Original post here.
Shire Oak, Brownhills:
The Shire Oak has had a bit of a chequered history in the last year or two, with changes of landlord and very much in need of a refurb, so it’s good to see it open again.
That refurb has been completed, so I took a hobble up to see what’s gone on.
It’s a fairly standard pubco makeover, but it looks smart and clean- the refurb was needed, but a bit of atmosphere has gone (I overheard other customers saying the same). The famously upside-down Fleur de Lys walpaper has gone too, and the seperate bar and lounge have gone; the bar area is still there, which is good, but the only demarcation is a hard floor instead of carpet. Sadly, the current fad for tall tables and stools has made it here too: awkward and uncomfortable. There’s a big focus on food- the lounge area is mostly set out for dining.
There were several ales advertised, but only one available, but it was OK, and there was a fair choice of industrial lager, and some variety in the fridges (BrewDog Punk IPA, for example), but the choice for drivers was a bit limited as far as I could see, which seems odd for a pub on a major road junction with a full car park.
All in all, not a bad pub, and very busy. The staff were pleasant, and the beer OK. I’ll be going back, but I’ll miss the old pub.
Another by-the-numbers food pub, this time a Fayre & Square. Pretty quiet when we arrived at getting on for 10pm, it’s after the family feedbag market, and is very typically a feedbag pub, with owner Greene King’s beer in evidence. A bit soulless again, but not actually unpleasant, and convenient for my bus and Andy’s walk home.
Andy’s log here.
A by-the-numbers Marstons feedbag pub, but fairly pleasant for it. A bit soulless, and the beer was a bit lacking IMO, but there was a choice of ale and there were other people just drinking, as well as us. Nothing special, but could be a lot worse.
Andy’s log here.
This was a traditional pub, overlooking the bay, as per it’s Google Maps description. I suppose it still is, but it’s been hit with the Greene King pubco stick of Old English Inns.
By no means bad, but it’s got the middle-class-green, the over-polished lanterns outside, and the pubco-slick but trying to be pally food menu. As it was, the food was OK, but a little expensive and not exceptional, the beer not bad at all, and the staff were fine; it just lacked atmosphere a bit.
A by-the-numbers family feedbag spoons-a-like. Not too bad considering, with OK beer, and pretty decent food and staff. No atmosphere, of course, but perfectly acceptable.
Andy’s log here.
Just over the road, this is Willenhall’s ‘spoons. It’s been there a while (since 1999), and is, well, a ‘spoons. Not a bad one overall: it was clean, and the beer and staff were fine. Again, bus stop very close, but the opposite direction.
This is a purpose-built Brewers Fayre at the bottom of a Premier Inn, on the edge of the town centre by Town Wharf, and hence right next to The Wharf.
It’s exactly what you’d expect in many ways: bland, lacking in soul, currently-fashionable pubco decor, but for what it is, it is OK. The food was perfectly OK (but, as a note to the world in general, burgers should come on baps, not Ciabatta), there was decent real ale and wine, and the outside seating by the wharfside is pleasant on a sunny day. Staff were pleasant, and the whole place was clean. If you were considering a stop in Walsall, the hotel seems good enough, and the location’s good for the station, shopping, town centre pubs/restaurants, and art gallery.
For some reason, its own website lists it as being near Selly Manor, which is both a bit random, and untrue, as Selly Manor is someway south of Birmingham, so if you were visiting there, there’s many, many hotels closer. Presumably someone at Whitbread HQ searched for historic buildings nearby and randomly picked it.
Over the road to here. Outside looks a little tatty- nothing too bad, but peeling paint- and inside we’re confronted by a GK beer selection, and one of the standard family feedbag menus.
I chose Golden Hen, which was wise, as my companions chose GK IPA, which is never the most inspiring beer, but especially if (as in this case) it has a whiff of vinegar- but to be fair, it was changed by the barman.
Not an awful pub, but not wonderful either, nothing actually wrong, but I wouldn’t rush back.
We were at the beer festival at the town hall, and this was the nearest place to watch the Grand national. It’s typical town centre pub with a sports bias- loud, crowded, but it served the purpose- I’d usually avoid it. Service with a scowl too- the young lady serving me was verging on hostile, but I’d guess a day of serving beer to hordes of pissed-up people might do that (along with being asked to top mine up…). Beer was decent and cheap though.
Pretty standard ‘spoons, but I’m having less of a problem with that these days: after all, a ‘spoons is usually a good chance of decent beer and wine, and at least reasonable food. We didn’t eat here, but the beer and wine were up to standard, everything else as you’d expect. Friendly locals, who seemed surprisingly not that keen on their home town…