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Old Contemptibles, Birmingham

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user reviews of the Old Contemptibles, Birmingham

please note - reviews on this site are purely the opinion of site visitors, so don't take them too seriously.

We got served quickly on Saturday afternoon and must have got the last table as the place was heaving. Tony Hadley should perhaps stick to singing though as I didn't rate my pint of his brewing company's Moonstone IPA at all.
paul_d102 - 25 Mar 2019 20:34
Revisiting this pub after a two year gap, and in the middle of a Monday afternoon rather than a Saturday. So much quieter then, and I was able to admire the fantastic interior. I had lots of time to admire as it was so quiet the bar staff had nipped off for a smoke. Finally served with a pint of the ubiquitous but adequate Doom Bar (3.75). Points for décor, service let it down a tad.
Queenslander - 17 Sep 2017 22:37
The interior is magnificent as is the case with so many Birmingham pubs and the theme surrounding the pub's history as a meeting place for former members of the 1914-18 British Expeditionary Force is moving and well presented - but the uncomplicated nature of the place is a fault as it comes across as a bit sub-Wetherspoons. The beer selection is unremarkable and the food looked as bog standard as bog standard could be.
BoehmBawerk - 23 Jan 2017 06:29
Can't disagree with the comments.

It is a typical Nicholsons pub with interesting decor and fairly interesting well-kept beers.

On a summer Saturday not crowded and not trendy or noisy.
I would go their again.
boblarkin - 31 Jul 2016 22:50
Good beer, good interior, good food, but bar staff try to ruin it with loud muxak
Wilson_MacDonald - 28 Nov 2015 08:10
Absolutely heaving in the middle of a wet Saturday afternoon so it must be doing something right. The crowd consisted mostly of large partying groups, trying to outdo each other in volume. Not the place for a quiet solo pint then, but I persevered as the glorious interior deserved a bit of a look. Good service despite the crush, a satisfactory pint of Doom Bar (2.70), but I was pleased to return to the wet but quieter outdoors.
Queenslander - 30 Aug 2015 22:23
Nice pub but was much better before it became a trendy bar however given its location it didn't have much choice.
SteveBrum - 2 Feb 2015 13:36
Nice pint of Itchen Valley Russian Winter tonight with a 10% discount for Camra members. Should anyone else read this review and decide to visit, then at least I can confirm that standards are being maintained.
paul_d102 - 17 Jan 2015 22:09
Pretty busy last night with a decent atmosphere and the Stewart Brewing's Dakota was enjoyable (and new to me).
paul_d102 - 26 Oct 2014 09:07
Revisit. Of the 8 beer pumps, 4 were tied up with Doom Bar twice and the chains own brew, twice, Why? All the rest were again pale and citrus. Fairly well kept but when will Brewers realise that there are still many drinkers that prefer a copper bitter, not pale imitations.
TonyMitch - 15 Oct 2014 20:58
Good ale house, despite being in a chain. 10 pumps with only 2 off on a Monday. Perhaps more non pale beers would be nice, but that goes for every pub at the moment! Food choice and quality good. Service quick, well worth a visit.
TonyMitch - 7 Jul 2014 21:57
Comfortable, old fashioned and a bit frayed around the edges, this alehouse is a credit to the city of Birmingham. Front of the pub has a lovely marble fireplace, the backroom looked like it was reserved for diners, the clientele being mainly from the nearby Jewellery Quarter.

