Review: Bottomless brunch at Brightsmith on the Water, Hilton Metropole, NEC
December 3, 2022

[Disclosure: We were invited to try the new bottomless brunch offering at Brightsmith on the Water for free for the purposes of this blog]

I’m not really an aficionado of bottomless brunches. Which is strange, really, given that the idea of endless food and drink sounds like pretty much the perfect day for me. That said, the name is slightly misleading, since bottomless brunch rarely involves endless food – more a couple of dishes to line your stomach while you bang as much alcohol down your neck in an allotted time.

It sounds debaucherous and I’m sure some are, but as bottomless brunches have evolved, I’ve noticed more and more that are trying to make it a little bit more than just endless warm fizz and a bowl of chips. Which is why when I was invited to the new bottomless brunch at Brightsmith on the Water I thought I’d give it a go.

You’ll find Brightsmith at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole, just across the lake from Resorts World and the NEC. It opened its doors in September as part of the hotel’s refurbishment, and while parts of the hotel itself still have a bit of a dated feel, this is very much 2022.

Brightsmith on the Water
Brightsmith on the Water
Brightsmith on the Water
Brightsmith on the Water

Light and bright, with lovely views, perfect for a cold crisp day from behind the floor to ceiling glass or in the height of summer from the terrace. The decor is bold and bright, full of teals and metallic colours that echo the nod of the venue’s name itself to Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, the music is funky (apparently they’re going for a ‘Balearics meets Birmingham’ feel) and the staff are eager to please.

It’s a place that does a good job of making someone like me feel like they could just maybe fit in with the cool crowd – even if only for five minutes. You get 90 minutes of bottomless cocktails, mocktails, prosecco and beer with two courses of food for £45 or three for £50. At first glance you might think it sounds pricey, but have a little think about how much two courses, a couple of cocktails or fizz, will cost you and I don’t think it’s unreasonable.

Brightsmith on the Water
Brightsmith on the Water

The food

We start with Prosecco, because that’s what we’re here for, and enjoy the fact that the food menu isn’t just avocado smashes and breakfast dishes. Yes, brunch is traditionally somewhere between breakfast and lunch, but the reality of bottomless brunch is that the timescale is shifted a few hours on. Unless, of course, you’re up for necking fizz for 90 minutes just after you’ve got up.

Here there’s the acknowledgement that most of us wait until after noon to start drinking – at least at weekends. That means that while there is the ‘avocado medley’ that we all knew would pop up, starters include the kind of food that you need when you’re pouring alcohol down your neck against the clock. Yes, a fair bit of it is fried, but I refer you to the previous sentence and will leave it there.

Brightsmith on the Water

Brightsmith on the Water

We’re briefly tempted by a different-sounding ‘Oats Upma’ with Sambar Sauce, but this heathen sticks to the fried stuff. And no, I’m not sorry. Halloumi fries are as you’d expect and I’d be concerned if they weren’t enjoyable because how far wrong can you go frying sticks of cheese in breadcrumbs. But calamari rings are surprisingly great. Crispy outside, tender within, and zero hint of rubberiness.

Do they make them fresh here? I don’t know. And I don’t really care as long as they taste good enough to keep reaching for them while I sip yet another of my endless cocktails. The only thing lacking is the zing of wasabi that’s promised in the accompanying mayonnaise. I was quite looking forward to its assault on my tastebuds, but found myself waiting for an attack that never happened.

Brightsmith on the Water

There are just five main courses to choose from. Pancakes or Eggs Benedict for the breakfast lovers, a superfood salad for the people pretending to be health-conscious whilst indulging in their recommended week’s amount of alcohol in 90 minutes, and what to me is the obvious choice – sliders and fries.

The veggie versions are halloumi and for us meat eaters, you can choose between cajun chicken or beef, or a mix. Our first thought when they arrive is that they’re enormous. Forget sliders – these are almost full-size burgers. I’m not one to complain about having too much food, but to some people it might be slightly intimidating.

The second thought is that having three doesn’t seem to make sense. Firstly, because of the size. And secondly because you’re stuck choose two of one and one of the other. Two would make the size easier to handle and make it an easy choice. Or add another style and give us one of each.

Brightsmith on the Water

Size and numbers aside, I’m sad to say the burgers themselves weren’t the best I’ve had. The patties themselves were slightly dry and didn’t particularly pack a punch in terms of flavour, and while the crunchy Asian-style slaw was tasty and fresh, I think the miso that was meant to be in it had perhaps run off into the sunset with the wasabi from our calamari mayo.

That said, this isn’t a burger restaurant or burger specialist. The Midlands has got some of the best burgers around, so these were never going to compete. But they taste fine, and alongside crisp crunchy sweet potato fries are the perfect food to munch through as the support act to an occasion that is all about the booze.

Brightsmith on the Water

Let’s be honest – we’re not here for the best food in the Midlands or the best drinks in Birmingham. There are numerous places just miles away where you can have a top-notch meal, whether it’s a tasting menu you need a mortgage for or a simple street food creation, or carefully-crafted cocktails by some of the nation’s best. If you were looking for that you probably wouldn’t be here at the Hilton Metropole by the NEC.

But if you are here for that you’ve kind of missed the point. This is about booking in with friends for an afternoon of fun that just happens to have some food come along for the ride. The Prosecco is free-flowing – at no point do we have to wait for our glasses to be topped up.

Bottomless cocktails

Being able to have bottomless cocktails too is a bonus. A ‘cherry lollipop’ is saccharine sweet thanks to Disaronno and Midori and while it’s not for me (or most serious cocktail lovers) it’s perfect for this environment. In contrast, a Rhubarb Spritz is light, fresh and fun. Do some of these drinks seem to have been created for the ‘gram? Yes. Am I offended by that? No.

Bottomless brunching isn’t about taking yourself too seriously. It’s about escaping from reality for a few hours (because while your time might run out at 90 minutes, guaranteed you’ll want to stay longer), enjoying the rare bliss of your glass never being empty, laughing too loudly with your friends and embracing the bouji, Ibiza-wannabe atmosphere that will have you feeling like you’re in Birmingham’s answer to a beach club even if it is a cold November weekend in blighty.

Brightsmith on the Water

The 90 minutes comes and goes, but we don’t. We sit gazing out of the window, listening to the very talented sax player adding to the music, talking our way through weeks of catching up that needs to be done, and watching the sun go down over the lake. The location means we then have a waterside walk, do some tipsy shopping (always fun until the next day) then are close enough to the station to get home at a reasonable hour.

I may not be the most experienced bottomless bruncher around, but as they go I think this is a pretty good one. It’s a lovely setting, the food and drinks are more than acceptable for this kind of occasion and the staff are incredibly helpful and welcoming. Nothing was too much trouble and we left feeling exactly as you should after a trip to any restaurant, bar or other hospitality venue – happy.

It’s so easy to get swept up in over-analysing this stuff, but ultimately this bottomless brunch beginner realised why they’re such a popular thing. Because amidst a world full of serious stuff, sometimes it’s okay to just have some fun. And Brightsmith has that in bucketloads.

[Disclosure: We were invited to try the new bottomless brunch offering at Brightsmith on the Water for free for the purposes of this blog]

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