The darling yet dark Saint Caffé on Charlotte Street seems a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Firmly independent, with its black slab flooring, chalkboard menus and artisan food and drink menus, the offerings of loose leafs teas (yipee) look even more inviting coupled with the freshly 'handmade cake' slices.
All at once you feel enveloped by a 'we're cool and we know it' vibe, swiftly followed by a 'let's hang' casual atmosphere, not least because of the three large leather recliners, and broderie-anglaise style table and chairs in the cafe. I think I've found a new cafe to lock myself away in.
It's a bit of a hideout from the city - a ten minute walk from the bustling Colmore Row, and a few streets away from the Jewellery Quarter. It's a halfway house, if you will.
Dark, inviting, and reeking of the fresh coffee aroma and just-brewed tea, my kind of café has it's own swagger. Instead of a menu full of the typical scran, Saint's sell toasted banana and peanut sandwiches, toasted poached egg and salsa bagels, and porridge spiced with star anise and cloves. They're in a league of their own with the menu, and not just because they offer something else; the food is delicious, moreish, wholesome, and heart-warming, and I adore cafés that serve tummy-warming, hand-heating bowls of stuff.
The staff seem to mirror the cafe style. The three members of staff that I've seen are relaxed, well-travelled and all have various accents; the Liverpudlian (and very chilled) barista who switches between sandwich-maker and tea and coffee maker, and the Japanese general manager whose clipped London accent is a refreshing sound against the Brummie lingo floating around the cafe.
For me Saint's ticks all the boxes: price, quality, variety, atmosphere and service. They do all well, but it's the price of tea that concerns me. Like a lot of people I bring my own lunch to work during the week, and I wouldn't usually come to Charlotte Street over the weekend, so I'd only pop in for a morning cuppa, or coffee. All of the tea is priced at £1.80 (for a 330ml cup). Even the black tea with milk and sugar is loose leaf, so you're enjoying a better, value-for-money cuppa, especially when a five minute walk up the road and you can pay up to £4.50 for a bit of leaves and hot water. The prices are fixed at a competitive price, and because they're just out of the city a sandwich and juice costs £4.50.
The quality of food and drink deserves a mention because when cafes advertise a suspiciously low price the goods are usually compromised. Saint Caffé, unlike a lot of cafes, have got it right - they sell high-quality food and drink because it keeps customers happy. Simple enough for me.
Food-wise I've never encountered a cafe where they sell tasty sandwiches. It's rare, and because of that reason in particular I never buy them while I'm out. For the first time in over two years, however, I purchased a boxed sandwich (wholegrain bread) and it was good, very good. My sarnie went down a treat with my takeaway cup of white tea, so I was pretty happy.
At the back of the café is a rail of female clothing, which seems to fit ever so snugly in with the artisan nature of the place; it isn't a random rail, but a handful of 'pre-loved' clothing that is available to buy. Initially I thought it was for decorative purposes, but nope, on the rail are a few pieces, and a DKNY silk bomber jacket I was fingering a little too much that you can purchase at the till. As if I thought the café couldn't be any more cool they also offer a handful of local magazines on a desk for your perusal, free filtered water, and of course, free WiFi.
It's the type of place that's worth the five miunte walk from Colmore Row just to soak up the atmosphere (and save up to £2.00). While it might not be a holy space, it is divine, borderline celestial, and I may have been converted to sandwiches.