81 Ground 101: Kate Middleton fan tour brunch

Ground 101, Newhall Street, Birmingham


81 Ground 101 sounds like a Bingo call in a new game of Bingo Brunch: 17 Kanteen! 43 Lunchi! 81 Ground 101!

Ground 101 is a perfectly nice cafe with a terrible name. I think it’s an intentional pun on its location at the base of the BT tower, and the fact it is a coffee shop so some kind of grinding is involved? But mostly anything with the word ‘ground’ at the start like that – especially at the foot of a giant tower – conjures Ground Zero, and that can’t be a good thing.  Being at the foot of the BT Tower does at least make it fairly straightforward to find.


The site has been in the headlines frequently over the last few years. It was ransacked by rioters in the 2011 riots in Birmingham. After the riots, Prince William and Kate Middleton visited the site to show support for the city. It was then called Machan Express, and I assume they chose it because its slightly out of the city centre, and thus more secure than other more central riot-hit premises.

I always remember that visit, because I walked right through the press pack outside, and all that went through my head was irritation that I had to walk in the road to pass, rather than curiosity at why a hundred people were crowded round a not-very-interesting shop on a not-very-interesting street. And thus I missed seeing Kate Middleton in this aggressively nautical McQueen in the flesh:


Sadly, it turns out a visit from royalty can’t arrest the damage done by looters, and Machan Express went bust, unable to catch up on the £9000 worth of damage done. Kate looked like she could see it coming (and also like maybe this is the face she pulls when George is naughty?):


And so today, we have Ground 101, a cafe that serves breakfast but only advertises the fact on the A frame rather than on the menu boards inside, a family run business where the mother-daughter bossy-resigned dynamic could be ripped straight from a cheesy sitcom, and where they will happily knock you up a full English even if you barge in before they have really opened for the day.

It’s standard greasy spoon fare, and none the worse for that. The bacon is halal, in small rectangles rather than long strips. The egg is well cooked – just soft enough – and hash browns are the best, so nice to have them on the menu here. Given that we didn’t see a menu, but just ordered, you can be pretty happy that this is a competent full English.

My sausage and egg sandwich came as sausage and bacon, but given that I’d ordered from my head rather than from any menu, I can’t really complain: potentially, this wasn’t even a menu item, and they just marvellously cooked it up for me out of the kindness of their hearts. It was a perfect white-sliced-trashy-sausage-and-ketchup sandwich. IMG_20180217_102836_718

Tea comes in a bathtub, and coca cola in a latte glass. I like it: it’s kind of quirky, but it seems like it is almost definitely also accidental, which is the best kind of quirk.


The toilet was unfortunately a bit grubby on the floor front, and there was no soap in the dispenser. But we were in there very early, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the poor daughter of the operation was going to sort it out later.

In summary:

Price:  cheap eats – £13 total for a full English, sausage and bacon sandwich, tea and coke

Atmosphere and design: practical and coffee themed, with swirly writing about coffee and sort of twirly tree designs decal-ed onto the walls, and a large number of 2 person tables

Food: greasy spoon, cheap and easy,

Toilets: pretty dirty and no soap

Enjoyment: a strong family vibe on the service front, decent food, and a quiet, out of the way location. Potentially, not good for groups of people, as all the tables are for 2.



80 Home is where…: mismatched brunch

Home is where, 26 Church Street, Birmingham B3 2NP


Home is where…is a frustratingly named, but lovely, low key cafe in the city centre, just off Colmore Row.

In design, is it oddly similar to our actual home; where our our living room has too much random stuff on the walls, a motley collection of mis-matched chairs, and a jumble of handpainted or vintage furniture, Home has taken these principles and supersized them.

A strong love of gimmicky wallpaper is clear, coupled with an inability to just pick one. Huge mirrors with ornate garishly painted frames reflect gallery wall after gallery wall back at you. There isn’t really a theme, but there is a great love of patterns, of colour, and of stuff. The foot tall model sheep on the bar is the perfect symbol of this random collector-mania. A bright yellow china pig peers at you around various potted plants.


The breakfast menu is simple: porridge, scrambled eggs on toast, or a sausage or bacon sandwich. Why there is no full English, when sausage, bacon, eggs and toast are independently on offer, is not explained. Either way, a full English is not an option here.


The scrambled eggs on toast come with or without salmon, and is all perfectly fine. I thought the eggs were slightly rubbery, but the toast was made with nice bread.


Downstairs, the unisex toilet has a flimsy-feeling lock, which creates an interesting sense of tension, but on the plus side, it is wallpapered as though you are in a medieval stone cottage, which is certainly unique in my experience of Birmingham toilets. Above the toilet, a directors clapperboard hangs in possibly the oddest juxtaposition of decor and room in the place. Just outside, the wallpaper is that illusion-bookcase stuff.


