As a good pre night out or post works drinking venue my level of love for the island bar fluctuates by one star each layer deep the queue at the bar is, hence why on average I have to knock one star off this otherwise 5 star spot!
If you get here at early doors for a quick couple after work or for a pre theatre stop off you are certainly in for a winner, situated just outside the core drinking areas of the average brum pubber you can usually be up to the bar, drinks ordered and back to the seat in 5 minutes or less, that is if you can make a choice in that time - you will be spoilt!
Happy hour offers, a full cocktail menu featuring all the major spirits (I often find vodka cocktails are rarer than their gin, rum and whiskey counterparts in some brum venues) and a good selection of draught and bottled ciders and beers all pay dividends to a diverse bar offering a choice for all customers!
If you do drop by here on a Friday or Saturday after about 7pm you will be looking at a bar that is 2-3 deep and may take up to half an hour to get served (as is the nature in time taken to mix cocktails) but this does just show again the fact that people are willing to wait for good quality drinks.
As a final tip - zombies are good if you are looking for a quick start to a messy night but if you are looking for something a little more refined the off the menu espresso martini never disappoints!
The Island bar was the first cocktail bar bought to Birmingham by the Bitters'n'Twisted chain. It was a breath of fresh air when it opened it doors, finally making people accept that Birmingham IS actually cool! Showcasing great internal design with flaring and character, it's no wonder the chain took off so magnificently.
There is a very good selection of cocktails on offer downstairs using all alcohol bases (including a pretty killer Zombie - definitely worth a try). Upstairs is a Tiki themed bar specialising in Rum based cocktails. If you're not in the mood for a mad one, there is a large selection of import beers on offer to impress even the most discerning hophead.
The Happy Hour is very reasonable, offering a wide range of cocktails for the bargainous price of £4 a pop. There are also different nights on with live music and deejays, covering everything from Riotgrrrl to electro music.
When it's not Happy hour, drinks are obviously more pricey, but not massively so (ranging from about 5.50 to 7.50). Friday and Saturday nights are very very busy, meaning there is a great atmosphere - but a long wait for drinks!
I would recommend you visit, worth a try if you've never been!
Late Afternoon Cocktails at Island bar are always excellent. It's not too busy at the start of happy hour so gives you chance to speak to the staff and find out what's new.
It has a real stripped back feel with moulded furniture and cube seats.
Try and plan your session however or you won't make it to dinner.
It's not all about the cocktails. Is it? I've been to @IslandBar many times before but not being much of drinker, watched everyone else drink pretty cocktails whilst secretly feeling smug that I won't have a headache in the morning. Plus being much richer for it, they are so expensive! Don't remember them being this expensive first time around in the late 80s when I did partake.
Now £7 for a drink, one that can be drunk much faster than a beer at half the price seems to be the norm and everyone is going ga-ga over them. So it's great that Island Bar, along with several others are catering for this gloriously indulgent market.
I went a few weeks ago for OxJam and so now I know where the live music happens (upstairs in the Tiki bar, part Hawaiian, part African in decor). I've just been again for more live music and as the bands were running very late (about 90 minutes as it turned out!) we had plenty of time to wait in line for the cocktails. And that's the biggest problem, they take longer than coffee to make! I had a simple Scarlet O'Hara drawn in by the 80's fave Southern Comfort and the BF had a fairly lethal Ain't No Don which the bar tender (what do they call cocktail specialists?) felt needed explaining/warning. Both good.
I overheard him say to the people before us that happy hour had just ended 10 minutes ago (we'd been waiting longer than that).
Clearly this is one of Birmingham's best spots and the staff do most certainly know what they're talking about and love it!
Go if you love cocktails but try and find the 'Happy Hours'.
I want to love Island Bar. Everything about it suggests that I should be it's target demographic - from the cheesy Tiki theme, to the indie music and extensive cocktail menu... but, for no real reason I can put my finger on, I only think it's 'ok'.