Drank a couple of pints of Purity UBU, at less than three pounds (Wednesday Special Price Day), good value for money and the ale was spot on. Toilets were not the best though. Do visit when you are in the Second City of England.
nokegthanks - 27 Feb 2014 16:05
Looked at this place many times from the train, as it pulls into snow hill. Today, decided to visit. Loved the way you emerge from behind the curtain into a full on victorian gin palace. Great decor. Great choice of real ales. I think i picked tge wrong one as the doom bar was grim. Tasted flat and watery. Will give it the benefit and try again.
Mappiman - 22 Jan 2014 19:49
This is a very handy pub for Snow Hill station. It's just a shame that it doesn't open until midday on a Saturday. It's a Nicholson's establishment and as usual I was fairly happy with their choice of ales. In fact, it was the best of 7 new pubs I tried in Birmingham on the day. Beers on were St Austell Nicholson's Pale Ale, Purity Ubu, Sharps Doom Bar, Long Man Old Man, Adnams Kristal White, Moor Raw & Castle Rock Sheriff's Tipple. I quite enjoyed my half of Old Man. Inside, there is a high ceiling and the decor is impressive. Service was fine.
blue_scrumpy - 1 Apr 2013 08:51
Amazing pub - the decor and charm immediately make you feel relaxed like a guest in a stately home. Good range of ales including the drinkable 'house' ale from St Austell's. Perfect place to unwind after work. Staff friendly too and food OK.
mikey64 - 10 Feb 2013 09:40
It must be nearly 20 years since I first drank here and it still seems the same place. Now a Nicholson's pub with Doom Bar, Purity UBU, Jaipur Lord Marples, Milestone's American Pale Ale, Adnams Topaz Gold and Nicholson's Pale Ale (brewed by St Austell) available. You might expect this pub to have been quiet on Saturday lunchtime being located in the business quarter but it soon filled up including a hen party from Watford! Had a quick starter snack of excellent calamari at £4.45. As it is located next to Snow Hill station, I will always try to pop in whenever I visit Birmingham.
paul_d102 - 29 Sep 2012 22:45
nice decor real ales ok served a bit flat can get very busy
DAKING - 17 May 2012 11:19
always a nice range of beers at the OCs, all generally kept very well. The place is comfortable and well decorated. Can get busy with the suits. Not bad prices for the area
trebor6 - 13 Apr 2012 23:15
Steady if not spectacular but decent enough beer/food/decor. Worth stopping off to try.
brianthelion - 29 Mar 2012 16:13
Great pub, interesting real ales and fantastic pub architecture, food oriented and so if you are just coming for a drink some parts of the pub are out of bounds and you may find yourself standing by the door when it's busy.
Abteilung - 20 Nov 2011 20:36
What a lovely M&B pub, wonderfully ornate inside & fairly busy early Saturday evening. They had 7 interesting ales on plus 2 Ciders - I tried the Mike Hall Furry Black IPA at 5% very nice (BLACK, India PALE ale - it was BLACK!). Must come back & right next to Snow Hill station.
Booze_Allen - 20 Nov 2011 15:28
Went in on Friday night, good selection of ales and lagers. Had pints of Tribute, Dragon Slayer and Purity Ubu, all of which were well kept and presented. Only quible is that the rear section of the seating area is now cordoned off for dining customers only, this significantly reduces the available seating in the pub and means on a busy evening you're likely to find yourself standing (and it's hard to find somewhere to stand that won't block others access to the bar, doors, loos etc...). Still this is cracking city centre pub retaining many of its original Edwardian features, well worth a visit if you're in town.
GuidoMerry - 21 Jun 2011 15:55
Managed to have a couple in this place on a Friday night......great atmosphere, great beer, really good service....must visit place.....excellent pub.
Blastbeat - 11 Feb 2011 08:45
The OC's is a lovely pub brimming with character. One of my favourites in Birmingham.

They serve a wide range of ales and lagers and all are poured really well. Pints have a nice thick head that last while drinking and are very rarely cloudy or in a bad condition, although the prices are a little steep. I also found the staff there to be pleasant, helpful and some of them remember you if you visit regularly which is surprising for a City Centre pub.

Inside the decor is very plush - a mix of old and new styles and I like that the lighting is kept quite low as it feels more cosy. The WW1 murals at the back of the bar really add a lot of character as well.

As for the food, it's always been top notch although a little on the expensive side for the amount you get. It is a pretty good selection though and if nothing else, you should sample the wide range of sausages they do!

Due to its location, the clientele is very mixed - I usually go there on a weekday evening and find that early on the place is full of yuppies and bankers and it can get a bit annoying at times when you fancy a quiet drink, but they usually clear out around 7ish so I'd recommend coming after this time. It also suffers from being close to Snow Hill station as you sometimes get rowdy football fans in there.

Nevertheless, a great pub to visit if you're in the City Centre - great food and drink, nice staff and there is always an atmosphere in there, though not always for the best!
CitizenWolfie - 21 Jan 2011 17:44
6th pub on Weekend pub crawl. Visited this Nicholson pub on Saturday lunchtime and bar area was heaving with football supporters waiting to go to a local game. So busy we couldn't see the handpumps. Still got a table in the restaurant area and helpful waitress went to the bar to find out the Real Ales for us. Wide selection of beers including Salopian - Darwin Origin & Titanic - Tomohawk. Much quieter when the supporters left and interesting old War memorabilia on the walls.
Beer_Spotter - 22 Dec 2010 00:18
I'm getting to rather like the Nicholson way of running pubs. This one is a lovely old Victorian pile just round the corner from Birmingham's Snow Hill railway station, and how it's avoided being razed to the ground and replaced with a concrete office block is beyond me. It's been spruced up inside without spoiling the period ambience--especially in the upstairs toilets whih are beautifully tiled

I think I counted about 9 hand pumps on the bar, two of which were devoted to cider. As I remember, there was a good mixture of what you might call mainstream beer from larger brewers, and less well known ales from smaller outfits. I had a good pint of Marston's Ped the first time I went in and a a rather decent glass of "Darwin's Origin" the second.

