Like most towns or cities, each one has a district or two that are renown for their food attractions - Rue de Bouchers in Brussels, Lygone Street in Melbourne and Birmingham is no different. Being a former Brummie, but yet still living close by, it's great to see how the city is evolving, culinary wise. Birmingham is known worldwide as having the 'Balti Triangle' - a cluster of restaurants in/around the Sparkhill/Balsall Heath areas that specialise in the balti curry and Asian cuisine. Also Birmingham has one of the country's largest Chinese Quarters focusing on Oriental food and which celebrates Chinese New Year with gusto. But once you get further out of the city into the suburban districts, you come across Kings Heath, next door neighbour of Moseley (a district with an eclectic mix of bars, independent restaurants and a famous Folk Festival). Kings Heath, still with its traditional High Street offerings, has a number of culinary hidden gems within its side streets. York Road alone boasts Capeling & Co (Fine Cheeses & Delicatessen), Byzantium Tapas and also Kitchen Garden Cafe.
Kitchen Garden Cafe is a lovely little retreat and provides that perfect haven for some 'you time'. You can decide upon which coffee or tea flavour you want whilst perusing the Book Exchange area where you can pick up a book for free to enjoy whilst you're there and to take with you afterwards. Some of the books are labelled as being part of http://www.bookcrossing.com/ which enables you to track the book you've picked up, see where its been and you can add details as to where it's going next - a kind of book relay, a great way of encouraging everyone to read whilst witnessing the book's journey. In addition, there is an on-site deli and a courtyard selling plants and garden accessories. But Kitchen Garden Cafe in the evening, transforms into a restaurant that holds various events ranging from comedy to music and poetry to craft fairs. The menu boasts a wealth of veggie options including a very tempting Sage Gnocchi with Jerusalem Artichoke & Chestnut Butter (on my list to try when I visit next). One of the forthcoming events is a 'pop up vegetarian restaurant' hosted by BBC MasterChef The Professionals 2011 finalist, Claire Hutchings. She has a fabulous menu organised with courses such as Hay Smoked Celeriac with Artichoke, Asparagus, Onion & Vanilla and White Chocolate with Sorrel & Black Olive. Tickets are selling fast with only a few left for dates in May. Contact Kitchen Garden Cafe on 0121 443 4725 for details or http://www.kitchengardencafe.co.uk/
My early morning visit meant I missed their opening hours and therefore couldn't sample the goods from Capeling & Co (http://www.capelingandco.wordpress.com/) although the extensive selection of cheeses and continental goods means a return visit is on the cards - same for Byzantium Tapas (http://www.byzantiumtapas.co.uk/). I was too early for their brunch-time - but their vast veggie selection incorporating Italian, Spanish, Greek and North African influences has tempted me to head there very soon.
The first Saturday of each month sees Kings Heath Farmer's Market (http://www.kingsheathfarmersmarket.org/) set up stalls outside All Saints Church on the High Street with a mix of food & beverage traders. I met Wobbly Bottom Farm (firstname.lastname@example.org) there, who provide a range of goats cheeses. I purchased a really nice creamy goats cheese with nettles. It works beautifully scattered on a salad or for cheese on toast and it can also be bought online as well as at the market.
So next time you travel down Kings Heath High Street, remember to look down the side streets as you will find purveyors of fantastic food that you won't find anywhere else!