Thinking of drinking on Broad Street always gives me a little shiver, it’s just not my thing and though I’m no bar snob, I’d always rather opt for somewhere with a bit of atmosphere, authenticity and soul. Luckily for me and you there exists a little gem of a pub called The Bulls Head, tucked down Bishopsgate Street, off Broad Street.
There’s something really lovely about this place, a combination of tastefully restored Victorian features mixed up with artwork and information giving a nod to Birmingham’s past all contained within a really cosy, low lit bar that has a bustle and buzz about it. Folk, funk and retro rock plays at just the right level so the tone of conversation is heard, and everyone’s at it, chatting away around little round tables glugging on Davenport’s extensive cask and craft beer selection or sipping from the inspired signature and house cocktail menu.
The punters are a mixture of end of day shoppers looking for a retreat to wind down, couples and groups setting the foundation to their night out and regulars sat down the bar enjoying their favourite spot away from the chaos of Saturday night in the city.
That said, the bar was very busy when we arrived, not too busy that it was uncomfortable, just busy enough to feel that this was a popular choice and the guys at Davenports have got the chemistry right. The staff were on top form, keeping their cool and providing a really friendly and genuine service even under the obvious pressure from the demand. We decided to order a pint of Asahi and a large Malbec and head to the cool enclosed beer garden out the back so I could have some tobacco and my partner look over the food menu, whilst we waited for a table to become available.
The Martini was good, quite boozy and the caffeine effect wasn’t hesitant, the Ginger Spice was like a mellow Dark ‘n’ Stormy, a nice touch adding the Disaronno giving it an almondy edge.
The manager popped out to hand us a ‘Hoptail’, a curious mix of craft beer, spirits and other infusions. We had the ‘Brewhito’ – a Mojito with beer, blending Morgan Spiced Rum, Davenports Bloody IPA and passion fruit syrup. It was so delicious and refreshing, the sweetness of the passion fruit flavours balanced out by the IPA with a slight kick of rum and spice in the background. They offer ten different Hoptails with names such as ‘Nitro Nogin’, ‘Smog City’ and the ‘You Be Mother’, served in a tea pot for two.
As soon as we walked back into the bar we spotted a table and settled ready to try out some cocktails and order our food. The bar had calmed down a little bit but the place was still in swing and Esther Turner was setting up her equipment in the back corner, getting ready to perform a few solo sets of really nicely crafted covers with her own unique and stunning voice.
My partner went for the standard and silky pick me up cocktail that is the ‘Espresso Martini’ (they use Ketel One and Mosca Cold Brew) and I had the ‘Ginger Spice’, a mix of Bacardi Carta Fuego Rum, Disaronno and ginger beer. The Martini was good, quite boozy and the caffeine effect wasn’t hesitant, the Ginger Spice was like a mellow Dark ‘n’ Stormy, a nice touch adding the Disaronno giving it an almondy edge. There’s a good choice of cocktails with their six signature options such as a ‘Peaky Blinder Bulliet’ and the classic ‘Old Fashioned’ to their nine strong list of happy hour cocktails that are two for one, all day everyday, which is really good value considering the prices and where we chose ours from.
As for the food, the menu is a nice take on traditional pub servings but with Indian street food options thrown in creating a really tempting offering. You can fill your boots and get a ‘Barons signature Peaky Pie’ with a flat cap pastry lid or choose from a selection of British and Asian ‘small plates and tins’, Indian inspired street food ‘Hati Rolls’, sandwiches, burgers..it’s all there and definitely something for everyone whatever your appetite or taste.
To be honest, I’ve never seen such a big sausage! And there were three of them! Really juicy and meaty and absolutely full of Lashfords flavour… it was a pretty perfect plate of pub grub that would fill a Viking.
We chose the Bengali Spiced Breaded Prawns and Cauliflower Pakora to start. Both really comforting. The prawns were a good size, having a lovely crunchy spiced coating, great to dip into the sweet chilli sauce and munch with the very generous bed of rocket leaves. The Pakora was succulent, full of flavour and a real pleasure to bite into. All the lovely curry flavours with the cauliflower adding the right texture with the mango dip adding a fruity punch. Generous servings and appealing presentation made for a great start to the experience.
For mains we chose the ‘Barons Lashfords Sausage & Mash’ and the ‘Breaded Bengali Prawn & Sweet Chilli Hati Rolls’. To be honest, I’ve never seen such a big sausage! And there were three of them! Really juicy and meaty and absolutely full of Lashfords flavour. They’ve actually got a sausage board, so sausage is taken pretty seriously at The Bulls Head! The mash was buttery and creamy, the gravy was rich and bang on, add the peas in and it was a pretty perfect plate of pub grub that would fill a Viking.
The Hati Rolls were just as good. Lovely warm paratha flat bread that was soft, sweet with a slight grill burn adding great flavour wrapped around the same Bengali Prawns my partner had for a starter. There is a choice of four different hati rolls – the Jeera Chicken & Minted Yoghurt, Spiced Pulled Pork & Masala BBQ and an Egg & Cheese option. I’m glad we chose the prawns again but I can imagine these are all very tasty, especially with that flat bread.
Overall the food was so suited to the pub and really satisfying, served in good time and pleasant to eat in the cosy environment. I can imagine an afternoon hangover would pair well with this place, what with all the food, beer and relaxed surroundings. Somewhere to sink an afternoon or early evening into, leaving feeling replenished and restored.
It doesn’t really matter if you enter casual or dressed up, whether you’re passing through or spending the entire evening here. It’s a place where people mind their own business or get involved with the conversation next to them, somewhere to enjoy yourself in a well behaved manner and take refuge from the rest of the city. We sampled great beer and cocktails, ate tasty food and watched some great live music. Made some new friends, had a sing along and left nice and boozy with smiles from the great service and really enjoyable evening.
Words by Ollie Lloyd for Grapevine Birmingham