Where: 5-7 Temple Row Birmingham B2 5NY
Today I finished work and decided I desperately needed a caffeine boost, some lunch and a little relaxation. So I headed to Damascena. I chose here largely because it’s such an individual coffee house. If you’re looking for somewhere a little different, this Turkish delicatessen certainly is unique. It is situated right opposite St. Phillips Cathedral (Pigeon Park to those of you who have regretful days there…) and buried within a few grey and white older buildings, making this modern, yet classic gem stand out wonderfully.
Walking into this place is like stepping foot in to Turkey itself (I imagine…) You’re instantly surrounded by long, mahogany benches, decorated with lavish padding and exquisitely patterned scatter cushions that you just want to rest your head on, and that I did. The entrance here is small, rather cramped and usually very busy. The breakfast bar across the front window is ideal for the professionals and students amongst you, as it is fitted with a fair amount of plug sockets (Damascena also boasts free wifi, with the password on your receipt.) It’s situated right next to the till, allowing you to grab some more espresso based fuel to keep you going whilst also letting you keep an eye on your laptop and belongings! However, if you carry on down a little corridor and two little steps, this is where the place not only opens up, but stuns you into silence as you gaze at the decor laid out in front of you.
A dinner hall sized room, lined on the edges with more low mahogany benches in the same style, each side with different colours for padding and cushions. Comfy, cushioned chairs sit opposite each bench, more are dotted in to the middle allowing room for plenty of customers to sit a while, chat, catch up and feed the caffeine monster inside. But the furniture is not what blows me away in here. Look at that light! It hangs so elegantly down from the ceiling, cascading it’s glorious rays on those below. Mirrored by a second the other side of the glass divide. They are not the only stunners either… This coffee house has an effing fountain in there! I was gutted it was not switched on, but all the more reason to go back! At first I did think it was a bird bath, but that puzzled me so much that I had to investigate.
Onto my favourite part of these excursions, food and drink! I was absolutely starving, I mean ravenous, when I sat down in Damascena. I could hardly contain my excitement to try something, as I knew their menu includes over 30 veggie dishes! There’s a menu laid down at every table which you’re free to peruse from the moment you’ve seated yourself. Here, you order food and drink at the till in the front area, take a table number and return to your seat. I went for their Falafel wrap, “Fresh and crispy Falafel made from ground Chickpeas with Gherkins, a Tahini dressing and served in a flatbread wrap”. Damascena, you had me at “crispy”. It was divine. A bit awkward to eat as the Tahini was going everywhere, but worth every last drop of creamy mess. To tend to my needs even more, their menu for coffee contains a “Speciality Brewed Coffee” – A brewed pour over coffee, served in the cutest carafe. Although, the menu states two servings, if you don’t take milk, you’re only getting one serving as the carafe is tiny.
Damascena has something for everyone and their menu makes it so abundantly clear, using key symbols for Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten Free and Contains Nuts. This was super handy for me as it cut out half of the menu, I’m meat-free and deathly allergic to nuts. The menu consists of several categories including: Breakfast, Sandwiches, Salad, Soup, Specialities and Freshly Baked. Prices are all between £4-£6 for food, whether it’s a salad, soup, wrap or kofta flatbread. Some items range up to £8, but they’re mainly house specials. In terms of drinks, you’ll find your expected; Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, Juices, but with a few cool extras; Milkshakes, Frappes and Iced Tea. Attention coffee and tea drinkers, you’re always paying less than £3 for a beverage here! Those favouring a Juice, Milkshake or Frappe, expect to pay between £3-£4. They also stock Soya and Almond milk, just ask at the till! The food is slightly more expensive than I’d have liked but honestly it’s worth the extra few pennies. Plus, what you’re spending in food, you’re saving with their cheaper drinks! Ideal for an occasional treat to catch up with a friend for lunch, or sitting down and powering through some, probably long over-due, university work!
Whilst this has all gone swell for Damascena thus far, I’m led in to my final point. Accessibility. As soon as you see the front door, you’ll notice the step up in to the store. The first area with the till and breakfast bar is very narrow and cramped too, making it difficult to manoeuvre, especially with extra mobility needs. To get to the back area of the cafe, you’ll also need to go down two steps. Not looking great so far? Well, for a toilet, you’re going to have to enter an old cupboard marked with a unisex signing, behind which is a converted stair well. Here you will be tasked with climbing a swirling, narrow and confined stair case, to finally be greeted by a sink and two doors. Behind each door is a toilet, not a single disabled toilet in sight. As amazing as this store is, it’s unfortunate that it isn’t well suited or adapted for those with extra needs.
After I’d eaten and acquired enough caffeine power, I was almost certain Damascena could have been the first coffee house to reach 5/5 espresso shots for me. However, I just cannot give that to somewhere without disabled accessibility. So, I’m going to give the store an extremely well-deserved 4/5 espresso shots! The amount I’ll need before work tomorrow probably!