I’ve lived in a few areas of Birmingham since I moved here way back 2006. Initially I lorded it up in a nice flat right next to Brindleyplace but, when my post-uni ‘champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget’ ways caught up with me, I moved a few miles up the road where the houses were bigger and rent was cheaper. I ended up in a house share just off Stratford Road, right next to Hall Green train station, where I was pleased to discover I had ‘a local’ just 5 minutes walk from the house: The Horseshoe Bar and Restaurant. During my three years at that pad I spent many a Sunday getting lightly toasted there, but soon changes were afoot, and the place changed hands several times. Turning from a busy bar to a restaurant to an Indian eatery and about 4 other things in between, I lost track of what the place was meant to be and when I moved house I never bothered to return. Recently I drove past THBR and a pang of nostalgia hit me, so I decided to pay a visit to my former local to see what the place now has to offer.
A large bar still takes up the front room, and the decor has definitely been spruced, but The Horseshoe Bar and Restaurant is now very much an eatery, with a contemporary and stylish restaurant situated at the rear of the building. What kind of restaurant it’s aiming to be remains a bit confusing. Offering both Italian cuisine and an extensive Indian menu (not to mention Sunday roasts and bar snacks for good measure) I was seated feeling none the wiser as to what the meal may entail.
Despite being a Sunday lunchtime, we decided to ditch the traditional roast (because I’d always rather eat that at The Sun on the Hill) in favour of Italian. Deciding just to stick to the main dishes, there was a selection of ‘classic’ dishes one would expect to find, including pastas, pizzas and risotto. The choice available was small and fairly predictable rather than experimental (step forward ravioli and spaghetti carbonara) so if you’re looking for something more contemporary or more choice I’d consider trying elsewhere. It’s worth noting, however, there were also numerous starters and a variety of Italian-inspired main dishes available, if pasta isn’t what you’re after.
I decided on the Penne Arrabbiata (£11.95), which the menu states is penne pasta, served in a tomato sauce made with garlic and chilli. The dish itself was fine without being exceptional; the sauce was rich but lacking a spicy punch. The pasta had good bite though, and I enjoyed the smoked garlic flavours and additional salty parmesan. The olive oil flavour came through but the lack of spice meant it wasn’t as flavourful as it could have been; as a simple dish it’s obvious if one of the elements is underused – in this case red chillies. My dining partner opted for the Spaghetti Carbonara (£10.95) which was less saucy than expected but was a little over oiled and greasy; the amount of oil left in the bowl (see photos) at the end emphasised this. Both pasta dishes were palatable and the sauces obviously homemade (the pasta wasn’t) but mine perhaps lacked authenticity or the flavour punch I’d hoped for.
The Horseshoe Bar and Restaurant is a perfectly nice eatery (the space itself is attractive and upscaled vastly since my last visit) but it feels confused as to what it is and what it’s offering in terms of its position as a restaurant. How the kitchen manages to create masses of dishes (there’s also a bar menu!) with various influences all at the same time is beyond me – can you really be an ‘authentic Indian restaurant’ and an Italian simultaneously? I know first hand there are authentic restaurants offering exciting Italian dishes with more flair (at the same price) in and around the city centre, so for me it fell a little flat; it’s not bad at all, it’s just not brilliant either. There was also only one member of staff serving both the bar and the restaurant (who was polite but didn’t engage much with us) and no music to create ambience, making it feel a little sterile. I would imagine on a Saturday night it’s probably a much more vibrant dining experience.
The grub at The Horseshoe Bar and Restaurant wasn’t good enough to bring me back again for pasta, although the Indian food we saw being served smelt and looked very inviting and we both commented it may be worth trying. If you’re booked in here (aware there’s a lot of Groupons available for the place) my advice would be to pick the Indian menu which appeared to be the focus for other diners, and was received well.
The Horseshoe Bar and Restaurant, 1214 Stratford Road, Birmingham, B28 9BJ
*Disclosure: This post is not affiliated with any brand/company mentioned within and we paid in full for our food. All views and photos are my own*