Birmingham has been going through almost immeasurable changes in recent years. With a huge increase in large commercial chain bars and restaurants entering the city centre, many independents seem to be opening up in areas other than the central business/retail district.
However, one exception to the rule is Medicine Bakery, Cafe and Gallery on New Street.
Owner Simon Jones, had for many years, been a successful DJ playing funk, soul, disco and hip hop – mainly around the Midlands. It was natural progression then, that he should run The Medicine (music) Bar in Digbeth in the late 90s early 2000s.
Medicine Bar was born out of a discovery of abandoned space, of new possibilities and an inquisitive quality for creating something vital and diverse. A vibrant colourful place where the local music scene could prosper.
Times change and with its closure in 2011, Simon and his wife Francesca discovered a new trade as bakers, turning to a more rural environment to open their first bakery, deli and café in the village of Codsall in Wolverhampton. It is here they have honed their skill in creating authentic and unusual artisan bread and cakes, sourcing local, ethical ingredients and drawing on a mix of influences from France and New York.
The simple doorway on New Street (notice the Medicine signage in Brummie Baskerville font) with cart and freshly baked bread hints at something slightly quirky and tasteful deep inside..
Their current venture is a brave, equally visionary artisan bakery and kitchen, café and gallery.
The simple doorway on New Street (notice the Medicine signage in Brummie Baskerville font) with cart and freshly baked bread hints at something slightly quirky and tasteful deep inside the heart of this old converted space (once home to the Royal Society of Birmingham Artists).
A short walk up the stairs and you are greeted with a fine Aladdin’s cave of freshly baked, every changing cronuts, donuts, cakes, breads and sandwiches.
Keep moving forward and you can order a drink, pay for your food then turn around and wow.. a huge Victorian art gallery/cafe space with wooden floors and skylights allow natural light to pour down, energising this open space, full of casual coffee drinkers and workers, students, art enthusiasts and moochers. The space is also used as a live music venue, vintage market and can lend itself to pretty much anything.
Something that really sets Medicine apart from other coffee shops and cafes are the unique breads, pastries and cakes baked fresh in store by their talented team of artisan bakers. You can also peruse breakfast, brunch and a dinner menu. Medicine are devoted to pioneering new recipes and crafting hand made goods from locally sourced produce.
From Pesto Ricotta on Sourdough to classic breakfasts, bacon and egg sarnies, to banana breads, Medicine Huevos Rancheros, Caribbean Buddah Bowls to Mushroom, Garlic & Comté toasties and vegan friendly delights.. it’s enough to brighten up any day.
Drinks range from speciality brewed coffees, to Tumeric Teas, to health shots and wine by the glass (or bottle if you’re having a bad week).
In all, Medicine is what it is because of the owners attention to detail, from the food to the art, events and collaborations, expect the best the region has to offer in the most independent fashion possible! A real asset to any city, and one which Brummies and visitors should take every opportunity to celebrate.
Documentary photographer Herbert Walters and his exhibition Vision of Moments.
This exhibition brings together a body of work spanning the past 21 years with locations including New York, Scotland and England.
It also introduces a body of new work recently produced in London and Birmingham. Through his lens Walters sees the profound and the obscure, whilst at the same time he is drawn to civil protests and sites of memorial for the missing and documenting the plight of homelessness in our cities.
Working between monochrome and colour, acetate and digital, the street and studio, Walters captures the essence of the everyday, the mundane and the abstract.
Medicine Gallery until the end of November – check it out!
Words by Nick Byng for Grapevine Birmingham