I spent a lot of time in O'Neill's in my early twenties- the food was cheap but better than other pub chains, there was cider, it was a comfortable atmosphere and the music was good. I still end up at the Solihull one every Christmas Eve with my friends in that area.
The menu changed about a year ago and I was disappointed. Although some of the classics remained, such as sausage and colcannon, I felt the menu was weaker. They had tried to be too much to too many people, throwing in trendy items like STACKED BURGERS but lowering the quality. This, to me, couldn't match the simple cheese and bacon burger on a lovely sourdough bun that they had previously.
So, when I was invited to the relaunch of O'Neill's on Broad Street, I was at once nervous and hopeful. Nervous that they would have trendified it too much and made it less cosy and relaxed. Hopeful that the food menu would have improved.
It has been modernised, with obligatory exposed brick walls and trendy light fittings. I like the muted colour scheme and the old Guinness ads. There was still plenty of seating, but with less booth seats, which is a shame as I like to settle in for an evening. Saying that, once Edd and I settled into our seats at a high table with fellow blogger Emily of Good Girl Gone Brum and her friend (also) Emily, we were quite relaxed and able to chat the night away.
The theme has switched from Irish to Irish American, which I believe there is space for in the UK. While the American thing is trendy at the moment, it also gives them room to stick to their Irish roots, with Irish whiskey featuring heavily on the drinks menu.
Guinness' lager Hop House 13 was available for sampling too. This is from Guinness' Brewers Project in which their brewers take old recipes and have a play with them. I'm not a huge fan of lager but I enjoyed the nutty notes in this and had a fair few samples.
There was live music throughout the evening, which is something O'Neill's have always had.
There was a free bar and plenty of samples floating around so I had a fair amount to drink. Perhaps a little too much for a school night. All in the name of the blog of course.
Let's be clear: the cocktails are not classic cocktails, they are pub cocktails- long and containing mixers such as ginger beer and lemonade. But, they are cheap at around £5 each, much better than your usual pub cocktail and a lot of fun to drink. As I said, I often end up at O'Neill's for Christmas Eve so I can imagine getting through a few of these!
I'd recommend the Tennessee Honey punch (Jack Daniels, honey, apple and ginger, £5.95) Honey Lynchburg Lemonade (JD Honey, Cointreau and lemonade, £5.95) and Route 56 (Jagermeister, lime, cucumber, ginger beer, £4.95). YES, Jagermeister. I've never had it in a mixed drink before and it worked well. We also tried doing shots of mini bottles of Jagermeister and I still got up for work the next day.
There were also a few other samples knocking around- it's basically obligatory to have BrewDog in your pub now isn't it?
Food wise I was quite happy. They've changed the menu again and while it's still quite broad, it's a bit more coherent and appears to be better quality. Sausage and colcannon is still delicious, the pizzas were generous with the toppings though not as thin on the base as I would like.
Replacing ham with pastrami was a pretty genius idea.
We were also given a giant steak to share. It wasn't the best quality steak I've ever had but for £18.50 it would soak up booze very nicely indeed. I'm not a steak connoisseur but I did enjoy dunking the big strips of meat into the whiskey peppercorn sauce.
I'm pleased with the updated O'Neill's. It's retained what it should have- it's a crowd pleasing, friendly, well-priced pub, just with a few modern touches.
O'Neill's, Broad Street, Birmingham
Food and drink was complimentary.
Photos by myself and Edd.