To the best of my knowledge, Tilt is just one of two speciality coffee-and-pinball places in the UK, the other being Chiswick’s Chief Coffee, both of which opened in 2015. Mind you, Tilt’s not just coffee-and-pinball. It’s coffee-pinball-and-craft-beer, serving up to 18 different draught beers, plus there’s cider, wine, spirits, and cocktails, not to mention twelve different loose-leaf teas and five types of hot chocolate.
I first visited Tilt in January 2016, not long after it had opened. Back then, it just occupied the ground floor of an interestingly-shaped spot in Birmingham’s City Arcade, with work underway to open up the basement. Since then, it’s come a long way, not just opening the basement, but, during the enforced COVID-19 shutdown of 2020, adding an upper floor, both offering additional seating and more pinball machines.
These days, Tilt still bases its offer around pinball, beer and coffee, and its in this latter department that it perhaps has taken the greatest strides. Tilt was always serious about its coffee, but recently the owner, Kirk, has taken things to a whole new level with the Frozen Solid Coffee Project, an exciting development which I’ve dedicated an entire Saturday Supplement to.
You can see what else I found after the gallery.
Tilt, conveniently located a short way from each of Birmingham’s three main stations, was both my first and last stop on my recent visit to Birmingham. I took advantage of its late opening hours (23:00 during the week, midnight on Friday/Saturday) when I arrived on Thursday evening. Sadly, Tilt doesn’t have any decaf coffee, so I made do with a cider before reacquainting myself with Tilt.
Initially, Tilt doesn’t look that different from when I first visited in 2016. Located at the Warwick Passage end of the City Arcade and occupying an interestingly-shaped ground floor space, the immediately differences are all COVID-19 related, from the bottles of hand sanitiser to the thinned-out number of tables (down from eight to five in the main triangular space at what I’ll call the front of Tilt).
Beyond this, as the triangle narrows, is the familiar counter/bar on the right-hand side, although there are now 18 rather than eight beer taps. Carrying on, you reach the back room, which is at 90° to the front of Tilt and has its own door that leads to the arcade. This still has seven pinball machines (albeit different ones from my first visit), but the tables have similarly been thinned out, with just two opposite the pinball machines and one at the top of the stairs that lead to the basement (for a more thorough description of the ground floor of Tilt, please see my original post from 2016).
When I first visited Tilt, the basement was still in the process of being fitted out. An enclosed staircase leads down from the back, left-hand corner and into the first of two rooms, which roughly match those above. The back room has another three tables, plus three pinball machines, while the front room has a pair of tables and provides access to the toilets (there’s also a toilet on the ground floor).
However, that’s not all. Tilt recently acquired the lease on the space directly upstairs, fitting it out during the enforced COVID-19 closures. This is accessed via an enclosed staircase in the back, right-hand corner, which runs above the stairs to the basement. Unsurprisingly, upstairs is similar to downstairs and the basement, with a larger room at the back and another at 90° to it at the front. The back room has three more tables, including one in a cosy nook in the back, plus a row of eight pinball machines, while the room at the front (up a small flight of steps) has another four tables.
The other main COVID-19 change is that Tilt is, for now, table service only. Menus hang down at the end of each table and someone will come to take your order. After enjoying my cider, I set off to explore, which included playing on the pinball machines (one game for £1, three games for £2), my first time on a physical machine in over 30 years. I’d like to say that my touch hadn’t left me, but I was hopeless!
I returned the following day on my way to the station to catch my train home, this time with the express purpose of trying the coffee. Tilt has a concise espresso-based menu, the beans coming from different guest roasters, with a single-origin from Manhattan Coffee Roasters in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, having just gone into the hopper (replacing one from Onyx Coffee Lab in Arkansas in the US).
However, what really caught my eye was the Frozen Solid Coffee Project, which offers (at the time of writing) 26 different single-origins from around the world, all available as pour-overs. I found it so fascinating that I gave the Frozen Solid Coffee Project a separate write-up in its own Saturday Supplement.
|CITY ARCADE • UNION STREET • BIRMINGHAM • B2 4TX|
|Monday||10:00 – 23:00||Roaster||Guests (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||10:00 – 23:00||Seating||Tables|
|Wednesday||10:00 – 23:00||Food||Cake|
|Thursday||10:00 – 23:00||Service||Table|
|Friday||10:00 – 00:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||10:00 – 00:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||10:00 – 22:00||Power||Limited|
|Chain||No||Visits||Original: 8th January 2016
Update: 1st, 2nd July 2021
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.
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