It’s only a short walk from Corporation Street, but much more low key than the often-fancier breakfast places in the same streets off Colmore Row, and so is a nice bit of variety in the area.

In summary:

Price: mid range-  £4 for scrambled eggs, £6 with salmon

Atmosphere and design: mismatched to the max

Food: a limited range of scrambled eggs, sausage/bacon sandwiches. No full English.

Toilets: unisex and enthusiastically decorated

Enjoyment: a very calm and relaxing jumble of a place, perfect to escape the business of the city centre

79 Papa’s Quarter: Versailles brunch

Papa’s Quarter, Warstone Lane, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham

If you saw this cafe and were asked what it served, what would you guess?


How about if I threw in some details from the website to help you decide? According to the website, Papa’s Quarter is “taking you back to the 18th century with its frescoed and mirrored interior. In the present it stands as a living museum.” Or alternatively, “early 20th century style with an eclectic feel to it, and has elements of Georgian, Medieval and Tudor style”.

Would you have guessed sushi?


Until Christmas, Papa’s Quarter has been serving beautiful French patisserie, lovely coffee, and – more bizarrely – an extensive sushi menu. It has been just as confusing as the website description of the interior, and on numerous cake trips, the sushi part of the cafe as been quiet as the grave.

Thank God then that they have come to their senses and switched the menu to English breakfasts, and pizza. Two weeks after Christmas, it was buzzing with satisfied customers, the chef busy serving breakfast and coffee, like any other successful Jewellery Quarter cafe.


Grab a seat in the window, a sofa in the corner, and settle in for a wonderful social meal.  The unique (for Birmingham) interior design is fun, especially in contrast to the ubiquitous faux-industrial hipster styling proliferating across the rest of the city.


The full English is full of plain ingredients (white sliced vs sourdough toast is the easiest single symbol of the quality of food you are getting), plentiful, hot, properly cooked throughout. The rejection of the hipster aesthetic continues – we were very happy to have beans on a plate rather than in a gimmicky pot.


My double sausage and egg bap was spot on, just the right amount of sausage-to-egg-to-bread ratio, and the egg perfectly soft. Not a fan of the strange Masterchef-esque inverted-nipple decorative touches. A bap is never going to look fancy on a plate, and you shouldn’t make it try.

The toilets are done up in the same style, with beautiful red tiling and gold mirrors, spotlessly clean. I am super dubious about the random outdated message tippexed on the wall in the ladies though.

In the new year, a city centre tea shop, and a wonderful designer interiors independent shop have both closed down. Looking at the history of nearly 80 places we have had breakfast since starting this blog, again and again and again you find places – often delightful – which have since shut. The Papa’s Quarter breakfast was good, the cake – from prior experience – is amazing, and I’ll definitely be back to check out the pizza. The interior is fun and clearly someone’s passion project. It was a thrill to see such an increase in the customer numbers; I desperately want this place to do well and become a fixture of the local area.


In summary:

Price: mid range (£8.95 for a full English)

Atmosphere and design: Versailles-chic

Food: standard, classic English breakfasts. As a bonus, the cake is fantastic.

Toilets: very clean, decorated to echo the heavy red/gold/bling aesthetic of the rest

Enjoyment: super welcoming staff, central location in the JQ, booths or sofa seating, or smaller tables for a more formal feeling – somehow low key and decadent all in one breath. Please go and check it out

77 Can Eat: Stirchley brunch

Can Eat, 1397 Pershore Road, Stirchley High Street, B30 2JR


Here’s an excellent Christmas tradition: on Christmas eve, head to Stirchley Wines and Spirits, and fill your car with craft beer, then pop into the local grocers and collect a beautiful Christmas wreath, before heading down the motorway to the family get-together. This has been our Christmas routine now for a number of years, and this year it was only enhanced by stopping in wonderfully hipster Can Eat on Stirchley High Street.


The ribbon of Pershore Road that runs through Stirchley is crammed with a hodge-podge of random shops which have been there forever, and around which a distinct tide of gentrifcation is rising. The grocers, with its shelves of goods along the walls surrounding a  central scale and a man wearing an old-fashioned blue smock who knows all his locals by name, seems like a step back to the fifties, but the artisan bakery running cooking courses (learn to make macaroons or butcher a pig!), the lovely coffee and poetry bar across the road, or the tiny new pizza place all aim squarely at the Instagram-happy, hipster-chic, frankly richer, crowd. You can almost feel the house prices rising. Can Eat fits squarely into this latter group of venues.


