It was a distinct lack of breakfast in my cupboard that prompted my decision to have a coffee-shop working day.

Co-working and coffee shop working are obvious choices for the stay-at-home freelancer, where the temptation of Jeremy Kyle or a mid-afternoon siesta is too great, but how feasible is it?

And to to push it, Hunter S Thompson style  – could I do it ALL DAY?

A previous breakfast enjoyed at Brewsmiths – pot of tea and artisan bread!

Breakfast – Brewsmiths

The day started at Brewsmiths – located on the edge of the Jewellery Quarter and home to a dizzying food menu. Whether it’s a sausage and bacon platter you’re after, or something a little healthier, there is something here to satisfy.

For me, a mug of tea and 2 slices of  Marmite and toast – keeping it simple. Apology was made for the lack of artisan bread but the 2 slices of white were more than adequate!

There was an initial wobble with the wifi, but after a swift reboot it worked a treat, allowing me to clear a batch of email, reply to tweets and write my to-do list for the day.The vibe was relaxed, despite the comings and goings of the morning customers. The service is always pleasant, and even the pigeon who wandered in looking for crumbs was treated with respect and courtesy whilst being shown the door.

Brewsmiths is a nice location to work in – especially if you can nab one of the plug sockets around the wall. The music is a mind-boggling mix but entertaining none the less, and the general attitude welcomes the wifi jockey!

Mid morning – Home is Where (technically a coffee shop? probably not?)

This is a real gem of Birmingham.
Gloriously decorated and luxurious in both feel and mood – this large cafe and deli was buzzing when I arrived at 9:30am.
Definitely more “breakfast meeting” and “ladies that lunch” than the hardcore laptop-coffee crew, still this is one of my favourite places to work.
Most of the smaller tables were taken, so I set up camp on the large co-working table in the middle of the room. (no plugs nearby … why do coffee shops put co-working tables in the middle of the room?)

Fridays mornings in Home is Where is a regular thing for me. I meet fellow freelancer Mark Steadman, share rounds of drinks, catch up and get stuff done.

There are some very special features that make Home a nice choice. The free water on the table is a genius idea, the soundtrack seems to have been lifted directly from the ipod of a 30-something indie kid and the staff range from nicely polite to downright bubbly!

A productive morning was had (I got most of my to-do list cleared) 3 pots of tea drunk, and it was only a VERY irritating trio shouting loudly at the table next to us that prompted us call it a morning.

Lunch – SixEightKafe

And so to seek out some delicious lunch and a visit to the very cute SixEightKafe.

Channelling all the spirit of Amsterdam (no, not THAT spirit), what this small shop lacks in space (expansion news coming soon), it more than makes up for in charm.

Seeing a familiar face in Aaron (ex-Urban Coffee barista), behind the counter and a very friendly manager  I was made both welcome and a toasted mozzarella, tomato and pesto foccacia.

Now this was delicious – no mistake – but this does bring me onto one of my constant disappointments with coffee shops,  the food.

Yes, the eggs benedict on the brunch menu at Urban Coffee JQ is delicious, but most establishments tend to offer sandwiches more focussed on trendy, than taste. A chunky cheese sandwich, or chicken baguette would suit me fine … maybe thats just me (and I know the point of coffee shops is the coffee not the food, so I won’t hold it against any of you!)

This aside, SixEight was a great choice for lunch – the wifi and tea helped me make some serious progress with this very blog post, and once the lunchtime rush had subsided I could have a good old coffee-shop natter with Aaron.

I even got into an impromptu conversation with the chap  at the table next to me – and that hardly ever happens nowadays!


You remember that cool kid at school – the one who had the best haircut, who’s parents would let him drink alcohol and knew all the good bands before anyone else?

And remember how you always thought he’d be a bit of a dickhead, but when you spoke to him you realised his was actually really nice?

Well this brings me to ….

Mid-afternoon Yorks Bakery Cafe

Yorks Bakery Cafe is achingly New York cool with exposed air conditioning, wooden floors, designer furniture and huge windows.

A window bar serves as a perfect people-watching-while-you-should-be-working vantage point, but there are plug sockets scattered all over the place so it’s perfect for the wifi jockey.

It’s deceivingly big too … the current owners have almost doubled the floor space from a past incarnation as Coffee Republic and now behind the counter hosts an area of comfy bucket seats, and a couple of tables.

The vast space means there is not only room for plenty of customers, but you never feel pressurized to give up your lone seat for a larger group (as happens in some other places)

Yorks Bakery is a result of the current trend-shift from coffee to bread. Designer coffee art has given way to artisan baking, and there is a resident baker in situ at Yorks conjuring up an array of recipes.

The only problem with Yorks Bakery Cafe is that I’m not entirely sure what to DO with it.

When I ordered a pot of tea I was directed to a bowl of sugar in the corner of the room. But what do I do with the sugar? Ok, if you have one cup, or a takeout coffee, you can just add the sugar you want  – but I was settling down for a good 3 hour session with a pot of tea. Perplexing.  

There is a table of bread by the window – do I pick up the bread, or do I go to the counter on the opposite wall to ask for it? (update: just spotted bags and tongues – so I’m guessing you help yourself!)

In the mornings there is a toaster there for breakfast – again, is this DIY, like a hotel buffet? Or do I order the toast and does it come over?

And, most importantly, what exactly IS artisan bread?

All these questions aside Yorks Bakery Cafe is definitely my new coffee shop crush – it’s airy, socket laden and a pot of tea here is infinitely cheaper than a one way ticket to the Big Apple.

4 thoughts on “Wifi jockeying around Birmingham’s coffee shops UPDATED

  1. Excellent post. On those (all too rare) days that I find myself with nothing to do, I always wonder what I could do. I feel bad sitting in one place for too long – even those that ‘encourage co-working’ because if I’m not constantly consuming something I automatically feel like a thief! Somehow I’d never really considered just using up a bit of everyone’s hospitality but I shall definitely be trying this out.

    And as a 30-something indie kid myself, I shall definitely have to try out Home Is Where… as I’ve yet to get round to it (Brewsmiths is my all-time fave).

    As for Yorks I couldn’t agree with you more. So much stuff yet never entirely clear what you…do with it! Things have improved since opening though – there are now, for example, pots of sugar on each table – so they’re obviously not so ‘New York’ that you have to like it or GTFO!

  2. Oh darn, and I thought you were going to explain what ‘artisan’ bread was!

    BTW, Do you do Saints Caffe too?

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