The cocktails CAN be great, or they can taste like lighter fluid. (I'm happy to report that most of mine have been on the tasty end of the spectrum... though when drink is involved, I'm aware my ability to objectively reflect upon each beverage decreases exponentially with every drink consumed!)
It's reliably jammed full of people on the weekends, though if the upstairs hasn't been pre-booked for a private party you can normally escape up there to get served more quickly, and possibly even nab a seat! (I'm pretty sure I accidentally crashed someone else's party once as I stumbled tipsily up the stairs and wondered why it wasn't rock'n'roll blasting, and some other vile pop music.. I thought at the time I was getting funny looks because of my inebriated state, though in retrospect I think it may have been because no one knew who I was. Oops!)
Xmas is my favourite time to drink here, as they'll almost certainly have something hot and mulled and alcoholic on. Perfect!
Cocktails? Check. Bands? Check. Good location? Works for me, being right by my boyfriend's flat.
But there's something missing. Part of the fabulous Bitters 'n Twisted group, featuring the Jekyll and Hyde, Victoria, Bodega and Harborne-based New Inn, to me this place just lacks some of the charm of the others.
My favourite part is the upstairs Tiki Tiki bar- part South American (Polynesian) part leather chesterfields, but it isn't always open. It's a nice, relaxed area, but if a band's playing then you have to strain to see them as the stage bizarrely faces the bar.
Downstairs, I don't really know how to say this, but it has the scent of stale and sickly sweet spilled cocktails. I have been here frequently and this isn't a one off observation.. Could just be my over active sense of smell, of course.
Now, the cocktails are generally good, with an extensive and comprehensive offering of anything you want with a special Tiki Tiki menu and some good offers, though the usual fare is relatively expensive (but not off the scale). If you get the right bar person, it will be very good, and many also offer sound advice and great recommendations. I believe that the bar staff often move across the Bitters 'n Twisted group, which is a great idea.
Bands regularly play downstairs and entry is free, but again it feels like they're a bit squashed into a corner. The website also rarely seems to promote what's on unless it's a regular band night.
I Iike the tunes in this place but I just can't warm to the snotty bar staff. Call me old-fashioned (in fact, just call me old), but having your change thrown back at you doesn't feel cool, or ironic, or fun - it just winds people up.
I also think the fact it's a cocktail bar results in some of the beers being an afterthought. For example, they keep the serve-at-room-temperature ales in the fridge !!
The bar staff are mainly male - and more than once I have seen them serve females first, ahead of guys who have been patiently waiting their turn. Pull women on your own time lads, not at work.
Finally (phew, I hear you say) the male toilets are rank. The door into there bumps into people standing at the first urinal. I'm amazed it's legal, it's such a tight space.
Central Birmingham has way more than it's fair share of cheese (and not the tasty mature cheddar kind either). With Broad Street being an absolute write off (first rule of Birmingham nightlife - never ever go to Broad Street, however much it seems like a good idea) and many of the other pubs in the city centre being blander than grey paint drying on a grey wall on a cloudy day, Island Bar does go some way towards upping the ante.
You probably know they have a reputation for being a cocktail bar, and I am happy to say it falls at the less pretentious end of the cocktail bar spectrum. The selection of spirits is particularly impressive, and I've never seen that many rums under one roof before. The staff are very good at doing the whole Tom Cruise routine which is always fun to watch.
And here come the "buts".......it's not cheap in any sense. The upstairs room is available for functions, but the the couple of times I've been up there it's been pretty difficult to get served once the place fills up, one of those situations where however hard the barman works you still end up waiting an unacceptable time for drinks (can we have more bar staff up stairs please?)
Also, even though the cocktails are good, the draft beer and cider can be slightly dodgy.
In conclusion, atmosphere wise it's one of the best bars in the area, but you might want to consider my criticisms before parting with your cash.
I really liked The Island Bar, and would definitely return. That's my review in a nutshell, so if you were just looking for confirmation, you can stop reading now. However, if you're looking for a bit more info about where to go when you're town, carry on.
