The Seafood Udon with XO Chilli and the Beef Ho Fun are drool worthy alternatives and the spring rolls are also a firm favourite of ours. But you go, experiment and find your favourites and go back and order the same thing over and over again, because it’s just that damn good!
Top Tip: Gather your mates and book the booth. They are the best seats in the house. And always check the specials board or you’ll miss out on the ridiculously moreish chicken wings. You need them and everything else in your life.
If you like Craft Beer, The Paper Duck is the place for you. If you don’t like Craft Beer, The Paper Duck is still the place for you! I fall in the latter category and so luckily for me, they serve gin, wine and have the occasional cider on tap too. I have been a frequent visitor to the Duck since my first visit when attempting the infamous Harborne Mile (a pub crawl from one-side of Harborne to the other). Although I don’t remember much from that night, I have had a lot of memorable visits since. We have taken numerous beer loving friends, and they are always amazed to see the variety of the beers on their 18 taps. If that wasn’t enough, they have more canned beer in the fridge and various tappy take over events.
It is a chilled out place, with great staff who have an awesome enthusiasm for beer…and music. Oh yes, the BGM is always something of a talking point, depending on who’s working their shift you do get to hear a good mix of playlists. Go check it out, and see what’s pouring…and playing!
Top Tip: The Duck doesn’t serve food, but you are able to BYO. Luckily for you, the nicest man in Harborne (see above!) is only a couple of doors down. Great Chinese, awesome beer. Win-Win! You’re welcome!
You can’t walk 10 yards in Harborne, without stumbling on a charity shop or more in keeping with this article, a coffee shop! There is so much choice out there in and around the high street, but for me, Damascena is probably one of our favourites. With a usual array of coffee and Middle Eastern delights, it’s the décor that really brings the whole coffee shop to life. They have a nice little courtyard at the back to, when and if the sun comes out. It looks just as good as their other locations around Birmingham. I frown every time someone walks in to Costa for a bog-standard coffee and cake – literally next door! They are missing out on so much… not only how beautiful it looks but also see below!
Top Tip: The avocado or mango milkshake are my go to drinks here… and the Turkish coffee… and the chocolate on a stick which you melt yourself. Come on, you don’t get this in Costa! Do you? You definitely don’t get the mouth-watering Fatayer (Middle Eastern pastries) and the you definitely don’t get the Lamb Shawarma served with lovely pickles – which is absolutely to die for. I make my wife get the Falafels and smokey Baba Ghanuuj too, just so I don’t miss out on the rest of the menu. Step away from Costa people… it’s all so good and all needs trying!
We are spoilt for choice with Indian restaurants in Harborne, however when Umami opened it really took the cuisine in the area to another level. With comparisons to Pushkar/Asha’s it truly does bring that extra bit of sophistication to what was on offer before. Yes, the price is well above your usual traditional Balti House, but you get your money back in droves. The quality of the food and it’s presentation is what stands out here. Everything tastes fresh, every piece of meat melts in your mouth and the flavour in each dish is mouth-wateringly awesome.
In terms of Customer Service, it’s up there with the best of them. The customer is always king at Umami and that’s exactly how you are treated when you walk through the door. Go, treat yourself and experience what it’s like to be royalty.
Top Tip: My go-to dish is the Chooza Makhni, which to you and me is the Umami equivalent of Butter Chicken. I say equivalent, I’m lying it’s anything but. We’ve had this dish in other restaurants in Harborne, but Umami takes it to another level. I’m drooling just writing about it. The deep richness in flavour will change your life and keep you coming back for more.
From a small pop up bar to a full on restaurant and bar, the Brewers Social is bringing Sadlers's award winning ales and spirits to Harborne. We went a fair few times when it was a pop up and there was always a great atmosphere in there with lovely welcoming staff. Those who remember the Butchers Social when it was in Harborne, it had a similar feel. Now even more so, with the atmosphere still in tact and a food menu that includes different flavoured Chicken Wings, Loaded Fries and proper Mac n Cheese! Need I say more? The perfect pairing to all those ales, or in my case a cider/scrumper! The Miso Caramel and Sesame wings are currently our favourites but we are working our way through the menu. With all that, regular live music events, and friendly and knowledgeable staff, it's a great addition to the High Street.
Top Tip: Look out for their midweek deals for discounted wings, and their Gin of the Week specials. They also serve breakfast and slow cooked Sunday Roasts and open on Monday's for my weekly chicken wing fix!