Cafe Opus – Brindley Place
Cafe Opus is the little sister of a chain of three Opus venues in Birmingham: Bar Opus, Opus restaurant, and this, the Cafe version. Cafe Opus sits on the ground floor of the Ikon Gallery, housed in an ornate old Victorian building with huge floor to ceiling windows and seating spilling out on to the Oozels Square plaza in front. At the moment, one of the owl sculptures from the Big Hoot charity trail, raising money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital, perches serenely just outside the front door. It is a beautifully calm and picturesque setting. It must be a surreal place to visit to those who knew this area in the 1970s before regeneration turned it into a vision of al fresco dining and water-featured squares.
Inside, the designers have taken their lead from the huge windows, and the inside is washed with light and clean lines. They have some amazingly constructed chairs in the classic contemporary colours yellow and grey whose geometric shapes are surprisingly comfortable, echoing the paint and geometric print wallpaper colour choices. Wherever you sit, your eyes are drawn to the windows, either to gaze out over the square, or to admire the delicately arched windows to the sides.
Table service is the order of the day here, and the friendly waitress soon came to take out order. Tea came, in a jauntily coloured tea pot. Cafe Opus is excellent for tea and cake – the row of delicious-looking cakes under glass domes were truly tempting – but we focussed on our all-day brunch options on the menu instead.
The food arrived promptly. The full English was standard fare, including all the elements you would expect, as well as the option to choose between bread or toast on the side. Unfortunately, such is the high standard of breakfast in Birmingham, the ingredient quality fell (very slightly) flat. For two pounds more than the breakfast in the Lord Clifden or the Red Lion for example, the sausages are of definitely inferior quality. The mushrooms were very good, rich and flavoursome.
When the eggs Benedict arrived I was happy to see here is a dish that uses ham, rather than the seemingly-everywhere bacon. I enjoy ham with eggs Benedict, and this was a lovely thick example: perfect. The eggs were little and round, and I enjoyed the dish thoroughly. Not being very observant, it wasn’t until later I realised there is something terribly wrong with this dish. Notice anything?
No muffins! The piece of toast was crunchy and thick and very nice, but surely a key ingredient of eggs Benedict is a lovely toasted English muffin? I felt curiously let down. To compensate, the hollandaise sauce was the lightest I have had anywhere in Birmingham. Check out the air bubbles in this:
The toilets are in the main gallery, so you have to leave the cafe and pass by the gallery shop to find them. If you get a chance at this point, take a quick ride in the singing lift, a lift wired to a recording of a choir singing up the scale (as you ascend) and down again (as you descend): it is surprisingly engaging, I promise! There is a definitely airport vibe to these loos, with the metal built in toilet roll dispensers and other devices. Lots of cubicles to choose from, and many a mirror: full length as well if you need to check any details of your outfit in the entirety.
As you leave Cafe Ikon, little details may catch your eye. By the door, a collection of branded rugs are available, a brilliant idea if you want to sit outside but the temperature is down.
And finally, a wall displays the poetic products of ‘Cut Up Club’, a meeting in the cafe to cut up words from books and newspapers and create poetry. Many were long and beautiful (some were pretty explicit), but this one, short, sweet, and topical, caught my eye:
Price: midrange: £21.40 for eggs Benedict (£6.95), a full English (£8.95), coca cola (£3) and a pot of English breakfast tea (£2.50). 10% discount with an Independent Birmingham card.
Atmosphere and design: light, bright, modern, artistically inspired, quiet and serene atmosphere
Food: very standard
Toilets: clean, efficient, many
Enjoyment: good service, great location, fantastic setting