55 & 56 Snobs and Selfridges: iconic Birmingham brunches

Snobs vs Selfridges: a Brummie brunch Face Off

What is the best brunch in Birmingham?

It’s an impossible question to answer. There are now 56 different Birmingham brunches reviewed on this blog alone, and of those hardly any qualify as a bad brunch. Almost every place you can go for brunch has something to recommend it, whether price, quality ingredients, or a quirky and unusual setting, (or fantastic toilets). It largely depends on your priorities: cheap and filling? Head to The Hylton. Looking for luxury? Harvey Nichols does a genuinely delicious breakfast for a surprisingly reasonable cost. Want to be on trend and in the thick of city life? Yorks is for you.

While you can’t answer that question easily, there are certainly places you can eat brunch which are definitively, famously, of Birmingham. The up-and-coming look-to-the-future attitude of the city in the last 15 years has come to be symbolised by the great spaceship bulk of the Selfridges building. And Snobs nightclub has been the sticky-floored, cheap-alcohol-fuelled, scuzzy nightclub of choice for students in the city since the 1970s. Both represent very different sides of the city.

Both, surprising on both counts, do a pretty good breakfast!

Selfridges’ The Balcony bar is on the very top floor of the Selfridges shop: you must steel yourself to walk past the £1000 bags and the £10000 trainers to find it. Inside, the view from the titular balcony is impressive as you look down across the quiet side of the Bullring shopping centre. From here you are removed from the howling crowds, and can see only the calming colours, the sweeping curves, and the wide glass ceilings. In contrast, the new home of Snobs in in the bottom of the neglected, unloved, and sometimes-maligned curved concrete 1960s Ringway Centre, with a building site on its front doorstep and traffic pouring down the hill at all hours of the night and day. Initially, advantage Selfridges.

The biggest shock in Snobs on a Saturday morning at 10.30am is that it is actually very pleasant. Menacing security grills are lowered over the doorways to most of the club, and the main room only is open for breakfast. It’s slightly lower than the street, and the  low-key calming lighting throughout means you instantly feel far removed from the grim street scene outside. It is obviously still a club, but it was spotlessly clean (no sticky floors) and very peaceful (or maybe just exhausted). A few tables were filled with groups of lads, quietly, so quietly, nursing their hangovers. Selfridges was also peaceful on a Saturday morning as stylish and comfortable chairs and booths are scattered around the balcony lit with tasteful lamps and decorated with quirky wall paintings. A 30th birthday was in progress; it was incredibly civilised. Despite the prosecco, there were no raised voices, just a pleasant, low hum of conversation. Result: a narrow victory for The Balcony.

Tea in The Balcony comes in this gorgeous cast iron teapot for loose leaf lea, whereas it is a bit more basic in Snobs. Plain white cups for both though, and service both prompt and friendly. Winner: The Balcony.

Snobs wins on price: £5.25 for this full English (on the right) including tea or coffee and toast is a bargain. It’s a classic greasy spoon edition: cheap and plenty of it. It was all well cooked, and a pretty solid meal. Selfridges comes in at  double the price, £10.00 for the version on the left, without tea included. Th ingredients are clearly superior, particularly the toast and the sausages, but still: you will have a perfectly enjoyable full English at Snobs and save half your money.

The Balcony does have one amazing advantage. The butter for the toast is foamed. It was the lightest, creamiest, easiest to spread thing ever. In contrast, the butter block in Snobs, inevitably slightly too hard to spread as they always are, would never compete. Winner: The Balcony.

What if you don’t want a full English? Both establishments have only a few other options. Snobs has 3: breakfast wrap, breakfast bun, veggie breakfast. This brioche-style bun with sausage and egg was £2.50. I love a sausage and egg bap: it was delicious. The Balcony has a more unusual menu, offering southern fried chicken on waffles, for example, but I plumped for this chorizo hash brown with mushroom and poached egg. Honestly compels me to confess that it was slightly greasy for £10 a pop. Winner: Snobs.

The toilets in The Balcony are surprisingly grim: the corridor to reach them fells utilitarian and a bit dirty in a way that doesn’t really fit the vibe of the rest of the bar, and white the sinks are operated with a swish of your hand, there was loo roll on the floor in the stalls, and a general lack of the sophistication that makes the Harvey Nichols toilets so amazing. Snobs is exactly what you would expect: utilitarian in the extreme, to cater for a drunken nightclub crowd. But it was exceptionally clean and really, there was no hint of the events of presumably only a few hours before.Winner: Snobs.

In summary:

Price: The Balcony pricey – £10 for a full English; Snobs cheap eats – £5.25 for a full English including tea and toast

Atmosphere and design: both quiet and peaceful, Snobs is a nightclub by day, The Balcony is quiet luxury

Food: classic English optionsin both, head to Snobs for cheap and cheerful, head to The Balcony for more adventurous options

Toilets: Snobs has the edge for cleanliness

Enjoyment: check out both for a truly Brummie brunch experience

Menus: The Balcony here, and Snobs here




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