The Tap & Spile doesn’t look like one of Birmingham’s most historic, real ale pubs from its address on Gas Street, with various cars constantly parked outside taking the shine off.
But view the property from Regency Wharf on the other side of Gas Street Basin, and you can instantly see why 16 Gas Street and its neighbour at No. 14 received its Grade II listing back in 1981.
The waterside frontages are double in height for starters. And because you can admire their reflections in the canal, their mirrored depth provides a classic image of Westside that visiting photographers instantly fall in love with.
Step inside and, as you can see in our video below, the pub resembles the interior of the kind of narrowboats you can see frequently sailing past the gridded windows.
But what’s the food like? This was my fourth breakfast in the area in the past couple of weeks as I seek out Westside’s finest. We tried a ‘single-items’ vegetarian breakfast (£5.49) and a ‘double items’ full English (£7.49) served from 10am on a Saturday.
The toasted bread and hash browns were the best yet, the crispy-fat bacon almost on a par with its sister pub The Brasshouse, voted Pub of the Year in last month’s Wonders of Westside 2024 awards.
The grilled tomatoes and eggs held their own against all-comers, but the twin sausages’ meat texture was unusually solid and my wife felt her solo vegetarian alternative wasn’t a match for the late Linda McCartney range she sometimes cooks at home.
Still, after pinching some of my bacon – with permission! – she fully enjoyed her canalside breakfast and wonderful setting apart from the one thing we both agreed on.
The button mushrooms that had been chopped into little pieces were strange things and tasted most unlike single quality flat Portobello mushrooms when they have been carefully cooked.
A small pot of tea (with two teabags) and an Americano coffee with warm milk on the side were a touch expensive at £2.79 each, compared with the endless refills per £1.56 cup at the nearby Soloman Cutler Wetherspoon around the corner.
But, as with so many things in life, you always get what you pay for because ‘location, location, location’ offers the added value.
A note on the Tap & Spile name: a spile is typically a wooden or metal peg in a cask of ale. And whether sitting inside or just yards from the rippling water, the £18.56 bill total was a fair price to pay for preserving living history.
The Tap & Spile comes under the Great UK Pubs wing of the giant, Solihull-based Stonegate group. The venue is at 16 Gas Street B1 2JT, tel 0121 272 5278, and is served by the nearby Metro trams.
But note that the pub’s bar on the Gas Street level is currently closed for the winter season, so look for the gap in the wall yards further along and head carefully down the historic listed route to the towpath.
All pictures and video by Graham Young.