That was our impression when passing York’s at ten past six on a Monday night, when the place was positively swinging. A coffee house, on a Monday night. Pubs were empty, bars were empty, restaurants were empty, but York’s was dancing in the twilight on this damp and cold evening. I was intrigued, so I popped in the next day for breakfast.
You know that bit in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy says to her dog: “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”? Well, it’s a bit like that when you first go into York’s; you don’t really feel like you’re in Birmingham. You’re surrounded by London design nouse with a healthy drizzle of Brighton bohemia and a dash of New York deli: chunky wooden kitchen tables, Eames chairs, menus on chalkboards and an open kitchen. All manner of friends, laptoppers and business peeps were busy doing what they were doing, in a creative, social and worky whirl to The Soup Dragons’ I’m Free playing overhead. It’s clearly been put together by someone who really knows what they’re doing. I couldn’t wait to eat.
I picked the vegetarian breakfast – two friend eggs, two big mushrooms, two sizeable grilled tomato halves and a clump of spinach, all served in an iron pan aboard a wooden block with a large slice of buttered sourdough toast – although there were plenty more things I could have gone for – eggs benedict, a full English, blueberry pancakes… Anyway, my food was excellent and more than lived up to my hopes from the initial vibe. I have no complaints about my cappuccino either.
Back to the London comment. Of course cafés in Birmingham don’t have to emulate that in the capital, but when our civic architecture, city infrastructure, new homes and even shops are really getting it together, wouldn’t it be great if the places we like to hang started to follow suit? Londoners love to sneer at provincial city bars and cafes and they’re often given plenty of ammunition, so it’s fantastic to see somewhere really giving it a proper go, and actually pulling it off.
So is it a sad indictment of out-of-town design that York’s is the only place in Brum to make the grade, or is this just the beginning of cooler café culture in Birmingham? I’ll go with the latte[r].