Food and drink in Birmingham

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As with any large town or city, food and drink has played an important role in the commerce and culture of Birmingham, England.



During the 1830s, Thomas Ridgway began trading in the Bull Ring, selling tea. Ridgway later went bankrupt. Setting up business in London, he paid back all of his creditors and continued his tea trade, becoming one of the first English tea companies to hygienically prepack tea so as to avoid adulteration. In 1876, Queen Victoria commanded House of Ridgways to create a blend for her own personal use. In 1863, William Sumner (founder of Typhoo) published "A Popular Treatise on Tea". In 1870, Sumner started a pharmacy/grocery business on the High Street, Birmingham. This grew and forced Sumner to move to new premises on Castle Street and then on to Bordesley Street at the canalside. Typhoo was bought by Indian tea company Apeejay Surrendra Group on October 31, 2005.


Birmingham's earliest food trade connections with the West Indies involved the importation of limes and cocoa during the mid-to-late 19th century.

The Montserrat Co. Ltd. was formed in Edgbaston by J.& E. Sturge. Lime juice was produced in the city and then exported for use in the manufacture of citric acid. The failure of Sicily's lemon crop at that time resulted in an opening in the market which Sturge took great advantage of utilizing their extensive chemical works based in Edgbaston. The company was set up by the Sturge and Albright families who funded the development of Montserrat estates in 1867. Joseph Sturge bought the Elberton Sugar Estate in 1857 and converted it into a lime production plant. He also wanted to prove that free labour could be made profitable. Members of the Sturge family were instrumental in the British anti-slavery movement.


Famous food brands that originated in Birmingham include Typhoo tea, Bird's Custard, Blue Bird Toffee, Bournville cocoa, Cadbury chocolate and HP Sauce.


Simpson's restaurant in Edgbaston, one of three in Birmingham to have Michelin stars
Purnell's, another Michelin-starred restaurant, in Birmingham City centre

In 1896, a new building was built in Corporation Street to house James Henry Cook's vegetarian restaurant, one of the first in England. In 1898, 'The Pitman Vegetarian Hotel', named after the famous vegetarian Sir Isaac Pitman, was opened on the same site, and the proprietors subsequently opened a long-running health food store.

Birmingham is home to a wide variety of Asian eateries which have served the people of Birmingham since the 1940s. The first Chinese restaurant was the Tong Kung on the Holloway Head which opened in 1956. The Wing Yip food empire first began in the city and now has its headquarters in the Chinese Quarter along with many other fine oriental restaurants.

In 1945, Abdul Aziz opened a cafe shop selling curry and rice in Steelhouse Lane. This later became The Darjeeling, the first Indian in Birmingham, owned by Afrose Miah. The second was The Shah Bag on Bristol Street. The Curry House opened, by Abdul Motin Choudhury and Abdul Jabbar on Bristol Street in 1965( Later to become the Aloka) in 1981. and Banu on Hagley Road in 1969. The Balti was invented in the city and has since received much gastronomic acclaim for the 'Balti belt' (Balti Triangle) of restaurants in the Sparkbrook, Balsall Heath and Ladypool areas of the city.

Thai Edge, which started out in Brindleyplace has been praised as one of the top ten Asian restaurants in the UK by The Independent magazine. The modern British cuisine restaurant Opus, opened by entrepreneur Ann Tonks, has garnered significant praise from Michelin critics, and been the focal point of business lunches in the CBD (it has also won several awards including Best New Restaurant at Birmingham celebrations).

As of 2014 the city boasts four Michelin stars; with Simpson's in Edgbaston retaining its star and eponymous restaurants Purnells in the city centre and Turners in Harborne being awarded one in 2009. Purnell was formerly chef at Jessica's, also in Edgbaston, where he won his first michelin star. Jessica's closed in 2007, after which the former maitre d' of (Pascal Cluny) re-opened the restaurant as Pascal's and was awarded a Michelin Bib in 2008. Adam's was awarded one Michelin star in 2013.



Fairs and festivals dedicated to food were held in the Bullring during the 18th and 19th centuries. The most popular of such was the Onion Fair which celebrated the harvest of onions.

The BBC Good Food Show takes place at The National Exhibition Centre and is Britain's biggest and most extensive food event.

In recent years a resurgent interest in local food has led to the growth of farmers markets. In line with other UK cities including London and Bristol, street food events have also gained in popularity, leading to national recognition.[1]

A major food festival, Birmingham Independent Food Fair at Millennium Point, showcases local food businesses,[2] with restaurants, artisan producers, local brewing and distillery represented.[3]


  1. ^ Griffin, Mary (1 October 2014). "Birmingham three times lucky at British Street Food Awards". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 6 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Griffin, Mary (22 August 2014). "Food and drink producers gear up for Birmingham's first independent food and drink fair". Birmingham Post. Retrieved 6 October 2014. 
  3. ^ "Region’s foodies flock to first independent food fair". Grapevine Birmingham. September 2014. Retrieved 6 October 2014. 

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