The Coffee Lounge – Navigation Street
Today, after years of roadworks and chaos and pedestrian traffic snarl-ups, the nasty, dark, concrete box that was Birmingham New Street Station regenerated as Grand Central Birmingham. The new station is vast and curved and full of light and mirrors, a futuristic vision in white and chrome. Our brunch venue today had to tie in with a tour of this fantastic new gateway to Birmingham: the independent venue The Coffee Lounge has for years occupied the sharp edge of the triangular building immediately in front of you as you exit the station into the city. Its target market is rail passengers and commuters, and it offers a 10% discount on all food if you show your railway tickets. Today, we were rail tourists, and it seemed the perfect destination.
There is a small amount of upstairs seating with views out over the station. In previous years, this would have been a grim view, and today the mirror-cladding is still not quite complete here, but when the external sides of Grand Central are fully complete, this will be a great view over the swirling curling shapes of the new station. As it is, it’s brilliant for people watching.
Given the varying needs of travelers who come through here, the menu is very full, offering everything from teacakes to tortillas to lasagna and homemade cakes. The chalk boards are loaded with tasty sounding treats, but we were here for the brunch, and our order was accordingly predictable.
Tea came in the biggest mug I’ve ever been served, and it’s add your own milk from the jaunty jugs at the self-service centre. Perfect for the thirsty traveler in need of a comfort cuppa.
The full English came with particularly well-reviewed hash browns, cut very thin and cooked very crispy. No mushrooms, as is common in many other versions of this breakfast in the city, but everything was evocatively described as ‘very nice’ in this dish.
The Coffee Lounge offers a range of sourdough hot rolls, which got an excellent review. The bread – ‘easier to digest than normal bread’ the menu told us – was beautifully textured, and the sausage and eggs were done perfectly. A super toasty treat, and I imagine a great energiser after a taxing train ride.
The toilets are in the basement, through a much bigger area of seating, so even if it looks full above (and there were a number of people seated downstairs while we were there), you can still find a seat below. The toilets themselves were rather grim: only one functional cubicle, loo roll on the floor, a filthy sanitary bin jammed partly open. Luckily, the soap and drier were working perfectly. A bit of a downer end to a great breakfast.
Price: midrange: £15.45 -Premium sausage and egg sourdough roll (£5.20) full English (£5.75), cup of tea (£2), coca cola (£2.50)
Atmosphere and design: practical and easy clean (presumably to process lots of train-users quickly), buzzy
Food: tasty, warming and filling; love the sourdough hot rolls
Toilets: limited, not very clean
Enjoyment: social setting great for people watching and getting a tasty, reasonably-priced bite to eat on the go