Birmingham’s city centre has a very compact coffee scene, with the likes of Yorks Cafe & Coffee Roasters, Yorks Espresso Bar, 200 Degrees, SHOTS Espresso Bar and Tilt all within a few minutes’ walk of each other. Saint Kitchen falls into this category, forming the cluster’s north-western outpost at St Paul’s Square.
Those with a long memory may recall Saint Kitchen as Saint Caffé, which it was until the start of 2014. That’s when new owner, Will, a chef, took over (the previous owners going on to found Faculty). His mission was to combine Saint Caffé’s already excellent coffee with equally great food. The good news is that, with the help of head-barista Liam, he has succeeded.
I visited twice, once in February, soon after the re-opening, and again in early August, to see how things had evolved. The coffee is from Bristol’s Extract, with the usual espresso-based range being supplemented on my return by pour-over (V60 or Aeropress). There’s also an extensive loose-leaf tea range and Kokoa Collection hot chocolate. The food was largely unchanged, with all-day breakfast, lunch and cake on the menu.
The biggest change was in the layout, with the seating reorganised to accommodate a new deli bar.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Saint Kitchen’s a 10-minute walk north of the centre in the Jewellery Quarter, a part of Birmingham about as far removed as it’s possible to get from my mental image of the city (formed by train journeys through Birmingham in the 1970s and the infamous Bullring Shopping Centre). On the south side of a beautiful, green, leafy square centred on St Paul’s Church, it’s the perfect setting for a coffee shop, lacking only outside seating (only viable if the square’s south side was pedestrianised).
Saint Kitchen’s in a rather unimpressive-looking building, but inside is a bustling coffee shop and breakfast/lunch spot. I visited twice, both lunchtimes, and it was constantly busy. Quiet background music was almost drowned out by the happy hum of conversation and no sooner was a table vacated than someone arrived to take the space.
Entering in the right-hand corner, the counter’s dead ahead, taking up one corner of the room. There’s plenty of space between door and counter to wait to order or collect food/coffee. The seating’s to your left while, in the opposite corner, is the new deli counter. A handsome island bar, with two stools, and a stand-alone four-person table, separate the ordering/waiting area from the remainder of the seating. An eight-person table occupies the window, while a pair of back-to-back sofas with coffee tables sit in the centre of the space. Against the back wall is a six-person table. The last of the seating is a long, padded bench against the left-hand wall, a row of four tables in front of it.
The décor is plain but effective; stone-flagged floor on the counter-side, wooden for the seating, plain, grey walls and low white-washed ceiling. Generous windows at the front with numerous overhead spots embedded in the ceiling (I counted about 30; I don’t envy whoever has the job of changing the bulbs!) make it a bright, cheerful space. The left-hand wall has a ceramic, brick effect, while the counter is made up of small tiles of pale wood.
Since food is a major part of the new Saint Kitchen offering, I couldn’t pass on lunch. Intrigued by the field mushroom soufflé muffin, I ordered one, plus some farmhouse buttery toast. My lunch arrived, beautifully presented on a pair of wooden platters that looked like slices of a log. The field mushroom soufflé is what I might call a mini-omelette, topped with a generous helping of fried mushrooms, all served in an English muffin. The toast was also very good, although slightly dry for my taste. Despite this, I enjoyed it so much that on my return I had exactly the same dish!
I paired this with an absolutely lovely piccolo in a classic espresso cup with an oversized saucer and, on my return, a flat white. The coffee’s very typical of what I’ve come to expect from Extract: smooth and sweet. For the piccolo, hints of brightness came through the milk (which itself is very creamy) while the flat white had a slightly darker, drier taste on the second mouthful. All-in-all, very fine coffee.
I’d wanted to try the pour-over (also from Extract), but they’d run out of beans! I had to settle for cold brew instead which was refreshing, but packed far too much of a caffeine punch for me!
You can also see what I made of SHOTS Espresso Bar, Saint Kitchen’s new little sister, around the corner on Water Street, which opened in February 2018.
|61A ST PAUL’S SQUARE • BIRMINGHAM • B3 1QS|
|www.saintkitchen.com||+44 (0) 121 236 2940|
|Monday||07:30 – 16:00||Roaster||Extract (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:30 – 16:00||Seating||Tables|
|Wednesday||07:30 – 16:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Cake|
|Thursday||07:30 – 16:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||07:30 – 16:00||Cards||Amex, Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||09:00 – 15:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||10:00 – 14:00||Power||No|
|Chain||Local||Visits||13th February; 6th August 2014, 20th August 2018|
Liked this? Then don’t forget to check out the Coffee Spot Guide to Birmingham for more great Coffee Spots.
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