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The Bulls Head (Kings Norton, Birmingham)

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Address: The Green / Kings Norton / Birmingham B38 8RU

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      22.05.2012 10:48
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      A really nice meal which was unfortunately spoiled by an uncomfortable and grubby pub interior

      The Bull's Head is a large historic pub in Kings Norton, South Birmingham. I've been using this pub for years, but was slightly surprised yesterday to find out it had been taken over by the Sizzling Pubs chain. I popped in with my partner and our two youngest children for lunch after seeing an offer where two adults could eat for £7 from a special menu, although after seeing a second offer where children eat for £1 on Wednesdays it worked out slightly cheaper to order our meals from the normal menu and save £1.99 on each of the kids' dinners.

      The pub itself looks huge from the outside but once you get inside you'll see it's not actually all that big, there's plenty of seating but there isn't as much floor space as you'd expect. It is, and always has been, a very dark pub due to the age and location of the building, although the Sizzling people have vastly improved the level of lighting inside and arranged tables so that what little light comes through the windows is put to good use.

      We arrived as soon as the pub started serving food at 12 so pretty much had our pick of the tables, I chose one in the corner next to a window so the kids had room to move around without disturbing other diners. The seats were a bit grubby and stained and the table itself had seen better days; casting my eye around the room I saw most of the seating was in the same condition, something that surprised me a little as in past years The Bull's Head has always been a clean and tidy pub. I had to find a highchair for my son myself as there was no offer to fetch me one, and when I eventually found a stack of them they were dirty and I had to use a few baby wipes to remove clumps of set-on food from the seat and frame of the chair. This wasn't good, but then neither was the tiny and very uncomfortable looking highchair!

      After debating whether we really wanted to eat here we decided that we were so hungry we'd risk it - the pub isn't so dirty that you're chancing dysentery, but they definitely need to get the cleaners in in my opinion. The menu is fairly varied, it's all good old fashioned pub grub with a sizzling twist - for me it was a toss up between steak and BBQ Smothered Chicken, I eventually went for the chicken as I seem to be getting into a bit of a 'steak rut' in pub restaurants these days and felt like breaking the cycle a bit. My partner had the same, while my four year old chose Chicken Bites and chips from the kids menu - we ordered a second portion of the Chicken Bites for our fourteen month old, not expecting him to eat it all but at least it was there for him to pick at.

      Our food was brought to the table within fifteen minutes of ordering it and it looked fantastic, words were had with the lady who served our food after she put the very hot metal griddle-type tray that Sizzling Pubs use to serve their meals on close enough for my son to try and grab - it was only thanks to his sisters fast reflexes that prevented him burning his hand (or poking his eye out with the ridiculously sharp knife that had been jabbed into the chicken). Crisis averted, we started to eat.

      The portion sizes are very small; at first I was impressed by the huge looking chicken breast, until I cut into it and realised that it had been cleverly arranged with the rasher of bacon poking out at one side to look like it was bigger than it actually was. It was very tasty though, a little lacking in BBQ sauce to be honest but the chicken was beautifully cooked and the bacon was done just as I like it (ie. fatless and practically cremated), while the melted cheese was deliciously creamy and tangy. This was served with a small bowl of yummy chips and half a grilled tomato - I thought it odd that no peas had been included as without these the meal looked quite bare. I was satisfied after I'd finished eating, but my partner mentioned that he was still hungry so ended up polishing off the rest of our sons dinner.

      The kids' meals were fantastic, especially bearing in mind that we'd only paid £1 for each of them. The Chicken Bites were made of chunks of real chicken breast meat (none of that regurgitated stuff that fills a Mcdonalds nugget) which had been covered in a delicious, if a little greasy, batter. They each received six large pieces of chicken, a decent sized portion of chips and peas - their meals actually appearing larger than the ones we adults tucked into!

      Mark and I drank Diet Coke, but there is the full selection of beers, spirits, alcopops and wine available as well as other choices of soft drink. The children didn't have a drink as they're both too young for fizzy pop and unfortunately the pub didn't have any cordial or juice available - this wasn't a problem as we weren't in there long enough for them to become dehydrated, but it would have been nice for then to have a Fruit Shoot or something.

      I really wasn't impressed with our visit to the Bull's Head, while the food was nice enough I found the environment to be shabby and (dare I say it) dirty. The staff didn't seem interested in their work and I don't think I caught so much as a glimpse of a smile from any of them, based on my experience of other Sizzling Pubs this was surprising and did nothing to make us feel welcome or valued as customers.

      Disabled access is fine, although people with more severe mobility problems may find the interior a little cramped when they come to leave their seats for whatever reason. I didn't have my sons pushchair with me on this occasion, but I can't see that I'd have had any problems navigating the room if I had. The toilet (the ladies at any rate) was spacious and clean (surprisingly, considering the state of the rest of the pub!) with a full supply of toilet roll and hand washing facilities - there was a bit of a funny smell in there, which my daughter couldn't wait to comment on, but I suspect that was some kind of 'drain smell' rather than anything actually dirty within the bathroom.

      I can't recommend this place, I really can't. Sizzling Pubs as a whole is a relatively good place for cheap and tasty meals, but The Bull's Head is a shadow of its former self - and that is not only quite sad (as a yesteryear regular) but also not a great atmosphere in which to spend a couple of hours enjoying a bite to eat.

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