By “Numbers” Mike Ward Having visited the New Inn at Harborne on a number of occasions I realised that I had yet to take advantage of its garden which has recently been included in a list of the best beer gardens in Birmingham. This was partially due to a problem with hay fever which has led me to believe that all plant life has formed a conspiracy against me and wants to keep me cooped up inside.
A perfect opportunity presented itself with the announcement of the finale of the 29th Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival where no-one less than Big Joe Pleasure would be bringing his unique style of fun to the venue. Big Joe is somewhat of a jazz legend and a chance to enjoy his music, together with a chance to sample some of the New Inn’s excellent range of real ales (my personal tipple of choice), served to entice me down to Harborne (an oasis of greenery close to the city centre).
Arriving at 4pm I was greeted by the welcoming tones of sax by Big John (Joe’s fellow band member) and I knew I was in for a good time. Within minutes he was joined by Big Joe himself and the guys in the band proceeded to dazzle an appreciative audience with a series of jazz swing standards punctuated with smiles, jokes and nods to the audience. Big Joe Pleasure has one of the most expressive faces on the surface of the planet and it was impossible not to be drawn into the atmosphere of fun, as well as warmth which had little to do with the blazing sun.
The New Inn is part of the successful Bitters ‘n’ Twisted group that includes The Victoria, Jekyll and Hyde, Rose Villa Tavern, Island Bar plus Bodega on Bennetts Hill. They are one of the big supporters of the Birmingham Beer Bash on 26th/27thJuly too. Each establishment I have visited has its own sense of individuality, and in some cases quirkiness. Add to that the high levels of polite and friendly professionalism by the staff and management. I’m somewhat of a curmudgeon at the best of times but I found I couldn’t keep the smile off my face as I supped a spectacularly tasty pint of Thornbridge Brother Rabbit, shuffled my feet and ignored my hay fever which occasionally provided a form of percussive accompaniment to the music when I sneezed. I am afraid I didn’t get any applause for this contribution.
I still can’t decide whether my favourite moment was -- when a guest vocalist joined the guys for a brilliant rendition of Call It Stormy Monday or when Big Joe of the huge personality was waving at people as they walked along the road outside the pub. And yes, they did wave back.
One more thing; I can’t tell you what the food tastes like yet but I can assure you it smells divine.
Perfect music in a perfect venue? I agree, a most perfect Sunday afternoon.