51 Cafe Neo: cafe for the community brunch (with bonus surprise)

Cafe Neo, 87 Spencer St, Birmingham B18 6DE

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Cafe Neo turned out to be a big surprise. It has an unassuming frontage, one of a row of red brick buildings with the Jewellers Arms on one end. It is set back a bit from the main Jewellery Quarter shops and attractions, and always seems quiet. The cars inevitably parked in front further block it off.

It turned out to be a treat.

It’s tiny inside, with just enough space for four small tables, a well-stocked drinks fridge and snacks shelf, and the hot plate. The menu options – plentiful and practical -are displayed on the board above the counter, which was stuffed with lots of delicious looking hot lunch dishes.

More than anything, this is cafe for people who live and work locally, not for the jewellery-shoppers. In the lovely sash window, two ladies sat having lunch and chatting. A couple of builders took up one table. We were a third. But for the whole 45 minutes we were there there was an endless stream of local workers coming into get their lunch.At one point there were 7 people, including a random vicar, queuing to get their takeaway lunch in this tiny space.

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We were there so long because we couldn’t stop people watching, not because the food was slow. Our meals came really quickly, and were super cheap – this might be the cheapest full English in town at only £3.60 for the plate shown here. It was enormous, classic cafe style, with the sausage cut in half before being cooked.

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Egg and sausage sandwich was cooked similarly, with the sausages sliced in half then cooked – which I personally love – and the eggs were beautifully soft.

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The final surprise at Cafe Neo came when we headed out to the toilet. As you probably expect in Jewellery Quarter cafe culture, the toilet is outside….in this fab little cafe garden! If only it wasn’t now November, and too cold to take advantage.

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The loo itself is shabby in the way of an outside loo, but as you can see, is full of soap and loo roll and cleaning products. And those stupid hot water taps that some loos in funny places are forced to use that spray you with a horrible thin sharp stream of water.

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Cafe Neo is an unexpected gem, and I’m glad we finally went in!

In summary:

Price: cheap eats: £3.60 for a full English, £2.10 for a sausage and egg sandwich – almost ridiculously cheap!

Atmosphere and design: tiny, but madly busy. Lovely sash windows and a delightful garden down the alley at the side.

Food: cheap and plentiful and quick.

Toilets: one outside toilet, clean and loo roll etc but nothing fancy

Enjoyment: fantastic busy community vibe if you go at lunchtime. Lovely place to sit by the window and chat.

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