There aren’t enough pubs anymore. Stories and statistics regarding their closure adorn the newspapers on a regular basis.
As you drive around you see the sad, once grand buildings shut down and boarded up – “the pubs are dying” the moribund forecasters say. Yet on every weekend, at many a lunchtime and upon numerous other occasions, popular boozers are rammed to the gills with customers. Pubs are as well-loved as they ever were, and smart entrepreneurs are still enticing customers with great beers, fine food and entertainment, even if the big pub companies have forgotten how. Birmingham is thankfully home to a good number of the former and we checked out one for this month’s review.
Lady C and I rolled into the King’s Head car park on a Thursday lunchtime to find that we were far from alone in our choice of venue. This grand, century-old building has had a couple of make-overs in recent times, but has retained many of its original features. We popped ourselves down on some comfy leather chairs and perused the menu. I supped a pint of ‘Butty Back’ and Lady C enjoyed a nice glass of Merlot while our orders arrived.
We shared some starters, our first dish being Chinese prawn dumplings, which were served with warm pak choi and a hot dipping sauce. The second dish was asparagus with buffalo mozzarella, wrapped in Parma ham and served with mixed leaves and lemon olive oil. I was a big fan of the asparagus, which was reasonably firm but not undercooked, and I enjoyed the salty ham and cheese which was lifted by the tangy sauce. Lady C preferred the sweet dumplings and sauce and the contrasting crunchiness of the salad. So starters got us out of the blocks nicely and we were ready for our main courses.
We picked from the specials menu and it was here that things really came into play. I tucked into a healthy portion of pork belly, served with a spicy bean and chorizo stew along with rocket and parmesan. It was all big bold flavours and soft, tender meat, not to mention a bit of crackling. A hearty pub meal in a climate which has recently switched from summer to autumn. I also ordered a good glass of red to and was at peace with the world. Meanwhile, Lady C was demolishing a tender fillet steak which she described as “really great, tasty, just great”. I took a slice and I’d say she was being accurate if not overly eloquent. She also compared it very favourably to other steaks she’s had while we’ve been out, but I won’t enflame chef rivalries by saying who. Alongside the steak came some dauphinoise potatoes and buttered mange tout. Good dauphinoise are always a treat when made well and these had a firm cheesy kick to them which we appreciated.
The dessert menu had a nice number of choices, including crumble of the day, which was apple and raspberry, which I order with a jug of custard. It was quite a big portion and I didn’t eat it all. The topping was very crunchy, almost biscuit like. The fruit had retained their flavours with sharp of the raspberry contrasting well with the sweet of the sugars. My only complaint was there was initially nowhere to pour the custard, but I soon dug a hole. Lady C chose the sticky toffee pudding and declared it to be an excellent thing that chefs are once again making them properly. I didn’t try any myself, but she’s had a few, so if sticky toffee is your thing then you have it on good authority that this is a nice one.
All in all, we had a very pleasant time at the King’s Head, and found it to be an incredibly relaxing and enjoyable meal. I took a walk around the sizeable premises and was pleased the owners have kept many of the original details and that, as a result, the building’s charm remains intact. The ‘history wall’, to be found alongside the exterior decking area, is a nice touch, which shows the affection the owners hold for their pub. My expectation is that many of its customers feel similarly, and that we might very well return before the year is out.