I’ve always been a fan of the Bullring Market in Birmingham, it’s one of the last places in the city centre where it’s possible to get a tiny glimpse of how Birmingham used to be, and it attracts people from all walks of life, from well known restaurant owners to the towns most eccentric characters. On weekday mornings, nice old fashioned brummie retireds come into town for shopping, and stay on for lunch at one of the market cafés, him in a shirt and tie, and her with immaculate permed hair. The market also has a large West Indian following, with one or two places selling the right sorts of spices, bread and fish, and it’s through talking to members of the congregation that I’ve found the best places to shop.
Unfortunately many of the family run fishmongers and butchers are disappearing fast, and are being replaced by traders who don’t seem to have much idea about what they are selling.
My favourite fishmonger is W Satchwell. The current Mr. Satchwell comes from a long line, I believe that the business was started by his great grandfather. Satchwell sells a very small selection of very high quality fish, most of which has only been out of the water for a day or two, and many of the offerings are line caught. The salmon, monkfish and trout are always delicious.
Many famous restaurants buy shell fish from George Smiths which was founded it 1874. I love their large oysters which come from fresh from Colchester every other day. Before this is cited as further evidence of the extravagant lifestyle enjoyed at the vicarage, they cost ninety pence each! They also sell lovely dressed crab and a whole host of other weird and wonderful Crustacea.
Red meat is best procured from Doherty’s who sell everything from steak to calves liver. Expect a bit of banter, and if you become a regular they will cut you some magnificent deals, particularly if it is the end of the day.
Mr. Fish are the only stall with a game licence. They sell a range of game in season including birds that need plucking and preparing if you are brave enough. Good quality quails eggs are available all year round.
Outdoors it is possible to buy fruit and vegetables, which in my experience, are often nearing the end. It is worth looking out for the stall that sells cheese though. There is always a large selection and it is so cheap.
The Wholesale Market is being demolished which is a real shame. It has been really convenient to be able to buy flowers for Corpus Christi and Easter and then take them home on the Number 16.