Medicine New Street

A classic decaf flat white served in a classic white cup at Medicine New Street in BirminghamToday’s Coffee Spot was a chance discovery at the end of my visit to Birmingham last week. I was on my way along New Street when an A-board caught my eye. It didn’t even say “speciality coffee”, but there was something about it that piqued my interest, so in I went, ascending a flight of stairs to find a real gem (in more ways than one) hidden in the very centre of Birmingham.

Medicine Bakery is an artisan bakery, café and gallery which grew out of Medicine Bar in Digbeth. After that closed in 2011, the team behind Medicine turned to baking, opening a bakery, deli and café in the village of Codsall in Wolverhampton. This is turn led to the opening of a second Medicine in 2018, which is the one I stumbled upon on New Street, along with a more recent addition not far away in the massive Mailbox shopping centre.

Medicine New Street occupies a glorious, open space (a former art gallery), serving classic breakfast, brunch and lunch dishes, plus masses of cakes and pastries. There’s a standard espresso-based menu with coffee from Iron & Fire, plus a small selection of tea, soft drinks, smoothies, cocktails, craft beers and wine.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The unassuming entrance to Medicine on the northern side of Birmingham's New Street.
  • It was actually the A-board that first caught my eye...
  • ... along with the outdoor seating on the semi-pedestrianised street.
  • Stepping inside, a small foyer holds the usual COVID-19 instructions...
  • ... along with hand sanitiser and the QR Code for the NHS App.
  • At the back of the foyer, broad steps lead up and into the building.
  • As you go up, don't forget to check out the chandelier!
  • At the top of the steps is a small room. At first I thought that this was all there was...
  • ... a place to display the cakes and pastries, so you could choose what you want.
  • And there was an awful lot of choice, let me tell you!
  • Doughnuts too!
  • And loaves of bread...
  • ... plus sandwiches to go.
  • However, when I asked about sitting in, I was led through doors at the back, then...
  • ... taken to the right, where this opening provided my first glimpse of the glorious interior.
  • A polite reminder from the A-board, in case you sneaked past the staff.
  • Behold! The glorious main room of Medicine New Street, with its soaring gallery ceiling!
  • The seating runs around the edges, starting to the left of the entrance.
  • After the long, communal table, a series of smaller, four-person tables run along...
  • ... the left-hand wall...
  • ... all the way to the fire escape about three quarters of the way back.
  • Beyond the fire escape, this sofa and its benches occupy the far left-hand corner...
  • ... while on the right is the first of three sofas, each with a table and bench opposite.
  • The second and third sofas are shorter than the first, while on the wall...
  • ... is a regularly changing dispay of art from local artists (the gallery part of Medicine).
  • A panoramic view of the seating at the back, complete with two long tables in the middle.
  • Here's the view from the back, down the length of Medicine to the entrance on the left.
  • After the sofas comes a pair of two-person tables against the right-hand wall...
  • ... followed (after steps up to the kitchen) by this table, with the sign above it...
  • ... which neatly brings us back at the entrance. There are more tables in the middle...
  • ... with two pairs of these tables (probably pushed together for COVID-19 reasons).
  • The sign is worth a second look, if only...
  • ... for all the plants hanging from the mesh.
  • There are more plants hanging on the walls of Medicine...
  • ... and yet more on the tables.
  • Power outlets abound, often discreetly hidden behind the backs of the sofas.
  • Here's a last look at the soaring ceiling and its skylights before getting down to business.
  • I decided to have cake. I'm not 100% sure what this was called, but it was awesome!
  • I also had coffee, the shots pulled on this manual lever machine from Fracino.
  • I opted for a decaf flat white which came with some...
  • ... excellent latte art...
  • ... which lasted all the way to the bottom of the cup, which is where I'll leave you.
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Medicine is on the north side of New Street, right at the western end by Victoria Square. The street is partially pedestrianised, allowing for nine well-spaced outside tables, each seating two or three on square plastic stools. Although a dedicated seating area for Medicine, you go inside to order (whereas inside, it’s table service). From the street, there are few hints at the glories that await you inside, although the entrance is fairly grand, with tall, marble-framed double doors. Medicine is written on the lintel in gold letters, but other than that, only a small A-board lets you know that this is a bakery/café.

