Food review: Mad O'Rourkes, Tipton
Good old-fashioned pub grub served in a traditional style by friendly staff in authentic surroundings.
The Pie Factory immediately reminds visitors how pubs used to be run – and makes you question why so many have been repeatedly rebranded, as part of that all-too-familiar quest to become the next modern, trendy bar.
The Tipton venue is steeped in history; the pub itself dates back as far as the 1860s.
The venue the locals and UK-wide visitors know and love today, however, was formed when The Doughty Arms was bought in 1987 by the Little Pub Company, who renamed it Mad O’Rourke’s Pie Factory.
Wooden tables and chairs greet visitors as they enter the restaurant, with a bar serving at least four of its own ales, as well as a variety of weird and wonderful gins, ciders and wines, as the central feature.
The wide range of drinks, with their off-the-wall names, really suits the pub’s reputation.
The Lumphammer ales, for example, are all brewed in Digbeth, Birmingham. Having tried the Slegehammer, which was a lighter ale but very hoppy, and a Ruby Mild, which tasted more like a stout, I can safely say they’re both worth trying.
And some of the locals do pop in just to enjoy a pint and chat at the pub, which is deceptively bigger on the inside than it appears at first glance.
My wife, Kelly, tried a rhubarb gin, which she really enjoyed, and my three-year-old daughter, Annabelle, was happy to stick to Fruit Shoots.
There was a little trouble when we arrived regarding our booking. I never seem to learn from my mistakes, which is if you book online it means there isn’t a table for you when you arrive.
It’s easily done and despite it being a particularly busy afternoon – the sun happened to make a rare appearance – the staff still managed to find us a table and were very apologetic about the whole thing.
When it was time to order, we decided to share two starters, and then Annabelle had a child’s meal and we had our own main course dishes.
The starters were all pretty traditional, with the likes of cheesy nachos and loaded potato skins, but went for the barbecued chicken lollipop wings and the most unusual option – the black pudding potato cake.
Described as the pub’s ‘healthier’ version of fish cakes (we’re not so sure), the black pud is mixed with potatoes and topped with an egg.
The crispy-coating was deliciously crunchy, making way for the nicely-spiced pudding and potato mix, which was soft inside.
With a bit of the runny egg york thrown in for good measure, it was a very nice mixture.
It could even have been served as an alternative breakfast option.
Meanwhile, the wings were coated in a sticky homemade barbecue sauce, and as the bone was left in tact, it meant you could enjoy them without getting your hands covered in mess. The skin was crispy, the sauce not too sweet and the chicken had not been drowned in the barbecue mix either, so enough of the meaty flavour was also there too. Yum!.
Unsurprisingly, the venue serves a huge selection of pies – and has a lot of fun with their names too.
The Posh ‘N’ Becks Pie mixes chunks of beef slowly cooked in gravy with some mature stilton cheese stirred through at the end, and it’s all topped with puff pastry.
Wham Bam, Thank you Lamb speaks for itself, while the Bear Grylls The Hunters Pie is chicken breast and bacon slowly cooked in a barbecue sauce, served with a cheese and pastry lid.
Peaky Blinder is faggots atop mushy peas smothered in a rich onion gravy and topped with mashed potato, while one of the veggie options includes the Eeny Meeny Beeny chilli bean pie, a mixture of beans, mushrooms and garlic in a tomato and chilli sauce, topped with vegan pastry.
They all came served with its famous battered chips – more on those later – with the exception of the faggot pie, and the puff pastry lids can be replaced with melted cheese, if you like.
Now, that’s some menu if you’re a fan of pies and it was extremely difficult to choose which one – and that’s without even mentioning what the venue is most famous for – its Desperate Dan’s Cow Pie.
The ‘world-famous meal in a pie’ includes steak and kidney, and a variety of seasonal vegetables all slowly cooked in its gravy.
Baked with a pastry lid and pastry horns, the four-pound cow pie challenge comes with a certificate awarded for those who can eat the lot.
The challenge can also be taken – if pre-ordered without the kidney – but if you do, you automatically get a Wimp’s Certificate (I kid you not).
But after much debate, I settled on the Brexit See EU Later pie. There’s just something about slow-cooked English beef brisket I find extremely hard to resist, especially when it comes in a rich onion gravy and is topped in puff pastry.
It turned out to be a good choice too, as the beef melted in the mouth and was complimented by the crispy pastry. Simply put, it worked really well.
And then there were the homemade battered chips. Now this may come across as a bit of a bold statement, but with lashings of salt and vinegar, they were best I’d ever tasted.
Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, I’m not sure what the secret ingredients were, but they certainly worked.
The portion was also surprising, as in it was just right and didn’t leave me feeling bloated.
The menu also features grills, burgers, kebabs, salads and fish dishes, with Mick’s Grill Navvy’s delight deserving a special mention. The tender steak, gammon, strips of chicken, sausages, a tomato, onion rings, an egg and battered chips are all served on a shovel.
It’s one of the quirky highlights that makes the pub stand out from the pack, and why the venue was rammed with happy customers.
Kelly went for the vertical kebab – a hanging skewer of piri piri-marinated chicken pieces, onions, peppers and button mushrooms.
The meal also came accompanied with either the battered chips, jacket potato or a salad (she wisely chose the chips).
She said the chicken was succulent and concurred the chips were best she’d tasted.
Kelly also noted how nice it was to have a healthy option alongside all the pies and burgers.
There was also a nice children’s menu, which doesn’t appear online, so we were pleasantly surprised.
Annabelle actually chose the chicken pie (she must’ve known what was going on around her) and wanted the mash potato too.
If adult portions were a nice size, the children’s version was huge in comparison.
The pie was filled with lovely chunks of meat, a few veggies and plenty of thick gravy.
The mash was also smooth, buttery and had a lovely hint of garlic too.
It was far too much for her, while Kelly said it would have been just right for her.
Between us though, we polished off the lot. Feeling pretty stuffed, we decided to give dessert a miss and instead enjoyed the rest of our drinks in the beer garden.
However, options include a sweet hanging ‘kabob’, cheesecake, Alabama chocolate cake, apple crumble and sticky toffee pudding.
Mad O’Rourke’s is a one-off and if you like hearty, traditional pub grub and fab real ales, it would be well worth popping along and trying it out for yourself.
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