The Edwardian Tearooms, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
The Edwardian tea rooms are the most showstopping brunch place in Birmingham.
In a vast room lit from above by an enormous skylight over an delicate green iron balcony railings, you imagine yourself cast back the history of La Belle Epoque. Massive wallpapered on pictures of Edwardian women in their most beautiful S bend corsets, frothy blouses, and voluminous hairstyles form a backdrop to a more modern lunch crowd and encourage you to feel you have left the hurly burly of the building works outside for a more beautiful, more peaceful moment of your day.
It is beautiful and relaxing, but not stuffy. The mishmash of booths, squashy chairs, tables and the soft play area just outside had attracted a varied crowd on the day we visited: dads with their babies, couples of all ages, family groups. All are here, and in contrast to some coffee shops where the atmosphere is quiet, laptops and phones everywhere, in the Edwardian tearooms people are talking and chatting away. It feels like a place for socialising. The teapots are obviously designed to facilitate much chat, as they are huge and could fuel a whole afternoon of chat on their own.
And the food is delicious.
I had salmon and scrambled eggs on brioche toast and it was heavenly. The scrambled eggs were light as air, and well-seasoned, and the brioche toast was a floaty lovely delight.
The full English came with butter for the toast in adorable balls served up in Kilner jars. The bacon was particularly nice, and the whole was heavy on the black pudding. The meat eating aspect of a full English is inescapable in this version: with no arty foliage to pretty it up, this is a plate of protein, undisguised.
The toilets are the only jarring note here. The closest ones are quite a walk back through the gift shop, and while the tearooms have had lavish attention paid to their decoration, the toilets show the age of the museum – grimy walls, basic airport sanitary ware, stuffed into a tiny unnoticed corner. You can’t blame a museum for spending all the money on the cafe though, when the results are so spectacular.
I don’t want to end on the toilets, because the tearooms are so lovely. In the side booths, you read that you can settle yourselves in, and add a final touch of luxury to your visit. Press the champagne button and a waiter will come over to take you through the champagne choices, and personally deliver your fizz. It would be obscene at an ordinary brunch, but one day when there is something to celebrate, we’ll be back…
Price: mid-range, £8.95 for a full English, £8.50 for salmon and eggs
Atmosphere and design: a celebration of La Belle Epoque with beautiful luxury everywhere
Food: classic dishes beautifully cooked
Toilets: grimy and basic, untouched by the luxury of the cafe, but functional nonetheless
Enjoyment: a wonderful, wonderful place to visit