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Breakfast in Brum

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Audrey makes do at Tiffany & Co. I think we can do better.

I know it seems hard to fathom how this would happen to any self-respecting girly-girl, but until the age of 18, I had no idea that Tiffany & Co wasn’t a restaurant or a greasy spoon.

The very concept of not being able to have breakfast there scrambled my brain. All was made clear when I actually watched Breakfast At Tiffany’s just prior to my first trip to New York, and I duly went to Tiffany’s (what a snotty staff they have but what lovely, lovely things), bought my first piece and started a collection of lovely, lovely things. I still wish you could actually have a fry-up there though!

Because Brum, with its plethora of nightlife demands a good hangover breakfast. The foggy-headed and unwashed need sustenance on a Saturday/ Sunday morning, just as the healthy need their granola and the ladies who brunch need a suitable venue. In London, I’ve noticed they have this well and truly covered in every neighbourhood. Not that it is perfect – for every Purple Cow in Streatham there is a Tooting-based VERY greasy spoon covered in black mould. Yet Birmingham doesn’t have obvious choices in the city centre (kudos to suburbs like Selly Oak and Moseley for having the requisite greasy-spoon coverage). And what lies there is not necessarily up to snuff.

So in the spirit of adventure, the husband and I have suited up our delicate stomachs every Saturday morn for the past two months to find the best brekkie in the city centre.

The Criteria for our search:

Each venue has to be within a 10 minute walk from our home. Otherwise you are starving and angry. And that wouldn’t do, would it?

The Brasshouse, Broad Street

Pretty forgettable fry-up here (you know the sort, plastic sausages, watery bacon, sachets of brown sauce) mostly ruined by the loud music which was obviously left on the same volume from the night before. The Brasshouse is a strange place; it looks and feels like Witherspoons/ Whitbread/ hotel restaurant, has no discernible character yet seems to think it is a destination pub and enforces a ridiculous dress policy (no trainers, no hats etc) from ridiculous o’clock in the afternoon. You are a restaurant that serves generic beer. Understand that and treat your customers better.

Coffee Lounge

Not having a photo of Coffee Lounge to hand, you’ll just have to imagine it resembles this beautiful 1903 pic of the Flatiron building in New York.

This place is situated in a Flatiron-style Building on the corner of Stephenson Street and Navigation, making it a bit of an unnecessary trek for us BUT if you are taking a morning train journey, it is handily situated by the Victoria Sq entrance to New St station and if you show your ticket, breakfast is 10% cheaper! The breakfast is fine (they even deliver if you’re in the city centre) as is the coffee, the staff are friendly and there is a big screen TV showing the news or sport. Downstairs in the basement, there is a Tardis-like eating space. The loo is a bit weird though; unisex but not very clean and with a strange door that gives the illusion someone could walk in at any moment. Overall, pretty good.

JuJus, Canal Sq, Browning Street

Had high-hopes for this little place as it has come top of the Trip Advisor poll in Brum. It is quite off the beaten track (unless you have a penthouse on Sherbourne Wharf) but easily accessible by water bus. The modern canalside location means there is a light, airy feel which is lovely the morning-after. The restaurant seems immaculate and there are all manner of breakfast dishes. My breakfast hash came served in a frying pan (nice touch) but alas it contained a blond hair (obviously not one of ours) and the eggs weren’t fully cooked. The husband (who was in an especially grumpy mood that day) didn’t like the coffee and had to ask for the very loud music to be turned down. Despite there being hardly anyone in the place (maybe it’s more of a lunch/evening destination), the cheerful service took a rather long time and we left with an underwhelmed feeling. We weren’t sure if they were just resting on their laurels but having so much potential, Ju-Ju’s could do better.

The Figure of Eight, Broad Street

The Figure of Eight’s beer garden.

Yes it’s a Witherspoons pub but that means you get a lot of food for not very much money. We’ve been back here a few times (it’s the closest breakfast joint to our house) and had a full English along with some of their brunch offerings. The food always arrives piping hot, the staff don’t mind if you specify what eggs you would like (even though the menu doesn’t give a choice) and the throngs of hungover party animals that turn up from 11am onwards are very grateful and slowly come back to life before your eyes. Music is not turned on. Coffee is OK. Stick to the English breakfast dishes – I was disappointed by their attempt at Eggs Benedict.

The Floating Coffee Company, Brindley Place

Tried this one last week. The breakfast here is all day (hooray) and there is FILTER COFFEE (hurrah). The food is hot and as my husband pointed out, there’s a lot on the plate, plus toast (yay). The sausages aren’t too bad either. The only things that go against this place are the lack of toilet facilities (you have to go to the ICC across the bridge) and the constant motion, especially when the water bus goes past. It could be an uncomfortable experience after a night out with no bathroom to escape to should it all prove too much. Yet I do like this place. The tiny interior is charming and clean and there is a sense of camaraderie among the diners.

The Canalside Cafe, Gas St Basin

The Canalside is a lovely place to stop in on a walk along the basin. It does cute, hearty veggie dishes and has a retro bistro feel. However, our breakfasts here have been lukewarm and sparse. The bangers are quite ‘plasticky’ and the cafe noticeably cold (it was in the winter), which is a shame because it’s close-by and and a place that does so well on basic, good grub. Hope they can remedy this.

Cafe Gusto, The Mailbox

This place reminds me of being closest to a London breakfast joint. There are papers laid our to read, coffee to go (not FILTER mind), and a myriad of breakfast options. There is allegedly free broadband but this has been on the blink the past few times I’ve been there. Breakfast is OK (the curse of plastic bangers again) and I often leave over-stuffed. Music is low and there is not much chance of being bothered by hungover clubbers which is a good thing. A place to go and read or blog over your breakfast.

Overall, we are still not sure we’ve found our breakfast place yet. Whilst Brum can (just about) manage a decent fry-up, there is precious little in the way of brunch choices (although I’m investigating that this weekend). Maybe I’ve been spoiled by all the American diners and pancake houses I’ve been to which take brunch and even the basic fry-up to an art-form. And whilst some places realize that prompt service and not poking sleeping bears (i.e. the hungover) is the key to giving good breakfast, many of the cafes around Broad St need to understand that breakfast does not demand the atmosphere of a thumping nightclub (witness the demise of Miss Latte). Listen to your customers’ needs.

Miss Latte – Birmingham’s indie breakfast joints aren’t cutting the mustard and the chains are sopping up the leftovers.

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