Inside it has a few seats on left and right, past (when we went) the enormous and lovely Christmas tree decorated with citrus slices. The walls are covered in plywood sheeting , and the tables and stools are covered by massive scatter cushions covered in on-trend African wax print. It was completely full when we popped in, with a mix of couples, yummy mummies, yummy daddies, and groups of friends who all shared one thing: they were much cooler and more stylish than we were.


On the right is the door to the tiny Isherwood and Co florist, which is just beauteous, selling a plethora of cacti or succulents in Insta-friendly pots. As an excellent illustration of the gentrification prices, in Insherwood and Co, I bought a completely plain fir wreath for £10 (which came beautifully wrapped in brown paper); the holly and fir wreath I bought in the grocers was fully decorated with red ribbons as well, bigger, and only cost £5.

The food in Can Eat is divine.


There is nothing approximating a standard full English on the menu. I had this candied bacon, tender-stem broccoli on sourdough toast. It was absolutely sensational, and that includes the bacon, which usually I hate: perfectly cooked, crispy, soft, crunchy, tart, sweet, warming, all the textures complementing each other perfectly. This style of toppings on a slice of sourdough is becoming more common – I had a similar plate recently in Kanteen– but this was just in a different class of tasty perfection.


Richard had smoked salmon, scrambled egg, caramelised onions, and some sort of spicy mayonnaise on a brioche bun. As a man who normally refuses to go to brunch venues without a full English on offer, it was touch and go whether this would meet with approval; it was pronounced unbelievably good, a sensational breakfast, one of the best we’ve ever had. There is no faff on the plate, no needless salad or pointless decoration: this is just an incredibly good burger, with great tasting ingredients, seeming to puff itself right off the plate with its cloud-like brioche and stack of delicious fillings.

The toilets are unisex and disabled and child-friendly, with a big changing unit in one corner, and lovely soaps from the Honest company.

In summary:

Price: mid range (carried away by the Christmas spirit, I forgot to save the specific prices)

Atmosphere and design: a bright, social space full of plywood and plants

Food: super hipster sourdough and brioche treats. Don’t expect standard brunch fare, but what you get will be delicious

Toilets: clean, universally accessible, child changing friendly

Enjoyment: it’s quite an intense social space, being so small, but the food is amazing. Do you love the gentrification wave, or does it fill you with guilt? Your feelings on the question will probably strongly shape how much you love this place.

76 The Old Joint Stock: snow day brunch

The Old Joint Stock, 4 Temple Row West, Birmingham B2 5NY


Oh, the weather outside is frightful,
But the pub is so delightful.
And since we’ve got no place to go,
Let us go! Let us go! Let us go!


Oh, it doesn’t show signs of stopping,
But the Christmas tree is whopping
They’ll wish you a friendly hello
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

When we finally get our food
It was standard, expensive and warm,
But the setting is red and bright
Perfect to chill in a storm!


The snow is slowly going
And we’re full, and happy, and glowing
So as long as you love brunch so
Let us go, let us go, in the snow.

In summary:

Price: midrange – £9.50 for a full English, £6.95 for eggs Benedict

Atmosphere and design: an incredibly beautiful old bank with soaring ceilings, beautiful chandeliers, enormous windows, and a glorious huge bar in the centre

Food: pretty average, and quite pricey (presumably due to the location)

Toilets: plentiful and tiled in old Victorian style in keeping with the rest of the pub

Enjoyment: when it’s not a snow day, this place is usually buzzing, and is a wonderfully picturesque and comfortably place to go for a drink or a pie. The service when we went was very friendly, in keeping with the snow day Blitz-spirit camaraderie all over town

75 Grand Central Kitchen: welcome to Birmingham brunch

Grand Central Kitchen, 7 Stephenson St, Birmingham B2 4BL, UK


You’ll need to get up early for breakfast in Grand Central Kitchen. Directly opposite the entrance to New Street station, across the tramlines and below the beautiful Burlington Hotel building, it is seems to be packed solid every time we try and visit, a regulars favourite with local builders on the never-ending city centre works, and the train crews on the end of their shift.

They also love cheese with endearing intensity.

“I would like a sausage and egg ciabatta please.”

“Would you like cheese?”

“I think I’ll be okay.”

“You should have cheese, I promise you it’s delicious”

“Okay, but only on the ciabatta one, not on the baguette please.”

Soon to arrive: 2 cheese, egg, and sausage sandwiches. Both were lovely, the bread perfectly crunchy and soft. Probably not the best place to visit if you are dairy-intolerant though.

The full English came next, and enormous helping, with all the standards, plus cheese on the egg, of course.


