To the best of my knowledge, Tilt, which opened its doors on Birmingham’s City Arcade in November 2015, is just one of two speciality coffee-and-pinball places in the UK, the other being Chiswick’s Chief Coffee, which opened slightly before Tilt. Mind you, Tilt’s not just coffee-and-pinball. It’s coffee-pinball-and-craft-beer, with up to 18 different draught beers. Oh, and there’s wine. And spirits. And cocktails. And cider. Not to mention twelve different loose-leaf teas and five types of hot chocolate. In fact, the only thing that’s really limited is the food, where there’s a choice of just two cakes. You even have more choice of floors (three) than you do of cake!
Tilt, by the way, is very serious about its coffee, with owner, Kirk, bringing in coffee from roasters around the world. There’s a concise espresso-based menu, featuring a guest single-origin, but the real treat is the Frozen Solid Coffee Project, where Kirk takes a bag or two of coffee, weighs it out in doses and then vacuum packs and freezes it. The coffee is ground from frozen and made using a Kalita Wave filter, allowing Tilt to offer a staggering range of single-origins (26 at the time of writing).
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery (which is currently just from my first visit in 2016).
Tilt’s at the end of Birmingham’s City Arcade, which runs off at a diagonal from Union Street. The Arcade ends at the junction of Warwick and Union Passages, with Tilt on the Warwick Passage side, occupying a large space across multiple floors which runs alongside the City Arcade. The space itself is seriously weird, best described as roughly L-shaped, but only if drawn by someone who hasn’t quite got the hang of Ls yet, which is, I believe, the result of this side of the arcade being built around an older building.
Warwick Passage meets the City Arcade at an angle of 60°, with Tilt fitting snuggly into the corner. There’s a door on the Warwick Passage side, with Tilt running away ahead of you. The left-hand wall’s perpendicular to Warwick Passage, while the right-hand wall’s parallel to the Arcade. Tilt, therefore, is wedge-shaped, narrowing as you head further inside.
This, the top part of the L, is very much the coffee-shop (or bar, depending on what you are after) part of Tilt, with windows on two sides, making it lovely and bright. The counter is a little way back on the right-hand side, coming after the seating. It houses the espresso machine and pour-over, with eighteen beer taps (in six sets of three) in the window behind it. The counter carries on and, just as Tilt reaches its narrowest part near the end of the counter, the bottom part of the L appears, stretching off to your left.
The back wall of this section (on your right as you turn into it) runs perpendicular to the Arcade, but the front wall (to your left) turns by 90° to run parallel to Warwick Passage, so this is also a wedge, narrowing to almost a point at its end. There’s a door (at the thick end) onto the Arcade, and, next to that, is the bottom of the enclosed staircase which runs along the back wall to the first floor. Meanwhile at the tip of the wedge, another enclosed staircase runs down the back wall to the basement.
For a more detailed description of the ground floor (as I found it in 2016), check out my original post, while to see what it’s like with the current COVID-19 restrictions in place, take a look at my Coffee Spot Update.
The upstairs (which was added during the enforced COVID-19 closures) and the basement (which was a work in progress when I visited in 2016) follow a similar pattern to the ground floor, consisting of two perpendicular wedge shapes, one at the back (where you enter via the stairs) and the other at the front. You can see what I made of both of them when I returned to Tilt in July 2021.
As well as the speciality coffee and craft beer, Tilt’s other claim to fame are its pinball machines, which are spread over all three floors. There are three in the back room of the basement, seven in the ground floor back room and eight in the upstairs back room. Seating, by way of tables of various sizes, is spread across all six rooms.
When it comes to drinks, I’m only really qualified to comment the coffee (although I did have a very nice bottle of cider on my return in 2021). Tilt used to have Origin as its house roaster, with a guest on espresso and batch brew. However, over the years, the coffee offering has evolved with Kirk (who bought out business partner Richard last year) really upping Tilt’s game in recent months.
These days, there is a single guest on espresso, with roasters selected from around the world. When the current beans run out, it’s onto the next one. However, what really lifts Tilt above the crowd is the Frozen Solid Coffee Project, which has a whole Saturday Supplement dedicated to it.
December 2016: Tilt was a runner-up for the 2016 Coffee Spot Award for Best Lighting.
|CITY ARCADE • UNION STREET • BIRMINGHAM • B2 4TX|
|Monday||10:00 – 23:00||Roaster||Guests (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||10:00 – 23:00||Seating||Tables|
|Wednesday||10:00 – 23:00||Food||Cake|
|Thursday||10:00 – 23:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||10:00 – 00:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||10:00 – 00:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||10:00 – 22:00||Power||Limited|
|Chain||No||Visits||Original: 8th January 2016
Update: 1st, 2nd July 2021
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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