Friday 6 July 2018

BRAPA - Supping Up the Dregs of Yummie Brummie

Dad enjoying a pint at the Rose Villa Tavern
I'm sure these blog titles get worse.  Anyway, it was Saturday 16th June and I'd spent two days recovering from Cambridge/Cornwall, watching the World Cup, sleeping, and eating cheese & cucumber sandwiches and stew.  But not necessarily in that order.

I was down in Birmingham with Dad.  The initial plan had been Telford, then it was scaled down to Sutton Coldfield, before eventually agreeing to play it totally safe and just focus on clearing the remaining 4 fairly central Brum pubs without too much effort.  A replacement bus from Doncaster (always the worst type of replacement bus) and an early train home meant we had to be conservative.

It was about 11am when we arrived, as usual New Street station felt oppressive and all encompassing despite attempts at modernisation, roadworks and shopping centres engulfed us like Octopuses with balti flavoured tentacles, and made walking / breathing difficult.  It isn't a depressing city, but the 'gateway' to it is just the worst.

One day, I'll arrive in Birmingham, and the sun will be shining, birds will be twittering, the gents will doff their caps and say "alroite fella" and women will wear high quality petticoats and wink saucily at me.  And I'll feel good about the city.  I don't know when that time will be, but it WILL happen.

Could our first pub thrill us?  No?  Well, let us at least give it a chance.

1412 / 2158.  Purecraft Bar and Kitchen, Birmingham

Like he had a funny joke stuck in his head, the barman seemed to smiling in serial killer style fashion as we approached the bar, the first customers of the day, and dare I say it, probably the best way a pub lover like me could begin to enjoy this place.  It was one of those shiny metallic set ups with exposed pipes and brickwork which presumably excites millennials, but makes me feel chilly even on a hot day.  Though don't touch that huge red pipe at the bar, it probably spouts hot molten lava or so me and Dad wondered.  An open plan kitchen behind us was supposed to obviously impress us, I saw a chef chop up 8 potatoes very quickly and put them in a deep fat fryer.  He then picked up something green and leafy, and smiled over at me, I looked away hurriedly.  Dad, who'd declared the place "hip" on arrival because he's still in the 1960's (as we'll see more evidence of later) came back from the loos astonished and a bit disappointed that the taps weren't automatic.  As so often happens when I arrive in Birmingham before midday, I needed a poo and this was the ideal place, offering clean warm toilets with a modern feel.  It joins the Post Office Vaults, Victoria and the Old Joint Stock, making Birmingham the current proud holder of the BRAPA Poo Capital (BPC) of the UK, edging out Rochdale into 2nd place.   A word on the beer, or at least the pricing.  We'd ditched the Purity beers for the superior Magic Rock, but Dad noticed they'd cheekily marked the beer prices up like the beer percentages i.e. 4.5 actually meant £4.50.  A deliberate ploy I'm sure.  Crafty as well as crafty!  Customers of note were in short supply at this early hour, but I did have time to spot a wine tasting couple at the bar, the woman holding the wine in her mouth and pursing her lips in a goldfish way before throwing her head back.  It was a joy to watch, Jilly Goolden's protegee has been discovered.  As the weirdest version of 'Ghost Town' you've ever heard aptly played, we decided it was time to move on.

Beermats annoyed me due to shape barely covering bottom of pint glass

Don't touch the red pipe Dad!

The kind of decor and seating you rarely find in Oldham

View towards the kitchen blokes

Onwards and outwards towards the Jewellery Quarter and Hockley, where I suddenly this year had three pubs to do despite many previous outings to places like the Black Eagle, Lord Clifden and Red Lion, where I had one of the most amazing breakfasts ever.

My phone was doing its usual stupid freezing thing (last time I'll say this as it was in for repair the following week!) so Dad had to be our guide and after some slight dithering which was in no way his fault, we eventually found our second pub.  I was quite excited cos the GBG had that little black star next to it, indicating it was National Inventory.......

