“ Address: Stratford Road / Birmingham B28 9ES „
With this nasty cold weather, comfort food is the order of the day - and what better comfort food than a delicious carvery, my favourite meal out at any time and one I've been eating at least once a week since Christmas! Yesterday me and Mark visited the Hall Green branch of Toby Carvery in Birmingham for our lunch, although I've eaten here before at breakfast time - we took advantage of Toby's two daytime carveries for £10 offer and definitely got our moneys worth as Mark in particular ate like a pig yesterday, even going up for seconds!
The building itself doesn't feel as big as other Toby restaurants, there's plenty of room inside but it's just not as spacious as I'm used to (being a Toby regular). Seating is good and varied, there aren't many larger tables so if you have a large family you may find yourself waiting for one of the eight place tables to become available. Most of the tables in this branch seat four and it has a more open atmosphere, a bit more canteen-y if I'm honest but bright, cheerful and very clean. There are plenty of staff on and despite the fact that the restaurant was busy we were seated and served quickly, the constantly long queue at the carvery deck being dealt with efficiently by the server who seemed to be able to keep the perfect gap between diners. All the staff were good yesterday actually; at times they were run off their feet but the place seemed to run smoothly, the bar looked really busy at one point and I noticed that everyone looked to be served in turn - telling me the staff were paying attention to their jobs!
We were seated straight away as we only needed a table for two, larger groups were being asked to wait in the bar area with one party being informed of at least a 45 minute wait. The carvery deck isn't huge so the queue seemed massive, but we honestly weren't kept waiting long at all. Plating of the meal is done in the same way as any other Toby; the server will carve the meat and offer you a Yorkshire pudding, then you move along the hot deck to serve yourself to vegetables and potatoes. The beef, turkey and gammon were all brand new joints when I came to request my meat and were piping hot (sometimes Toby meat can be a little on the chilly side) - I only had turkey as I'm trying to watch my weight, but Mark had all three meats and commented that they were even more delicious than usual. My turkey was delicious; buttery tasting with a moist and extremely tender texture, it practically required no chewing as the meat melted in my mouth - I was a bit annoyed to find some turkey skin hidden amongst the slices of meat (something about turkey skin makes me shudder!) but I soon deposited that on Mark's plate and got on with my meal. I had a bite of Mark's beef and found it to be a little bit chewy, but maybe I had a rogue mouthful as he said the rest of it was tender and flavoursome - he did mention that the gammon was fattier than usual, although this is a problem in carvery restaurants in general and exactly why I very rarely have the gammon myself.
The Yorkshire pudding was as huge and perfect as in any other Toby - I ate every mouthful of mine as I adore Yorkies, but Mark ended up leaving his as he'd filled himself up with his body weight in roast potatoes! Talking of the roasters... wow! They were the best I've ever tasted - forget what I said about not having too much meat as I am dieting, I think the sheer number of roast potatoes I ate added a few pounds! They had a slightly paprika hint to them for some reason, although had no orange tinge to suggest the spice had been used in their creation - delicious though, fluffy inside with a scrummy crispy outside. The mashed potato was equally good with a creamy texture and buttery flavour, unfortunately there were no boiled spuds in their skins (my favourites!) at this branch but I suppose you can't have everything!
The vegetable deck caused 'words' between me and Mark, after (like a child) he only had a single small serving of peas. After telling me not to treat him like a baby (don't act like one then!) he petulantly put back some of the peas. Mature, eh? I love my veggies and had a bit of nearly everything; peas, green beans, cauliflower cheese, onions, shredded red cabbage - in fact the only things I didn't have were carrots as they looked hard and mashed swede, because I'd rather die. Everything was deliciously and perfectly cooked, the cauliflower wasn't very cheesy but that was ideal for me (not being a huge cheese fan) although would be disappointing for those who enjoy proper cauliflower cheese. In this Toby you help yourself from a dish of stuffing rather than the server giving you a ball with your Yorkshire pud, I prefer this as I like lots of stuffing and it saves the utter pigginess of asking for a second ball - I also think the stuffing has a nicer consistency as the balls can sometimes be a bit hard.
After selecting your food (don't forget the price of your meal entitles you to go back for more vegetables and potatoes) you choose your gravy from the selection of four. We both had the beef gravy, which was rich and bursting with flavour, but could have also chosen from an insipid looking Country gravy, a poultry one or go veggie with a very pale but delicious smelling gravy that really could be classed as a sauce. I had a pile of cranberry sauce to go with my turkey but the full selection of condiments and sauces were available in small dishes next to the gravy urns - although I'm a little nervous of these now after watching a bloke lick the spoon in another carvery a few weeks ago... Single serving sachets are the way to go, they might be a bit 'greasy spoon' but at least you can be certain you're not ingesting someone elses saliva...
Surprisingly, after clearing my plate AND going up for more stuffing, cauliflower (the second serving was from a new dish and decidedly cheesier) and peas I still had room for pudding! A totally scrummy Cherry Pie and custard later I was stuffed - this pie was seriously delicious, the custard was perfect too with a rich vanilla flavour and completely lump-free. Mark had apple pie and said that too was delicious, although to be fair I've never come across an apple pie that Mark DOESN'T class as delicious so not sure that's much of a recommendation!
Vegetarians are catered for with a choice of meals, I have no idea what they were and that information wouldn't help much anyway as they change daily. But I definitely saw green looking foodstuffs next to the Yorkshire puddings! This branch of Toby also has a 'pub grub' menu, serves a delicious breakfast and allows you to have a take-away carvery although I've no idea how that would work. Fill a box?
The bar area is large and they serve the full range of lagers, beers, spirits and wine. Soft drinks are quite reasonably priced at £2.20 for unlimited Pepsi or lemonade, although this is assuming you're going to want more than one glass - I don't drink a lot of fizzy pop so had a J20 instead, which cost silly money for a small bottle of pop but this is something I've come to expect! Mark had lager and seemed to enjoy it, which is all you can hope for really.
I wouldn't hesitate to eat here again, the couple of minor irritations (fatty gammon, non-cheesy cauliflower) are cancelled out by the fact that the bulk of the meal was fantastic. We had a lovely couple of hours yesterday as despite the fact that the carvery was busy the atmosphere was nice as it was mainly family groups and couples eating, there was no rowdiness whatsoever - it's definitely more restaurant than pub in feel, but that's what I want when eating rather than going out to drink.