The phrase the new normal IMO is temporary and sensible but one has to play the hand you are dealt with. During the lockdown, propper popping out to the pub or for a meal was sorely missed for a variety of reasons. I personally enjoy the banter of the pub, even if the new normal dictates banter is 2 metres apart. Living in a small apartment has caused some cabin fever and the pubs opening have been a great relief to me. For starters, my mental health and my general happiness has improved noticeably.
The virus is still a major threat so adhere to rules and guidelines specified by the government. Some may think I’m insane visiting pubs and eateries but for me, the benefits outweigh the risks, for others, it won’t. Personally I like a drink or two early afternoons, often the graveyard shift in many establishments, this furth decreasing risk to me.
New Normal Pubs & Eateries
I have been a busy bee and visited a few pubs and places to eat since the 4th of July Pub Independence day. Overall I am suitably impressed with the processes, staff and other customers I have come across. Although horrified at some of the stories in the press, they don’t match my experience out in the new normal.
My experiences in Birmingham in the order I have visited them so far, most of which are dog-friendly.
Pig & Tail
The Pig & Tail in the Jewellery Quarter is the latest of my favourite haunts for me to get some work done and I’m delighted they have reopened. The new normal here requires waiting to be seated signing in on a pad on the way in. For busier times it is best to book a table in advance according to their social media.
After signing in and being allocated one of their oh so comfy seats and tables guests need to scan the QR code on the table to order food and drinks. This was painless and run seamlessly, a notification arrived in my inbox then drinks arrived shortly afterwards. The wireless internet reconnected as soon as laptop reopened without any logon screens, happy days for homeworkers or digital nomads.
The Pig & Tail have a new menu and looks interesting, focussing on wings and patties, the Seville Orange Wings jumped out at me for one to try for next working lunch. Today’s drink is a very nice Offshore Uniquely Refreshing Pilsner by Sharps Brewery, a new one for me and gets top marks.
Saint Pauls House
Located in St Pauls Square in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter is Saint Pauls House. Saint Pauls House is a boutique hotel, post restaurant and nice bar. On arrival, I was greeted with a contactless hand sanitiser station requesting visitors use before entry. Next, I had to wait at the welcome station where patrons can voluntary sign in and have a compulsory temperature test before being allowed to enter. After being seated table service was available or if you like going to the bar to order drinks, sitting at the bar was not allowed though.
The vibe here is pretty posh with some very comfy seating including sofas and high leather stools around tall bar tables. Saint Pauls has a great bar with many options on draught including IPA and Peroni Lager. The hotel does a nice range of meals including brunch options like full English, a vegetarian or vegan breakfast. The food menu, in general, looks great and have pencilled in a visit for date night when I’m back in Birmingham.
The Gunmakers Arms
A pub local to me that I know has been quiet most lunchtimes and social distancing is the norm, any day of the week pre-lockdown. I was out on a dog walk after a late start on July 4th and the dog pulled me towards the door of The Gunmakers, HONESTLY. It looked pretty quiet and had planned to pop in at some point so thought, fortune favours the brave and decided to enter.
The bar area had a clearly marked one-way system, anti-clockwise around the pub to avoid bottlenecks. The bat has a perspex shield with gaps for drinks and for paying. We received a warm welcome by Mark the owner who only knew the dog’s name so found out mine when we had to sign in as per the new regulations.
The Gunmakers is a popular place for exhibiting art and photography and Paula Gabb has been promoting the current crop on social media so was expected. The paintings were great, I enjoy her style fo paintings, she paints in a style in a distinctive impressionist style just like Monet.
Drinks for the visit were served at the bar then returning to the garden via the one-way system around the pub. I had 2 pints of real ale this visit both made on-site at Two Towers Brewery, the first was Hockley Gold names after the suburb that houses the Jewellery Quarter. The second was recommended to me as a more Pale Ale type, this was called Complete Muppettry which it the sport for me. I felt safe throughout the lunchtime session and thought the pub got it spot on and had made a real effort.
Looking for a bite to eat out in the city very much looked like we needed to book so went out for a walk with a backup plan to get a picnic for the canal. When up by the terracotta court buildings of Corporation Street, the new turquoise seats of BTP were very easy to spot and they were vacant.
Boston Tea Party is a chain we have visited before on many occasions and always enjoy, they are a pet-friendly option too. They had a slick system to ensure diners safety, distances marked, flow through marked, NHS tracking via a sign-in system on the website and sanitizer available and helpful signs about the place.
