‘I braved Birmingham’s worst pub with unusable bogs and minesweeping oldies’

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    Birmingham’s Square Peg has a sticky floor, chairs everywhere and doddery old blokes minesweeping pints, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

    I was sent down there to check out if a slew of one-star TripAdvisor ratings and repeated claims that this was the “worst pub in Birmingham” with “rude staff”, “strict bouncers” and “no atmosphere” – as one review put it – were true.

    Situated in the increasingly European-feeling city centre the sprawling Wetherspoons is surrounded by trams, wide boulevards and glistening glass-fronted offices.

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    It would be easy to assume that the pub is a square peg in a round hole, but how wrong you’d be.

    As I made my way into the boozer, which occupies the ground floor of a former department store built in 1885, two blokes in paint-spattered trousers talked quickly with hunched shoulders, smoking cigarettes.

    Inside, it’s a pretty dimly-lit set-up, with fruit machines acting as bright yard markers in the almost tunnel-like drinking hall that stretches the length of the building.

    Finding friends in here is no easy feat, it’s a long narrow chamber filled with nooks and crannies and places to lose your pint.

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    People sat in small groups, chatting away. There were elderly couples, builders after work, fashion-conscious skater kids, students and old boys propping up tables they’d likely had all day.

    The bar is huge – it must be about 20 metres long – but despite its size it was notably understaffed with just three very stressed employees frantically tending to the wants of the Wednesday early-doors crowd.

    But my frustration at waiting quickly melted away I when eventually scooped up a pint of very tasty British pale ale for a mere £2.57.

    As I walked to find a table, a bloke was charging his phone at a wall socket, a bag of things sitting next to him.

    No one bothered him and staff didn’t move him on – he looked like he was somewhere comfortable where he could regroup.

    Admittedly, this was no Friday night, where the Peg can get pretty rowdy, but as a bloke with a coffee walked past it really felt like the huge booze hall had a bit of something for anyone who wanted to spend time in a community space.

    Bits of conversations carried through the air, the tales of the day and funny things from work all were chewed down and made sense of.

    This pub isn’t perfect. My girlfriend, who had picked up a “really nice” medium glass of pinot grigio for £2.30, said that two of the toilets in the women’s loos were so blocked they were “unusable”.

    And, probably due to lack of staff, drinks remained on tables long after their owners had moved on.

    On my table it was a J2O and a half-finished Carling and both had been there since I’d arrived.

    As we chatted about our days a man in a heavy brown trench coat with a misshapen beanie resting on the top of his head tottered over and started mumbling almost inaudibly.

    “Smells lovely that curry. Bit expensive mind,” I think he said.

    He looked at the pint, and he looked back at me.

    “Sure mate, go for it,” I said, not entirely sure what he was asking.

    Snapping up the pint he looked at my girlfriend and probably said: “Lovely bloke you’ve got there,” and went on his way, a free warm half Carling up.

    In a world where pubs are crumbling under the weight of rising costs and pub-goers are increasingly barred from boozers by skyrocketing drinks prices this is, for all of its mass-market appeal, a genuine inner-city saloon where people can come together and socialise.

    Outside, Birmingham city centre glistened with development, increasingly familiar with £6 pints of craft beer and buoyed by the promise of the incoming HS2 link.

    But in the Square Peg, the people of Birmingham were coming together to chew the fat, take a load off and enjoy a drink for £2.50.

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