It may cover only one tenth of a square mile, but the Colmore Business District is home to a haul of city centre treasures.
Running the length of Colmore Row from Steelhouse Lane, near the magistrates’ court and children’s hospital, to the Council House in Victoria Square, and stretching across surrounding blocks from Temple Row to Great Charles Street Queensway, it includes 500 companies employing 35,000 people, and more than 90 per cent of the district is taken up with businesses and professional services.
But this weekend the Business Improvement District is setting out to show that the area has much more to its repertoire.
A two-day food festival in Victoria Square will exhibit nearly 30 of the area’s food and drink outlets, each offering a selection of samples priced from £1.50 to £5.
More than two thirds of those displaying are independent ventures with the line-up including a freehouse pub, a gin parlour, a cocktail bar, a bakery, a delicatessen, a Michelin-starred restaurant, three independent coffee houses, and eateries offering dishes from Nepalese
and Indian to traditional pub grub.
As well as watching cookery, coffee and cocktail demonstrations on a live stage, visitors can expect to pay just £3 for menu samples from fine dining restaurant Opus and the Michelin-starred Purnell’s, washing them down with cocktails from Ginger’s and The Jekyll and Hyde, or real ales from The Wellington, Birmingham’s Pub of the Year.
Event manager Tahreen Kutub says: “Lots of people don’t come into this area to eat or drink, yet we have fine dining with Michelin-starred chefs and some unique and quirky pubs.
“The area is seen as a commercial quarter and hasn’t traditionally been known as a food and drink district.
“So we wondered how we could get this out and showcase it to people across the city.”
Started as a one-day pilot event two years ago, the festival was held on a week day to appeal to people working in the district.
But last year, trying out a two-day format, organisers realised the potential to draw a new audience on a Saturday, tempting shoppers and foodies from across the city to see what the area has to offer.
“In the first year we didn’t know exactly what to expect,” says Tahreen, “but it was such a success we wanted to roll it out further.
“We wanted to get it out to a completely new market on a Saturday, bringing our identity as a food and drink area to a whole new audience – a family audience.”
Tahreen says: “We are very keen to make this an egalitarian festival with all the venues on an equal pricing standard.
“So you can get sample dishes from Opus and Purnell’s for £3. The idea is to give people a taster of what’s on offer here and will hopefully tempt them back in the future.”
Opus will have two dishes at £3: slow-cooked breast of Cornish lamb with spiced couscous, mint dressing and flaked almonds, or Brixham market fish of the day with mango and papaya Thai salad.
Purnell’s has a savoury and a sweet for £3 each: slow cooked daube of beef with pea custard, and raspberry pavlova with Chantilly cream.
Saffron Indian restaurant has three dishes, including a spiced potato and summer vegetable cake stuffed with Somerset brie for £3. SixEight Kafe, Urban Coffee Company and Yorks Bakery will have coffees, teas and hot chocolates, plus a selection of homemade cakes.
The Wellington, Birmingham’s Pub of the Year, will be on hand with real ale, lager and cider.
Anderson and Hill fine foods deli of Great Western Arcade will be serving a selection of Midlands cheeses on oatcakes with chutneys and pickles at £3 for four or £5 for all seven.
Edmund’s Lounge Bar has kangaroo and ostrich burgers.
Ginger’s Bar and the Jekyll and Hyde will have a selection of cocktails, priced from £1.50 to £5.
JoJolapa Nepalese restaurant will have Himalayan dishes while the Old Joint Stock pub is serving three mini pies with carrots, new potatoes and gravy for £5.