Adventures in Birmingham: 9 – 14 August

Urban Coffee Co is one years old

I’d already said yes to a dinner at City Inn when I get the invite for this a couple of weeks ago but feel as I was there at the birth, I should really be at the kids first birthday. I agreed to meet the others later so I can at least pop in but as (bad) luck would have it, one of my friends had a family bereavement so we decided to cancel the dinner and the rest of us three all go to Urban.

I get there bang on time at 7pm and my friend is already waiting, along with half a dozen other celebrators. By the time the doors open, there are a good 30 people on Church Street and we all dutifully check ourselves off the guest list before entering, strolling politely past both goodie bags and the ready poured drinks.
 

When Rickie met Urban

The reason the opening of Urban was so momentous a year ago is that I had not long before arrived in Birmingham, with my previous address in New York and wondering where on earth I could go to write, un-disturbed, that had decent coffee and wasn’t a large chain (mentioning no names).
I found out about Urban when I met Simon Jenner, the co-founder through the Birmingham Entrepreneurs MeetUp that he runs. I imagine I probably said ‘I’ll be the judge of that’ when he said he was opening a coffee shop with decent coffee, on Church St. I spend the next couple of weeks walking past the premises, checking progress. It’s my route home so it’s not as desperate as it sounds. Not really.

On pre-launch opening day, I arrive on my way back from the city, chatting on the phone to my (now ex-) boyfriend in New York, telling him that England was finally getting a decent coffee shop by all accounts.

I’m introduced to Hannah, Super Senior Urbanista and predictably the talk turns to coffee, namely my likes and dislikes. My number one dislike, I explain is cold coffee and that no one can make latte in this country so I only have it at home. I probably mutter that cappuccino is only made to be drunk first thing, before breakfast and don’t understand how people consume it at other times.
Hannah took all my coffee snobbery in her stride and recommended I have an Americano as it’s all hot and I can have it with hot milk for extra hotness. Despite my protestation of having to ask for a poncy coffee, when I normally like to say ‘just coffee with milk’. ‘Latte is that?’ ‘No, just fresh coffee with milk, please’.

So a large Americano, with hot milk, in a take-out cup, it has been ever since* – not that I need to tell any of the Urban staff that, even new girl Katy remembers my drink after just a couple of visits. The take out-cup is to keep it extra hot by the way, plus I’m no good with the cup and saucer thing, another thing that Americans do well, give me a mug any day.
*Oh except when I go anywhere in North America, I can have hot filter or latte and usually be pretty happy with either.

Urban further excelled when they agreed to cakes, specifically Kiss Me Cupcakes so I now have a supply of those whenever I fancy. Cupcake Friday is born! They even started offering chai, which is my second tipple if I’ve had my 2 cups a day coffee quota.
Other things I have thought of but don’t ever remember talking out loud about are music, especially on a Friday, weekend opening (a godsend as those are my big writing days) and a desk upstairs. All duly granted (A pile of napkins and a big table would be great upstairs. Just thinking that so the staff can mind- read that too).

I’ve recommended the place to hundreds of people, taken dozens more in with me and my guests have always been delighted to say the least and become regulars themselves. Not sure if they have obtained the coveted Urban coffee cup, received after you have drunk your way through 50 – count them, 50 coffees but I’m well on my way to the saucer to match.
The evening is a great success, the KissMe bite-size cupcake display unbelievably enticing, the music perfect, the pimms (still on offer 2 for £5) was divine and the vodka jelly and birthday cake…actually what happened to those?
Seeing as I’m in there every other day, I didn’t recognise one face from the throng that filled the little coffee shop to capacity. But of course, they’ll say the same thing in reverse. I go in, usually get my regular and bury my head in the laptop for a couple of hours, oblivious to anything going on around me but curiously not to what goes on outside my window. Now that’s the sign of an excellent coffee shop.

Ikon Cafe

 
Wednesday is a repeat visit for the weekly live music only this time it’s markedly quiet compared to my post World Cup visit in mid-July. Then, I was advised to book as there were 9 of us. It is a lovely mid-week treat to have someone strumming a guitar whilst we have a drink, eat tapas or just catch up. I bet they would have been glad of the 9 of us as it was almost empty this week.

Friday is a bonus book writing day with a 2000 word target although I’d have let myself off with 1500. As it happens, I went over the 2000 via a morning in Urban and an afternoon in Brindleyplace, with lunch at home and all followed by a film at Cineworld. Which I walked out of. I finally achieve my ambition of walking of a film because it’s so dire. Review is [here]

Chameleon


A new place in a street I don’t think I have ever walked down. Well actually the address is ‘Victoria Square’ but that’s a little optimistic, its half way down the street behind the post office.
Inside, it’s airy, the staff are attentive and the interior all very modern and at 6.30, almost full. As I wait for the rest of the gang to arrive, I scan the room and it’s like an advert; everyone smiling, chatting, drinking and eating. There are people of all ages and I like that in a place as generally a mixed crowd means there’s no pretentiousness. There’s a stage, which looks promising, a massive private seating area with a circular red sofa, outside seating, big lighting fixtures and most importantly for any interior, a disco ball. I feel right at home.

We’ll be back although for me, more likely for a Sunday lunch or midweek drinks rather than being crushed in a weekend crowd. Unless there’s live music, you know I’m a sucker for any live music.

Lord Clifden

There is no live music tonight so will a visit to new favourite still be good on a Saturday evening? Yes.

How is this place so popular? There are other drinking holes in the JQT, although this is across the road so technically it’s Hockley, but wait isn’t the JQT in Hockley? I’m sure it used to be. I even bump into two people I know and I know almost no-one in Birmingham.

My plan is to leave at 10pm to get back in time for the first Match of the Day of the season. The season seems to have started a week early but nonetheless I’m looking forward to it. 10pm came and went of course, I was mid-flow in telling the story of my first Christmas in New York but at 10.17 precisely, I finish my drink (why don’t they have Budweiser in bottles when they did last time? I had to go to the bar inside to have swift halves poured, I cannot remember the last decade I drank Bud out of a glass) make my excuses and sprint back to St Paul’s Square. Turns out I can make it from Lord Clifden’s, in heels, through cobbled streets back home in 12 minutes flat. No mean feat but Lineker and Co are waiting patiently.

What have you been up to this week?

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