There are, I think, few reasons to drive across the city to Sutton Coldfield.
A stroll round the park, maybe. To laugh at Villa fans, certainly.
But you can add to that a visit to the Butlers Arms for a meal. Especially when the pub offers a £14.50 three-course menu that’s remarkable value for such well-crafted food.
This pub on the long straight road out of Sutton towards Lichfield is a big place that could nevertheless easily get overlooked.
Inside is spacious, too. But there are homely and quirky touches that provide the first hints that this is a family business.
It’s run by Chris and Paula Giles and their kids and the family seems to have an obsession with food – even curing some of their own charcuterie and smoking fish (in the sense of preserving, not wrapping up a trout in Rizla, obviously).
The place was packed on the Wednesday night I visited with my wife. But service was never anything less than efficient, swift and utterly charming.
The young staff were attentive and displayed none of that ghastly faux ’hey-guys-how-you-doing?’ bonhomie that one encounters at many chain establishments.
There’s knowledge and passion behind the menu at The Butlers Arms, with dishes that would appeal to stoutly English tastes and others that draw inspiration from around the world.
All, though, are very appealing.
A salad of Packington pork partnered shards of the meat – bubbly crisp – with aromatic quince, a fruit too seldom encountered, with a background flavour, I think, of star anise in a sticky sauce.
My wife was pleased by a starter of battered squid with a pomegranate salsa.
Here, as a main course, KFC means Korean fried chicken… and it was a delight.
Two chunks of the bird came in slightly spiced and very crunchy batter.
Accompaniments of proper home-made chips, a sweetly-dressed salad, coleslaw and a feisty, garlicky Korean dipping sauce made this a deeply satisfying dish.
Satisfying enough, in fact, for me not to moan abut it coming on a board rather than a plate.
Lynn’s smoked haddock came atop mashed potatoes that she, rather a stickler when it comes to pureed spuds, raved about.
A rich mornay sauce and perfectly poached egg added to her joy.
She’d no room for dessert whilst I progressed to a sort of semi-deconstructed plum crumble with vanilla ice cream – a harmony of textures and sweet and gently sour flavours.
This was one of those desserts which – like cricket, strawberry jam, church spires and the Jeremy Kyle Show – make a chap proud to British.
Need to know
The £14.50 menu is available 6-9.30pm on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.
There’s also a £6.50 lunch offer Mondays to Saturdays.
Sunday lunch is £15.95.
An a la carte menu is also available.
Veggie options available.
The Butlers Arms
444 Lichfield Road, Sutton Coldfield B74 4BL. 0121 308 0765.