On 2 october, Tory Party Conference kicks off in Birmingham. It remains to be seen whether the city famous for its Bull Ring will witness any blood sport following the fallout from the chancellor’s mini-budget.
But whether it’s toasting the new PM or ruefully navel-gazing over Keir Starmer’s poll lead, the city’s hotels, restaurants, bars and pubs look set to do a roaring trade as MPs and Parliamentary researchers join Home County young fogeys and new Red Wall converts for a four day bonanza of politicking.
WHERE TO STAY
The Hyatt Regency is within the Conference’s secure zone and is therefore the most sought-after sleeping option amongst delegates. It is business-like in appearance, but the pool and Amala Spa are a particular treat, and somewhere to retreat for serenity when you can’t take another mention of the Growth Plan.
The Grand Hotel, which opened in its newly-renovated form in 2021 having been closed for almost two decades, is the city’s original grande-dame hotel. Talk about a northern powerhouse. Each of the 185 rooms is understated and sleek with the odd Art deco flourish. Each has great beds and even better soundproofing so you can get your beauty sleep even if there’s a group of the party faithful doing a rousing rendition of ‘Rule, Britannia!’ in the room next door.
The Park Regis is another good option. That the chain chose Brum as the location for its first hotel in Europe shows that not all roads lead to London. The ambience is Continental, corporate chic. Meanwhile if you’re looking to escape the businessperson-oriented hotel scene, Saint Pauls House in the city’s Jewellery Quarter is one of Birmingham’s most charming options.
Sat in a handsome Georgian square opposite a Grade I-listed church, the former rope factory is set apart from the hustle and bustle of the city – while still being only a few minutes’ walk from all the action. The perfect place to get away from it all when the conference dramas all get a little too much.
EATING AND DRINKING
Birmingham has a clutch of Michelin-starred restaurants including Adams, Purnell’s, Simpsons, Carters of Moseley and Opheem. The latter is the only Michelin- starred Indian restaurant outside of London and chef Aktar Islam has appeared on telly on the likes of Great British Menu. Carefully-sourced British ingredients are given an accomplished Indian makeover, and boy does it work.
Few amongst the Tory faithful can resist a curry, but amidst the cost of living crisis it may be the more rough and ready eateries in the so-called Balti Triangle that attract the most custom. It’s the favoured location for events including the LGBTory annual conference curry.
Shababs is a classic choice, and has been drawing crowds since 1987. It is one of only six balti houses currently approved by a new Association for the Protection of the Authentic Balti (APAB). no-frills Shahi Nan Kebab House is also highly rated for those seeking sizzling sheesh kebabs and tikkas.
For those wanting to see Birmingham give London’s five-star establishments a run for their money, there is nowhere better to eat and drink than The Grand Hotel: its roll call of past guests include the Tory party’s favourite son, Winston Churchill, which will surely be enough to have giddy young activists at the excellent Madeleine Bar knocking back the brandy, or raising a patriotic toast with Gusbourne, one of the very best Sussex sparkling wines.
As for food, the hotel’s Isaac’s restaurant brings new york brasserie vibes to Brum with everything from short rib burgers and Aubergine ‘Philly cheese steaks’ to smoked haddock fish cake with newburg hollandaise. A slice of key lime pie for afters and party members will be left crowing about the strength of the special relationship.
There is no shortage of good places for quick bites in between think tank love ins and Ministerial speeches. Kanteen is a stylish café doing healthy, ethical food, lovingly prepared. Habaneros in Great Western Arcade does great burritos while Tiger Bites Pig is a little cafe specialising in bao buns.
For those London bubble dwellers like fish out of water up north and hankering after a taste of home, there’s always Dishoom. And for a one- stop shop, Yorks Café in Ikon Gallery is as good for brunch/lunch as it is for a quick coffee, or cocktails and craft beers in the evening.As for pubs, The Old Crown is a reliable bet housed in the city’s oldest secular building dating back to 1368.
The Lord Clifden is known for its Sunday roasts. The Canal House is a good place to enjoy the city’s waterways (and does good food and cocktails too), while Grade II-listed The Old Joint Stock is as worth a visit for its renovated Victorian interior as for the beer. As for another centrally-located classic, The Old Contemptibles will surely become a den of political gossip for the next four days rivalling the best of SW1. Birmingham: get ready.