Monday, 4 November 2013

Southside: Birmingham's Oriental Heart!

Birmingham has been blessed with a front of heavy rain, which has made doing anything pleasant somewhat challenging! But our West Midlands metropolis is well used to this glorious weather, we just get on with things! The Saturday just gone showed me a great afternoon in Birmingham's Chinatown. My HK bestie came along for the ride to show me a few things! Kelly's great!

Taking a well earned break from our final year degree studies myself and my friend Kelly made our way to Birmingham's Chinatown, a dynamic corner of Birmingham's Southside city centre district. To the left is Cathay Street, the gateway to a wide range of Oriental delights including restaurants, hairdressers and cake shops. Move over London, Birmingham has a Chinatown to be proud of! I absolutely love this part of town because it's an infusion of Mainland and Hong Kong culture and customs that funnily enough perfectly compliment Birmingham's compact and diverse city-scape. This part of Southside is within a minutes walk to the Bullring that connects with New Street Station. For a cash-strapped student its easy to find something to do in Birmingham when the weekend makes an appearance. Cathay Street has everything like I previously mentioned so if you're visiting for the first time its ace! Yes K!

Me and Kelly usually have a Chinese cake and a cold Bubble Tea in this part of town. We always choose Caffe Chino, a cute bakery and cafe that serves the best Hong Kong Black-forest cake in Birmingham! The atmosphere at Caffe Chino makes me feel closer to my days spent within the streets of New York City's Chinatown, there's nothing better than a cold HK style Bubble Tea to set the scene perfectly. Our time at Caffe Chino gave me and Kelly the chance to catch-up because the last few weeks of university have been crazy busy! Birmingham's Chinese Quarter has a cool vibe, its an authentic space that I really love because its close to all the nightspots in Southside that I love so walking to the club is always colourful. Back in February I published a blog highlighting the delights of Caffe Chino, I had never seen something so endearing before in Brum! Could China be an option after uni? I need to try the restaurant close to Chino for the barbecued duck looks mighty fine! I'm ready! 

Just forget Tesco because a large proportion of Birmingham's Chinese population choose to shop at one of the many Oriental supermarkets. These stores sell everything from the Far East. Me and Kelly went to Day In Supermarket, I love it here because everything just looks so colourful and there's a rich aroma that always greets me each time I walk through the entrance. Choose something different! Kelly usually shops at this Oriental supermarket because certain foods can't be bought in the western style supermarkets. I was shown what frozen tofu looks like and the different varieties of soy milk, which by the way soy milk is really tasty! Just looking at the fresh Pak Choi was a great education for me because I wouldn't know my life will go eastwards, so I have some way to go yet! I had previously bought some Po-nee Tea, recommended by Kelly as its one her Grandad's favourite teas. Variety is sure the spice of life K!

If you've never been to an Oriental supermarket, I suggest you switch up your mundane plans by paying a visit one day? ASDA and TESCO aren't the ones! Day In Supermarket is also located on Cathay Street, a stones through from the vibrant Arcadian complex that really puts this international area into perspective. I must admit that the amount of tourists looking around Day In Supermarket on Saturday afternoon was crazy, let's just say that there's no shortage of eastern promise in and around Birmingham's Chinese Quarter. I'm in the final year of my university course so I get the craziness of Birmingham at the weekend completely, its all about going with it. The staff behind main tills have a certain way with the customers, its almost like a race to process each payment something like a supermarket sweep! Kelly informed that in supermarkets in Hong Kong usually get quite hectic like how it was then. Birmingham's so multicultural! The Oriental Overness was on fire! Oh it was, B5!


Fresh from our Oriental food shopping experience we took a few steps from the Day In Supermarket to Ladywell Walk, an alley way that had some very delicious smells where I was greeted by Peach Garden Restaurant and Take Away. This back to basics Cantonese cafe kitchen oozed the charm of an Asian street market in Birmingham's city centre. Always stray away from the bright lights to find something different, something the locals approve of. I peered through the open to door to see a packed dining area made up of mainly Oriental customers, that's the sign of a top quality restaurant! I would have loved to have ordering lunch here but I've not go a lot money at the moment, maybe a pre-birthday treat next week? Kelly ordered the roast pork with boiled rice, As I peered into the window I saw the delicious hanging roasted ducks! I'll get back there soon, Kelly recommends it! No stress, need in Southside! 

I have dined at two Cantonese restaurants in Birmingham's Chinatown, firstly at Chung Ying where I tried chicken's feet for the very first time! Funnily enough, I enjoyed very them much! More recently Kelly introduced me to the concept of Dim Sum, the China Court Cantonese Restaurant served us a colourful and tasty platter of Dim Sum dishes that didn't cost the earth, I need some more Dim Sum back in my life! I can't quite remember what the dishes were called but menu looked more like a bingo card! With all these new Oriental tastes and flavours I'm glad I have an adventourous palette! For certain, I will take a trip to Hong Kong to meet Kelly for a sumptuous Dim Sum breakfast! All in good time for that Far Eastern trip, I need to get some Hong Kong Dollar in my life first! I will get back to Birmingham's Chinatown soon to enjoy some tasty Cantonese food from Peach Garden. If I had the money I would eat out all the time. Oolong Tea came back into my life! I love being international! 

Serving Chinatown Overness! 

Joseph Harrison

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