- a guide to some of the best places in Birmingham’s Chinese Quarter.
People visit Birmingham for many reasons. Some come for the sporting events. Others might visit because of the massive indoor Expos that are held at the NEC. Personally, I visited Birmingham because of it’s Chinese Quarter, or Chinatown. England’s 2nd largest city has an area of three streets which are full of Asian restaurants, bars, the occasional nightclub, and even a Wetherspoon’s. The area is located just outside the city’s main train station, Birmingham New Street. After a night in the chaotic Broad Street area, I wanted to experience something more authentic. True, there are some Indian restaurants there which were doing a good trade, but most of the restaurants near my hotel were exactly the same chain-type places you will find up and down the country.
As you leave the station, you can see the brown tourist signs directing you to the Chinese Quarter. it’s easy to go the wrong way, but if you come out of the station at the main entrance you can see Hirst road right in front of you. This is where the Chinese Quarter proper begins.
There is a rather lovely looking restaurant with a green-tiled roof (China Court Restaurant) on Edgbaston Street. Next to it is another traditional Cantonese restaurant – Chung Ying.
As you walk along Hirst Street, you notice that most of the buildings have Chinese characters. You can’t miss a very large three-storey building houses Ming Moon, which caters to the Chinese love of gambling.
Further along, there is a branch of the very popular Happy Lemon bubble tea café.
Perhaps you wouldn’t expect to see a traditional pub, but that is what you get, although the styling of the Wetherspoon’s in this area blends in with its name and building’s façade.
If you feel that the street has a slightly faded air, which it does, you can take a left to the modern Arcadian area in Ladywell Way. This is a car-free zone. The restaurants cater to a younger crowd, with a few non-Asian venues such as Las Iguanas.
On show in the centre of the square was a stunning lantern display. As part of the marketing for the film Over the Moon (based on a Chinese fairy tale) Netflix has designed 26 handmade lanterns with characters from the film. Far from being showy and over the top like the Christmas lights in London, these were intricately decorated and looked even more magical in the evening when they were individually illuminated. At nighttime this would be a wonderful place to eat, especially if you can sit outside.
This area is home to a wonderful patisserie with cookies and cakes form Taiwan and Hong Kong – which are clearly made fresh everyday.
Coming back to Hirst Road takes you to an excellent Chinese restaurant which offers Dim Sum in the mornings and then Sichuan cuisine. This region of China is known for its red and black pepper which is pleasantly numbing. Many of the dishes incorporate tofu – eg mapo tofu or Salt and pepper tofu.
Walking still further down, you come to Korean and Japanese restaurants. It’s quite likely that these are still owned and run by Chinese restaurateurs who want to cater for those in the area who happen to like other Asian cuisines as well as traditional Chinese.
As the road goes down past the Glee club, there are student bars and nightclubs, and it seems to have become home to the gay population of Birmingham.
Whatever your thoughts on that, make sure you come to this part of Birmingham when you next visit.