Birmingham: It’s Not Shit — Reason No. 8: Mr Egg

We all know that Birmingham isn’t shit. We’ve spent nearly 20 years telling people, showing the world, and often undermining our case. In our new book we lay out the ineffable reasons why we say ‘Birmingham: it’s not shit’ and attempt to eff it. Mr Egg has had a spate of attention during the huge omelette of activity that is the Commonwealth games, so we thought we’d share our meditation on the meaning of it to Brum.

Mr Egg is not what it was, or rather it never was what we thought it was. The idea of Mr Egg and the reality have just drifted further apart.

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Danny Smith: Is Mr Egg beaten?

Mr Egg is closed, and it seems only partly related to undiluted catering vinegar thrown into drunk peoples eyes. But be it through mad chefs or vermin in the cupboards, I’m not surprised it has happened; I’m surprised it took so long.

Mr Egg is a Birmingham institution (and not just because there’s a rat in the kitchen), it’s something rare in Birmingham — independent. It’s  a lot like the sixties, if you can remember it you were never there, god knows no sane person would eat there sober. If pushed I can remember the giant cloth egg on the ceiling and the overpowering smell of grease. Just walking past has always a barometer of the current economic climate ‘EAT LIKE A KING FOR 50p’ declared the sign, and then in my teenage years ‘EAT LIKE A KING FOR £1’, a little later when the gay community settled down the road ‘EAT LIKE A QUEEN FOR £1.50’.


It seems to have survived due to clever marketing, location and cheap prices. The food itself was on the whole, greasy slop served on dirty plates. I like to think that the custom came from late night diners being loyal to an independent brand and making the choice to eat refried sausages and burnt beans rather than hand money over to the McCorps. In reality it was probably just due to drunken convenience of it being a short stagger away from the nightclubs on Hurst St, a place once described as ‘a cross between a Roman Vomitorium and a Bosch painting’. By me, just then.

Will Mr Egg reopen? I’m not sure, but what I do know from ten years working in the pub trade is exactly how hard it is to be closed down for health reasons. Sure, it’s a threat that’s used a lot, but you could introduce a giant radioactive cancer rat wiping his balls on individual fish fingers to the visiting EHO, and not be served anything more than a stern telling off. I retch at the thought of what was going on for the closure notice to happen.

But drunk people don’t care, if anything it adds to the myth of the place and brings in a new element of danger to eating there. And if giving dysentery to a few shaven headed Neanderthals stumbling out of Reflex is the price we pay for an independent and unhomogenised Birmingham – it’s a small price indeed.

The opinions of Danny Smith do not necessarily reflect the views of the publishers of this blog, its affiliates, or any sane adult human beings. He currently lives in your cupboard, watching, always watching.