Although a semi-regular visitor to Birmingham for many years, I tend to stick fairly close to the centre, coming and going via Birmingham New Street station. For that reason, while I’ve heard much about the excellent coffee scene in Harborne, the suburb to the west of the centre, I’ve never made my way out there. Until Saturday, that is, when, driving up to my Dad’s in North Wales, I realised that it made a good break-point for my journey, provided that I didn’t mind a 15-minute detour.
I therefore made a beeline for The Steam Room, which opened in early 2017 and which I’d heard several good things about. A little to the north of Harborne High Street in a very residential area, it’s a gem, serving weekly single-origins from Has Bean on espresso (including decaf), batch-brew and pour-over, with the decaf being given equal billing on the menu (always nice to see). There’s a decent selection of tea, plus craft beer and ciders, as well as wine by the glass/bottle. If you’re hungry, check out the regular brunch menu, with breakfast and lunch specials on the menu behind the counter, plus a generous cake supply from old friends, Cakesmiths.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Set well back from the quiet, residential street, The Steam Room is at the end of a small parade of shops on the corner of Gillhurst & Knightlow Roads. There’s parking directly outside or on any of the nearby streets, while The Steam Room itself has a small outside seating area. There’s a simple façade, a single glass door and three almost floor-to-ceiling windows stretching across the front. Two are to the right of the door, the third to the left. This is mirrored by the picnic tables outside, with two in front of the windows to the right and one to the left.
Inside, The Steam Room tapers slightly, the left-hand wall at about 70° to the front, making it narrower at the back. The bulk of the seating is on the left, starting with a two-person table in the window. This is followed by three four-person tables, while at the back, where it’s at its narrowest, there’s a final two-person table.
A four-person window-bar occupies the two windows to the right of the door, then comes the counter, a wooden and corrugated steel affair. Cakes adorn the front corner, followed by the till, with the large Nuova Simonelli espresso machine at the end, next to a Mythos One grinder for the espresso. The drinks are on a large chalk-board menu behind the counter, with the brunch menu on clipboards on the counter-top.
There’s more seating at the back on the right, beyond the counter. A cosy spot, there’s a wooden bench against the right-hand wall facing a pair of chairs across a coffee table. Finally, there’s additional seating through a doorway in the back wall which leads to a long, thin space, much narrower than the main room. This leads to the kitchen and the toilets as well as having a long four-person bar with high stools down the left-hand wall.
The coffee menu is very third-wave, with the largest drink on the espresso menu an 8oz latte. Otherwise there’s a choice of espresso, a 6oz long black and a 6oz cappuccino or flat white, with a split shot of a single espresso and 4oz cortado. Alternatively, you can have an 8oz batch-brew, a Chemex for two, or a Chemex or Clever Dripper for one.
I had actually ordered the scrambled eggs on sourdough from the standard brunch menu, but the baristas (all four of them) pointed out the breakfast special of pancakes on the menu board. The combination of temptation and peer pressure (not to mention four pairs of eyes watching me) was too much to resist. I relented, ordering the banana, yoghurt and honey pancakes, although if I’d been paying more attention and noticed the vegetarian full English on the lunch specials, I’d have been even more torn.
It was an inspired (enforced) choice. I had a stack of three awesome, fluffy pancakes, each sandwiched to the next with a thin layer of yoghurt. These were topped by a layer of sliced banana, all drizzled in honey. The pancakes were cooked to perfection and the ensemble was perfect.
With hindsight I should have ordered the split shot, but since it was to accompany my lunch, I had a flat white, made using a washed Guatemalan El Bosque. This went well with the milk, its flavours coming subtly through without clashing. In many ways, it got more interesting towards the end of the cup, which is quite rare for a flat white.
Having missed out on the split shot, I rounded things off with an espresso, a full-bodied shot with a pleasing hint of acidity. Then I was on my way.
|181 KNIGHTLOW ROAD • BIRMINGHAM • B17 8PY|
|www.steamroomcoffee.co.uk||+44 (0) 121 213 1145|
|Monday||08:00 – 17:00||Roaster||Has Bean (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 17:00||Seating||Tables, Window-bar, Bar; Tables (outside)|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 17:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Cake|
|Thursday||08:00 – 17:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 17:00||Cards||Amex, Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||08:00 – 17:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||09:00 – 16:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||No||Visits||16th February 2019|
Liked this Coffee Spot? Then check out the rest of Birmingham’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Birmingham.
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