After signing in on the new turquoise tables and deciding on food for the day the Bosses Brunch and Burger I popped in to put the order through at the cash desk. This run smoothly and opted for Toast beer as an accompanyment to the food. This was delivered to the seats by a member fo staff.
The Boss comes out to say hi and lets us know that we could sit inside, he must have thought with the dog we were not aware of the BTP pet-friendly credentials. We were staying in the terracotta street but requested a bowl of water, this was served promptly by the server. The food was good and the usual BTP standard, the job is done and belly is full for the walk ahead.
Sacks of Potatoes
Identified as a possible place to visit neat the Digbeth Branch of the canal was The Sacks of Potatoes. Sadly the website would not let me book a table sp wrote of a visit and chose to get a few cans to enjoy on the canal.
On passing the beer garden was mostly empty so popped over and checked if we were welcome. Of course, we were, showed signs to keep us safe, I sanitised hands and headed inside following the arrows to a whole in the perspex to order the next beer of the day.
Nice one they had Estrella, the beer of Barcelona, which happens to be the next stop abroad for RJ On Tour. A crisp pint of Estrella was enjoyed on the benches outside, while puppy enjoyed some dog water.
From here, we drink up and joined the canal with the plan of walking through the two tunnels on this section of the canal then admiring the Digbeth street art.
After a quick wander through the surprisingly quiet part of Digbeth from the canal, we stumbled upon the empty benches of Stag. The Stag is a barber, coffee shop and bar located at the custard factory, they had a serving hatch for beer outside that ensured it was easy for us to keep socially distanced.
We, fortunately, chatted at distance with another customer who came out for a cigarette who told us that the new beer garden venue was open and accepting guests at the door. Great news, we got directions and one the Camden Pale Ale was gone we had moved.
My beer radar had alerted me to Zumhof Biergarten on social media earlier in the week and was delighted to find out we could turn up. On arrival, we were made very welcome and shown to a nice outdoor seat. Zumhof Biergarten is a top establishment which had far too many options for beer to choose from including fresh Pilsner Urquell.
We felt safe here in terms of the new normal, signs, sanitizer, signing in and other customers respecting distancing were the norm. I had found a great new place that jumped straight to the top of my treat night out list. This ended up being the final stop of Independence Sunday.
Located in St Pauls Square in the Jewellery Quarter is an old favourite The Rectory. On daily dog walks, I had been teased by this closed pub and Monday afternoon the outdoor seats were empty and were calling me. Once the dog had done his business I crossed the square with the aim of finding a seat to meet up with a client later in the week and book if required.
The Rectory was pretty empty in the afternoon and established I could meet up for a future work meeting here with ease. Job done let the COVID closed beauty salon The Sanctuary in Kingswinford know we had a place to meet. Policies in place here were the standard, sign in, sanitize, tables blocked off and arrows for customer flow.
After signing in using the QR code on the entrance as per the new rules, I had ordered a nice crisp pint of Amstel. Another pub visited and felt safe, the new normal was growing on me.
The Button Factory
Enjoying the afternoon walk led me to head further into the Jewellery Quarter, this time popping into The Button Factory. The Button Factory is one of my favourite places to pop in with the dog so went to check he is still welcome.
We were greeted at the entrance by a staff member letting us know about signing in before entering, the new must-do at every venue. Once signed In beer was ordered and a photo of the food menu was taken as there were no disposable menus for the tables. I grabbed a bowl of dog water and treats from the doggy-bar to keep the puppy happy.
Their terrace upstairs is a great place to sit out on a blue sky day so followed the arrows through the bar to get to the seats. We decided that food would be a good call rather than continue out on an empty stomach so got that order in. For starter calamari was the standout dish for me followed by the short rib cheeseburger. Food was served at the table by the server who respected distancing with the usual happy face.
Review of The New Normal
The new normal seems very well thought out by the establishments I have visited so far. It can still be sociable if required while maintaining distance and respecting the rules.
Everywhere required patrons to leave name and contact details as part of the new rules Most places had hand sanitizer at key points in the venue to maintain hand hygiene.
One way systems marked with arrows we the norm now, how people adhere to there when drunk is debatable but for a day time beer or two worked very well. Most places now offer table service to negate this problem, in my opinion, the makes it more like continental Europe and is a good thing.
Masks were few and far between, mostly wore by staff serving food from my observations. This however is not a legal requirement yet. On my future trip to Spain the masks will become very much normal for me.