A May 2004 trip
to Birmingham by snake77
Quote: It's been four years since I graduated from Birmingham University, so I was looking forward to going back. Not a lot had changed, but a few bars and restaurants are worth commenting on.
HOTEL DU VIN - We stayed at the excellent Hotel du Vin.
SAN CARLO'S RESTAURANT - We ate at the slightly disappointing San Carlo's.
SHOPPING - We went to the new Bullring shopping mall and the Mailbox. Both are very impressive new developments that will delight even the most serious shoppers.
SIGHTS - Classic sights in Birmingham are slightly hard to come by but the following are worth a visit: the walk between the Mailbox and Broad Street is well worth seeing as proof of the industrial influences on the city; Brindley Place is worth seeing although it has since been surpassed by the Mailbox and the Bullring as the best new developments in the city; the Cathedral on Colmore Row is pleasantly understated; Victoria Square, the Town Hall and the 'floozy in the jacuzzi' will also surprise people with only negative opinions of Brum. The Jewellry Quarter is also worth visiting, a very industrial area with lots of warehouses, both used and converted.
Hotel | "Hotel du Vin"
The hotel occupies the old eye hospital and it's a truly impressive conversion. The room was stylishly decorated, and the bed was large and comfortable. Service was excellent.
Our one grumble was that our room overlooked the courtyard, which was very noisy until about midnight.
We didn't eat in the restaurant, although on reflection we should have done, or drink in the cellar bar. However, the Bubble Bar on the ground floor by the entrance was very relaxing for a drink during the day and was a welcome respite from the hard day's shopping we had engaged in!
Overall, it's definitely worth a visit and would be a fantastic place to stay if in town on business. They definitely know how to pamper you, and has loads of charm that the Hyatt lacks.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 30, 2004
Hotel du Vin & Bistro
25 Church Street
Birmingham, England B3 2NR
(0121) 200 0600
Restaurant | "San Carlo's"
However, the reality of my return was a little disappointing. We booked in person ealier in the afternoon and the reception at that point was curt, to say the least. When we arrived at the arranged time, however, the welcome had actually managed to get worse. The waiters were rude and unhelpful, and to cap it all off, we were made to wait for 40 minutes for a table.
However, we persisted and the service did improve once we were seated. As you can appreciate, it was busy, so the atmosphere was as I remembered it, but the food was on the disappointing side.
For starters, the beef carpaccio (actually bresaola) was average, and the prawns in garlic and tomato were slightly bland and didn't live up to expectations. For main course the steaks were slightly better, although the tasty sauces had to compensate for the slightly overcooked and tasteless meat.
Overall, it was a disappointing trip that didn't live up to the way I had remembered. However, it's reasonable value, so we didn't go away too despondent.
Member Rating 1 out of 5 on June 30, 2004
San Carlo Ristorante
4 Temple Street
Birmingham, England B2 5BN
+44 (121) 633-0251
Attraction | "Mailbox"
While we didn't actually buy anything, the development is worth visiting as a precursor to going to Broad Street. I'd recommend getting a cab to the Mailbox and then walk through to Broad Street. Once you've left the restaurant fronts, the walk across the canals to the Gas Street Basin is actually quite scenic and well worth the effort. For those less inclined by the bright lights of Broad Street, I can strongly recommend the Tap & Spile, which is a traditional-style pub overlooking the basin. However, if a good knees-up is more your thing, walk straight past the Tap & Spile and hit the 'strip' that is Broad Street. Apparently it's gone a bit downmarket since I was a student there, when the bars were all posh and quite hard to get into. It's more like Magaluf now, I hear.
In terms of the restaurants in the Mailbox, we had lunch in the Shogun Noodle Bar which was pretty run-of-the-mill. Think Wagamama's and Yo Sushi combined.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 30, 2004
Birmingham, England B1 1XL
+44 (121) 632-1123
The best part of the whole development, though, has to be the space-age Selfridge's store. It looks fantastic from the outside and doesn't disappoint on the inside. It pushes the London Selfridge's pretty close as my favourite department store.
It's a shopper's paradise. Make sure you take the credit cards, though - it could be costly!
Upper Mall West Bullring
Birmingham, England B5 4BU
+44 (121) 632-1500
London, United Kingdom