1413 / 2159.  Rose Villa Tavern, Hockley, Birmingham

And my initial thoughts were "wow, one of those Birmingham classic of old like Anchor, Woodman, Old Moseley, Inn on the Green, that really cold one with the crap Marstons beer near the Anchor, Prince of Wales etc etc.  The green tiling, mosaics, red brick, stained glass, and this was all before we got to the bar.  And that is when it started to go downhill.  Despite a gaggle of females being seemingly free to take our order, they dillied and dallied, and what is worse, Australia had just won a penalty against France on the giant screen, and I just KNEW they'd ask my order at the SECOND that the Aussies were stepping up to take it, meaning I had to try and order without looking at the barmaid which is very rude I know, but she should've had me sorted out AGES before this.  "Don't serve me now!" I'd said so only Dad could hear, so he sang the relevant Queen song and it didn't help my predicament. The beer when it came was ok, but not as good as the Purecraft quality, and it was lucky Dad spied a long thin cubby hole around the corner (arguably the best part of the pub, see photo at top of blog) for it was increasingly evident the pub was a mess, bringing the national inventory status into disrepute.  Twild buggy families were ordering pulled pork burgers with extra cheese, chair legs were painted gaudy colours, wires and electrical lights hung everywhere, "they've done their best to fuck it up" observed Dad in a quote that he only said if Mum isn't reading this.  Gin menus screamed at us from endless blackboards, and all the GBG could tell us was the pub sold 100 vodkas like it was some Good Vodka Guide (which I'll complete when I've ticked off my final GBG pub in 2043).  As if I couldn't feel more traumatised, I ignored a 'reserved from 11am' sign on a side room I thought would lead me to the gents, and ended up walking into a lesbian wedding party (well, I called them 'irritating women' at the time but Dad got a better view than me and that's what he said).  A place to leave you despairing at what a good pub this really should've been!

Local watches shocking You Tube clip with wide stance

Telephone box for added quirkiness

Silly chair legs

A window of some distinction

Nice green tiling and mirror, or if you like , reflection of lesbian wedding do
Just a street or so away, another Hockley pub was waiting.  I say pub, but, well, let us go in and see if it could impress more than the previous two.

1414 / 2160.  1000 Trades, Hockley, Birmingham

There are some places you just don't want to be in alone for fear you could feel a sudden urge to cut yourself, or at least burst into tears.  Here was a good example of this, and I hope that first sentence is in their GBG description if it gets in next year, because the ale was good quality, the one positive.  A giant dog had already stared me out before we'd got served in a slow and lethergic manner amongst the 'quirky' informational leaflets and adverts at the bar.  We sat at a table surrounded by empty cans of San Pellegrino, this place felt more like a school canteen than a pub, or a bar.  "I don't understand the world we live in" wailed Dad as we sat down.  Sackcloths hung from the wall, presumably so you could remove them and cover your face to hide your shame at being here.  Food smelt good actually, served in something called 'Salt & Earth' at the end of the pub.  'Pub is full of PIBOFs', said Dad as I came back from the loo, where to be fair, staff had been smiley as I walked through the pub.  That is three positives?  PIBOF meant 'Pseudo Intellectual Boring Old Farts', I hope he made that up on the spot!  After admiring paintings we thought were Amsterdam but were actually Birmingham, I was worried we were becoming PIBOFs ourselves, but my attentions were drawn to the two particularly strange coffee drinkers behind Dad.  They'd been discussing 'Chanel' and there was a weird passive aggressive 'necklace putting on / strangulation' moment before one of them uttered one of the weirdest lines in BRAPA 2018.  "Jan Leeming did remarkably well with a smokestack chimney .... but Sean Ryder did a lot of drugs".  I think this whole 'pub' does, utterly terrifying.  

"Lame stuff I don't give a shit about"

The dog that wanted to kill me

Sackcloth dreams

Strangulation time, but Dad is still unimpressed
Only a ten hour a week opener with less than three lines in the GBG could save us now, but would it?  It took a bit of finding, and like all good micros, it had no obvious sign (well, if you are as blind as me) but a load of beer bellied layabouts straight out of communist Budapest indicated beer might be sold within.

