I have been a big fan of The Ruin in Digbeth since it re-opened as a pub back in 2016.
The present building originally opened as a pub in 1891 has been known as The White Swan, Floodgate Tavern, Horan’s Tavern and The Eagle – its last incarnation prior to The Ruin, weirdly, was an ice-cream parlour – pah!
Ruin bars originated in Budapest and have been around since the founding of Szimpla Kert, the mecca of all ruin bars. Since Landlord Rich Hughes brought his own version to the backstreets of Digbeth, others have starting to follow, but for me, The Ruin is most in keeping with that tradition of someone opening up a bar, in a decaying space, independently and creating a whole new cool vibe.
The Ruin lends itself easily as a place for a quiet coffee, day time pint, a pre-club bar, or a destination itself with some of the city’s best DJs playing soul, funk, disco and hip-hop at weekends with the now legendary Desert Island Discs parties swinging into town.
Inside you will find a beautiful old sanded-down bar, a distressed wood interior with warm bright colours, and an assortment of working vintage electronics and cool framed musicians on the walls – not to mention the junk shop chandelier. The Ruin was officially the first pub I can think of to provide a fair selection of tatty old board games – something others have since made a dedicated bar concept out of.
And so to the food.. the whole point of this review.
The Ruin are trying to push the food side of things. They offer some tasty little deals: an ever changing Meat Free Monday (Veggie Special + a drink for £7 all day), Pizza & Prosecco Wednesday (2 x 8″ pizza + bottle prosecco £20 all day) and the highlight of every working man and woman’s week.. Sunday Roast! (meat option £9.95 and veggie option £8.95).
The bar was quiet and cosy when I entered, with low lighting from flickering candles and a dimmed chandelier. It was cold grey and wintry outside so I was comforted by the nice warm welcome of both the barmaid and the heating.
I took my perfectly poured Guinness to the table and ordered a Chicken Roast, also asked for the addition of Pork Belly. The Guinness was a great start, I’m a huge fan and so many places get it so wrong. Landlord Rich travels over to some traditional pubs in Ireland enough so you’d expect nothing less.
The Ruin may not be the first place which springs to mind when on the rekkie for a Sunday Roast in Brum, but Ladlord Rich doubles as one mean chef and he means business..
Ambiance is such an important draw to me personally. I have to feel a connection with a bar or restaurant, that ‘something’ which makes you not want to rush off after your meal or drink, The Ruin has this in abundance. Imagine cool Sunday soulful classics filling up every corner of this cosy little joint – Sam Cooke, Nina Simone, Ink Spots, Bootsy Collins and Aretha!
My taste-buds were gearing up in great anticipation of the great roasty aromas wafting from the kitchen. And not a moment too soon, I realised Rich was the chef that afternoon as he pranced out with my plate of roast dinner.
I tend to eat each individual item on the plate at a time, not sure what that means? Methodical perhaps, or just like things uncomplicated. So I begin with the chicken, which is velvety, tender, soft – you know, when you lightly chew, then it melts in your mouth, love that!
The crunchy cauliflower packs a punch and the addition of cauliflower sauce was a nice surprise hiding beneath. Roasts were a crispy crunch on outside, with fluffy soft light potato inside, mopped up with the cauliflower sauce and gravy. Carrots and parsnips were good, I think Rich is experimenting with these so may change.
I am a huge fan of Yorkshire pudding, and have tried all shapes sizes and quality. I can assure anyone reading this Rich does em well. Large, soft airy, gooey inner with a munchy crunchy casing, again soaked up with gravy and juices of everything else, bloody superb.. and onto the last event, the pork belly. This was succulent, salty, soft and flavoursome with a welcome strip of crackling, just about every box ticked here for me.
My only gripe, if I had one, perhaps a gravy boat, as we all differ. There was just enough to mop everything up with and the photo is deceiving as the gravy was lurking beneath it all like a soup, but I must admit I like to drench the whole plate. However in Rich’s defense, the taste and delicate way he seems to cook everything, well maybe I’ve just been converted. As my late mother used to say, it’s an insult to ask the chef for sauce. If cooked like this I guess she is right, and let’s not forget that Lenny Henry sketch in ‘Chef’ (click here to watch). I mentioned it anyway and it’s something he is considering. No saucepans flew my way thankfully.
In all, The Ruin may not be the first place which springs to mind when on the rekkie for a Sunday Roast in Brum, but Ladlord Rich doubles as one mean chef and he means business, it’s up there with Red Lion Hockley, The Plough and Lord Clifden in an honest and homely style – big up!
So, anyway, all washed down with a second pint of Guinness and I couldn’t give a toss what was going on in outside world, my belly was full, taste-buds singing and eardrums soothed by some soulful Sammy Davis Jr. As I left, the sun was setting and the Ruin stood strong with punters slowly meandering in. See you again soon Rich!
The Ruin, 92 Floodgate Street, Birmingham B5 5SR, United Kingdom
Words & Images by Nick Byng for Grapevine Birmingham.