It does a nice range of designer sausages for food, and the usual sarnies, pies and burgers if you don't fancy that. The "sharing plate" of sausages was a nice light lunch for two. If I had a moan it's that too many people agree with me on how good it is. Found it hard to get a seat on Saturday lunchtime.
Royed - 25 Oct 2010 17:02
Decent big traditional looking pub, only popped in for one so couldn`t really gauge the ethos of the place, seemed friendly enough though and interesting selection of beers and food (bit pricey) Gets top marks though for the fact that the far wall looked like it was covered with reddish flock wallpaper..should be obligatory in every hostelry!
Blastbeat - 6 Sep 2010 09:31
Traditional looking Victorian pub, both from the outside and the inside furniture and decor. Subdued lighting inside, makes it feel more like a pub rather than a bar. 9 real ales on display, pint I had went down well. Interesting looking menu, serving a variety of sausage dishes. Barman accidentally shortchanged me, but quickly rectified his error immediately. Didn't seem particularly busy for a weekend evening, and no idiots in there. Sort of place to pop in to for couple of pints, doing a tour of a few pubs.

son_of_odin - 6 Sep 2010 09:24
One of the best pubs in the centre of Brum. They look after the beer and the food is of a high quality. Staff last weekend were fine and pleasant enough. The trek up to the toilets is a task, but take in the wonderful army murals on yer way to the stairs.

Lovely pub that`s not frequented by idiots and aggressors. 9/10
Bitterville - 5 Sep 2010 15:52
largeish corner pub in the typical Nicholson decor which is good with exceptional toilets. Quite a few beers on tap at the usual city centre prices about the £3.00 mark.
rpf1955 - 23 Jul 2010 14:36
Poor service and grumpy bar staff again.
thegiant - 5 Jun 2010 10:47
Fine traditional red - brick Victorian pub situated in the Colmore Business District of the City.

Although it's not indicated as such from the outside ( where it's branded as a Mitchell and Butlers pub ), it's now part of the Nicholson's chain and the usual wide range of real ales, together with the try before you buy policy, are on offer.

The main bar is wood panelled, with high ceilings, frosted leaded windows and huge drape curtains contributing towards a traditional pub ambience. At the far end of the pub, up a few steps, is a snug like restaurant area.

The pub's name - The Old Contemptibles - refers to a select band of World War One soldiers who fought in France , and there's some fine depictions of them above the bar back.

On my recent visit, 7 real ales were on - Landlord, Pedigree, Bass, Hydes Over a Barrel, Goffs Tournament, Purity UBU plus Ffiagra ( a beer from Warwickshire Beer Co ) . The Purity UBU - £ 3.15p - was a fine pint. The pub is a GBG regular.

A blackboard lists forthcoming beers, which I noted included Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted, to be sold at £ 2.80p. I mention ths because I had just come from The Old Royal, where the very same beer was priced at £ 2.00p.

On a blackboard by the entrance we learn that the pub sold 1794 ales ( pints presumably ?) and 573 sausages the previous week.

