Having gone all grumpy retiredmartin the other week on the train home, I really ought to balance it up with a bit of praise for the 2nd city(*)
So good was the day, that you get three exciting instalments(**), this one covering the Jewellery Quarter.
Birmingham was a reminder of what a joy a pub crawl round a big city can be, even in 2017. Shown below are my ticks (old and new) on a day when I piggybacked on to a Brum day organised by Pub Curmudgeon and some old CAMRA Forum mates with names like Citra, Paul and EvilKeg3.
And what a joy the new Grand Central is to arrive at, after a 3 hour train journey from the Fens, “enhanced” by over-excited adults who’d escaped from a BRAPA script. It hardly needs saying they’d got on at Peterborough.
Here’s the evidence of an 05:35 start. Just remember, kids, Simon does this every week.
Mr Clarkson may be able to spot St Andrews in this shot eastwards.
Quite a contrast between Digbeth (a bit threadbare of pubs this year) and the newly styled Grand Central.
New Street station transformed, a match for Kings Cross and my personal favourite Nuremberg.
Outside, while the rest of the city slept off their pints of Brew XI, I had the glories of Victoria Square, and omnipresent cranes, to myself in some rare Midlands sunshine.
That 5.35 am start meant a good day’s walking, and I’d clocked up 15 miles by the time I set foot back in the flatlands. Most of those miles were walking to and from the Jewellery Quarter, belatedly becoming Brum’s Kelham Island or Ancoats. A heady mix of industrial decay, stained glass, Italian bistros and BrewTaps.
The churches are inspiring.
But on occasion the street art seems to be trying too hard, and you long for the simplicity of a Banksy or a sixth-form art student from Bewdley.
The Jewellery Quarter is, of course, to the west of Brum, over a canal I half expected boating/photography legend Pete Allen to be emerging from (not literally).
My entire lifetime spend on jewellery is £60, that on beer somewhat higher. In fact, I could have spent more than that in my first pub alone with not much effort.
There’s a lot to be said for the Red Lion.
- It opens at 10am.
2. It’s gorgeous. Despite the slight “modernisation”.
3. There’s a Banks’s mirror that’s nearly as good as the one with the red triangle.
4. There are Old Boys and Young Pros.
5. There are Faggots (and Chips). Which cost £11.95.
6. There is a soundtrack of “Logical Song” and “Personal Jesus“.
7. And there is Batham’s Bitter.
“Half of Batham’s please”
“Two pound, please” (Checks the price)
“Oh, actually, it’s £2.10 please“.
“Grief (I do say grief a lot), that’s a lot for a half” (Checks again)
“Actually, it’s £2.25. Sorry” (She really was very polite)
“If I keep asking will it come down ?”
A pint was £4.45, by the way, so not even a hefty mark up on halves. It was a decent beer (NBSS 3), though I wouldn’t have recognised it as Batham’s.
Clearly those prices pay for the refurb, the Baylis & Harding soap, and the crystal chandelier. I wondered how the Old Boys, happily discussing their washing powder preferences, afforded them.
Winston didn’t look amused.
I headed for the clock, spotting Pete and his super-pro camera.
There’s a lot of photographic merit inside the Rose Villa Tavern, a second architectural gem of the day. I’m not too fussed about “doing” the National Inventory pubs, but this was a spectacular, and lovingly maintained work of art.
Great seats, gorgeous windows, decent local beer (it wasn’t Doom Bar), pleasant staff, and Boney M.
Where has it been hiding ? It took some effort to get Pete and camera to start the walk into town, but we were tight to schedule, and you know how important schedules are.
Tomorrow you get photos of Old Mudgie and some “proper pubs”, all of them open.
** frankly, I get bored after writing 500 words. And there’s too many photos.