The Pinnacle Guide

Couch

Birmingham, UK

Couch is an unassuming neighbourhood bar that excels at authentic service, community-building and elevated classic cocktails.

AREAS OF EXCELLENCE

AREAS OF EXCELLENCE

 The Pinnacle Guide assesses bars against eight areas of excellence, following a rigorous self-application process and anonymous in-bar reviews. Find out more about this process and apply as a bar here.

ENVIRONMENTAL ENDEAVOURS

Couch tries to avoid waste across its entire operation, by utilising techniques such as pickling, infusions into alcohol, filing down chipped glassware or simply gifting any fresh produce that would be wasted to neighbouring business’ or customers. They use First Mile, a green forward thinking waste company, and operate with a policy of no virgin plastics, avoiding single-use cups and tableware.

DETAILS OF NOTE

Engaging in its local community is of paramount importance to Couch and anything that can be collected on foot is. Its beers are collected from a local brewery, the team use local grocers for fresh fruit and vegetables and forage for ingredients when possible. With strong queer representation within the team, Couch is committed to creating a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community.

The Pinnacle Guide

1

Couch is the bar everyone wishes they lived near. It’s a gathering point, a communal living room, a garden party in summer and a cosy respite in winter. It’s the beloved neighbourhood joint that is simultaneously super serious about cocktails. With an even split of seats either at the bar or at a table (and not including the garden), this is a small venue with a clear focus on interaction. 

A minimal design sees deep forest green used in subway tiles on the rear wall and the bar front, while walls and ceiling are white, creating a calming space. The back bar is concise, filled with only the bottles the team needs, as opposed to the towering shelves of larger venues, and feels therefore deeply considered, as if every bottle has earned its place.

While overall, Couch stays true to its simple design, guests will see touches of personality – from the artwork that utilises previous menu designs, to the bold holiday fridge magnets all over the ice machine and the polaroids of regulars on the back bar. Where this is most felt however is in service. Couch’s bar has been created to allow one bartender to focus on drinks and the other to focus on atmosphere, interactions and service. While they may overlap, this clear choice allows staff the freedom to spend more time with guests, if that’s what they’re looking for, and is a hallmark of what makes this bar so loved. Everything has been considered in this ethos, including moving the draught tap to the back wall to ensure nothing is physically in the way between host and guest, and optimising their menu so that all bottles can be fitted into the rails and wells for swifter speed of service. 

Great service is underpinned by a cocktail program that has elevated this bar from a neighbourhood joint to a destination venue. Classics are tweaked and improved upon with modern techniques, and previously adored drinks make a regular comeback in the menu’s Couch Classics section. Another nod to this bar’s loyal regulars. Overall, drinks are served without fuss but often contain surprising ingredients created in-house. Menus are created based on what is in season, what is available from local fruit and vegetable suppliers and what can be foraged in the local area.

For guests looking to delve into the hows, the team can discuss the processes used to achieve intense and unusual flavours – and will even share recipes for those who want to recreate their drinks at home.

Those who visit early evening will note that the garden is a small sun trap, with heaters turned on as it gets colder. Surrounded by residents – it’s a true oasis. Back in the bar and the atmosphere switches up a notch as the evening lengthens. Couch’s owner and some of its staff are self-described music nerds and their playlists, ranging from relaxed Motown and Doo-Wop, to rock and roll and 80s classics are well loved in the Birmingham bar scene. Turn up on a Saturday in full-swing and guests may even hear a pop of disco.

Their local Birmingham, and more specifically Stirchley, community are paramount to the team and they regularly collaborate with local chefs when researching and developing new recipes – swapping tips on cooking techniques for their own drinks knowledge. They support charities that are close to their heart including Birmingham’s LGBTQIA+ charities, Let’s Talk Hospitality, as well as donating to food banks and green space activations. 

"I want to go back and try the different cocktails on the menu and see how they change over the year, because both I tried were delicious and special."

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