Tucked in under a railway arch right beneath Birmingham’s Snow Hill Station, the first word that springs to mind when stepping into Brewsmiths is “cosy”, followed by “friendly”. If I was allowed the luxury of three words for a wider description, I’d go for “upmarket greasy spoon”. Perhaps a half-way house between greasy spoon and coffee shop would be more accurate (eight words).
Whatever the description, Brewsmiths is a lovely place, a neighbourhood coffee shop under a railway station. In that respect it’s similar to Coffee Affair, although that’s where the similarity ends. Although there’s a comprehensive coffee menu with piccolos, flat whites and ristrettos rubbing shoulders with more traditional espressos, lattes, cappuccinos and mochas, Brewsmiths doesn’t aspire to Coffee Affair’s level of coffee geekery. The food is also more down-to-earth, although, in common with Coffee Affair, it’s all produced on the premises.
Brewsmiths has been a feature of the Birmingham coffee scene for a while, but since Christmas Eve it’s had a new owner, Andy. I never visited it back in the day (I got close though, arriving at ten past three last summer only to discover Brewsmiths closes at three) but Andy tells me he’s not changed much.
March 2016: It looks like Brewsmiths has had to close for good.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Brewsmiths isn’t a big place. Then again, it’s under a railway arch, so it was never going to be huge! Roughly square in shape, the generous windows which take up the majority of the store front, let in plenty of light, which was particularly magical the day I was there. This adds to the cosy, friendly atmosphere which struck me the moment I stepped inside.
Brewsmiths has avoided the temptation to cram too much in. There’s an armchair and coffee table in the right-hand window, with the counter beyond them and, beyond that, a small kitchen. The rest of the seating is a genuinely eclectic mix, with nothing quite matching. To your left, a more conventional table sits in the other window, with a couple of large wooden tables in the middle of the room opposite the counter. The left-hand wall has a neat, recessed arch, with a padded bench facing coffee table and sofa. Padded benches run along the wall to either side of the arch, each with a couple of small tables. In all you could get maybe 25 people in.
Brewsmiths manages an impressive output from its small kitchen. There’s a full breakfast menu, including a buffet of cereal, plus the usual full English, Scotch pancakes and a long list of butties (for those in the know, subtly different from the humble sandwich). There was also a decent cake selection.
Since I’d already had breakfast at the Boston Tea Party, I restricted myself to coffee, starting with a very fine espresso in a glass. It was what I’d call old school, quite strong with more than a hint of bitterness, which is just how I like it. It was steaming rather disconcertingly when it arrived at my table and I feared it was going to be too hot. However, it turned out to be just right, the steam being a pleasing visual effect caused by the sun streaming in through the window.
As well as a comprehensive espresso menu, Brewsmiths offers filter (through a bulk-brew filter) and cafetiere coffee, with the option of a pair of Brazilian beans, one of which is decaf. New owner Andy had just made a fresh brew and, at his prompting, I tried a sample. This was a fairly light roast and, while not terribly adventurous, was a very fine cup which I would happily drink black. Fearing the long day I had ahead of me, I declined a full cup, turning instead to a cafetiere of the decaf. Like the espresso, this was a fairly old-fashioned darker roast, with a hint of bitterness and lots of body.
All the coffee is from Bradford’s Limini Coffee, which Brewsmiths has been using for a while. Although Andy has plans for Brewsmiths now that he has started to get his feet under the table (behind the counter?), it’s definitely evolution rather than revolution. Aware that he was taking over an established and successful business, Andy’s been keen not to change too much, too quickly. Hence the menu is exactly the same as it was and Brewsmiths is still closing at three o’clock, so don’t leave it too late in the day to visit!
|214 LIVERY STREET • BIRMINGHAM • B3 1EU|
|http://brewsmiths.co.uk||+44 (0) 121 233 3801|
|Monday||07:30 – 15:00||Seating||Tables, Sofas, Padded Benches|
|Tuesday||07:30 – 15:00||Food||Breakfast, Sandwiches, Cake|
|Wednesday||07:30 – 15:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Thursday||07:30 – 15:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Friday||07:30 – 15:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Saturday||09:30 – 14:00||Power||Limited|
|Chain||No||Visits||13th February 2014|
Liked this? Then don’t forget to check out the Coffee Spot Guide to Birmingham for more great Coffee Spots.
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