Indian Brewery, Livery Street, B3
It was a grizzly, grey, and generally quite miserable day last Saturday when we headed to the old Brewsmiths slot in the arches under Snow Hill for brunch. Brewsmiths has gone, and in its place is this wonderful golden cubbyhole of hipster heaven, just a 20 metre swerve to the left off the Aston Expressway just before the St Chads turn off. The lights within fill it with a welcoming glow, drawing you irresistibly in, but despite arriving at 8.35, and the board outside clearly stating that it opened at 8am, they had delayed the opening; we had to wait for ten minutes while the drizzle dampened our spirits.
When we finally gained access, the inside decoration is a lot of fun. The cafe is contained within a scaffolding cube, with sheets of black corrugated metal filling the void above you. Beneath, plank trestle tables stretch out in three rows towards the glass-fronted kitchen at the back where you can watch the chefs work. To your left, the bar, behind which shelves of craft beers (and good wines) stretch. On the opposite wall, Bollywood posters fill the space with an intense explosion of colour.
All four walls manage to draw the eye, for the fourth wall looks out onto the towering column of the BT tower and the open space of the bomb site car park; in the small space, your eye is inevitably drawn outwards and upwards. It isn’t a very picturesque view, but it is a quintessentially Birmingham one.
Once we were in the service was friendly but pretty inept. The woman who welcomed us (after ten minutes of watching us stand on the step while they finished setting up) had trouble operating the iPad ordering system, and had to defer to the bartender who then looked after our drinks and bill. We were the first in, and service was slow. Hopefully, this is all just new-opening teething troubles.
Tea was served in plain and practical white and metal crockery, and was delivered on a metal tea tray. We turned out attention to the food; the brunch menu has a simple range of options.You can have Amritsari kulcha, a Bombay breakfast, a naan sandwich with a choice of three fillings, ‘posh avocado’, or some sides. At £7.50 for the most expensive thing on the menu, this is a good deal so close to the city centre in Birmingham.
Aside: Recently, I’ve been in London for brunch a few times, and the cheapness of a very high quality brunch in London in very nice restaurants does not make Birmingham look good in comparison; Birmingham increasingly has some nice places to have brunch, but the prices are often well well above what you would need to pay in London for equivalent fare.
The naan sandwich with sausage and egg was served on a slightly-more-jazzy metal plate, and was very tasty. The sausage was thick and meaty, and the only quibble was that the whole thing lacked a bit of holdingtogetherness: lots of picking up bits of egg and squashing them back into the sandwich.
The Bombay breakfast was so enormous it was spilling over the edge of the plate: back bacon, Cumberland sausage, mushroom, egg, masala beans, masala fries, and masala toast. It’s a full English slathered in masala – something I haven’t seen elsewhere in the city to date. Chips with breakfast turns out to be a delicious addition (if you are eating a fried breakfast, I think you’ve already resigned yourself to the fact it won’t be your healthiest meal of the day). Just look how tempting it looks:
Just to the left of the kitchen is the single toilet which is relatively spacious for such a tiny cafe, functional, and – on the day we visited – definitely grubby. I liked this place so much I’m willing to give it the benefit of only-open-a-week doubt, but really, we were the first people in there at the start of the day, and it doesn’t take a huge amount of time to mop a floor.
All in all, a delight, and well worth adventuring under the dodgy underpass from the city centre to get to.
Price: mid range: £7.50 Bombay breakfast, £4 for a sausage and egg naan
Atmosphere and design: tiny, friendly, Bollywood, bright, hipster
Food: English and Indian
Toilets: one, a bit grubby
Enjoyment: a lovely place to hang out, friendly, good food, good booze. Just don’t turn up right at opening time or in a rush.