Quarter Horse Coffee opened its Birmingham café/roastery in February 2015, having moved from its original home in Oxford (which is now Peleton Espresso). Located on Bristol Street, a few minutes’ walk south of the centre, it underwent a major remodelling during the summer of 2020, making the most of the enforced shut down due to COVID-19. This saw the roastery, which had been in an open area on the left, enclosed in its own room, while the café on the right expanded its seating, even though the actual space is slightly smaller. This post is all about the café, by the way, while the roastery has its own Meet The Roaster feature.
Bright and spacious, Quarter Horse has a simple, extremely effective décor, being predominantly white, which, along with high ceilings, an uncluttered layout and windows front and back, make it feel even brighter and more spacious than it is. The coffee is all roasted on-site, with the house-blend and a second option on espresso, plus a single-origin on pour-over through the Marco SP9 automated brewers. There’s an all-day light food menu and plenty of cakes, while from Wednesday to Sunday, a full brunch menu is available from 10:00 – 14:00.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Quarter Horse’s elegant façade feels quite old, Victorian perhaps, but the interior is very modern. Occupying a knocked-through double-unit, the roastery is on the left, its ultra-modern Giesen roaster plainly visible through a window in the door connecting it to the café on the right.
Being a double unit, Quarter Horse has two of everything, staring with two doors and two front windows. The left-hand door’s for the roastery, while the right-hand door leads you into the café, where you’ll find the counter directly ahead. Here you’re confronted by the considerable selection of cake and sandwiches, the menu looming helpfully above you on the wall to your right, with a large retail selection below that.
You order and pay at the till on the corner, before finding a seat, where you have plenty of choice, starting with a set of three two-person tables in the windows at the front. Next comes a neat seating bay opposite the counter on the left, up against the wall of the roastery. This houses a pair of long, thin six-person tables, the tables seemingly suspended from the ceiling (in reality, I don’t think that they are).
Beyond the counter, which runs back roughly level with the extent of the roastery on the opposite side, the seating spreads the full width of the two units. There are three four-person tables on the right, one against the right-hand wall, one against the back wall, next to the door to the outdoor seating area, and one in the middle. There’s also a three-person bar against a stub of wall to the left of the door.
On the left, there’s a smaller L-shaped seating area around the toilet which is in the back left-hand corner. A pair of two-person tables run along the top of the L, against the back wall of the roastery, while the bottom of the L has a single four-person table. Beyond this is a second door to the outdoor seating area, where you’ll find a short bench on the left, with the cycle racks beyond that at the back. Meanwhile, there’s a hook-shaped set of benches on the right.
The long, narrow counter has a short section, holding the cake and the till, facing the door. Its business end is on the long side, facing the roastery, the space behind it occupied by an open kitchen. After the till, you’ll find a pair of Marco SP9 automated brewers for the pour-over (displaying the current coffee offerings on espresso and filter), followed by the grinders, an EK43 for filter/second espresso and a Mythos 2 for the house blend. Finally, taking pride of place at the end of the counter, is a La Marzocco KB90 espresso machine.
Since my first visit in 2015, I’ve been to Quarter Horse on numerous occasions (you can see what I made of my coffee on that original visit here). During my latest visit, not long after Quarter Horse had reopened following the remodelling, there was a choice of two blends on espresso (the ever-present seasonal Dark Horse house blend and the Roan blend) plus an Indian single-origin on filter.
In addition to a standard espresso menu, Quarter Horse offers an espresso taster (one shot of each blend) and an espresso flight (one blend as an espresso shot and piccolo). I had the espresso flight, choosing the Roan blend (a pairing of two naturally-processed coffees from Ethiopia and Rwanda) which achieved that rarest of things: being superb both in milk and on its own. In my piccolo, milk and coffee combined to provide a rich, smooth drink, while on its own, the same richness was there, but the fruitiness of the naturals came through much more strongly for a really beautiful espresso.
I was also there for breakfast, but visited on a Tuesday, missing out on the enhanced brunch menu, instead having the excellent avocado toast from the all-day menu.
December 2015: Quarter Horse was a runner-up for the 2015 Coffee Spot Best Cake Award.
July 2020: Quarter Horse has reopened following a major remodelling during the enforced COVID-19 closure.
|88-90 BRISTOL STREET • BIRMINGHAM • B5 7AH|
|www.quarterhorsecoffee.com||+44 (0) 121 4489660|
|Monday||08:00 – 18:00||Roaster||Quarter Horse (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 18:00||Seating||Tables, Bars, Benches (Outside)|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 18:00||Food||Breakfast, Sandwiches, Cake|
|Thursday||08:00 – 18:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 18:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||09:00 – 18:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||09:00 – 18:00||Power||Limited|
|Chain||No||Visits||Original: 30th, 31st July 2015
Update: 25th August 2020
If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, then take a look at the rest of Birmingham’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Birmingham.
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