Marmalade – in Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Broad Street
Since the bistro in the front of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre has reopened after the recent theatre revamp, it has had at least three different makeovers. As a result, it keeps projecting a sort of quiet desperation to be liked. The current iteration is definitely the best to date, and more importantly, the breakfast is the best yet, so possibly the endless makeover obsession has worked: finally, I love Marmalade.
Unfortunately, that A frame is made of lies, as ‘sexy toast’ was not on offer today (the outrage), but the rest of the breakfast was nice enough to console me. The bistro wraps around the front of the Rep building, offering views across Centenary Square to the old Municipal Bank opposite and the bulk of Symphony Hall on the right. It’s a great location to sit an feel smug about what a great city Birmingham is to live in.
Inside, the current decor is a sort of luxury-quirky. The bar is fantastically lit so that it looks like a delightful jewel box of decadent cocktails waiting to happen. The semi-circular booths are perfect for spreading out the weekend papers. The chairs are heavy and covered with lovely wool fabrics, and the light fittings look pricey as hell. The walls, in contrast, are decorated by facetious quotations from children’s books.
Tea comes in a pot big enough for two cups, although the cups themselves are curiously budget for the chic surroundings, reminiscent more than anything of church coffee mornings.
Sometimes, eating eggs Benedict all the time, they can start to blur into each other. This is a version of the dish that makes you remember how absolutely delicious eggs Benedict is as a dish. The muffin was as English muffiny as it could be. Both eggs were massive and perfectly runny yolky. The sauce was creamy and thick without being over-powering, and the ham thick and good quality.
It’s only a small breakfast menu, and the full English comes in disguise as this breakfast muffin dish. But most of the key ingredients are there: egg. bacon, mushroom, tomato, toast (in the form of a muffin), and a slightly random bonus slice of cheese. The cheese sets it apart from other breakfasts though; so far, in all full English experiments, a slice of square cheese is a new addition. Very highly reviewed all round.
And finally, to the toilets, which are actually the toilets of the Rep. This gives them an advantage over other cafe toilets, as they are not limited by space. There is a seemingly endless row of chic-ly grey cubicles set against a mosaic wall, with a corresponding number of sinks with well lit mirrors. Three retired ladies were fixing their already-immaculate hair and makeup at these mirrors when I went in, fitting the upmarket ambiance. They were baffled when I started taking pictures. That explains the dodgy quality.
Price: surprisingly cheap: £15.25 for a Marmalade muffin, eggs Benedict (only £4.95), tea and a coke.
Atmosphere and design: luxury chic, with a quirky touch
Food: perfectly delicious, although limited breakfast menu. And no ‘sexy toast’ despite the sign.
Toilets: plentiful, chic grey, mosaic walls
Enjoyment: perfect place for a quiet brunch before grabbing some culture in the Rep, Symphony Hall, or the Ikon Gallery