Lewis’s Independent Cafe and Restaurant, 11 St Mary’s Row, Moseley, B13 8HW
Why go out for breakfast? To socialise? To fuel up before a day out? And sometimes, for the food, which must bring something special to the table when a full English doesn’t actually give a chef much opportunity for creativity. Remember that Heston Blumenthal TV show where he went to Little Chef – this one actually – and revamped all the dishes in haute cuisine style? All the patrons were super grumpy: they just wanted their Olympic breakfast back untouched. A full English is a full English and no messing is needed.
So it speaks very highly of a breakfast when people will queue through the door for over half an hour at 10am on a rainy December morning.
On the crossroads in the centre of Moseley, Lewis’s sits unromantically and unobtrusively in the middle of a row of shops, cars squeezing down the slip road in front, and the A frame squashed up against the frontage. It doesn’t seem to need curb appeal though. Its reputation spread across myriad round-ups of the best breakfast in Birmingham, it was easily the most crowded place we’ve ever had breakfast. A queue of eight to ten people crammed themselves just inside the door the entire time we were there. Moseley has plenty of other breakfast venues; the queue told us before the food even arrived that we were to get something pretty good.
Inside, it is a hipster paradise of reused packing crates for storage, menus displayed on brown paper rolls, wide wooden tables, and a cosy, welcoming atmosphere. The staff dashed around like mad things, but seemed a bit overwhelmed; they lost our drinks temporarily, and the wait for the food is long. Lewis’s is a contradictory place, as the slow service makes you think you’d be well off bringing the paper and making a morning of it, yet the queue by the door surely makes you want to whip through your meal and give someone else a turn. I had Moroccan mint tea, which seems to be super on-trend at the moment, and when it finally arrived, it was lovely.
The other thing that was lovely about Lewis’s was the other patrons, who I don’t think I’ve ever noticed adding to the experience before. When we arrived, a woman volunteered to move to a smaller table so we could have a seat. Later, on our giant table, we were joined by four lovely people who’d left their children at home to go out for a morning catch up. They were so friendly, and great fans of Lewis’s. One of the queue-ers was someone I know from work. To chat to strangers, to see people pass that you know: somehow, Lewis’s makes you feel part of a community in a way you very rarely experience in the heart of a city like Birmingham.
The actual food was heavenly. Eggs Benedict, with perfectly poached eggs, just the right oozy softness, was a treat. The hollandaise was delicious and just the right amount, adding to the tastiness without overwhelming it. This is a bacon eggs Benedict, and the bacon was a crumbly, crunchy, flavoursome delight. Warming and filling and just a treat.
The full English also came with perfectly poached eggs, and thus Lewis’s position as an excellent place for breakfast was confirmed. No baked beans, which is obviously unusual, but the potato rosti was a very nice addition instead. You can add all kinds of other personal choices, including, here, halloumi. Yum.
There is only one little toilet in Lewis’s, tucked away out the back. It is significantly less polished than the main floor, just a functional loo, plenty of soap and paper towels. A vintage mirror on a chain and the tin Thomas Crapper sign gesture in the direction of hipsterism. Of course, there is a packing crate on the wall for the loo roll.
Price: mid-range – £9.95 for any breakfast, juice, and hot drink
Atmosphere and design: vintagey wooden crates, brown paper and Annie Sloan paint galore
Food: great ingredients, cooked brilliantly; classic breakfast dishes
Toilets: just the one
Enjoyment: fab food, great for people watching, and feeling part of the local community. Just be aware you might have to wait!