An old-fashioned filling station
Nov 1 2007 Restaurant Review
Navigation Inn * * * *
Old Warwick Road, Lapworth, Solihull
Tel: 01564 783337
The other day I was being dragged around the National Wedding Show, looking at dresses, veils, bouquets and those odd things that women put on the back of their heads if they can't be bothered to wear a hat. I was in one of those hypnotic states that men can initiate at a moment's notice when the girlfriend starts talking about clothes, housework etc.
I have developed a great talent for slipping into one of these states since I popped the question in March, but this was a remarkable case of sleepwalking - and it needed to be.
The National Wedding Show - for those of you who haven't been - is almost like a female equivalent of an organised football hooligan brawl. Elbows flying into each other as they unhook dress after dress from the different stalls. It makes Cardiff v Millwall look like an episode of Strictly Come Dancing.
There was no other thing for it. I just had to reclaim my masculinity. But how? Just watching sport wasn't good enough, and growing a beard would take six months for me.
So it was straight to the pub for some good old fashioned beer and pub food. It wasn't just a couple of fish fingers I was after. I wanted a portion of meat that would have filled a Rugby pack; and I mean English, not Australian. I wanted potatoes that would flatten a village if they were thrown down a hill. And I wanted vegetables to give me my five a day for the next six years.
It was time to expand my waist to proportions that would create a one-man obesity crisis.
The Navigation Inn in Lapworth is a bit like the ginger one from Girls Aloud. It might stand quietly in the background on a stage which also includes the nearby Boot and The Punchbowl, but the mystery speaks volumes.
It doesn't have a website, a posh wine list, any French words on its menu or, indeed, any starters. But it has bucketloads of character and a traditional feel that reveals itself in everything from the low ceiling, the uneven floor, the real ale selection and, most importantly, the food.
It is the pub in Lapworth that the locals go to; and when are the locals ever wrong? This is probably because at The Navigation - unlike its neighbours - it is not all about the food.
Viewing the blackboard on my arrival I was greeted with a major disappointment - the lamb shank was unavailable.
But before reaching for my own chalk and wet cloth, I decided on the lamb chops with redcurrant sauce. And before returning to my seat my disappointment evaporated as I saw the real ale list which included the sublime Belle-Vue Kriek cherry beer.
One does feel a little disrespectful wolfing down a truly wonderful Belgium ale which has just undergone a three year ageing process. But what the heck, it made the Wedding Show seem like a distant memory.
With a beer list including Timothy Taylor and a unpretentious Black Country ale, The Navigation would have been a good enough venue for a couple of pints. But I was in no mood to back down now.
Food at the Navigation is served on the type of plates one hopes for at wedding buffets. A ceramic dustbin lid.
The potatoes were neatly divided between roasted and boiled. Vegetables were plentiful, if a little unimaginative. But the meat was delightful, although it may have been a little fatty for many.
Personally, I like my meat with different textures, so I wasn't complaining. For afters it was a toffee cheesecake that was served, along with everything else, with a warm smile.
For an indulging ale and pub food experience The Navigation Inn is first class.
I could have rested my cherry beer on my belly after a fill like that.
Take the onion rings for instance; you could have hula-hooped them, they were so big.
My pal Sean, meanwhile, was having difficulty making his way through the huge portion of fish and chips in front of him.
This was proper sleeves rolled up eating. After finishing our portions, we shared a celebratory pint or two and stared at our plates like lumberjacks gazing over a felled forest.
But soon it was back home to discuss the invite list, and the venue, and the honeymoon...