The last stop on my brief tour of Birmingham is Ngopi, which exclusively serves single-origin Indonesian coffee, all of which is roasted in the little roaster visible through the front window. Ngopi was my find of 2019, after the staff opened my eyes to the variety and sheer quality of Indonesian speciality coffee at that year’s Birmingham Coffee Festival.
Like the rest of the UK’s speciality coffee shops, Ngopi was forced to close by COVID-19, only reopening in July following the relaxation of restrictions in England. The obvious COVID-19 precautions are now in place (Perspex screens on the counter, reduced seating, etc) but otherwise, Ngopi is very much its old self. In particular, the coffee is just as good as I remember it, while there’s a menu of light Indonesian dishes and desserts which, had I not just come from lunch at Wayland’s Yard, would have been very tempting.
You can see what else has changed after the gallery.
The first obvious change comes as you enter Ngopi, which occupies a large, glass-fronted unit on Dale End in the centre of Birmingham. There’s a door at either end, but when I visited last summer, the left-hand door was out of use, so you entered on the right, next to the roaster. Now both doors have been pressed into service, with the door on the left being the main one. This leads to a small table inside, where you’ll find, along with a bottle of hand sanitiser, a polite notice asking you to scan a QR Code, which opens an online form so you can register your details if you’re staying.
Ngopi has always had an interesting hexagonal tiling pattern on the floor, but whereas this once was purely decorative, now it forms part of a one-way system, leading you down the left-hand wall, across the front of the counter (where you order on the left and collect on the right) and then back to the right-hand door, where you can safely exit. Of course, this is only when ordering takeaway. If you’re staying, take a seat once you’ve ordered and your coffee (and food) will be brought out by a masked member of staff.
The seating is where you’ll notice the biggest difference, Ngopi having stripped out and otherwise rearranged the furniture to ensure social distancing between the tables. The pair of armchairs in the front window remain, but the cluster of tables between there and the counter have been reduced to two two-person tables in a line from front to back. The remaining seating is down the right-hand wall, where things have been rearranged rather than reduced. First comes a two-person sofa, with a couple of chairs across from it, separated by a low coffee table. Then, after a set of retail shelves, comes a pair of small, round tables, making a single, four-person table, before, in the far corner, there’s another sofa with coffee table and chairs.
The coffee hasn’t changed much either, with the standard, espresso-based menu joined by traditional Indonesian-style coffee drinks, which I tried last summer. This time, I went for pour-over, where there’s a choice of three single-origins, displayed on the counter in glass jars. At the prompting of the barista, Liam (who I knew from his time at Saint Kitchen), I selected the Mount Halu, a honey-processed coffee (also on espresso), which was prepared through the V60 and served in a carafe, all presented on a tray, a handleless cup on the side.
My coffee was excellent, very smooth and full-bodied, with subtle, fruity flavours. I paired it with one of the doughnuts, a rich, chocolate-filled affair which was both the perfect companion for my coffee and the perfect end to my day in Birmingham.
|56 DALE END • BIRMINGHAM • B4 7LS|
|www.ngopi.co.uk||+44 (0) 1214482870|
|Monday||09:30 – 16:30||Roaster||Ngopi (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||09:30 – 16:30||Seating||Tables, Sofas|
|Wednesday||09:30 – 16:30||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Cake|
|Thursday||09:30 – 16:30||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||09:30 – 16:30||Payment||Cards Only|
|Saturday||09:30 – 16:30||Wifi||Free|
|Chain||No||Visits||Original: 22nd July 2019
Update:25th August 2020
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