I have two main reasons for re-ticking pubs. If it’s had a name change or gone through a major refurb. Some folk re-tick a pub if it has new gaffers but I’m less arsed by that, plus I have enough contacts who let me know if a pub goes downhill after a change of hands. So here’s some words of pubs that I have re-ticked of late.
The Bulls Head, 38 Bishopsgate Street, Birmingham.
So I visited this pub with Madels as since my previous visit in 2010 on Pub 365 Challenge (volume 1) it had changed from the Highgate Brewery operated “City Tavern” to the Davenports “Bulls Head”.
This a bit of a walk from New Street Station but well worth it. The staff were all decked out in Peaky Blinders attire, but as I’ve not seen said programme this was wasted on me. If they’d been dressed as Early Doors characters I’d have been all over it.
There were candles all round the place but none of them were lit which was a shame as it would have bought a bit of a Boyzone “Love Me For A Reason” video feel to the proceedings. We used to have Friends Of Highgate Brewery socials in the room upstairs back in the day and I’d do a short quiz. This didn’t happen this time so at least I was spared being asked “what’s with all these shit questions?” like during our final gathering there after I’d posed “which motorway forms a ring road around Manchester?”
The beer was good, pub busy for a midweek afternoon, good atmosphere and a really good visit.
The Glassy Junction, 131 Willenhall Road, Wolverhampton.
Another midweek afternoon visit, this time with Dave. Again another visit for the first time since Pub Challenge 1 when the pub was known as The Malt Shovel. My notes for that visit was I got a smile from the barmaid (this doesn’t happen often hence it getting minuted) and the pool table taking up too much room in the small front room. Thankfully the table had gone and the barmaid on duty was smiley and welcoming.
After a road work delayed journey from hell on the 529 which took well over an hour we agreed to break strict pub blog/challenge rules and have a second pint regardless of how good the first one was. We’d more than earned it.
We got our drinks and surveyed the scene. There was only one table available next to one with a very serious looking man sat at it. I was hesitant but desperate to start supping so we marched over and sat down. He didn’t greet us. If I ever get my arse into gear and finish editing my novels, send them off and they get made into films, he is already on the shortlist to play Mr Serious.
When myself and Dave are in an unfamiliar pub, other than the magic tricks we are very much like Penn & Teller. He’ll talk to everyone in the vicinity in the loudest voice possible and I’ll just sit there silent and looking glum. I’m one of life’s miserable sods and I take this role very seriously. Anyway a conversion was never going to spark up between myself and Mr Serious so Dave sparked one up with the people in the middle of room. A lady called Kath was to prove to be the high-point of the visit. Friendly, funny, not afraid to stick a quid or two in the jukebox (during one such visit she asked “does anyone want any Billy Ocean?” and I had no hesitation in suggesting Red Light Spells Danger, which was the answer she wanted to hear.
The pub earned bonus points by providing free hot samosas which were amazing. We moved onto Kath’s table, and even I relaxed enough to join in the conversations. Turns out a few pints of Carling Dark Fruit cider does wonders for banishing my shyness. This was a superb visit and the highest accolade I can give this place is I really want to go back for a Friday night visit.
The Flying Tiger Bar, 49 Bradford Street, Walsall.
Launched in 2005 as BAR NV “Walsall’s Champagne Bar”, I’ve been in this place numerous times but not seen much champagne occurring. Craig was joining me on this re-tick after it had a refurb and change of name to The Flying Tiger.
Located conveniently just a short walk from the town centre and on the edge of Walsall’s popular red light district this now smart bar is worth a visit. I do have fond memories of the old bar though, two of which were Swill vowing never to set foot in the place again after the barmaid called him a boring fart for saying he was going home (I’m pretty sure he kept to this pledge) and another time my mate Mark Parton being asked by the barmaid what he wanted and he replying “a pint of Carling and your phone number please”. And he got both. I barely have the guts to order my beer. He got to take her out as well. What a bloke.
Anyway, onto this visit. We walked in and the barman enquired to Craig as to why he was sweating. He wasn’t really, it was hardly Prince Andrew in Pizza Express so that was an odd start. We then had an old lady on the next table tell us 3 times that if we wanted the darts turning over in favour of Soccer Saturday then just ask the barman. We don’t mind the darts. If you want it turning over love ask him yourself.
I have a reputation for missing Walsall FC goals when I’m at matches, and I was soon to transfer this skill to darts as I returned from the toilet to see a man complete a 170 finish and I’d only missed the first 120 of it.
We had a pleasant pint, the desi pub arrangement mean the place smelt amazing, and a quick glance at the menu saw that they do a salmon curry, which I’ve never heard off at £13. Good luck with that in Walsall. Nice place this but due to it’s location I never walk past it but it will be included in the town to Bescot Stadium pilgrimage when we finally get round to doing that before a home game.
Bankfield Inn, Bankfield Road, Bilston.
This pub is only about 3-4 years old but was called White Rabbit previously and both of my visits occurred under that name. The latter being an office trip for food. I’d been looking forward to my carvery for hours but upon walking in all the meat looked tired and dried out. They’d clearly had a harder day than me so I ordered off the menu instead. A couple of families then called in and demolished the lot. They came in like a wrecking ball if you like.
