I recently took a trip to Birmingham with work; one of the nicer parts about my job is getting out of the office to meet our customers and authors, and it also means I get to visit some different parts of the UK and sample some of the vegan food they have to offer.
Thanks to the wonderful Happy Cow website (I really must download the app, this thing is a lifesaver when you’re in an area you don’t know very well), I was able to plan a couple of my must-try places in advance. On the first night, I visited Natural Healthy Foods on Suffolk Street, which opened earlier this year. As I approached the front door, I could already smell one of their hot dishes being cooked, and it smelled so good that it really made me excited about eating there.
When you enter the store you find yourself in a vegan supermarket. This place is like heaven. You could pick up all your staple store-cupboard goods here, sweet treats, perishable items like cheese, as well as cleaning products and toiletries. I spent a little while having a browse before heading into the restaurant area. I loved the atmosphere here, the look and feel of the place is really welcoming and enticing. The food is all laid out on a bench to the side of the tills, with hot dishes on one side, and raw dishes on the other. You pay by weight, so you pick yourself a plate and take as much or as little as you like, also presumably helping to reduce food waste which is a huge bonus. I took quite a while surveying all the dishes and seeing what food was on offer, long enough for a friendly server to come over and ask me if I’d been before and if I knew how everything worked, which I appreciated. She introduced me to the different dishes, and advised on how spicy the ones marked ‘hot’ were. I decided to take the ‘little bit of everything’ approach. I’ve not really eaten much ‘raw’ food prepared like this before, so was interested to see what everything was like. I enjoyed some of the things I picked more than others – the leafy greens in a chinese style sauce was particularly delicious – but of course this will come down to personal preference, and you can be as adventurous here as you like. My large plate of wholesome food came to around £12, so if you have a bigger appetite obviously this could end up being a bit of an expensive option, but it worked out really well for me. There are also a handful of raw desserts on offer, but due to the budget I decided to just pick up some Ombar chocolate buttons (my new fave) to enjoy back in my hotel room.
The next morning, I decided to go for a hearty breakfast at Cherry Reds. I came here a couple of times last year, for breakfast and dinner, and knew I wanted to visit again due to their wonderful food. A vegan fry up is always going to be a winner with me! The Cherry Reds vegan breakfast comes with fried tofu, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, veggie sausage, baked beans, hash browns, and piles of toast. I actually skipped lunch that day because I was so full from eating all this! It was super tasty, and dare I say it, practically healthy, because it’s mostly vegetables… right?
I ordered the vegan falafel burger on a previous visit which came with the most perfect sweet potato fries, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole meal. I’d also recommend looking in their cake cabinet at their vegan fare (spoilt for choice with a handful of options each time I’ve visited). Each time I’ve got food here, I’ve been on my own, and the chilled out and friendly atmosphere has made me feel welcome and not awkward at all. Being a cafe/bar, it gets quite lively in the evenings though, so it’s the perfect place for both a relaxed breakfast or a sociable evening out.
So you definitely won’t go hungry as a vegan in Birmingham. I also went out for a curry with my colleagues at Barajee, an Indian restaurant on Broad Street, right on the canal. The staff were really helpful when advising which meals could be veganised, and cooked a properly delicious veggie korahi using oil instead of ghee on request. Overall, I had a great vegan eating experience in the city, and Cherry Red’s and Natural Healthy Foods, both short walks from Birmingham New Street station, are definitely my top tips for visiting if you’re taking a trip.