Words by Libby Borton
Birmingham sits in the midlands, roughly an hour and a half by train from London, Bristol and Manchester. The second biggest city in the UK, its accessibility has led to an influx of commerce and creativity, welcoming people from all walks of life. Here, there is a place for everyone. New cafes and bakeries become local institutions and independent shops are frequented for years. It’s a beautiful destination to explore, if just for a day, as if welcomed home.
Opposite Saint Philip’s Cathedral is Damascena Coffee House, a Syrian bakery that smells of cake and coffee. With its Moorish-influenced design, this space has an unexpected grandeur and all around families, couples and friends feast on orange juice and fresh mint tea, bowlfuls of fuul, an Egyptian dish of fava beans and flatbread, and mezze platters bestrewn with olives, tomatoes and cucumber. Sample the manageesh flat bread, flavoured with zaatar, salty halloumi and feta. For sweeter treats look out for their daily specials, such as baklava and vanilla cheesecake enriched with dried fruits and figs.
Open from morning until night, it is not only a perfect spot for breakfast, but for a coffee and pastry at any hour. Awaken both your senses and your soul with this delectable discovery.
After breakfast, stroll along the historic and beautiful Great Western Arcade, within which you can find Honest Company and its range of little brown bottles of beauty items designed to be kind to your skin and your senses. With 100% natural ingredients, biodegradable packaging and restorative scents, they utilise ingredients from the natural world to soothe and embolden. Amongst their wares, peruse sleep mist infused with lavender and clary sage, lip care scented with cocoa and spearmint, and mandarin and patchouli bath salts, which evoke a sense of gentle ease. Candles made from natural essences such as yuzu, lemongrass and ginger are hand-poured into tiny glass jars and their soaps are enrobed by black fabric. Off the beaten path, this quiet space is a restorative experience in itself, so relish the details and rejuvenate.
Hidden amongst the residential sprawl, it would be easy to overlook 40 St Paul’s. But once discovered, it is near impossible to forget. They pair 140 gins with expert knowledge and enthusiasm for mother’s ruin. Black-clad and sophisticated, they maintain a charming playfulness with their cocktails, suitable for the most reluctant to the most enamoured gin-drinker. Sip spirits such as Aviation and The Botanist or see Bombay Sapphire and Tanqueray in a new light. In either case, taste buds will be tantalised and minds may well be blown. With their homemade tonic and overwhelming choice, you would not be blamed for trying to stay the night.