From dumplings to drag, coffee to comedy, it’s never a drab moment in Birmingham’s Gay Village.
Centred on buzzing Hurst Street, the Gay Village in Birmingham sure knows how to have a good time- day and night. The quarter is filled with al fresco coffee shops, late-night pubs, raucous bars and night clubs with drag shows and cabaret. It might not be the biggest of quarters, nestled in between popular areas such as Digbeth, Gas Street Basin and the city centre, but it certainly overpowers them when it comes to vibrancy. Without further ado, here are some of the best places that Birmingham’s Gay Village has to offer.
Another Hurst Street favourite to hit up is Sidewalk. The Birmingham bar was originally a 1930s car showroom before being transformed in 1996 under the name Laurie’s International Club, in time for Birmingham’s first ever gay pride, which took place the following year. Before it became Sidewalk, it used to have floor to ceiling glass panels and was the first bar in the Gay Village to be opened up to street views, challenging people’s attitudes towards gay people at the time. Now, the bar has a San Francisco warehouse vibe featuring amazing patterned tiles by the bar and colourful art on the interior walls.
Sidewalk, 125-131 Hurst Street, B5 6SE
Hurst Street is the hub of Birmingham’s Gay Village and located right in the middle of it is Equator Bar. It describes itself as “Southside’s little gem of 18 years, where comfort really does meet style…” And we can definitely see why as the drinking spot not only boasts outdoor seating but it also recently had an upgrade, featuring jungle-themed wallpaper, velvet armchairs, leather bar stools, soft lighting and a long bar with a wide selection of spirits to choose from.
Equator Bar, 123 Hurst Street, B5 6SE
The Loft is perfect for both outdoor and indoor catch-ups, but come summer time you won’t be able to resist their lovely tucked away beer garden featuring pergolas (with outdoor heaters just in case), as well as their terrace and parklet. Situated on Bromsgrove Street, it’s a great place to start the day-drinking or night-out thanks to its relaxed atmosphere, range of nibbles and delicious cocktails. Sip on their tuck shop-inspired concoctions such as ‘Rhubarb and Custard’, ‘Parma Violet’, as well as ‘Glitter S*it’ (a glittery mix of pink gin, prosecco and elderflower). Plus, the fun-named ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ cocktail featuring whisky, cherry brandy and amaretto, and you’ll have to drink this in order to find out the answer to that question.
The Loft, 143 Bromsgrove Street, B5 6RG
The Fox is the only venue in the Gay Village to market itself to gay women and their friends. It describes themselves as “the little gay bar with a big gay heart, where everyone is made to feel welcome”. Owned by Andy King, The Fox offers women, men, gay, straight, transgender and pretty much anyone a space to socialise, let loose and forget about their troubles. The bar also boasts a lovely covered outdoor terrace, perfect for a wine, cocktail or beer whatever the Brum weather may throw at us.
The Fox, 17 Lower Essex Street, B5 6SN
Cafés and restaurants
If you’ve ever seen Quarter Horse Coffee’s Instagram account then you’ll know their aesthetic is on point. And their coffee doesn’t miss the mark either. One of the first coffee roasters in the city, their brews (with around 10 coffee bean varieties to choose from) can be enjoyed sat in their café, up on their roof terrace, on the go or at home. It’s also a great place for a spot of brunch with dishes like breakfast baps filled with merguez lamb sausages served on a tangzhong brioche bun or French brioche toast with cold caramelised orange slices, chocolate and candied nuts.
88-90 Bristol Street, B5 7AH
Bringing a taste of Korea to Gay Village, Topokki serves classics such as bibimbap, bulgogi and kimchi fried rice. It’s a great spot for some fuel before or after a show and offers a range of Korean dishes suitable for all hunger levels with lighter bites such as miso soup, king prawn salad and edamame beans, or larger staples like yakisoba, ramen and dupbap (rice bowl dishes). Their desserts are both tasty and intriguing with options such as green tea or red bean ice cream, plus mango, chocolate or green tea mochi.
Topokki, Unit 1C Hurst Street, B5 4TD
With the Gay Village being a close neighbour to Birmingham’s Chinese Quarter, you’ll also find a number of restaurants to sample some authentic Chinese cuisine in this area too. Not got your heart set on a specific dish? Or perhaps you want to try and bit of everything. Well, Ming Moon on Hurst Street offers a buffet service which allows you to pick all your favourite Chinese dishes and enjoy them on one plate, and go back for more. The restaurant also has another branch nearby on Wrottesley Street which serves traditional Chinese Dim Sum as well as entertainment in the form of karaoke.
Ming Moon Restaurant, 16 Hurst Street, B5 4BN
Serving mouthwatering burgers including a stonker of a patty touched by chilli, American cheese and a golden ration of Rib Man Holy Fuck Sauce. Coined as The Hell Shack and, living up to its name, it causes a fire beneath your chops. But through the flames, you’ll be left begging to come back for another taste. The Meat Shack has that kind of pulling power, and their burgers will most likely cure any hangover of yours.
The Meat Shack, 17 Thorp Street, B5 4AT
Get your pencils ready because Monday night is bingo night at The Village Inn, and the drinks are £1 all night long! There’s always plenty of entertainment at this live cabaret venue, with live shows seven days a week, including Ru Paul Drag Race star Ginny Lemon making an appearance on Tuesdays and hosting a number of games and giveaways. Hosting some of the biggest names in drag from around the country, karaoke and more, you’re guaranteed to have a top night out at The Village Inn no matter what night of week. Also, don’t forget to visit their gorgeously-lit outdoor space on an evening as it’s quite the dreamy setting.
The Village Inn, 152 Hurst Street, B5 6RY
Award-winning independent live comedy and music venue, The Glee Club, has been in Brum since 1994 and is back with plenty of hilarious acts. Numerous comedians have stood on The Glee Club’s stage including fellow Brummie Joe Lycett, Romesh Ranganathan and Sarah Millican, to name a few. The club also hosts music and drag performances too and has a jam-packed programme this year, meaning you’re bound to find something that will most likely tickle you.
Some consider The Nightingale a right of passage when visiting Gay Village due to it’s impressive monthly programme of events and three large floors of music, drinking and general antics. Although clubs aren’t reopening until July 19, this stalwart of the Birmingham gay scene is open for outdoor drinks on their terrace and indoors to enjoy events such as their disco-themed bingo nights. During lockdown, The Nightingale even had a little facelift and now features amazing artwork by local queer artists which really bring the space to life.
The Nightingale, 18 Kent Street, B5 6RD
Once known as a cabaret bar, Missing realised that there was a party bar lacking from the Birmingham gay scene, and decided to turn their attention into making it one of the city’s top party bars. With it’s very own resident entertainers such as Gavina Vagina (or Aunty Vag), Ashleigh Marc and Amy LaQueefa, and an extensive drinks menu (did someone say create your own mojitos and daiquiris?) Missing will liven up your day or night. Plus, Missing loves a bit of extravagance, with a flower flower wall that’s hard not to take a selfie at as proof, but by the time you leave the bar, you probably will too.
Missing, 48 Bromsgrove Street, B5 6NU