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Any self-professed foodie would argue that eating well on vacation is just as important as where you go and what you see. Today’s tourists have high standards when it comes to food, and destinations with a broad range of choices get top billing on travel wish lists.

One such place is Birmingham, a mere 90 minutes north of London by express train. Britain’s second-largest city is recognized for its exciting and varied food scene, which boasts everything from pub grub and sublime curries to Michelin-starred restaurants.

The city, which is set to host the Commonwealth Games this summer, boasts five establishments with the coveted endorsement, including Opheem, which is in the historic Jewellery Quarter and serves elevated Indian cuisine, and Carters of Moseley, which is all about local, farm-to-table cuisine and embracing traditional methods of foraging, preservation and butchery.

Birmingham is best known for the balti, a curry that’s cooked and served in a flat-bottomed, carbon-steel pan. Local balti expert Andy Munro—who has written a book on the beloved dish, Going for a Balti—describes it as “fast-cooked using vegetable oil instead of ghee and, critically, served up in the same dish it’s cooked in.

“The ingredients of a balti vary from chef to chef, but most will have garlic, ginger and onions as a starter in the pan, and then meat will be added and lots of spices. The tradition is to dip naan bread into it and not even bother with rice.”

The balti method was created by a local Pakistani restaurateur in 1975 to attract more diners — the vegetable oil makes a lighter and healthier curry, and the balti pan ensures that its contents stay piping hot—and it worked. Soon, a number of restaurants in an area just south of the city centre were offering it up, and the little pocket became known as the Balti Triangle.

There are quite a few good, authentic balti restaurants, Munro says, but one of his favourites is Shababs. “I always say to people who haven’t had a balti before to go for a balti chicken and mushroom,” he suggests. “That way you can judge it in its simplest form.”

If you’re after classic British fare, Munro recommends the Old Joint Stock, a beautiful pub in the Jewellery Quarter that had a former life as a bank and still retains many of its original features. “It’s a very nice typical pub serving traditional fare,” Munro says. It’s known for savoury pies, a hearty British staple, and offers other quintessentially English foods such as fish and chips.

Any foodie destination worth its salt will have a standout burger joint. The Original Patty Men — located in the Digbeth neighbourhood, a trendy area with lots of other great dining options — are self-described “purveyors of filth,” and “dirty food” does not get much better than this. The patties at this industrial-chic resto are prepared with aged longhorn beef (longhorn cattle are a particularly relaxed breed, which apparently makes for good beef) and come with classic toppings (bacon and cheese) and less classic toppings (pineapple sauce).

There are chicken, vegetarian and vegan options as well as out-of-this-world triple-cooked spiced fries topped with slaw, sriracha mayo and crispy fried onions. Even Drake’s a fan: After he played a show in Birmingham a few years ago, he placed a huge order to feed himself and his crew.

One type of establishment common to the area is the desi pub, a kind of mash-up of two of Britain’s great loves: the traditional pub and South Asian food. The Hen & Chickens, located in the Jewellery Quarter in a striking Victorian building, underwent an extensive renovation in 2017, and the result is an inviting space with warm woods, exposed brick, chic tiling and original stained-glass windows.

The restaurant’s mixed grills — great piles of sizzling tandoori meats — are popular, and it has an impressive list of curries and other Indian favourites such as pakora, roti and biryani.

For a taste of haute cuisine, Purnell’s is a must visit, Munro says. The Michelin-starred restaurant is owned by head chef Glynn Purnell — also a cookbook author and TV personality — and offers both a tasting menu and à la carte options.

From butter-roasted caramelized cauliflower to fallow deer with bordelaise sauce and black truffle, to a haddock, eggs and cornflakes dish based on a recipe Purnell’s mother used to make, the innovative combinations of flavours mean a meal here is truly an experience.

If you can fit in some sightseeing between meals, hit two birds with one stone in Brindleyplace, a canal-side development with lovely leafy squares and gems like Qavali, which serves Indo-Persian cuisine — start with hummus with lamb and move on to chicken tikka — in a stunning garden-themed space.

Another area not to be missed both for its restaurants and its historic charm is Gas Street Basin; head to the Canal House, an old wharf building where narrow boats used to load and unload their wares and now a warm and stylish pub and eatery offering a mix of hearty Brit classics and more modern takes, like a kimchi-topped chicken burger.

Learn more about the West Midlands here - and don’t forget to stop by the VisitBritain shop to purchase tickets for transport and attractions before you go.


Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Visit Britian. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.