The absolute best thing about Grand Central Kitchen was the service though. They were so friendly, and attentive. Order at the bar, and in taking our order and bringing it to the table, everyone was so friendly, chatty, and genuinely caring about making sure you had a good meal.

If you’d stepped off the train in the old Pallasades and stumbled around looking for a full English in that horror show of an unloved concrete monstrosity, you would have been justified in every negative first impression Birmingham has ever generated. But if you were to come from your train, through light and curving Grand Central, and into the caring warmth and familial welcome of Grand Central Kitchen, you would surely rate Birmingham 5* from the start. What a treasure of a cafe.

In summary:

Price: cheap eats

Atmosphere and design: looks dark from the outside, but warm and welcoming on the inside, with a great view of the trams and lots of Coca Cola posters bringing the bright reds

Food: standard range of breakfast food, but with an insistence on cheese

Toilets: pop over the road to the Grand Central loos

Enjoyment: food is pretty standard, but the service is spectacular, and the buzzy busy feel makes this a fun place to stop in for a breakfast on the fly

74 Lewis’s: independent Moseley brunch

Lewis’s Independent Cafe and Restaurant, 11 St Mary’s Row, Moseley, B13 8HW


Why go out for breakfast? To socialise? To fuel up before a day out? And sometimes, for the food, which must bring something special to the table when a full English doesn’t actually give a chef much opportunity for creativity. Remember that Heston Blumenthal TV show where he went to Little Chef – this one actually – and revamped all the dishes in haute cuisine style? All the patrons were super grumpy: they just wanted their Olympic breakfast back untouched. A full English is a full English and no messing is needed.

So it speaks very highly of a breakfast when people will queue through the door for over half an hour at 10am on a rainy December morning.

On the crossroads in the centre of Moseley, Lewis’s sits unromantically and unobtrusively in the middle of a row of shops, cars squeezing down the slip road in front, and the A frame squashed up against the frontage. It doesn’t seem to need curb appeal though. Its reputation spread across myriad round-ups of the best breakfast in Birmingham, it was easily the most crowded place we’ve ever had breakfast.  A queue of eight to ten people crammed themselves just inside the door the entire time we were there. Moseley has plenty of other breakfast venues; the queue told us before the food even arrived that we were to get something pretty good.


Inside, it is a hipster paradise of reused packing crates for storage, menus displayed on brown paper rolls, wide wooden tables, and a cosy, welcoming atmosphere. The staff dashed around like mad things, but seemed a bit overwhelmed; they lost our drinks temporarily, and the wait for the food is long. Lewis’s is a contradictory place, as the slow service makes you think you’d be well off bringing the paper and making a morning of it, yet the queue by the door surely makes you want to whip through your meal and give someone else a turn. I had Moroccan mint tea, which seems to be super on-trend at the moment, and when it finally arrived, it was lovely.


The other thing that was lovely about Lewis’s was the other patrons, who I don’t think I’ve ever noticed adding to the experience before. When we arrived, a woman volunteered to move to a smaller table so we could have a seat. Later, on our giant table, we were joined by four lovely people who’d left their children at home to go out for a morning catch up. They were so friendly, and great fans of Lewis’s. One of the queue-ers was someone I know from work. To chat to strangers, to see people pass that you know: somehow, Lewis’s makes you feel part of a community in a way you very rarely experience in the heart of a city like Birmingham.

The actual food was heavenly. Eggs Benedict, with perfectly poached eggs, just the right oozy softness, was a treat. The hollandaise was delicious and just the right amount, adding to the tastiness without overwhelming it. This is a bacon eggs Benedict, and the bacon was a crumbly, crunchy, flavoursome delight. Warming and filling and just a treat.


The full English also came with perfectly poached eggs, and thus Lewis’s position as an excellent place for breakfast was confirmed. No baked beans, which is obviously unusual, but the potato rosti was a very nice addition instead. You can add all kinds of other personal choices, including, here, halloumi. Yum.


There is only one little toilet in Lewis’s, tucked away out the back. It is significantly less polished than the main floor, just a functional loo, plenty of soap and paper towels. A vintage mirror on a chain and the tin Thomas Crapper sign gesture in the direction of hipsterism. Of course, there is a packing crate on the wall for the loo roll.

In summary:

Price: mid-range – £9.95 for any breakfast, juice, and hot drink

Atmosphere and design: vintagey wooden crates, brown paper and Annie Sloan paint galore

Food: great ingredients, cooked brilliantly; classic breakfast dishes

Toilets: just the one

Enjoyment: fab food, great for people watching, and feeling part of the local community. Just be aware you might have to wait!