On Friday I had some unexpected free time in Birmingham. A friend and I were going to go to Gardeners’ World and the BBC Good Food Show, but at the last minute she couldn’t make it. I’d already booked my train tickets and done all of my client hours for the week (no mean feat with one hand out of action) so I decided that rather than try for a refund and possibly not get it, I’d throw caution to the wind and come to Birmingham by myself to scope out all the cool places you should know about.
What I wanted to find:
- A vegan place to eat – Natural Bar & Kitchen
- A zero waste shop or similar – The Clean Kilo
- An indy coffee shop to sit in – The Warehouse Cafe
- A place to be among plants – Eastside City Park
Getting the train to Birmingham New Street from South Wales
The train takes less than 2 hours to get from Newport to Birmingham New Street. If you’re in the South Wales Valleys, you’ll need to head down to Cardiff first and change there. I got a fancy electrified train (ooooooh!) from Newport to Bristol Parkway before changing to the Manchester Piccadilly train, which went via Birmingham New Street. It was a fairly chilled out journey and I even managed to type up half a blog post with one hand!
Natural Bar & Kitchen
My first stop was breakfast and a quick search on Ecosia found the Natural Bar & Kitchen, which is a stone’s throw from Birmingham New Street station. There was a great vibe with lots of trendy lighting, eclectic furniture and plants everywhere. The staff were friendly and explained how things work straight away.
I went for the savoury pancakes and cannabis peppermint tea. The scotch style banana pancakes were topped with a smoky sweet tempeh bacon and a spicy tofu scramble laced with turmeric, chilli, onion and black pepper. The only thing I would have changed about the tofu was a light sprinkling of black salt before serving, but that eggy flavour isn’t for everyone and the dish was delicious as it was. The cannabis peppermint tea tasted a bit nicer than regular peppermint tea, which was a relief. It didn’t taste anything like unflavoured CBD oil which was a genuine worry for me.
Hold the phone – did you say *Kitty Cafe*?
I was casually minding my own business on the way to my next stop of the day when I heard the words. “Kitty Cafe,” she said to her companion as she walked past. I had to know more – it couldn’t possibly be true. But it was. That was the day I discovered a Kitty Cafe for the first time. That was the day my life changed forever.
(Yes, I know I got carried away there, don’t @ me)
Bright and colourful, the Kitty Cafe is as happy a place as it’s possible to be. I had a veggie wrap and some lychee jasmine green tea, which was just as delicious as it sounds. The cats were a little shy, but that’s probably because I was sat near some small children. The staff were able to tell you all about any of the cats, who wandered about freely as though they owned the place (obviously). You get an hour long visit, and staff come to remind you it’s almost time to leave about 15 minutes before your hour is up. It’s also a cat rescue centre! I’m so glad I caught this completely unexpected find. Side note: I managed to walk in because it was quiet, but it’s normally best to book.
Eastside City Park
Onwards next to Eastside City Park. I didn’t realise, but I’d actually walked through the park on the way to a meeting in January. It’s very manicured, and yet some git thought it clever to spray paint their name on a tree. I prefer my parks a little wilder and more untamed, so next time I’m in town I’ll try a different park. If you have any suggestions, let me know!
The Warehouse Cafe
The Warehouse Cafe is a lovely, chilled out place in Digbeth. I went to order a dessert and a coffee, only to find that none of the cakes were labelled as vegan. It turns out this was because ALL of them were! Instead of a coffee I ordered a large red Malbec, also vegan. I won’t tell you what time of day it was. Both the Malbec and the Oreo dessert were delicious.
The kind lady serving lent me her charger to put some life into my phone, so I grabbed a book to read while I waited for it to charge. While I was reading, she brought me some vegan sushi to try, which had a lovely smoky slice of mango on top (think smoked salmon-ish). They were just testing, but I hope they add it to their menu! Stopping at The Warehouse Cafe was just what I needed to perk me up before my last stop of the day.
The Clean Kilo
Did you know Birmingham is home to the UK’s largest zero waste supermarket? You do now. The Clean Kilo is on Gibb Street in Digbeth and sells all manner of zero waste goodies. This was the perfect place to stock up on train snacks, so I got myself some kombucha, chocolate coated ginger and granola. If I’d known I was going to be visiting I would have brought some jars and a trolley, because they sold pastas, grains, spices, nuts, pulses… pretty much any food item I’d actually need.
My verdict? Birmingham is a pretty cool place to hang out, and I loved exploring a new(ish) city without having somewhere specific to be. That said, I really could do with an Instagram husband/wife/friend to take photos of me – I’m rubbish at selfies which is why there are none. Perhaps I should be taking applications. Single blogging friends, let me know how you do it!
Where else should I explore next time I’m in town? Let me know!
Massive thanks to Victoria from Thimble End for recommending The Clean Kilo and Natural Bar and Kitchen!