The heatwave that’s hit Birmingham in the past week has been glorious, but I have to say my poor pale skin was quite delighted to escape the sunshine for an hour on Tuesday. With a trip to the cinema to see the preview of Baby Driver at Cineworld (bloody brilliant, btw) later on that night, Ian and I decided to head to Bacchus Bar on New Street. Squirrelled away down two flights of stairs in Burlington Arcade, Bacchus is a wonderfully weird little spot that offers traditional pub grub and a vast variety of gins and cask ales – as you’d expect from a bar named after the Greek god of intoxication.
We arrived at 6pm and chose a high table and stools by the main bar rather than the restaurant area. Being 30 degrees outside I was surprised to see it quite busy, but we didn’t struggle to find a table or be served. Bacchus Bar has a nice ambience to it with lots of little nooks and crannies where a drink and bite to eat can be enjoyed. The eclectic style combines the worlds of Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt – bizarrely it all works – with various spaces to drink and dine including a four-poster bedroom, an Egyptian tomb, and a library. Roman pillars, statues and suits of armour are dotted around giving the place a real quirky charm.
Checking out the menu it’s clear the venue is typical of Nicholson’s Pubs chain, with pies featuring heavily alongside traditional pub grub. Triple cooked chips come with (almost) everything and the vibe is very much of comfort food.
As regular BYB readers will know, I’m now on the wedding diet bandwagon 99% of the time where possible (boring) so I trawled the menu for a Body Coach-friendly option… there was just ONE: the mixed leaf, brown rice, quinoa and lemon salad (£7.95). I decided to add chargrilled chicken to the salad for an additional £3, taking the dish value to £11.95, and ordered a side of marinaded olives (£3). Ian chose the 5oz rump steak and chips from the secondary £10.95 ‘Dinner & Drink’ menu.
The food arrived after 20 minutes and I was pleased to see my salad was a decent portion, although this was mostly lettuce and I can’t help but feel almost £12 is quite costly for some leaves really. There wasn’t much by way of rice or quinoa, although what was there was vaguely tasty thanks to a hint of moroccan spice, and the heirloom tomatoes were juicy enough.
Without the additional chicken – which was moist and tender although seriously lacking seasoning – it probably would’ve been quite a sad looking meal, though. Still, for a restaurant that focuses on hearty pub grub it could’ve been worse, and the additional queen olives marinaded in garlic oil and lemon were savoury and good quality.
The rump steak was cooked medium, as requested, and came topped with a healthy patty of garlic infused butter that melted into the meat. The chips were crispy but fluffy inside, although the portion was noticeably quite small. After finishing his meal Ian noted the steak was a nice piece of beef, although tiny, and because it came with a pint of Amstel for a tenner wasn’t a bad deal.
The food is fine, but that’s all there is to say really. Fine without being exceptional maybe. It’s basic, predictable pub grub and you’ll struggle to find anything that doesn’t come with triple cooked chips, so it’s not an ideal place if you’re looking for a healthy option, to be honest. It would be nice for chain pubs (like this) to offer more for people that don’t want to eat deep fried carbs constantly – even the fish dish (grilled sea bass, £12.95) came with a heavy sauce.
I’d certainly come here for drinks and I’d possibly eat here again but only if I was game for a chip fest; this place is not diet-friendly on any level. The only other thing to be aware of is that if it’s quite dark inside which can make menus difficult to read and the food difficult to see. Of course, this darkness makes for an excellent date spot, and it’s a cool, quirky location for those seeking an escape from swanky cocktail bars.
The staff are friendly and there’s a decent selection of gins and ales if that’s your bag, just don’t come here expecting fine dining. They sell the food as much ‘more’ than it really is: fine.
Bacchus Bar, Burlington Arcade, New Street, Birmingham, B2 4JH
*Disclosure: I won a £50 food and drink voucher via Twitter which paid for this meal. All words, opinions and photos are my own as always*