It's located on the Queensway, just down from the Alexandra Theatre, and across the Queensway from The Mailbox.
Its decor is low-key, friendly and welcoming, with some bright, Islandish fairy and spot lights, teakwood tables outside, and nicely polished floors inside. The space isn't large, but with some clever interior design, they've mentioned to make it feel spacious, with a very casual vibe. Definitely been to many a Hawaiian or Californian bar with a smiliar feel, which is a high compliment from this Valley Girl.
The barman who served us was polite, even though we only came up one an hour to buy two drinks. He even recommended a beer after hearing our tastes, and was smiling and polite to all the customers.
The best thing about Island Bar is its live music, which they have most nights of the week, with the best acts showing on Friday and Saturday.
We didn't get lucky the night we went, which was a Wednesday (anyone noticed all my alliteration? Anyone??), as there was a croony James Morrison type breathing heavily into the microphone. Good for teenage girls, but not for me.
The ambience in the bar is great, it's well-lit, and the bathrooms are clean and well-decorated. With a huge bar and a mellow crowd who can also party a bit hard on the weekends, what's not to love? Get ye down to the Island Bar!
I spent a good while trying to locate The Basement Bar, having heard about it repeatedly by people whose tastes carry a lot of weight with me. On the occasion I thought I'd finally found the place, I couldn't be certain due to the fact it doesn't have its name splashed across the front. Moreover, it happened to be closed at the time.
When I finally got to visit The Basement properly, I tentatively made my way inside and was to be greeted by one of the more unusual bars I've been to in the area. The first thing that struck me was how much smaller the place was than I had been expecting. The modest bar constitutes about half the length of the room, and there is seating for perhaps forty people at the most. The best comparison I can give is if you imagine taking the upstairs and downstairs rooms of the Sunflower Lounge and placing them end to end, you're in the right ball park. The drink selection is decent, not to mention extremely reasonably priced.
The interior is quite dark and grungy, but in a good way. Mirrors give the place a more spacious feel, and the decor and music give the place an overwhelmingly punky, rock 'n' roll identity. I'm told that the management recently started putting on live bands, something which at first glance the venue seems perfectly suited for. Assuming their PA is up to scratch, I can see some truly raucous epic gigs taking place here. Well worth a visit.
Edit: I've altered this (previously 4-star) review since the Basement Bar no longer exists (my review still stands - it was great). Someone keeps moving my review to the Island Bar though, so I might as well let them have it along with this 1-star score and see if they still want it.
This is a cocktail bar unlike most! It's very relaxed with an indie-style vibe, and regular live music. They have open - mic nights on Tuesdays (I think!) and live music on other nights - sometimes they have DJs in their big room upstairs, which you can also hire out for private events with cocktail-making lessons!
Another lovely feature of this bar is, on Monday and Wednesday nights they leave out lots of different board games which you are free to sit and play!
Oh, almost forgot to mention their drinks! Cocktails are fab - they even have happy hour from 5-7 on weeknights when they're on by one get one free. Also they do an amazing spiced rum there which is delicious, in a whole range of different flavours.
Full review with pictures: yetanothergin.co.uk/inde…
This is one of the few places in Birmingham that bills itself as a cocktail bar (and rock and roll bar). It's certainly a bit different from what some people might believe a cocktail bar should look like with its funky interior, and rock&roll vibe.
Though a quick look at the bar, and of the menu show you one thing. Cocktails are the main thing on the menu, sure there are some bottle and draft beers but well you may not receive the warmest of welcome if that's all you are after. [That said, there are times when some bartenders do look like they really don't want to make a cocktail, and would rather pour you a lager].
The cocktail menu is divided up into five sections Classics & Neo-Classics, Crowd Pleasers, Affordable Pleasure, Spring Specials, and of course Island Inventions.
