The Steam Room

An espresso in a classic blue cup at The Steam Room in Harborne, Birmingham.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.

  • In the Birmingham suburb of Harborne, on the corner of Gillhurst & Knightlow Roads...
  • .. stands The Steam Room. Set well back from the road with three picnic tables outside...
  • ... there are two in front of the windows to the right and this one to the left.
  • If you've got a fence, you might as well use it, in this case for advertising.
  • Talking of which, while I like a witty A-board, sometimes direct is best.
  • Stepping inside, there's this two-person table to the left of the door...
  • ... while on the other side, there's a four-person window-bar...
  • ... followed immediately by the counter.
  • Opposite this is the main seating, three sets of four-person tables.
  • These lead towards the back, The Steam Room narrowing slightly as you go.
  • Beyond the tables on the left is this solitary two-person table right at the back...
  • ... while on the other side, just beyond the counter, is this lovely little cubby hole.
  • A view from the back of The Steam Room. However, there's more.
  • Right at the back there's a door, with a beautifully-decorated surround.
  • And through the door? More seating!
  • It's a strangely shaped space, long and thin, with a bar along the left-hand wall.
  • Another view of the bar.
  • At the back, steps lead up to the kitchen, while there's also access to the toilets here.
  • Let's go back to the main room, shall we?
  • There are some nice touches in The Steam Room, including this water tap at the front.
  • Naturally I was taken by the lights, with two of these beauties hanging from the ceiling.
  • One is towards the front, while this one is at the back.
  • Obligatory light bulb shot.
  • There are also these more shady characters above the counter.
  • While we're in the business of looking up, I did like the coffee-sack ceiling.
  • It also pays to look down. The floor of the back room is decorated by 20,000 pennies!
  • Talking of decoration, the back room has these drawings, which, I believe are for sale.
  • Meanwhile, there's this lovely world map in the main room.
  • Down to business. You order at the counter, where you'll find the espresso machine...
  • ... at the far end and the filter coffee at the back.
  • There's batch-brew and pour-over, as well as a range of tea.
  • All of this is beneath the comprehensive menu...
  • ... while the choice of beans is off to the right, just by the window.
  • If you're looking for food, the main brunch menu is on the counter...
  • ... while the cakes are perched on the front corner.
  • They are, by the way, from old friends Cakesmiths.
  • I started off with a flat white...
  • ... which came with some simple but effective latte art.
  • I was there for lunch, having the pancakes from the specials board.
  • Finally, I rounded things off with an espresso.
Slider Script by v4.6

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 +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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3 thoughts on “The Steam Room

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