Reasons To Be Cheerful #2
(If you're wondering what this is all about, click here.)
The Bartons Arms
The Bartons Arms really is a diamond in the rough. Not only is the rough really rough, but the diamond is 24 carat.
The pub's situated a bit out of Birmingham city centre in the Newtown area of Aston, a quick and cheap taxi ride away but notoriously dodgy. In the Elbow Room club round the corner, a bloke out celebrating his birthday was so badly beaten up that he's now paralysed from the neck down, and a friend of the friend who took us there for the first time was once on board a bus which, when stopped outside the pub, was hit by three bullets.
It's a haven inside, though - a grand red brick Victorian inn with elaborate decorative tiling which had descended into disrepair until Oakham Ales bought it in 2002 and reopened it after some much-needed restoration work.
When it comes to real ales and strong continental lagers the landlord really knows his onions, having been lured away from the Fat Cat in Norwich, a pub which wins major awards every single year. I passed a very pleasant evening on Bishop's Farewell and a selection of cloudy wheat beers.
Neither is it average when it comes to pub grub - far from it. The menu consists solely of Thai dishes, which are delicious, beautifully prepared and reasonably priced, and which prove the attraction for a large number of visitors - the rear dining area is often full of an evening. The Thai influence also extends to bar snacks, which, even after a full meal, we couldn't resist - warm peanuts with lemon, chilli and salt.
In short, far and away the best pub I've found in Birmingham.