60 Damascena: Syrian vegetarian brunch

Damascena, Temple Row, Birmingham City Centre

Damascena has been a hit in Moseley ever since it opened in 2014, and now they have a city centre branch. They’re in a great location, a short walk from the shops, and nestled between two of the most beautiful buildings on Cathedral Square, so it was an easy call to stop in for impromptu Sunday breakfast. Moseley-ites rave about it; time to see if if has travelled well to its new branch.

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Inside, the front of the cafe is taken up with cosy sofa seating in the corner, and then the deli bar which runs down one side, offering a mouth-watering display of cake and sweet things.

Down a short corridor, you come to the main seating area, which is filled with design touches from Syria, after the inspiration city for the whole cafe. Lovely intricate patterns cover the ceiling, both in print, and from the beautiful lighting, which send stippled patterns across the room. Mirrors on the high ceiling echo the patterns further.

img_20170220_102352_706Seating is all set up in tables for twos, but it is easy to cluster some together. Lots of families with young children were present, as well as couples, and family groups such as us; the atmosphere was friendly and welcoming to all, but still quiet and relaxing, despite the small child desperate to see into the golden stand full of water in the centre of the room and nearly pulling it over on himself. Everything is gold and red and grey and heavy brown wood, creating a rich, warm feeling throughout.

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English breakfast tea came in these teapots which are seemingly everywhere these days. unusually, the tea bag was in my cup rather than the pot, so I had two slightly weaker teas than I normally would.

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Mum ordered an affogato, a scoop of ice cream topped with a shot of espresso, and pronounced it deliciously like drinking coffee-flavoured ice cream.

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Damascena has been around for a while, but it is still unique in the city centre for its Syrian-style dishes. I ordered the Damascena hot breakfast meze which consists of a bowl of falafel, a pot of hummus, a flat bread, and fuul medames (fava beans, yogurht, chick peans, tahini). Like lots of the dishes here it is vegetarian and gluten free, and it is also very filling and very tasty. The fuul medames were particularly tasty, and can also be ordered as a main on their own with a flatbread on the side.

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You can also order the same meal but with Damascena fuul instead; this version of fuul, with fava beans, tomato, garlic and chilli is also vegan, making the whole meal vegan. When going out for breakfast, the need for some sort of bacon or sausage becomes a loudly-voiced rule in some quarters of society, and the thought of going for a vegan brunch is anathema to some; the deliciousness of this meal was such that no one even really clocked that it was vegan and gluten free until after we finished.

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So Damascena is beautiful, and peaceful, and serves really lovely food quite different to anything else you would find in the city centre. Could there be anything bad to say? Unfortunately, the toilets let the whole thing down a bit; two unisex toilets at the top of a twisty-turny set of stairs to require some uncomfortable squeezing past each other on the stairs, and – sadly – on the Sunday morning we visited, did smell quite bad.

In summary:

Price: mid range: £7.95 for a hot breakfast meze, £4.25 for fuul and flatbread alone

Atmosphere and design: Syrian-themed, with intricate lighting, geometric patterns, mirrors and rich golds, reds, and browns throughout

Food: so many vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options.

Toilets: up a narrow staircase, unisex, didn’t smell nice when we visited

Enjoyment: a great alternative to the classic English breakfast you can find almost everywhere else.

 

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