We visit the Birmingham neighbourhood with a thriving food scene voted one of UK's best places to live

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We paid a visit to the Birmingham neighbourhood that has been voted of the UK's best places to live

Harborne has become one of Bimingham's most attractive neighbourhoods in recent years.

With a number of top schools, great bars and esteemed restaurants, the suburb is a must-visit destination in the city. The quaint and relaxed atmosphere of the city's south-west neighbourhood offers residents sanctuary away from the bustling city centre, while still being able to enjoy plenty of great independent businesses.

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The neighbourhood has a thriving High Street with some of the city’s most popular restaurants to choose from. Just around the corner from Edgbaston, the suburb is also home to some of the most expensive properties in the city.

Lifestyle magazine, Muddy Stilettos has also named Harborne one of the best places to live in the UK, so I decided to head down to the high street to speak with businesses and locals about what makes the area so appealing in 2024, but also to find out what they want to see change about their neighbourhood.

Not too far from Birmingham city centre, the upmarket area is home to some of the most expensive properties in Brum. But it's become known for its thriving food scene.

From the popular restaurant Tropea - voted Birmingham's best Italian - to the award-winning Harborne Kitchen, there's plenty of places to choose from across the suburb. It's also home to The Plough pub which has been an institution in Harborne for many years.

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Beyond the high street, there's also the creative aspect of the suburb. There is a monthly market where local artisans sell their products, and it also has a youthful population and certainly rivals Moseley and Stirchley these days as the place to be for young adults that's outside central Birmingham thanks to its bars such as Harborne Stores and the Junction.

Amy Morris, her husband Miguel and daughterAmy Morris, her husband Miguel and daughter
Amy Morris, her husband Miguel and daughter | Birmingham World

Arriving in Harborne on a Thursday lunchtime, I popped into El Buen Gusto, a Spanish restaurant on the high street. It's run by Amy Morris and her partner Miguel and the two have recently had a baby daughter. Amy previously ran the eatery when it was a Sicilian-inspired restaurant, but decided to change tack after taking over the lease with Miguel.

"Rudy's (pizzeria) opened next door, and they have a big space and they're Italian," she told me. "We had done well as a Sicilian place, because we opened during the pandemic it had become a community thing and with Rudy's it didn't help.

"After they opened it gave us that final push to change really, and my partner is Spanish. There is no Spanish place in Harborne so we thought we'd give it a go." Amy says Harborne has great schools and the locals are very friendly and many of the business owners get on which is part of the appeal.

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"We're all very different," she said. "There's no direct competition so it's easy for us to all get on." Although, she says parking is one of the neighbourhood's big issues. There's also not a train station in the neighbourhood, and Amy says it could be busier if people had better access to public transport.

"Lots of our customers are from Harborne for that reason really. That custom could be improved with better transport."

Harborne high streetHarborne high street
Harborne high street | BW

Next up was Harborne Kitchen. I met with the restaurant's manager Jacob just before it opened for the lunchtume service. Jacob has been the manager at the restaurant for five years. Harborne Kitchen opened its doors around seven years ago and has become one of Birmingham's most esteemed independent businesses.

The fine-dining venue serves modern British cuisine and offers a more relaxed fine-dining experience. "The idea was for it to be relaxed with quality food and I think it has that blend of those things to suit the area which is particularly unique in Birmingham," Jamie told me.

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Why has it been so successful over the years?  "It's a bit more relaxed for a fine dining restaurant and we manage to set people at ease really well." Jacob says Harborne is a great place to work.

"It has a lot of good businesses and it has always been a more affluent area," he said.

"It's home to many doctors from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital as well as barristers and things like that. Many more restaurants are now popping up like Tropea down the road, and there's really great independent restaurants so for me that really makes it an appealing destination for people to travel to from the surrounding areas."

He says there's a few empty units on the high street he would like to see filled by more independents, but overall, he says the community spirit and food scene make it an attractive place to live and work.

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I wanted to find someone who was relatively new to the area to get their view on Harborne compared to people who have been there for a number of years. I managed to speak with Lee, who has taken over the Bun and Barrel on the high street with three other friends.

Harborne KitchenHarborne Kitchen
Harborne Kitchen | BW

The Bun and Barrel is another venue that has been voted one of Birmingham's best. This particular bar has the best burgers in the city, according to online reviews. The Bun and Barrel has a nice atmosphere. It's a small bar that plays music and offers brilliant burgers and vegan dishes, and it's also the only place in the area with a pool table. Like a lot of the independent businesses in Harborne, it has its own unique vibe.

Lee moved to the neighbourhood just over a month ago after living in south London for a number of years. "It's been going really well. There was a lot of hype online when it opened, it's really busy on the weekends as well, so I've been settling in, trying to get to know the locals and how the business works. It's been going really well.

"We're still getting praise on our burgers - people are loving it. We've just added a bit to the previous menu to improve it some more." How has Lee found Harborne since moving to the neighbourhood?

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"I'm living quite locally. Harborne itself is a nice area with good shops and high street with plenty of independent businesses. I moved here with my family and they love it as well." Lee said that Harborne's indepenent food scene separates it from other areas of the city.

Jacob, manager of Harborne KitchenJacob, manager of Harborne Kitchen
Jacob, manager of Harborne Kitchen | BW

"We are a small independent, but Harborne provides us with a better vibe and Harborne has its own unique culture in a way. If you want to be away from the busy city centre but want a nice place to go out and drink and eat then Harborne is the place to go."

Like Amy, Lee says the traffic can be a bit hectic on the high street which he would like to see improved. He said it would also be good to see more people from outside and across the city coming to the neighbourhood.

Harborne's food scene certainly makes it one of the most attractive places to go for foodies, and its array of stylish bars and lovely pubs such as The Plough make it a must visit.

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