1415 / 2161.  Rock 'n Roll Tap House, Hockley, Birmingham

It took us a while to warm up to the fact that we'd happened upon quite a unique little gem here, and although I can't remember the details, the walk from front door to bar was the problem, plagued by 'pretentious shite doing it a disservice' to quote Dad at the time (unless Mum is reading of course).  Rock & Roll ales all had vinyl record handpumps, and despite the friendly barmaid, I wondered if this was just a bit too much of a novelty flash-in-the-pan 'pop up bar', here today, gone tomorrow.  But as we sat around the corner on a low flung beaten up old couch and the smell of damp enveloped me, you could feel the pub kind of grabbing you and pinning you down.  A 60's cocktail bar with plastic flamingos might sound a bit tacky, but it was wonderful, and for Dad especially, memories of his youth in Hull started flooding back and a misty look came across his face, something that hadn't happened in the 1000 Trades, even if a woman was being strangled behind him.  "Me and Geoff Davis, 1967, we burnt it all up in Hull!" he declared, which made me laugh out loud, somewhat spoiling the mood.  'Dave Berry at the Gondola' he continued, am pretty sure he was in a trance by now.  Speaking of which, I went in search of the loo and found myself in a room, one of those "you are not supposed to be here but you obviously are" type places, which just had strobe lighting and beer barrels, bizarre.  The loos were wonderful, of the Anchor Shropshire variety, in fact I recognised one or two of the cobwebs.  Dad had obviously sparked a Hull love in, for the table next to us were talking about the time Hull City played Southend at Boothferry Park, and won 1-0 to secure survival, even though the crowd was next to nothing as the whole City was at Wembley watching Hull FC v Hull KR in the Challenge Cup Final.  Dad went over to tell them he was at that game!  Take that plastic Shrimpers, which are bit like plastic Flamingos if you think about it.   Magical place this!

The Shrimpers about to get a lesson in 1980's Hull

Classic bogs

The weird forbidden room

Wonderful flamingo based fun

Can't remember this pair, weird ghosts?
Well, that'd perked us up!  And as if to prove those brilliant paintings in the 1000 Trades right, we then walked along Birmingham canals we didn't know existed where weird Viking boat races were happening.  We'd not seen this side to the city before, and it was a great atmosphere down there.

Still time for a pre-emptive, and after a few great Twitter recommendations, we went more with 'old pub' over 'reliable ale' due to the type of modern day we'd had up to this point.  We weren't to be disappointed.......

Bull's Head, Birmingham

I liked Peaky Blinders when it was on BBC2 and only my family and a few Irish gypsies and Kate Middleton watched it, so there!  When I got the chance to go to Southport's GBG listed  'Peaky Blinders', I was very excited.  It was a bit (well a lot) of a letdown, and I've been convinced an old Birmingham pub must be the way to do it justice, judging by those pubs I mentioned earlier at the beginning of my Rose Villa Tavern write up.  The only downside, as someone else on Twitter mentioned, was the beer isn't good enough to make it into the GBG.  Davenports it was, which for me, evokes memories of 'railways station pubs' before all the Taps (Euston, York, Sheffield etc.) came along to massively improve things.  I went for the IPA and whilst it was kept perfectly well, it was just a dreadful drink, and having ordered a huge plate of chilli beef nachos with masala beans, it was probably the least thirst quenching tasting ale I've ever had the misfortune to try.  Shame as I'd love to see more pubs like this in the GBG, and less of the 1000 Trades of this world, but you cannot deny it is a Good BEER Guide, when all said and done!  A peaceful atmosphere, corridor, side rooms, it was vintage Birmingham.

Dad's chin table classic pose

And that was that!  A fine day, a delayed train back, a swift J20 in the Leopard in Donny, a humourous incident between Dad and a woman who wanted to save a seat (two seats?) on the replacement bus for her overweight 'fwend' , and all back in time for a cuppa with mother BRAPA before some Fathers Day frolics on the Sunday.  Great stuff.

I am catching up on these blogs, honest!  Should be there by Mid July.  Phew.



  1. A J20 in the Leopard ? Is that code?

    1. I do believe he means that he had a fruit juice in The Leopard in Doncaster. Though as to why I cannot say. :)

    2. It was actually code for a drink that isn't J2O, so don't worry!

  2. "I'm sure these blog titles get worse."

    You have a ways to go yet before you catch up to Martin. (LOL)

    "I don't know when that time will be, but it WILL happen."