This is a fine pub and has a greater beer range than The Old Royal a block or so away, but it is noticeably more expensive for both food and drink.
JohnBonser - 22 Mar 2010 11:11
Busy city centre pub with good beer. The kind of decent city centre alehouse that seems to be lacking in most cities. Went for Exmoor Antler - an excellent pint. Probably the closest decent pub to New Street.
Snarling_Mallard - 13 Dec 2009 14:56
Good range of well kept beer. Imaculate toilets. Breakfasts looked huge & really tasty, will go well with a beer at 11am. Sausages excellent. Throughly recommended. Will be here next season for the next Birmingham v Fulham game
Wilson_MacDonald - 27 Nov 2009 17:11
I'd not been in for about 20 years since I was a student in Brum. Not quite as i remember it but a pretty good find on a trip up to the Midlands for work.Good real ale selection, well-kept, and friendly barstaff on my visit.
My grandfather was an Old Contemptible; perhaps I should have asked for a discount but I doubt the staff would have known what I was on about (but would be nice to think the management brief them as to the pub's name's origins).
Ordinary - 11 Nov 2009 22:29
This pub used to be a right dive that i used to avoid like the plague but every since they renovated the OC's i enjoy popping in everynow and then, its got a good range of real ales and lagers like Amstell its a bit pricey but its nice to have a pub like this in Birmingham that doesn't have loud pounding music making conversation difficult and there's no TV's to distract you either. i agree with Slake the fruit machines should go
Ispy - 3 Oct 2009 12:09
If this M&B pub was in London, you would expect that it would be branded as a Nicholsons and you get the same product and price details on the handpumps. The upper part of the split-level bar is more modern and uninteresting than the area below, but at least you avoid the crush around the main serving area. Good selection of about eight real ales, including a nice malty pint of Fall Over (an autumn beer from Old Mill Brewery).
rpadam - 27 Sep 2009 12:41
Modern but smart and characterful barn-boozer, similar to the city's many bank-conversion pubs, with one of Brum's best real ale choices. 8 Beers from across the UK from Cornwall to Scotland. Purity was pretty good on my visit. Dimpled jugs on request- always a bonus! Menu looked decent and staff friendly. Not the cheapest but you never expect that in city centres these days. One of central Brum's best.
Carlurmston - 8 Sep 2009 13:09
Very attractive, high-ceiling bar with comfortable furnishings and a very relaxed atmosphere. Interesting range of ales with descriptions above the pump clips. This pub must have the most up-front pricing of any in the country - the price is on the handpull or keg font and very clear. Well done! The Old Hooky was tasty on my visit. My only grumble is that the prices are a bit steep - but maybe that's Brum city centre these days.
wobblybob - 6 Sep 2009 22:15
Impressed on my first visit. Only had time for one pint of Pure Ubu so will have to visit again. Wasn't too keen on the fruit machines being there.
Slake - 4 Aug 2009 19:06
Nice to see it back on its feet again.
wessex - 3 Aug 2009 19:23
I wasn't around for the supposed bad old days for this establishment,so can only go on what I've been able to to experience. Fine ale selection, weighted towards the old favourites but with some interesting guests. Decor is good without making itself a selling point - just the way it should be. One word of warning to the curious, it is smaller than you might think, so be prepared for The Crush at the bar
getsit - 30 Jul 2009 21:57
What a difference to how it was. When it closed I thought that it was lost for good, so three cheers for the brewery for spending so much money on it. Good, well kept ales and good food, even if it is a little pricey.
whitmorereans - 21 Jun 2009 17:41
What a difference to how it was. When it closed I thought that it was lost for good, so three cheers for the brewery for spending so much money on it. Good, well kept ales and good food, even if it is a little pricey.
whitmorereans - 21 Jun 2009 17:41
They do have an intersting range of beers on, I don't really like the panelled glasses, might seem a small thing but I swear beer never taste as good out of them. Due to the proximity of large multinationals this place is almost always full to burtsing with suits, so if you don't like a side of self-importance with your beer then your much better off in the welly.
Klaude_Martner - 11 Jun 2009 16:33
A few years ago The OC's was suffering from a lack of investment and was a very sorry place. This was rather surprising given its location in the business district of Birmingham. Now it has been done up to the appropriate standard it's a very nice boozer indeed.

It's plus points are:

- good ranger of real ale (including micro)
- nice decor
- sausages (though I haven't tried them)
- busy atmosphere

The only bad point I would like to make is that it is difficult to get served in there. When I raised this with the bar manager ha head a rather poor attitude, along the lines of "We're busy so you can like it or lump it".
thegiant - 6 Jun 2009 09:57
Loved it, great pub, great selection of ales, cracking pint of Hopback Crop Circle.
davebatt69 - 6 May 2009 19:47
There's been a massive change to this place since my last visit over 2 years ago. It's now been done up very impressively by the Nicholson's chain. Lot's of old wood and glass with several distinct areas even though it's one big room really. Six different beers on handpump. Pedigree, Landlord, London Pride, Stonehenge Sign of Spring, Hopback Crop Circle and Dark Horse Whip Cracker. Had a pint of the Whip Cracker which was pretty good. Got this served in a standard schooner glass, as were all the other pints around the place. Maybe they've realised that people prefer these now! It's not bad in here, much better than it was at least.
ROBCamra - 23 Mar 2009 21:16
Not a bad pub, though packed with suits weekday lunchtimes. Fortunately, they bugger off soon enough.

