Saturday, November 18, 2006

Stirchley

It doesn't sound very appealing, does it - Stirchley? And it isn't, really. And being next door to Bournville with its quaker quaintness, the Birmingham area (or suburb?) of Stirchley probably doesn't have a lot to commend it. Also, armed with camera in appalling weather, the place didn't seem very photogenic.

I was visiting Pete for the afternoon and we were both hungry, so Pete recommended a place he had heard about, the British Oak. This pub had recently been "improved" after years of being run down and almost out. It turned out to be something of a revelation. The menu offered a varied selection of honest pub food and I could not resist going back a few years and ordering faggots, peas and chips. Faggots are like Italian meat balls only larger and with more "filler" to add bulk and flavor. I decided to wash this down with a pint of Mild, a brew rarely seen outside city pubs these days. Mild is low in alcohol and therefore often the cheapest pint at under £2 a glass. It also has a different flavor, best called "mild" by comparison with other brews from the same brewery. And this was a local classic, M&B (Marvellous Beer), though I am not sure where M&B brews its beers these days.

The British Oak, Stirchley

The interior of the pub offers the classic suburban pub built in the early years of the 20th Century. A central bar with rooms around it. The first room is the old Public Bar, a place with tiled floor and meant for serious after work (i.e. all evening) drinking. Round the back are two rooms, basically the old Lounge Bars. One is for smokers, the other isn't. Food is served here. The present furnishings include a few large sofas more reminiscent of a Starbucks coffee shop before it gets beaten up by constant use. The walls carry art deco murals and on the fireplace I couldn't help but admire this gorgeous lamp:

Seen in a Suburban Pub

Off to one side is a full size (maybe 3/4, come to think of it) billiard table in its own room. There could be four pool tables in its place but the one large table is so much more in keeping.

The Gentlemens Room has not changed since it was built with those fine porcelain fittings and expertly fitted plumbing that will probably last another 100 years of heavy use. It was good to see that the owners have not modernised the place where it didn't need it.