48 Soda Bread Cafe: hipster greasy spoon brunch

Soda Bread, corner of St Paul’s Square and Ludgate Hill

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Soda Bread opened a week ago on the corner of Ludgate Hill by St Paul’s Square. It’s a great location; the beautiful building faces out onto the green spaces of St Paul’s, while away to the left stretches the direct walk way to the city centre. The building is historic and lovely, high ceilings complemented by cool grey walls and bright white mouldings, with just an old-fashioned clock and an enormous red photograph of the Beatles drinking tea to set the scene. For some reason it reminded me of a Polish milk bar.img_20161001_122030

Inside, small square tables are topped with recycled flooring – floor taken from the weight lifting venue at the 2012 Olympics, the proprietor tells us. Plain unfinished pine stools cluster around, with the essential row of bar stools at the bar by the wall for the single diner. Incongruously for what is so far a classic greasy spoon in a nicer-than-normal location, a large fridge full of craft beer and wine sits by the door. The wine is apparently sourced from Connolly’s, a high end local supplier; a surprising touch in a cafe charging so little for food, and that closes at 4pm every day.

Coffee and tea are served in plain Lavazza branded cups. No tea pots here. The milk comes in a mini-milk bottle which appears to be communal: it is whisked away later for another diner. The drinks were brought to the table, but the stirrers are self-service, which added a slight confusion. The coffee is standard in a disappointing way.

The full English has basic ingredients and a correspondingly cheap price: £4.50 including one round of toast. The egg – the acid test – was well-cooked, being just about runny.

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One treat here which elevates the menu slightly. French bread is brought in daily from Maison Mayci in Kings Heath. Thus, the sausage and egg baguette was delicious, the bread fresh and crisp and chewy in all the right ways. In fact, there are a lot of bread options here; on the menu, you can choose white, brown, crusty, or brand-specified Hovis or Warburtons (who would ever choose Warburtons from that choice??), as well as the Maison Mayci baguettes.

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They do also serve croissants, although these and other pastries are not from Maison Mayci, probably understandably so as the French pastries are one of Maison Mayci’s main draws and I imagine they would be reluctant to have them sold under another banner.

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The toilets are sparklingly clean and bright, although suffering from what seems to be a recurrent Birmingham problem at the moment: no sanitary bins. Is it a common problem with new venues that the sanitary bins are always delivered late? Bizarre.

In summary:

Price: cheap eats: £4.50 for a full English, £3.50 for a two ingredient baguette, £1.50 for a croissant

Atmosphere and design: clean and airy, classic grey and white colour scheme with plain wood furniture and a single pic of the Beatles in red for relief.

Food: plain and simple, but Maison Mayci fancy baguettes as an option

Toilets: clean and functional, no sanitary bins

Enjoyment: very friendly proprietor and a lovely location to pop into for a cheap and cheerful breakfast

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