Beer is pretty good, but I'd rather not have the 1970s style tankards.
stymaster - 20 Dec 2008 19:19
Thought the range of beers was OK, it's been years since I had beer in a mug though!

If the place had of been warmer we might have been tempted by the sausages.
LickeyEndBooze - 30 Nov 2008 10:49
On one of my excursions into the OC's I stopped musing about the PC worshipping shirts behind the massive plate glass window opposite to send a text to one of my co-conspirators to the effect of "I bet Jeremy Clarkson would like this pub". I'm still not entirely sure what I meant but I stagger by every word. But let's face it it's been years since someone tried to realise any sort of potential with this pub. Previously it seemed to be trying to get itself nominated for some sort of ghastly competition to find Birmingham's most clinically depressed pub. What we now have here is a pleasantly decorated pub, with brisk efficient service, and a well kept Timmy Taylor's on the go plus one or two guest ales. Problem is we also have some pretty high prices to match those well cut suits, who swell the pub to capacity and beyond at lunchtimes and early evenings. If you feel out of place just clamp your mobile to your ear and swear fashionably and loudly - remember you da man! Alternatively visit at the weekends.
ILooklikeme - 22 Oct 2008 21:54
One of a number of average chain pubs filling out central Brum's Good Beer Guide contingent. Its not bad, though I don't think beer tastes as good in a "handle" as a straight glass - beer range as dull as you get in central London (Doombar, Landlord, Pride - nothing local).
mtaylor40 - 16 Oct 2008 20:49
Good old boozer, sensitively restored and modernised. Barstaff are decent and there's a good selection of beers. Not ideal when The Suits turn out of their cubicles but ok after about 8pm.

Wasnt impressed with the food recently (mushroom risotto with chicken breast) chicken tough as an old boot, risotto luke warm and tasteless...but hey, I dont really go to pubs if I want great food
Beastlyrotter - 8 Aug 2008 23:36
Popped in on Saturday for the first time. Nice interior, relaxed atmosphere and quite a mixed crowd. Beer was good, not often you see Doom Bar in Birmingham, if a little on the pricey side. Will be back again soon.
freckles - 21 Jul 2008 16:02
Not particularly worth the walk from town, but is near enough to Snow Hill/Livery Street to warrant a visit. Beers are alright - nothing special - but the sausages are delicious!
pendragon - 1 Jun 2008 15:48
Great pub with friendly bar staff. Good beer and atmosphere. I went on Saturday evening, good crowd and no suits.
Beowulf - 24 Mar 2008 12:33
Not a bad refurb and beers ok but not exceptional. well worth adding to your crawl list however.
brianthelion - 25 Feb 2008 08:45
Reasonably nice interior and the staff seemed friendly enough. Not too bad selection of bitters etc, but alas no mild, so did not stay long
Archivist - 11 Jan 2008 16:03
Bit of a suities place this one. Good range of beer but the landlady seems a bit of a fascist.
anonymous - 11 Nov 2007 17:26
Been since for second time since refurb. Short staffed on a Saturday night (one person serving). A parsimonious and shortsighted move on the part of the pub company methinks!
davver - 16 Oct 2007 09:04
Called in for the first time as we had heard it had been done up. The decor is certainly good, and I had a wander round including the toilets upstairs. The beer range could do with a guest or two from micros, but those tried were in good condition.
gillhalfpint - 9 Oct 2007 00:16
Very nice inside following refurb, food very good also. Only criticism is lack of bar staff at lunchtime, waited ages to buy a second drink and gave up in the end as so many people waiting!
PINKALI - 4 Oct 2007 13:45
Has had a refurb. Superb interior, good service. Had 4 real ales on when I visited. Used to be 6/10, now an 8. Definitely worth a try.
davver - 27 Sep 2007 12:28
Very run down on the outside and inside, not much of a selection of beer, pretty bad really. This pub could be good if a bit more care was taken with it. The locals are an alright bunch and it has character, it just needs doing up a bit.
mattyboy - 27 Mar 2007 13:39
From the outside, looked pretty run down!
h3xx1 - 30 Jan 2007 20:59
a little tried in need of some tlc ! pub it self has good character old a good old english pub ! I say Mitchells & Butlers put ur hand in ur pocket FFS
baggie25 - 14 Mar 2006 21:32
Was GBG listed but seems to have gone downhill.
Uncle_Dunkel - 24 Feb 2006 15:25
This was a pub once owned by my parents, i have no idea what it's like now.
Carl1982 - 4 Jan 2006 22:55

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