The opening of so many high-profile bars in Birmingham – serving much the same menu of over-priced, mediocre dishes aimed at those with plenty of dosh but little taste – has rather soured my opinion of pub grub.
Their cheery young waiters condescending to call me ‘guy’, their predictable cocktails, their ghastly decor and, above all, besmirch Birmingham’s wonderful eating out scene.
And yet there are gems – such as the Keg & Grill, formerly the Gough Arms, tucked away in a side street behind The Mailbox.
It’s one of many pubs offering Indian grills and curries, but it’s smarter than most – though not at all precious.
The harsh electric lighting, the plain and slightly battered wooden tables, the dated upholstery and the TV on the wall make this the antithesis of the trendy themed bars that have opened in our city this year.
It’s a proper old-fashioned pub – but a clean and tidy one. Its description of itself as a ‘local in the city centre’ pretty much sums it up. It’s homely.
Order your drinks and food at the bar and it’s brought promptly to your table. It’s not silver service, but it’s very friendly and slickly efficient.
On previous visits I’ve shared with my companions the mixed tandoori grills, which are huge and wonderful value.
This time I ordered a seekh kebabs – two nicely spongey, enjoyable and flavoursome sausages of spiced lamb which came with a salad and dips.
My wife ate paneer in a sticky sauce that had an almost Chinese sweet and sour flavour. Main courses also hit the target.
The pork kofta that I ordered were moist, tasty globes of minced pig in a rich, almost caramelised sauce sweet with onions and with layers of spice quite separate from the chilli heat.
It says much for the quality of Lynn’s pleasantly runny tarka daal that she who isn’t a glutton finished it well before I’d cosumed my dish.
We shared a very good roti, mopping up our sauces with enthusiasm.
The shiny bar has a limited range of craft beers and the usual brands. There are also wines and spirits, though this isn’t the place for a connoisseur.
Need to know
Expect to pay around £16 a head for two courses and a drink.
Groups might want to try the great value mixed grills.
Light bites and thali are available.
There’s on-street parking nearby.
Keg & Grill,
52 Upper Gough St,
Birmingham B1 1 KG.
0121 632 6231.