Jay Rayner, the nation’s foremost expert on all things to do with restaurants, recently let it be known that in his opinion Birmingham isn’t a terribly good place in which to eat in independents.
Which suggests that I who live in this city must be sorely mistaken for the Lord Clifden seems to me – like its sister pub the Red Lion and several other establishments in Brum – a wonderfully quirky gaff run by people with a passion for providing pleasurable eating and drinking at a great price.
But others must be just as deluded for on the dreary and damp Wednesday evening I visited with my wife, the place was packed.
Don’t be put off by the pub’s drab exterior on one of inner-city Birmingham’s main roads on the edge of the Jewellery Quarter.
Venture in and your will find a fantastic old boozer. Its heritage has been respected but jazzed up with contemporary artwork which may, I suppose, be described by some as funky.
There’s a no-nonsense front bar, a perfectly pleasant lounge and a expansive and pleasant beer garden with large covered area.
It’s a pub so don’t expect posh service. Order at the well-stocked bar from the friendly, clued-up staff and wait for the nosh to be brought to your table…in our case after a delay that was slightly too long.
There are breakfasts, snacks, sarnies, Sunday roasts and a menu of pub classics, albeit a list with one or two contemporary twists.
Ingredients seemed to me to be well-sourced, the cooking was skilled and portions were more than generous.
It’s hard to think there’s a more tempting pub menu in Birmingham or food quite so lovingly done.
Thus Lynn and I were probably foolish each to order a Scotch egg before our main courses.
But it was a good rendition – tightly-packed sausage meat enclosing a properly cooked egg with, alongside, a home-made, well-judged spicy relish.
It went down a treat with the honey-infused IPA that I drank and, apparently, with Lynn’s soft-textured merlot.
As Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s Enola Gay played in the background, my main course, too, transported me back to the 80s, happy days when I had hope and hair.
I’ve always been a sucker for burgers topped with chilli con carne and remember well the beautiful versions served at Hawkins and the Great American Disaster.
This, I think, was even better – a crumbly-textured, moist patty smothered in a chilli con carne that contained a brave amount of cumin. And on top of this… grated cheddar.
The bread was good, the fries too.
OK not the kind of über-trendy grub that would have metropolitan luvvies drooling in independent, edgy eateries in places like Shoreditch or Bethnal Green, but simple, satisfying and bloody good.
My wife, meanwhile, tackled with no small delight a glazed ham hock, so tender that it flaked from the bone. It came mashed spuds and a grain mustard sauce.
Mixed vegetables ordered as a side were nicely varied and precisely cooked.
Sadly, food remained uneaten for the platefuls were so generous and neither of us could manage desserts.
Though no doubt we will order more frugally on our next visit so we might sample the sweets.
Need to know
Expect to pay upwards of £20 a head for two courses and a pint.
Go cheaper by snacking on small plates or sandwiches.
There’s a great range of craft beers.
Kids over 10 are welcome at lunchtimes.
There’s music, ping pong, table football and sport on TV for those so inclined.
The Lord Clifden
34 Great Hampton Street, Hockley, Birmingham B18 6AA. 0121 523 7515.