O’Neill’s v Spoons: the battle of the big breakfasts on Broad Street

Whether you’ve had a big night out or fancy a Westside winter walk, a Broad Street breakfast will certainly set you up for the day ahead.

Next door neighbours O’Neill’s and the JD Wetherspoon’s Figure of Eight – named after the local canal routes – are just yards from Brindleyplace tram stop on the Wolverhampton to Edgbaston Village line via Birmingham city centre.

Both offer a choice of bar stools and standard tables, but I preferred the comfort of their respective booth seats. And foregoing their apps, I engaged with staff at the bars to order almost identically-priced cooked breakfasts with a latte. Watch my video of the breakfast battle here:

O’NEILL’S. Once called ‘The Granville’, the 1923 stone-faced corner building at the top of Granville Street is ‘Grade B locally listed’. The O’Neill’s website promises ‘Cead mile Fáilte’ – or ‘100,000 welcomes’ at an Irish pub where you will ‘enjoy the craic’.

Prices: hearty breakfast, £7.25; latte, £2.55

My well presented O’Neill’s breakfast doubled up on sausages, bacon, eggs, hash browns and mushrooms, all served with a grilled and halved full tomato and two slices of bread with mini butter packs.

The Wetherspoon large breakfast.

FIGURE OF EIGHT. The building’s attractive Art Deco frontage should really be listed, too. Copious local history photographs and notes decorate the walls and it claims to have the city’s largest beer garden. Views include the Leonardo Hotel (formerly Jurys Inn), The Cube and the top of Beetham Tower (Radisson Blu). More than two dozen hanging baskets at the front will soon be a riot of Spring colour, too.

Prices: large breakfast, £7.21; endless lattes, £1.50

JD’s cooked breakfast had three hash browns alongside two eggs, two rashers of bacon, two sausages, one large button mushroom and far more beans than O’Neill’s.

VERDICTS

Home comforts: the higher ceiling at O’Neill’s makes it feel larger and more airy, especially at the front where you can watch the trams gliding past. The Figure of Eight has a nice library setting deeper inside. Table 32 and its nearby twin both showcase the fabulous beer garden. Loos are on the level at both venues.

Service: the young lady in O’Neill’s was more chatty than the polite young man in the Figure of Eight, who willingly changed my coffee cup when my first self-service machine malfunctioned.

Food: O’Neill’s hash browns, grilled tomatoes and bacon were quality, though I wished the latter’s fat had been more crispy. The Wetherspoon bacon was sliced more thinly and had been trimmed of its fat. Depends how you like it! The sausages – Irish in both pubs – were satisfying equals, though I’d always prefer one superior banger ahead of quantity.

O’Neill’s offered white or wholemeal toast, less dry than the white-only bloomer version at the Figure of Eight. Pleasingly, both pubs served real butter. The eggs at O’Neill’s were good but came swimming in their own fresh oil. The yolks of the less oily Wetherspoon eggs ran beautifully into a larger serving of Heinz beans.

So far, so equal – but JD’s mushroom was much juicer than the disappointingly dry, burned equivalents at O’Neill’s.

Drinks: both pubs serve Lavazza coffees. At O’Neill’s I had one delivered for £2.55. At JD, I ended up having three self-serve (limitless) brews for just £1.50 whilst reading a new Winter / Spring copy of the brilliant Wetherspoon News magazine, still free after 30 years.

The Figure of Eight on Broad Street.

And the winner is? With O’Neill’s superior bacon making up for its disappointing mushrooms, I couldn’t split the two pubs. The O’Neill’s breakfast with one latte came to £9.75 and at the Figure of Eight the bill was £8.71 (with three coffees and I could have had more).

With both pubs offering incredible value for money compared with the £3.90 cost of a single coffee now at New Street Station’s Pret A Manager, it’s a shame O’Neill’s only opens early on Saturdays at 9am (11am the rest of the week).  Wetherspoon opens at 8am seven days per week – respect for that.

They each offer a warm welcome – but the wider opening hours, real ales, beer garden and limitless free coffees at the Figure of Eight might swing it for many.

Then again… sports fans might well prefer O’Neill’s. Remodelled in 2022, some of its booths even have their own tellies and there’s an upstairs function room, too.

O’Neill’s on Broad Street.

Where are they? JD Wetherspoon Figure of Eight is at 236-239 Broad Street, Birmingham B1 2HG. Tel 0121 633 0917.

O’Neill’s is next door at the corner of Granville Street – tel 0121 616 1623 (Sign up online for a newsletter to claim a free drink). Children under 18 are welcome at both pubs until 9pm.

Main picture: O’Neill’s hearty breakfast.

ENDS

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