Lyttelton Arms still has a touch of class
The Lyttelton Arms * * * *
Bromsgrove Road, Hagley, Stourbridge. Tel: 01562 882213.
When The Lyttelton Arms general manager Dawn Hawkins grabs hold of the drumsticks and stands astride an historic, probably ancient drum that is positioned in the dining area of the Lyttelton Arms, you know she means business.
It was perhaps unfair of me to urge Dawn to drum her staff up with a few beats that would increase the rhythm of their work; unfair mainly because they were already doing a grand job.
But Dawn has been a master at motivating the workforce at the famous Hagley pub and restaurant.
I promise you now that the words ‘phoenix’ and ‘flames’ will not be mentioned once in this piece. The only mythical bird I want to refer to is the huge duck main course.
But The Lyttelton Arms’ recent history is definitely worth a mention. The pub was razed to the ground in December last year, thereby throwing into chaos plans for Christmas parties by businesses up and down the Worcestershire/Birmingham border.
More than 70 firemen tackled the blaze, but the pub was more or less destroyed. And then the salvage operation began, and the doors flung open a couple of months back, it was much to the delight of the throngs of city folk who often travel down to this tranquil part of the Midlands.
And what a good job they have done with the refurbishment. One of those lovely, cosy country pubs, which makes one almost wish it was winter. (The night I visited I was drenched from the weather outside, but was dried through by the time I reached my seat thanks to the roaring log burning hearth.)
I’m not the only one to have this view. The pub was recently shortlisted in Best Out of Town category for the Taste of Birmingham Awards on July 10. Dawn will be doing a Keith Moon if she pulls this one off.
But the judges must have also been impressed with a) The staff; eager, but not intrusive, b) The drinks list; well stocked, but not mind-boggling and c) The food; simple, but not pedestrian, and with a couple of corkers.
I invited a pal with me who I wanted to thank for coming on my stag do. Richard was invited on that trip as he is known for his healthy appetite for ale, but I really never knew he had such a healthy appetite for food until we got stuck into our dishes.
He was having a tough time of it, finishing off the phoenix, sorry duck (Half spit roast duck with sautéed potatoes and bitter orange sauce – £16).
It was rather huge, but it wasn’t just a large dose of game. It was a lovely cooked, tender piece of meat. Meanwhile, I was carving through the special of the day, a slow cooked stuffed pork which had a tasty stuffing. With our Goats-do-Roam wine, we were more than content with main courses.
Earlier, we had polished off some lovely bread with olive oil dips, which is given complimentary to every diner – this helped the Goats-do-Roam flow. Richard chose a soup starter, which he said was very fresh.
I went for the scallops and was more than happy with my choice. They were beautifully fried; a real delicacy. The Lyttelton offers a variety on its scallops almost daily with its specials list.
A trip to The Lyttelton Arms will come with a bill that is slightly higher than many pubs, but there is something altogether charming about Hagley’s finest.
It has retained its character through the restoration. But it also carries a modern feel, most notably with the culinary craft-work.
Few ‘traditional’ pubs have menus that are confident enough to include Baked Camembert with onion jam and rustic bread (£8.50) or Chicken Milanese and tomato and rocket spaghetti and shaved Parmesan (£10). And for this reason, the Midlands should be thankful that the Lyttelton Arms was rebuilt.
But it’s the traditional English menu of classic fish in beer batter and steaks which gives it the edge over many other pubs.