A quick look at the Island Inventions shows some ingenuity, as well as explaining the presence of the vast amount of homemade creations stocked in the bar (from their own bloody mary mix, basil gin to spiced rum)
The staff can vary, but usually it's easy to spot who the good bartenders are, happy to be making multiple drinks at a time, and pleasing the customers with a bit of chit-chat. If you don't find something you want on the menu (which covers most the bases), then they'll be happy to make you something off the cuff. The staff are knowledgeable, and it shows.
Back to that menu though, it's great they are showing some of their own creations on it; but with a bar with such skill should they be serving a Mojito, or a Pina Colada. Has the Mojito not died it's death yet?
The bar has a quirky feel with murals on the wall, and a slightly chaotic atmosphere especially when their 'happy hour' (5-8PM Every Day) finishes, which means that cocktails are no longer £3.50 and 'jump up' to normal prices which are a very reasonable £5-7.
If you like a cocktail, this is certainly a place to visit. Unfortunately the atmosphere may not be for everyone. It is a nice joint for a cocktail. It is not a high-class dinner jacket and dress environment. More of an indie/cool/trendy cocktail crowd.
The other good news is that they have a Tiki bar upstairs, a TIKI bar in Birmingham! That's for another day though.
More reviews at YetAnotherGin.co.uk
I once declared this "the happiest place in Birmingham". I may have been a wee bit tipsy at the time, but I will stick with that assessment.
Nestled between The Alexandra Theatre and Chop 'n' Wok, Island Bar is a free-wheeling indie cocktail bar. The downstairs bar may have sticky floors and the toilets might be a tad basic, but who cares when the DJ is blasting classic Brit pop and the bartenders are shamelessly showing off their flaring skills? The drinks are an absolute blast - the menu is organised into themed categories, including the eighties, sweet stuff, tiki and classics. You'll catch me ordering the Boston Sour with egg white - an amaretto based drink that somehow reminds me of Haribo Tangfastics (yes, my palate is that refined...).
Upstairs you'll find the tropical Tiki Bar, which regularly hosts cocktail masterclasses, live music and alternative clubnights. The rum selection is excellent and the tiki cocktails are worryingly potent.
This is THE place for a night of unpretentious good fun and rediscovering your inner student.
I find that Island Bar isn't the type of place I would go out of my way to go to for drinks as the prices for cocktails and beers there are, I find as a student, highly priced. I would however, go there for the entertainment and flaring that the bartenders perform as part of the Island Bar experience. Each and every bartender there are very good at their job and service to entertain and serve, so if you have a fair bit of money to splash on cocktails and amusement I would definitely recommend going to Island Bar. They also hold a venue above called Tiki Bar for events such as band gigs or hen parties, which is helpful for anyone with an upcoming birthday or an occasion worth celebrating. I find that both Island Bar and Tiki Bar has a great location as it's only a five-minute walk from Birmingham's busy Broad Street strip or Birmingham's city centre itself.
As a sister venue to the Victoria, Bodega and the rest it has all the makings of a cool, independent bar to chill and hang out with your mates, and it is to a degree. With it's Tiki trappings the decor can't help to hit your retro hearts but whilst many love its cocktails and I can honestly say it's swings and roundabouts. Whenever there are holiday offers on expect long cues and cocktails always take time to make but between the fail flaring and the long wait the cocktail you get served whilst drinkable will never be the best you've tasted. You won't have a bad time here but it'll never be the best night out ever.
Kooky and cool. Nice different blend of music. And awesome cocktails. I liked going to the Atta Girl nights especially.
go between 5-7 and get buy one get one free cocktails!! Really though the cocktails are so good, made from proper fruit with professional staff!! Clean well designed bar and can hire the upstairs for a little intimate party for free!! (Well so long as you spend £750 behind bar!) Perfect for drinks before a show at the alex!
This place was voted Best Bar in Birmingham 2007, as well as Best Cocktail Bar and you can see why - the guys really know their stuff and the cocktails are delicious and v. reasonably priced. They also have live music during the week and dj's at the weekend - all free entry.
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