    Perhaps. But first, petticoats will have to come back in fashion. ;)

    "I needed a poo"

    The 'usual' calling card. :)

    Also, I think you need to eat more fibre in the morning. Most of us do our 'constitutional' within an hour of waking up. :)

    "Crafty as well as crafty! "

    (slow golf clap)

    "View towards the kitchen blokes"

    Is it hygienic to have the kitchen so open?

    "(last time I'll say this as it was in for repair the following week!)"


    "observed Dad in a quote that he only said if Mum isn't reading this."


    "Local watches shocking You Tube clip with wide stance"

    I believe the current vernacular is 'mansplaining'.

    "I hope he made that up on the spot! "

    It's not bad; although I prefer PISSOFs: Pseudo Intellectual Staid and Stodgy Old Farts. :)

    "I think this whole 'pub' does, utterly terrifying."

    No argument here. And they should change their name to 1000 Tirades. :)

    "but a load of beer bellied layabouts straight out of communist Budapest indicated beer might be sold within."

    The photo does look a bit like lining up for your weekly bread ration in communist Hungary back in the day. ;)

    "A 60's cocktail bar with plastic flamingos might sound a bit tacky,"

    It does; but tacky doesn't mean it can't be wonderful. :)

    "Classic bogs"

    Yes, but what flavour were the hand lotions?

    "I liked Peaky Blinders when it was on BBC2 and only my family and a few Irish gypsies and Kate Middleton watched it, so there!"

    My wife and I are big fans over here. Looking forward to Season 5 later this year. :)

    "It was a bit (well a lot) of a letdown, "

    I remember that one. And yes, didn't live up to expectations. :(

    "but you cannot deny it is a Good BEER Guide, "

    Sigh, too true. Shame really as it sounds a 'proper' pub.

    "I am catching up on these blogs, honest!"

    Your blog, so your pace. :)


    1. Cheers Russ! Manspreading I believe. But PISSOFs haha, I'll try and remember that one. I'm bringing Petticoats back for the Autumn.

    2. "Manspreading I believe."

      Whoopsie! (blush)

      Thanks for mansplaining that to me. (LOL)


  3. Couldn't agree more re PUrecraft
    I quite like the RVT and usually a good atmosphere whilst RRB is a gem. I didn't really warm to Bulls Head as felt a bit soulless to me but a top write up on some Brum boozers

    1. Thanks, I didn't dislike Purecraft either but if they'd told me to keep the noise down, it could've been very different! You are fairer than me. Glad you agreed on problematic beermat shapes, haha!
      By Bull's Head, probably combination of the drink and what'd gone before it for the most part perhaps made me more generous than if it'd been pub 1 of the day.

  4. Which Bull's Head was that? There's more than one.

    We're off to Birmingham on Wednesday to do all the pubs that got kicked out of the GBG between 2017 and 2018 :P

    1. Not sure if it is the one, but the pub at Tennant and Bishopsgate is a Davenports.

    2. It's the one off Broad Street. Not the Big BUlls Head in Digbeth whcih is a different kettle of fish and hihgly amusing! I reckon you should add The Ruin in to your list on Wednesday Mudge

    3. Enjoy your crawl Mudgie, I lost a higher percentage of pubs in West Midlands than other area between 2017 and 2018 GBG's so you might be in for a very boozy day!

  5. Dad had one helluva day.

    1. So many top quotes too looking back, he was on top form!

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  7. I'd like to sit here and say, "How dare you come down to my city and slag off its boozers!"...but I can't as you've pretty much got them spot on.

    The Rose Villa Tavern has all the ingredients of a great pub, but somehow doesn't manage to put them all together.

    As for the others, I've been to the Purecraft Bar once and it was OK. I also like the Bull's Head, but it seems to be lacking something that stops it from becoming a great boozer.

    1. Thanks Peter! Yes, Rose Villa Tavern just should be so much better than it is, I think pubs like that end up frustrating more than the Purecraft Bars of this world where you know what you are going to get.

  8. What was so amazing about the Red Lion breakfast, Si. Staying in JQ and tempted tomorrow morning.

  9. It sounds amazing and i want to visit there to have a drink. I love the ambience of Cirque le Soir Table