The Mailbox, Birmingham
Written by Trevor Baker
Britain’s second city used to be known for its canals, heavy industry, and Indian restaurants, but the refurbishment of luxury mall The Mailbox represents its more glamorous side.
“When I first arrived in Birmingham,” says Liu, “The Mailbox was the place I loved the most. I love the shops because you don’t need to go like this (mimes shoving other shoppers out of the way with his elbows). And you have lots of cafés and restaurants at the back, with a wonderful canal view, which illustrates the history of the city.”
Liu says that his favourite shop is the classic English tailor Gieves & Hawkes (gievesandhawkes.com). “It’s an extremely historic British brand which is known for its tailoring, cutting, and material,” he explains. “But 10 years ago they started innovating and trying to turn their very old English look into something with a modern twist. I love their designs and the salespeople are fantastic.”
He also loves The Mailbox for its “teeny, tiny cinema” Everyman Cinema (everymancinema.com), the “chic” Malmaison Hotel (malmaison.com), and its restaurants. He names the tapas bar Bar Estilo (barestilo.co.uk) and Italian Zizzi (zizzi.co.uk) whose salad is “a bowl of heaven!” as particularly worth checking out.
His greatest enthusiasm, however, is reserved for celebrity chef Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse Bar & Grill (mpwrestaurants.co.uk), at the top of the complex’s avant-garde tower The Cube, not just for the food but also for the ambience and the views.
“Most people don’t know that if you climb to the top floor and look out across Birmingham, towards Edgbaston, you see how pretty it is. So many trees,” Liu says. “There are views all around, so from the other side you can see the new library, the old buildings, and the whole of the city.”
Even without its designer stores and restaurants, though, Liu says The Mailbox has a charm that you don’t find anywhere else.
“I love the canal,” he says. “Sunday after lunch I take my dog and we have a three-hour walk. It’s my most therapeutic time. That’s when I can do my thinking.”
Originally from Chongqing in southwest China, Fei Liu came to study at Birmingham’s School of Jewellery when he was 23 and never left. In 2006 he set up a jewellery design company and his work, as well as winning 28 major international awards, has been seen glinting under the spotlights at the Emmy and Golden Globe Awards in the company of actresses Eva Longoria and Betsy Brandt, among others.
Distance: 5,364 km
Flight Time: 7 hours, 20 minutes
Frequency: Eight-times weekly