Pictures from the top: The inside of the Victorian Restaurant; my steak & kidney pie; Drucker's; my All Bar One Full Breakfast; and the All Bar One in Birmingham's Brindley Place.
I travelled to Birmingham the slow way, from Marylebone to Snow Hill and not only was there no buffet, there was no trolley service either. Fortunately, as Foghorn Leghorn once said, 'I keep my feathers numbered for just such an emergency', or rather, for the sake of good English, I kept my feathers numbered. In other words, I came prepared with a crayfish sandwich, a small bottle of wine and a sticky bun from the M&S on the station concourse. Not that a sandwich and a bun did anything to stave off the boredom of the journey.
I was in Brum on business and once that had been completed it was time to head back home, on the slow train. But surely, something to eat first! Across the road from Snow Hill is one of those quaint old-looking shopping arcades full of quaint shops. One of them was Drucker's, a kind of teashop/caff hybrid, which offered a pleasant little display of fresh cakes. I just had to order the apple pie and a pot of tea, which I did, and the woman behind the counter convinced me to have some ice cream. Sadly, I was conscious of the time and the fact that shortly, in about fifteen minutes, I would have to board the train home. This made the whole experience slightly rushed, but I can vouch for Druckers. A great chunk of apple pie, hot, with some contrastingly cold ice cream and a nice pot of tea – I only managed one cup before whizzing back along the arcade, across the street to Snow Hill and then home to London. My snack had cost me just under £6.
My budget hotel (Travelodge in Broad Street) only offered a meagre paper bag full of breakfast items so I took a stroll and found Brindley Place where All Bar One was open for breakfast. Excellent! I ordered a Full Breakfast (Cumberland sausages, bacon, free range eggs, black pudding, baked beans and fries – and I could help myself to toast) all for just £5.95.
All Bar One was great, much better than the Café Rouge next door, but I was clearly missing a trick. A brief walk to the canalside filled me with disappointment as I realised I could have enjoyed breakfast on a canalboat. Oh well, next time.
I was back the following week and this time, after my work was done and I was getting hungry, I dived into The Victorian Restaurant, a first-floor affair in the same arcade as Drucker's and run by an Indian mother and daughter. No curry here, though; this was one of those roast beef and carrots places – baby carrots – AND it was licensed. There was an ornate but restful interior with plastic tablecloths that gave away its 'caff' status and made me feel immediately at home. I sat at table 21 and ordered the steak and kidney pie with mashed potato, peas and baby carrots. While the pie was a little salty and the accompanying gravy on the thick side, I still enjoyed it and I had a pint of Carlsberg to wash it all down – all for a perfectly reasonable £12.90.