Day Out

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Everyone pretends they go to Paris for the museums and art galleries, but actually they go for the food. Well, it's the same with Birmingham. You may have heard that public art has been spilling over the streets of Birmingham until parts of the city resemble an open-air sculpture gallery. Other towns are run by mere councils, but Birmingham is apparently headed by a conclave of renaissance popes hoping to gain immortality through vast patronage. While successive councils have vied to outspend their predecessors, the unassuming Barber Collection at the University in Edgbaston has been quietly accumulating masterpieces since the Thirties. The result is an astonishing collection that ought to be more widely known. There's only one drawback - no cafe.

Looking for some typically Brummie food, you might go for a balti, a dish particular to Birmingham and Kashmir consisting of a pan full of curry served with a piece of nan bread the size of a pillowcase and no cutlery. But for a truly homegrown Birmingham speciality you must seek out something called a 'hot pork'. This is a slice of pork meat between two slabs of white bread. You get it from a van in the market area with sage and onion stuffing included at no extra charge. It drips grease onto the pavement and brings tears to the eyes.

If you want to combine art and food there is a cafe in Digbeth called The Custard Factory, where Birds once made their instant whip. The factory has been converted into studios and exhibition spaces in the hope of creating a 'lively bohemian quarter'. It's a rather polite form of bohemia, with cutlery and not even a whiff of hot pork.

Edmund Bealby-Wright, writer and illustrator, publishes architectural guides to England

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