Travel writer Tom Leaman writes about some of Exeter's lesser-known treasures.Written by Tom Leaman on 6th April 2018
Valentine’s Day: The Best Spots in Birmingham
Travel writers and editors collaborate to pick out the best date spots in Birmingham for Valentine's Day
Winterbourne House & Gardens - Matthew Magill
For something casual but cute, why not try the Winterbourne House & Gardens in Edgbaston. Free to University of Birmingham students, this spot offers the whimsy of a country walk at a convenient distance whilst providing other miscellaneous activities, from a quaint second-hand book store to a small gallery.
The garden itself is composed of a series of sections from cacti greenhouses, stone-step rockeries, and Japanese-inspired water walkways surrounded by drifting, aquatic plants. If you’re feeling more ambitious, you could take the side gate to a small woodland area leading to an open lake, keep your eye out for the Chamberlain tower far in the distance.
Afterwards, there’s always the option to explore the cosily antiquated Winterbourne house and read up on its history (if you want to show off your intellectual side). Otherwise, there is the typical country-manor tearoom offering all the simple pleasures from homemade soup to scones and cream.
If you wish to see the garden in full bloom, Winterbourne may be more of a Summer spot. Yet, true to its name, I feel the gardens are winter-ready as the colder seasons give an excuse to huddling closer and the lack of tourists means it becomes a frozen wilderness that is perfect for two.
The Lost & Found - Sophie Braybrook
Lost and Found, a gorgeous, grand bar situated at the top of Bennett’s Hill, is the ideal location for you and your Valentine this February. This glorious, grade II-listed building with high, delicately-carved ceilings follows a Victorian theme, specifically one inspired by the explorer Hettie G. Watson. The bar is therefore filled with vintage furniture, including pretty birdcages and rusty typewriters. Keeping with the exploration theme, Lost and Found trumps other bars in the city centre as it is also home to a secret bar - hidden behind a bookshelf – a space available to hire for private parties.
The friendly but professional staff construct beautiful cocktails from the extensive drinks menu. The most popular cocktails are those exclusive to the bar that make up the menus entitled ‘Lost’ and ‘Found’. As a gin-lover, a personal favourite of mine is ‘The Curious Tipple’, a cocktail from the ‘Found’ menu. Pale pink in colour, ‘The Curious Tipple’ contains egg white and as a result is creamy in texture with a delicate frothy top. A truly irresistible choice, this cocktail is presented in an elegant retro glass and beautifully decorated with a flower and dried fruit. The drinks menu also includes classic, sparkling and, temperance cocktails, alongside wine and beer options. As if the menu isn’t extensive enough, catch the bartenders on a quieter evening and they may offer to concoct personalised cocktail given your preferences.
Extend your evening in this fabulous setting, and dine among the bookshelves and butterflies that decorate the building. Exclusive to 14th February is Lost and Found’s Valentine’s Day menu which includes a three-course meal and glass of prosecco all for a reasonable price of £34.95. With Lost and Found’s breath-taking décor and relaxed ambiance, there’s nowhere more romantic to treat your loved one.
Alternatively, visit any other day – to celebrate an occasion or just catch up with friends – and feast your eyes on Lost and Found’s à la carte food menu. You’ll be spoilt for choice as Lost and Found offers a range of dishes, including cuisines that span the globe. Travel to china and indulge in the marinated duck skewers, ginger and noodle salad, and spring onion, served with a sticky soy dressing to start. For a main, try the roasted curried cauliflower, white bean mash, spinach, and crispy onion bhaji, a dish that really does offer something different for the dining veggie. Top it all off with something more familiar and quaff the classic British favourite - sticky toffee pudding, with fudge, spiced treacle sauce, and vanilla pod ice cream.
This beautiful bar, situated in the heart of the city, and only a few minutes’ walk from Birmingham New Street Station, will go down a treat with you and your lucky date this Valentines. Lost and Found offers the perfect atmosphere for you to create a memorable evening.
Brindley Place - Phoebe Warneford-Thomson
If there’s any venue to refute Birmingham’s reputation as the grey second city, it is Brindley Place. This tranquil spot on the canal in the centre of Birmingham plays host to bars, restaurants, galleries and numerous other attractions, the perfect location for a valentines date.