So like I say, this is a new build, family orientated foody place. If your Friday night of choice involves a few lagers, a game of darts followed by a good punch up, this probably isn’t the place for you.
This was a straight from work jobbie, delayed slightly by the 79 bus being behind a car who’s occupant was clearly practising for a new career driving a hearse, and then further held up by a visit to Majors chip shop but I was soon in the pub with Andrew Rollason one of the very few former work colleagues that I still meet up with.
It was dark when I arrived and there was a bouncy castle outside, which I didn’t expect on a cold November evening, and it was still being used. 10 year old me would have been straight on it even with the cold and dark, but 47 year old me wanted booze, and the latter won.
Inside is a sign saying “Bar, this way to happiness” a sentiment I can certainly get onboard with. The toilets are pristine and it has a vending machine where for just three of your hard earned English pound coins you can purchase 3 condoms, 1 stimulator ring or 2 x 850mg sexual stamina tablets. No Lion Bars though. All good vending machines should stock Lion Bars.
We had a couple of quick pints, but as a food place there were lots of kids running around so we departed in the direction of Cafe Metro.
The Lazy Hill, 196 Walsall Wood Road, Aldridge.
This pub went through a major renovation during lockdown and reopened in May so it needed a re-tick. After an arduous 529 journey which had me wondering if Jane Wiedlin would have been quite so enthusiastic about Rush Hour had she spent one of them on this service, I arrived at Walsall Bus Station, met Dave and we jumped on the number 7.
We were soon in the pub and I needed a good beer as a consolation to being knocked out of Whamageddon in the office earlier (on day 3) and Backyard Blonde was on and that fitted the bill nicely. We were stood back from the bar but the barmaid must have read Dave’s lips as he requested Stowford Press as she was already pouring it as I approached. Whilst being served around I glanced around. I had seen a video during the renovation and was worried some of the internal walls had gone making the pub open plan but no. The same partitions were still there keeping the pub with it’s different sections.
The pub has been transformed inside. Other reviewers have referred to it’s previous decor as old fashioned and tired but that is certainly not the case now. It looks really smart inside. It also has televisions dotted around the place now but these were showing two men in waistcoats hitting balls around a table with sticks so nobody (apart from Dave) was paying attention to them, instead chatting, drinking and having a good time.
It was Dave’s turn for the second round and he was gone for what seemed like a few seconds. The service is really good in here.
We had a seat right by a roaring fire which was very welcome, this itself was accompanied by a bottle with loose change in it . I have seen a much bigger and fuller one of these being swung around during a fight in The Fullbrook but there was no danger of that being repeated in here.
As is standard procedure I popped to the loo in search of additional material. The gents were clean, pristine and not much to report but then I spotted it. The mossiv radiator. It was taller than me and had me pondering do all pub toilets have radiators? I made a vow to now check every toilet for radiators. Sad, but you have to have these noble ambitions in life. Anyway, a great pub visit. Loved it.
King George V, Forge Road, Darlaston.
Formally Herberts Park Tavern, then Gabba’s Bar and now George V this pub has had so many different names that Cheryl Cole is a bit jealous. The George V was opposite the former home of Walsall FC, Fellows Park but lost it’s licence so they took the pub name, signs and staff uniforms to a new site in Darlaston. A move just a bit less controversial than Wimbledon FC being moved out of SW19. The move has hit the Walsall FC matchday experience a bit as the former King George is now being turned into flats, but it was time to visit the new site.
My sole visit to this place was in 2016 and it was venue number 5 on Pub Challenge 2, and my notes said that it was busy for a Monday night and Vintage TV was showing videos from 1988 and I only left because I had a Walsall CAMRA meeting to go to.
This revisit happened on Friday night. The pub is smartly decorated with lots of glittery effects on the walls and it was totally in the festive mood with decorations everywhere, including a miniature post box on the fire place for Santa wish lists. The slot wasn’t big but you don’t need an A4 sheet to ask for gin and some points for Walsall FC.
The bar was completely behind a big plastic screen with gaps cut out of the bottom for the exchange of cash and drinks, which made it feel a bit like a visit to Santander but that bank doesn’t have a big jug with £2 bottles of vodka shots behind the plastic. They could learn from this.
The screens were showing modern music videos but the jukebox was over ruling them and playing great songs like Love Really Hurts With You and Tragedy.
Josh arrived and went straight up the bar and ordered drinks and food, I wasn’t expecting him to share the food but the tandoori chicken and onion bhajis went down a storm.
Someone else went up the jukebox and soon we had Black Lace Superman playing but disappointingly only two people did the moves. I wondered if she’d but on “We’re Having A Gang Bang” by the same group would more people have joined in. This was followed by Gangnam Style which I haven’t heard since a Christmas do years a go when a metal loving colleague Steve Tonks did the dance after being pressured into it all week at work. So I did a low key version of it too. Knife and fork in one hand, lassoing with the other. Josh is normally cool with all my antics but even looked away at this point.
Josh had to shoot off so I savoured the rest of my pint. The pub was busy for early evening, the atmosphere was really good and it was a great visit. I left just in time for the bus to arrive and the start of Indie Night on Radio X so it was a good trip back to town. It was only as we came through Pleck I realised that I had forgotten to check the toilet for a radiator.
Anyway so it’s been 6 good pub visits and big thanks to everyone who came along.