Birmingham’s bar scene is lively and varied, from traditional English pubs to sophisticated cocktail bars. With such an abundance of possibilities, it can be easy to overlook the more inconspicuous of locations. For those who enjoy a drink in venues that can be described as a little out of the ordinary, here is a selection of the quirkiest secret drinking spots that the city has to offer.
With the busy flurry of commuters and shoppers that pass through New Street every day, it could be easy to miss the entrance to the Burlington Arcade. Nestled right in the heart of the city, this building has a secret. Those who venture to the lower ground floor will be transported into another world; a jigsaw of gothic arches, each leading to an assortment of cozy coves adorned with wrought iron and rich, dark wood decor. Despite its discreet location, the Bacchus bar, and its unrivaled range of cask ales, attract enough merrymakers to create a bustling atmosphere. This truly is a hidden gem, and not one to miss.
Housed in the former National Provisional Bank of England, the Lost and Found bar is a delightful hideaway inspired by the adventures of fictional Victorian explorer Hettie G. Watson. Its high ceilings are impressive and its interior charmingly embellished with a canopy of birdcages, butterflies and flowers. Cocktail-lovers will enjoy a varied choice of concoctions and, expanding on the theme of exploration, the menu comes complete with a quirky ‘taste map’, which displays drink options ranging from light to strong along one axis, and from dry to sweet along the other. The Lost and Found provides a magical escape from the hectic city center, and rumor has it that it contains another well kept secret – an extra bar hidden behind a bookcase.
The Prince of Wales in Moseley is a traditional English pub with a surprise. As well as its good choice of real ales and friendly atmosphere in ‘the Front Bar’, the pub is home to a relaxed cocktail lounge, an enchanting little wine shed, and a huge, heated beer garden complete with table service. There is also a large selection of good quality Cuban cigars on offer. However, it could be argued that the pub’s most quirky feature is its exotic ‘Mo-Tiki’ bar, serving tropical cocktails in coconuts and conch shells which can be consumed in a well-hidden, island-inspired, sandy cove decorated with an array of Tiki masks. Its variety of venues makes the Prince of Wales a drinking spot with something for everyone.
Although perhaps the least discreet of these ‘secret’ drinking spots due to its bright purple exterior, The Jekyll and Hyde truly deserves its place on this list due to its many quirks. This venue consists of a Victorian themed bar, a Gin parlour and a Wonderland-themed courtyard. Choosing from the cocktail menu at Mr. Hyde’s Main Bar is difficult, but a sweet indulgence, with choices including drinks that contain a plethora of delightful syrups and are even topped with toasted meringue, bon-bons or popping candy. Upstairs in Dr. Jekyll’s Gin Parlour there are over 80 different gins on offer, as well as a gin & food fusion menu. Also available to enjoy are quiz nights, tea parties and cocktail chemistry masterclasses. However, those that enter do so at their own risk – rumour has it that the gin parlour is haunted by the ghost of Hilary, a worker of the oldest profession that still continues to roam the stairs on which she met her demise.
The Custard Factory in Digbeth is the former site of factory buildings belonging to Alfred Bird, the inventor of instant custard. It is now home to a thriving community of independent shops, artist’s studios, cafes and bars. One of these bars is Alfie Bird’s, which offers a great selection of drinks and cocktails, plus a delicious food menu featuring some mouth-wateringly good pizzas. As well as being a cool hangout with three floors each decorated in their own unique and quirky way, including a fun, red, telephone-box photo booth, Alfie Bird’s is also a live music venue. Located behind a secret bookcase on the ground floor hides ‘The Oobleck’, a large capacity venue that hosts a variety of touring live music acts.