Try visiting the internationally renowned Ikon Gallery for a dose of contemporary art, a great reminder of how dynamic Birmingham can be, as well as a good snap for your Instagram. The gallery is free too, so you can save your pennies for a meal out after. If you believe there’s plenty of other fish in the sea, pay a visit the Sea Life Centre. It is slightly more pricey, as it lacks any student discount offer, but I can recommend it is worth the cost. After all, nothing says romance like sharks and stingrays. However, if you’re looking for a more up-market activity, you can experience some couple zen time at the Bannatyne Health Club and Spa.
If your festivities continue into the evening, Brindley Place boasts numerous bars and restaurants ideal for Valentines evening. Try Pitcher and Piano for top quality food and cocktails, or the Slug and Lettuce for a more comfortable setting. Alternatively, if you’re looking to dress up, Nuvo is by far the most elegant and exclusive of the bars on Brindley Place.
The Jekyll and Hyde - James Perry
The Jekyll and Hyde is one particular bar passed down as a recommendation year on year to new students at UoB – why you say? Well the answer is clear, who doesn’t love a good bar that specialises in extremely original, and yet cost-friendly cocktails, suitable for any drinker on any date?
Located a short 10-minute walk from New Street Station, towards Birmingham’s business district on Steelhouse Lane, the Jekyll and Hyde is a quaint, rustic looking building. However, don’t be fooled as once you walk through the front door you’re greeted by a vibrant atmosphere of fire-lit cocktails, portraits of dressed up animals, sweet, exotic aromas and various couples (genuinely on dates too) enjoying each others company throughout the cosy lounge area. Jekyll and Hyde favourites such as the ‘Pear – Drop’ and ‘Love Heart’ offer a completely unique twist in taste to your average cocktails.
Not a drinker? No problem! Jekyll and Hyde isn’t just for those of us who enjoy a taste (or binge) of alcohol, it also offers an interesting food palette throughout the day which matches the originality of its cocktail menu.
The uniqueness and buzz of this bar is sure to liven up any date and promise a good time to all.
The Ikon Gallery - Delfina Rainoldi
Valentine’s Day is coming up for all you lovers; which means it’s a great excuse to do something nice with your significant other. If extravagant date-nights are not your vibe, why not have a relaxing day date? Birmingham has lots to offer when it comes to culture and tasty food. So, if that’s something that tickles your fancy then head on down to Ikon Gallery during the afternoon for a nice stroll around its new modern art exhibition by Robert Hiorns. The concept behind his pieces is to do with material and objects and how they transform when “re-use and re-propose” their “power.”
If you find yourself to be slightly peckish, grab a little snack at Yorks Café which is found on the ground floor of the gallery. Once you have enjoyed your time looking at art make your way to the Jewellery Quarter where you will both be able to immerse yourselves in Birmingham’s history. You won’t get bored with all the museums, parks and jewellery shops that will be surrounding you. To finish off your date head on over to The Red Lion, a gastropub where you will be spoiled with an array of delicious food options, suited both for vegetarians and non-vegetarians. If you are a member of Independent Birmingham then you’ll be able to enjoy 20% off before 5pm or a free beer with your meal after 5pm. This is a great alternative for those of you who prefer having a less formal date with your partner.
The Electric Cinema - Carys Bedford
On first thoughts, spending your Valentine's in the cinema seems marginally anti-social. However, in Birmingham, going to the cinema has been transformed by The Electric Cinema found on Station Street (just by New Street station so very convenient). This cinema is part of a chain of electric cinemas, the oldest kind in the UK. It's far from your average cinema, brimming with character, it transports you back in time to the period of Film Noir. You are surrounded by vintage marble floors, red comfy seats and golden framed photos of the greatest actors of time. The atmosphere is mature and classy. There are no loud kids throwing popcorn everywhere and whispering throughout the whole film. This is replaced by an atmosphere of civilisation. This is not just channeled through the interior but also through the food and drink on offer. You won't find tango ice blasts, instead immerse yourself in canapes and movie themed cocktails. Arrive early for your viewing to soak this up in advance, but also if this doesn't quite hit the spot, there is waiter service throughout the viewing so you can continue to indulge without even leaving your seat. On Tuesday both Oscar nominated films, Jackie and Fences, are playing, so start debating now which one to see to avoid any valentine tensions!