Tag Archives: chain

The Fradley Arms

Near Fradley, Lichfield

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Just a few hours after whinging about them, I find myself in a chain-pub “restaurant”. In my defence, it was on the way home; an awkwardly-timed appointment in Burton-upon-Trent saw us heading south back home without having eaten, so we called in. I was last here over 10 years ago, and I think I recall a traditional pub. The old building still looks attractive, but it shares its site with a Premier Inn, has become a behemoth collection of buildings, and is part of the Fayre & Square chain, itself a brand of the Spirit Pub Company. See what they did there? It sells Fayre, at a fair and square price, and *giggle* some of the food is square (the burgers). How very whimsical, I do believe my sides have split.

It was OK, as a better alternative than McDonalds or the chippy, and it was pretty cheap (£17 for 2 meals, a soft drink, and a large wine). There was cask ale, and a good choice of other stuff. There’s a wacky warehouse for kids to run about in, though that didn’t stop some parents letting theirs run about the place (fortunately, as it’s a big place, we went to the other end and escaped them). The food was serviceable, rather than exceptional, and the menu standard family feedbag stuff (PDF, 11MB). Staff were nice enough, but a bit corporate training manual:

“Pint of lime & soda please”

“Is that a large or a small?”


Overall, you could do worse, but you’re not going to get atmosphere or haute cuisine.

The Lord Clifden

Hockley, Birmingham:

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I was ready to hate this, but thought one of my companions might like it, as she has a less grotty taste in pubs than I do. Hockley can be a bit of a game these days, what with The Rose Villa Tavern, and the increasing ‘cool’ of the area, so with that and the company that owns this (and its sister pub, The Red Lion, making a chain of 2) calling itself Urban Art Bar Group [shudder], I was ready for it to be replete with bell end hipsters (is there any other sort?).

Actually, I was pleasantly surprised. Inside, it looks like a pub. An actual pub. OK, there’s art on the walls, but it actually looks OK. The staff were friendly, efficient, and normal. The food was good, the ale was excellent (as per the reputation), and the music wasn’t some dreadful shite no-one would ever listen to for pleasure, and not so loud we couldn’t talk. The prices weren’t too bad either. There’s a big outside smoking shelter for those of you that might want it- with a TV (so we can get the two objectionable things in one place! (edit: there’s a TV in the bar too, but not the lounge)).

Best of all, the customers were normal too.

The Avion


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A ‘spoons.

But finally a ‘spoons in a place that has been crying out for one.

I love the Avion. It’s a 1930s cinema, that closed as a cinema in 1967, then as a bingo hall in 2009, then was the subject of speculation 2 years ago.

It’s now open as a pub, and they’ve done a great job. It’s still a ‘spoons, but the inside is pleasant, with deco touches, and there’s local ales from Beowulf & Backyard.

The view from the ladies’ toilet is rather nice too, featuring the original stained glass (I’m relying on female companions for this information) from what was, I believe, originally the cafe.

Staff were friendly too, and the place was very busy.

The Lych Gate Tavern


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The latest in the Black Country Taverns chain, this is tucked down a pedestrianised street, just by the gates to St Peters Church.

There’s lots to recommend it: the landlord and landlady previously ran the Black Country Arms, and the owners generally do a good job.

It was quite nice too, but for some reason, it didn’t hit the spot for me, and I don’t know why: the beer was great (with a large selection of very well-kept ale), the welcome was fine, there wasn’t loud music, and there were cobs. The building is old- 16th century in places- and hasn’t been wrecked during the refurb, but for some reason, it seemed to lack something, like the BCA does for me. The worst thing is, there’s nothing wrong with it I can put down in words, I just felt more at ease in The Posada, just up the road, even though there’s so much right here.

Revisit: The Crown

Original Post here

The Crown has been refurbished. Ouside is smartened up, with new plants and seating with sheilding from the A5 (which, even on a cold February night, we used), because….

…It’s even more of a restaurant and less of a pub. In doing that, the canteen like feel has been reduced, but this is very much not a pub, but a family feedbag type restaurant, part of the Martsons empire. If that’s what you’re after, it’s an improvement and not unpleasant. It’s fresh and clean, and very popular, but the beer is pricey and there’s no pub atmosphere. Staff were pleasant, and there’s some real ale, as well as actual decent lager, an increasingly rare thing these days, but we found ourselves missing the small, traditional pub-like area at one end which used to be there.



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Reputedly the oldest surviving building in Belfast, this dates from 1711. Inside, it’s a pleasant bar with traditional decor. It’s a music venue at night, and serves food pretty much all day. We visited twice, the second time being marred only by the people with the screaming child. Staff were great, food good, and beer OK (one real ale). Surprisingly, it’s part of a small chain, Botanic Inns, but that doesn’t spoil it.

The Bridge House


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A Wetherspoons.

This is good on this occaision: we wanted breakfast for less than our hotel, and that’s what we got. An excellent Ulster Fry at a bargain price, with, I hasten to add, soft drinks. We also revisted later in the week when I was sick of crappy lagerfizz and wanted actual beer.

Staff friendly, beer top-notch, food good value. On the down side, the tables were typically sticky by the evening, and it was a bit lacking in atmosphere.