The last time I visited The Shakespeare Inn I was 2am smashed at lunchtime.
From what I remembered, most of the other people in there were too, so I didn’t roll up to my latest visit expecting an awful lot. That says much more about me than The Shakespeare Inn, I realise. My recent experience of this popular boozer turned out to be a slightly more civilised affair; a hungover bank holiday lunch with my husband.
One of several city centre Nicholson’s venues, The Shakespeare is a high street pub that sits just yards from New Street Station. As with most pubs under this chain, the focus is ‘Best of British’, from the decor to the food and drink. It’s the kind of old school boozer you can take your Dad to on a Sunday and put the world to rights over a pint of ale and a bag of bacon fries.
It’s not pretentious in the slightest and has plenty of darkened corners you can slip into to be alone with your newspaper and a pint. Essentially it’s full of older gents hiding from their wives; I can imagine Ian sat here nursing a Doombar in years to come after I’ve nagged him senseless about putting the bin out. The state of the ladies toilets suggest they don’t see many women folk found these parts anyway, so they may have found the perfect oasis.
Food & drink
The menu is a roll call of British classics like fish and chips, bangers and mash, steak pie, gammon, egg and chips and the like; the focus is purely on ‘proper’ pub grub. “Oh you’ll definitely leave full,” the guy serving me at the bar says with a smile when I tell him I’m nursing a three day hangover and absolutely starving. When the plates arrive I concede the bloke may have a point.
From the sharing section, our Fish Platter (£12.95) included various battered bits including homemade fish fingers, squid rings, scampi and fish cakes plus a very good chunky tartare sauce. We added two portions of chips (the chunkier ones are much better than the fries) to bulk it up. The fish fingers steal the show, with an excellent crisp batter. The calamari isn’t as interesting but there’s enough of it that you can’t really argue about it. I liked the curried haddock fish cakes, but wouldn’t order them as a main based on their size. It’s not the most inspiring looking plate of food (the sad looking wilting lettuce got tossed aside) but it’s more than adequate for two to share as a lunch for under a tenner each.
The last time we had food from this chain it wasn’t great. Bacchus Bar, whilst quite the underground spectacle, didn’t get me that excited, I must admit. While the offering here is miles better, no doubt, unless you stick to the cheaper lunchtime options like sandwiches it ends up being quite pricy for what you actually get. For the same £14 you can have a similar sounding grilled salmon dish at The Ivy, and my guess is it’s probably executed with more finesse. I’ll let you know when I visit next month.
That’s not to say this place does bad food, far from it, my advice is just to pick your battles and keep it basic. I hear this place does a mean fry up which I’m saving for my next hungover meandering.
Are you a fan of The Shakespeare Inn? Where do you recommend this side of the city centre? Let me know in the comments.
The Shakespeare Inn, Lower Temple Street, Birmingham, West Midlands, B2 4JD
Disclosure: I paid in full for the food and drink. All words and photos are mine, just be grateful I didn’t show you the toilets