Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spirit of Place: Mister Egg

I see that this is not the only food place I have blogged about here (I'm obviously being selective and sticking to the ones which in some way embody the spirit of place rather than merely reviewing the food, since I've previously blogged about the equally legendary Koh-i-Noor). In fact these two eateries seem to embody the Birmingham thing by repeatedly coming back from the dead, reinvigorated. You see, if you haven't been down Hurst Street this week, I have to break the news to you that the latest incarnation of Mister Egg has closed. But not to worry, the people who run Happy Lemon next door have taken it over and are reopening it as, erm, Mister Egg.
Yes that's right, Mister Egg is turning Chinese. Happy Lemon is always heaving with customers, but I hope they know what they're taking on, with the frankly mixed spirit of the Mister Egg brand/egregore. It's actually rather difficult to know where to start so in true witch tradition, I'll steal loads of information and keep anything that doesn't run away. Mister Egg has been part of many a night out or weekend away:
Roger and I had a fantatsic weekend in Birmingham this weekend; Joseph, Donny Osmond, Joan Collins, Mr Egg, Boots, Simon Pegg, the Fountain, the canal, Harvey Nic's, the Nightingale, the sunshine, Dr Aktins, Eurovision, the new bullring - it was almost like Amsterdam. Almost. Source
Danny Smith manages to say almost exactly what I mean about Mister Egg, just more elegantly:
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. Source
In a rare piece of social history I am delighted to have found a video on the internet of the clientele, so that this legend is captured forever (now watch Inexplicable Device comment on the accents lol) Source:

It seems that this latest closure is just one of many very mixed events in Mister Egg's existence. In 2003 and 2004 it polled among the favourite greasy spoons nationally. In 2009, it was closed by environmental health. Also in 2009 thirteen customers were assaulted by the owner with concentrated vinegar: as a result of this, Mr Egg lost its late night license in 2010. The then owner was jailed in 2011 (my sources for these dates are various articles in the Mail and the Post).
I really wish Mr Egg with a Chinese flavour great success. So let's end with a suitably Birmingham song in Mr Egg's honour.


  1. I would think any spirit in that place was banished there as punishment for unspeakable evil?

    As for that video, I didn't understand a word of it. Subtitles would be in order, it seems... ;)

    1. Thank you for coming up trumps :-)

    2. Glad I could oblige.

      Or does this just mean I'm a predictable and easily baited...?


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