The doors open onto a small, tiled foyer, a large, broad staircase at the back disappearing up into the building. At the top, you reach a small, high-ceiling rom with white tiles and a skylight. This is where Medicine keeps its bread, cakes and pastries, along with sandwiches to go, arrayed on trollies and shelves to the left and right. I half expected this to be all there was to Medicine, but I was wrong (although if you are ordering takeaway, this is as far as you get, which means you really miss out on the Medicine experience).

I was greeted by a member of staff, who offered to show me to a table. I was led through double doors at the back into a long, broad room with more tiles and a lovely wooden floor. The espresso machine (a Fracino lever machine, made in Birmingham, no less), is at the left-hand end, but I was led to the right, down the length of the room, to an opening in the far wall. Stepping through and into the main room was literally breath-taking.

Medicine’s main space is, by speciality coffee standards, enormous. Previously home to the Royal Society of Birmingham Artists, it was used as a gallery. About three times as long as it is wide, and almost as tall, it has a soaring curved roof, five central skylights running its full length. This results in a wonderfully light space, which reminded me of the gallery rooms in London’s National Gallery on Trafalgar Square. It’s also very green, plants hanging from the walls and standing on many of the tables.

You enter at the right-hand side of one of the short walls, the room stretching out ahead of you. There is seating around the edges, plus more in the centre. Starting to the left of the entrance, a padded bench runs around the front wall and almost the whole length of the left-hand wall, lined with four-person tables with benches, although to the left of the entrance is a solitary 10-person one. The bench stops at the fire exit, beyond which is an L-shaped sofa-bench in the back, left-hand corner.

Opposite this, in the right-hand corner, is the first of three wide sofas, its back against the wall, facing the length of Medicine. This is followed by two more sofas, each with a long table and a low bench on the other side. Two square two-person tables follow, then comes a small flight of steps leading up to a door in the right-hand wall which, I believe, leads to the kitchen. Finally, there’s a long table against the wall beyond the door and you’re back to the entrance.

However, that’s not all, since there are more tables in the middle, four long tables running horizontally in the front half of Medicine, with two more, running lengthways down the middle of the back half (to accommodate the sofas on the right).

I would have loved to have something substantial from the menus, but I’d already eaten well that day, so settled for a cake, all of which are baked fresh each day in Codsall. I think I had the Frangipane Bakewell, described to me as a slice of brioche with a frangipane on top, like a frangipane cherry Bakewell, at which point I was so intrigued, I had to try it. All I can tell you is that it was excellent, with a rich, brioche base and fruity topping with a custard-like bit in the middle which I particularly enjoyed. As you can tell, my career as a restaurant critic isn’t going to take off any time soon…

As well as having eaten well, I’d had a lot of coffee, so went with a decaf flat white, which was lovely, rich and smooth, milk and coffee in perfect harmony. And with that, it was time to go!

September 2021: you can see what I made of the original Medicine in Codsall, which I visited in August and September, trying both the extensive food menu and the caffeinated coffee!

December 2021: Medicine New Street has won the 2021 Best Physical Space Award.

69A NEW STREET • BIRMINGHAM • B2 4DU +44 (0) 121 643 1188
Monday 08:00 – 17:00 Roaster Iron & Fire (espresso only)
Tuesday 08:00 – 17:00 Seating Tables; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 08:00 – 17:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Sandwiches, Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 17:00 Service Table
Friday 08:00 – 17:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 08:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 08:00 – 17:00 Power Yes
Chain Local Visits 2nd July 2021

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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6 thoughts on “Medicine New Street

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