24 August 2021

The Birmingham Caffeine Chronicles: Quarter Horse Coffee

UPDATE: Sadly, as of August 2023, Quarter Horse's Bristol Street location has closed permanently. But you can still visit their espresso bar and roastery in the Jewellery Quarter.

My speciality-coffee-shop-hopping continues to turn up surprise connections and today's post is about my return visit to Quarter Horse Coffee on Bristol Street. The connection is that, as you may have seen if you follow me on Instagram, I stopped by Peloton Espresso the weekend before — which itself occupies the former site of Quarter Horse's now-defunct Oxford cafe, which I visited many times.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I was in Birmingham again briefly on Sunday ahead of another Wolves match (we lost again, 0-1 to Spurs, this time, although played very well and were even fun to watch; I know you didn't ask). I only had an hour before I had to be at New Street station, but luckily, I knew the way because I visited Quarter Horse on the same day as Faculty, when I was in town for a conference almost two years ago. My fellow panellist we go for a drink before our train, and I countered with a coffee suggestion. Very fine was the Mexican single-origin coffee I enjoyed as a pourover too.

The coffee was just as good on my recent visit, even if the interiors have changed a bit in the intervening years. Located in the Southside district, Quarter Horse is 10 minutes' walk from New Station station and a little longer from Moor Street. Bristol Street is a busy road, but you wouldn't know it once you're inside the cafe. Behind the double shopfront, featuring Quarter Horse's titular chess piece.

As you face the cafe, the roastery is on the left, although it is closed at weekends. It always pleases me to see coffee plants growing in coffee shops — no mean feat in the UK — and this one dwarfs the specimen I've been trying to nurture at home for the past five years. Since I was last there, more separation between the roastery and the coffee shop has been introduced, although the latter still feels airy and spacious.

Passing the bench out front and entering the coffee shop brings you face to face with the long, white-tiled counter, which currently features clear panelling to facilitate physical distancing. On right the right, there is an extensive coffee menu and a big wall o' coffee and coffee merch. I tried not to get distracted and focused on the task at hand: coffee and then more coffee.

I ordered a filter coffee, selecting a double-fermentation washed Media Luna coffee from Colombia (there was also a Peruvian coffee on offer), as well as a piccolo. Both were served in gorgeous cups from Pavlov, a local ceramicist, and are available to buy at Quarter Horse. The filter coffee was brewed through the Kalita Wave, and had milk chocolate and plum flavours, especially as it cooled. They had some really nice-sounding bags of retail beans, like the honey-processed Trinidad's Treat, also from Colombia.

My piccolo was also impeccably brewed and had excellent latte art. Quarter Horse has an excellent brunch menu, in which I wish I had partaken, as many other people were on Sunday. I got a pie at Molineux instead, but sadly there were no forks, which meant I couldn't eat most of mine, and because of my hurry to get the train back home, I had to last the rest of the day on a sole packet of Wine Gums. The moral of the story is: always have brunch. The breakfast baps and shakshuka at Quarter Horse sounded particularly good, and for smaller appetites, there are baked goods at the counter.

As for the seating, I took one of the three small tables next to the front window. There are also some larger booths opposite the side of the counter, and more tables still at the back and on the small outdoor terrace. It was drizzling when I was there but there are some substantial parasols if you'd prefer your coffee with a side of fresh air.

Quarter Horse Coffee. 88–90 Bristol Street, Birmingham, B5 7AH. Website. TwitterInstagram.

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