[Disclosure – I was invited for a complimentary stay in a City Nites apartment in exchange for a review]
If you live in a small town that isn’t in the immediate suburbs of Birmingham, embracing its epic food, drink and cultural scene can be slightly problematic. There’s nothing quite like leaving a gig before the final song, or racing out of a restaurant before that all-important digestif to catch the last train (which you know will most likely then be delayed but you just can’t risk it) to kill the fun of an evening in the big city.
In recent years I’ve refused to do that, deciding that if I’m going to do something special in Birmingham then I’ll take on the extra expense and organisation to make sure it’s not cut short. Not for every single trip into town, but the big ones that I just can’t bear to be curtailed.
As a consequence I’ve stayed in budget hotels, booked Rugby taxi companies to come and collect us and also put hefty sums in the bank accounts of uber drivers for the schlep along the M6. All are more expensive than the train, obviously, and some still incur their own bit of headache when it comes to organising, so I’m always looking for something that might make it a bit easier and fun to stay over in Brum.
Cue City Nites, one of several apartment options in Birmingham that work out great for people like me looking for somewhere to call home for a night that means you don’t have to run through New Street at the end of a long evening, or business people looking for alternative accommodation, or even tourists looking for somewhere to stay for a bit longer.
Always up for trying somewhere new, when I was invited to try one of City Nites’ apartments I grabbed a group of friends and we planned an evening in Brum that would allow us to take advantage of not having to cut it short.
Slap-bang in the city centre, close to Arena Birmingham and the ICC and a short walk or taxi from pretty much everywhere else, you can’t get more convenient if you’ve planned something fun.
When you’re as middle-aged as me, secure parking is something that makes you do a silly jig not that dissimilar to the one Boris did as he hot-footed it back into Number 10 last week. City Nites has that. That and a manned reception and security throughout the night.
They have one and two-bed apartments, some with balconies, as well as penthouses and family rooms too. We stayed in a spacious two-bed apartment that was more than enough space for four adults. Modern, clean, furnished simply but with everything we needed – including Christmas decorations for a visit that coincided with the festive season.
The lounge itself had plenty of seating for the four of us to enjoy a few pre-dinner drinks, as well as well-equipped kitchen ready for the morning including the mandatory Nespresso machine that keeps all us millennials happy.
The main bedroom was again generously sized and nicely decorated, giving it the home from home feel that they’re trying to achieve. It had an en-suite bathroom that reminded me somewhat of the facilities in my first-year university halls though far cleaner, and while not quite as salubrious as some hotel bathrooms, was more than adequate and boasted what I think may be one of the best showers I’ve had – including in swanky hotels.
The second bedroom was slightly smaller but decorated with the same way and just as comfortable, with a separate bathroom off the main corridor. Perfect for two couples sharing and plenty of space for girls to get ready.
In terms of other facilities, there’s wifi, a TV, a small balcony and apparently you can even rent free DVDs from reception if you like. We opted for the mulled wine and mince pies left for us in our apartment and some music while we got ready to hit the town. If you do need to get any supplies, the boys found a shop a 10-minute walk away to grab some bits for breakfast and some extra booze, so you don’t even need to worry about being organised enough to take stuff with you.
It may be that if you’re reading this you already have a destination for your night out in mind – whether that’s a gig at the arena, a night on the tiles, or a meal somewhere nice. Of course, the Birmingham Christmas Market is on in December if you really want to put yourself through that, but Birmingham has far, far more to offer all year round.
The night we went we had booked a table at Legna, one of Aktar Islam’s creations which is just a short walk from the apartments. Given that his other restaurant Opheem is just next door and was recently awarded a Michelin star, it seemed rude not to pop in and at least start with a drink in their bar before heading to Legna for more cocktails and a slap-up feast.
Those are just two things you could try – from an evening munching street food at Digbeth Dining Club to Michelin-starred dinners, wine and cheese somewhere like Arch 13, a trip to the Jewellery Quarter, or a night dancing, the options are endless.
If you search ‘Birmingham’ on this blog you’ll find plenty of things to do or, even better, try one of the many bloggers and websites that cover Birmingham far more comprehensively than me. I’d suggest Bite Your Brum, Meat and One Veg Blog or the Independent Birmingham website.
Obviously we had a fabulous meal – you would expect nothing less if you read my previous review of Legna, and somehow the tiramisu tasted even sweeter knowing that there was no rushed calling of a taxi, no indigestion-indusing mad dash through town to the station, and no panic over missed trains or pricey taxis.
Instead we ambled home, enjoying a late-night cuppa (yes, I am old) before falling into (our very comfortable) beds. The next morning our little balcony came in use mainly to blow away any hangovers while we cooked bacon sandwiches and tested out the Nespresso, deconstructing the night before and trying to remember exactly how many bottles of wine and cocktails we got through before staggering home.
Whilst a morning’s shopping was tempting, thick heads and waiting dogs meant we piled back down to the car park and tootled off home after what was probably one of the more carefree easygoing nights I’ve had in Birmingham.
Yes, I know this stay was complimentary – cue the cries of: “but of course you’d say it’s good, it was free” and all that jazz – but I seriously wouldn’t fault City Nites. The prices themselves, especially if you book on one of their deals, aren’t any more than a hotel would work out and some of the budget hotels I’ve stayed in in Birmingham are of a far lower standard than these.
They’re convenient, they’re easy, they’re well located, well equipped and comfortable. And they’ve got parking! It’s certainly all I need for a night out and I’ll be using them again for my next late-night adventure in Birmingham
[As stated above, I was offered a complimentary night at City Nites Apartments in exchange for a review. Apartments range from …. to …. and secure parking costs £10 per night. Visit City Nites website for more details]