Faculty (COVID-19 Update)

Faculty/Sixteen Kitchen has long been my go-to option when changing trains at Birmingham’s New Street Station. Located at the bottom of the Piccadilly Arcade, opposite the station’s New Street entrance, it’s a great breakfast/lunch option, courtesy of Sixteen Kitchen, although I’ve tended to call in the afternoon for coffee and cake at Faculty when changing trains, its proximity to the station making it perfect if you have a few minutes between trains.

Like many in the speciality coffee industry, Faculty has been feeling its way back, initially reopening for takeaway only, when it served from the door. Since then, it’s reopened its seating areas and is slowly expanding its opening hours as people return to the city centre. For now, the coffee offering has been reduced slightly, with just one option on espresso and another on pour-over. Similarly, Sixteen Kitchen is offering a cut-down menu, although you can always get cakes and a small selection of toasted sandwiches from Faculty.

The usual COVID-19 precautions are in place, including reduced seating to ensure social distancing, a queuing system at the door and Perspex screens on the counter. One non-COVID change is the appearance of a Modbar espresso system on the counter!

You can see what else has changed after the gallery.

  • The southern end of the Piccadilly Arcade in Birmingham, gateway to great coffee.
  • And there it is, on the left-hand side, just beyond the doors.
  • It's actually a two-for-the-price-of-one offer: Sixteen Kitchen and Faculty.
  • This is the view coming the other way, when you reach Faculty first.
  • Faculty (right) and Sixteen Kitchen (left) in pre-COVID times (from 2016, in fact).
  • Both Sixteen Kitchen and Faculty share the same door in the middle, where you'll see...
  • ... the first of the COVID-19 changes, a sign asking you to wait, plus a one-way system.
  • There's a further notice when you get inside...
  • ... which reminds you that you need the wear a mask when ordering.
  • The next change is to the right. Where have all the tables gone?
  • This is how Faculty used to look (again from 2016).
  • Now there are just three tables, this one in the left-hand corner at the front...
  • ... this one in the opposite corner on the right...
  • ... and this one, tucked in by the counter.
  • Talking of which, here's the counter, with a retail table in front of it, and, for comparison...
  • ... here's the old counter (from 2016), the espresso machine against the wall to the left.
  • The view along the new-look Faculty, looking back to Sixteen Kitchen on the other side.
  • This too has changed quite significantly since I was last here.
  • This is what it looks like now.
  • Again there are just two tables in opposite corners, although these have benches.
  • The left-hand one is separated from a third table next to the counter by the old A-board!
  • The counter has also undergone a significant change. This is how it looked in 2016...
  • ... while now it's much taller, fully enclosing the kitchen behind it.
  • There's one final piece of seating, this bench in front of the counter.
  • Time to return to the Faculty side...
  • ... where you order at the counter.
  • Over here, in fact, next to the cakes and sandwiches.
  • The business side of the counter is on the right, with a retail table in front of it.
  • There are bags of coffee from Round Hill Roastery on the left...
  • ... and more coffee, plus KeepCups and coffee-making kit on the right.
  • There's a further set of retail shelves tucked away in the back, right-hand corner.
  • The drinks menu is on the wall behind the counter...
  • ... while there are food menus on the table and by the till.
  • The other big change is on the counter itself.
  • This is how it used to look, back in the day, with the cakes and pour-over set up.
  • These days it holds the espresso grinders, details of the beans chalked on the front.
  • Next come the sleek group heads of the new Modbar espresso system...
  • ... front and central for all to see.
  • Naturally I had to watch an espresso being made.
  • Even though I regularly make espresso at home, I still love watching it extract.
  • All done.
  • Ironically, I'd actually come for pour-over, now relagated to the side of the counter.
  • There's just a single choice on at the moment. This is what I had.
  • My coffee, served in a carafe, with a handleless cup on the side...
  • ... all presented on a tray, as it should be.
  • I'll leave you with this overhead view.
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When I first visited Faculty in 2014, it and Sixteen Kitchen felt like separate businesses, even though, back then, they cooperated and shared space. When I returned in 2016, it was much clearer that the two were very closely linked, by then sharing a common entrance and with part of the party wall knocked through. Technically, Faculty is to the right, while Sixteen Kitchen is to the left, but you can sit in either regardless of whether you’ve ordered from kitchen or coffee shop, while in the afternoons, once Sixteen Kitchen has finished serving lunch, the space is used as overflow seating for Faculty.

Like Quarter Horse Coffee, Faculty used the enforced downtime due to COVID-19 undertake some reworking, which has seen the counter replaced in Faculty, in order to accommodate the shiny new Modbar espresso system, its twin group heads slightly masked behind the now near-obligatory Perspex screens. This replaced the old Synesso espresso machine, which was behind the original counter up against the left-hand wall which divided Faculty from Sixteen Kitchen. With the espresso machine gone, a doorway has been knocked through the wall, further cementing the link between the two, with staff now able to walk much more easily between coffee shop and kitchen, further integrating the two businesses.

The other changes are COVID-19 related, starting with a sign in the communal doorway, asking you to wait to be called inside. It also creates a one-way system, with customers going in on the left, and departing on the right. Once inside, there’s another sign, reminding you that you need to wear a mask when entering/ordering, which you do at the till just to your right, which is at the far end of Faculty’s new counter. Whereas you used to be able to order and pay on either side, now everything goes through this one till.

The other changes are to the seating, which has been stripped right back to comply with social distancing rules. Each side now just has three two-person tables, one in each corner of the windows at the front, with the third tucked in by the counter. There’s also a bench up against the counter on the Sixteen Kitchen side and a bench outside in front of the window on the Faculty side.

The good news is that the coffee is just as good as ever, with Faculty continuing as a multi-roaster. When I was there last week, there was a Costa Rican single-origin from Square Mile on espresso, although by now this will have been replaced by something from Round Hill Roastery, which was next up in the rotation. Talking of which, I had a pour-over, also from Round Hill, a washed Kenyan Kii AB, prepared through the V60.

It’s nice to see that standards haven’t slipped, despite COVID-19, with my coffee being served in a carafe, a neat handleless cup on the side, all presented on a tray. The coffee itself was lovely and smooth, with subtle, fruity hints.

I also ran into one of the owners while I was there, who told me that Faculty is slowly increasing its opening hours as people return to the city centre, so do check on social media (rather than the website) for the latest times.

December 2020: Faculty was a runner-up for the 2020 Best Coffee Spot near a Railway Station Award.

Monday 09:00 – 16:00 Roaster Guests (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 09:00 – 16:00 Seating Tables, Bench; Bench (outside)
Wednesday 09:00 – 17:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Sandwiches, Cake
Thursday 09:00 – 17:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 09:00 – 17:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 09:30 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday CLOSED Power No
Chain No Visits Original: 4th May 2016, 29th July 2016
Update: 25th August 20

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.

You can see what fellow coffee blogger, Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato fame, made of Faculty when she visited in 2021.

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