Living a few minutes walk from it, my main gripe with Brindleyplace remains its reliance on chain restaurants to please the masses.
Of course there’s a few independents and small chains knocking about, but largely the busy square houses chains churning out boring, mediocre meals – usually with a permanent discount voucher attached to it. This post is not designed to knock the likes of Cafe Rouge and Pizza Express – there’s a time and a place (not to mention a market) for such venues and I’m not in the habit of being condescending – it’s more that I know the city centre well enough to be certain we have much better to offer.
Brindleyplace, specifically, has a purpose outside of housing some of the big shot companies that make a lot of dosh for Birmingham. The area is popular with visiting music fans due to its proximity to Arena (the artist formerly known as the NIA, to most) and families taking in the otter show at Sealife Centre. Come the weekend it offers (some) relief from the carnage of Broad Street, but midweek there’s a few spots worth a visit for cheap lunch – one of those places is Bank.
When summer hits, the front terrace is a sea of girls in dresses missing a few inches of fabric with a DJ drowning out the sound of Prosecco bottles popping. On the surface I should hate the place, but if you walk through the long bar and out to the terrace restaurant you’ll find an entirely different aesthetic. Looking more like a beach bar you’d find in Ibiza, the large terrace is a sun trap during the afternoons thanks to a retractable roof. Here, alongside views of the canals and incredibly polite service, you can enjoy a well-priced lunch menu and food that makes you realise not all ‘chains’ are terrible.
The lunch menu changes seasonally and comes in at a reasonable £17.95 for two courses. There’s plenty of variety and I have to say the food is better than you might think prior to visiting. Cocktails will get you started, with an Aperol Spritz being my go to on a sunny day.
Available 12-5pm, the lunch menu offers 5-6 starters and mains to choose from. Nicely judged Crispy Squid comes on a bed of Asian noodle salad and offers both the flavour and texture you’d hope. The salad could do with some seasoning. Goats Cheese & Heritage Beetroot Salad is probably too generous in size but gorgeous and fresh. The soft whipped cheese is luscious smeared across the chunks of beetroot, and a drizzle of pesto adds some pep. Chicken Tikka Skewers lack any heat and in most parts are a bit dry. Stick to the squid.
Mains are all arguably a bit too big, but if that’s your only gripe you’re probably doing ok. Fish and Chips offer a decent batter without the greasy, heaviness I’ve found elsewhere – it’s an enormous piece of white fish that’s light and flaky. The shape of the fillet confused the shit out of me and I can’t be sure what it was – neither could the floor team.. The chips won’t win any awards, being quite dry.
Asian Duck offers a leg of the meat cooked blushing pink on a bed of crunchy vegetables including pak choi, with a lightly sesame flavoured jus. A small additional surcharge will buy you Steak Diane – a cooked-to-your-preference slab of beef sitting like an island in a sea of sauce made from seasoned pan juices and a hefty dollop of cream. It’s not much of a looker but my husband finished it, so I’d take that as a good sign. Is it worth the upgrade fee? No.
There’s desserts to add for a few quid more if you wish, but they sound quite boring at first glance and we decided not to bother.
It’s easy to get a false impression from the front patio before you’re inside the bar – I expected it to be all style over substance but left Bank feeling pleasantly satisfied. The daytime menu offered value (especially compared to the main menu which is quite pricy in parts) and the service is smooth and efficient. The staff are actually what makes this place.
It’s not going to change the world but it’s one of the better options if you’re dining in this area.. until someone with some fast cash taps up the empty units and offers better. Hurry up!
Bank, 4 Brindleyplace, Birmingham, B1 2JB
Disclosure: I paid in full for this meal and drinks. Words and photos are mine.