Brummie directions, as you know, can only be given with reference to pubs and islands. This works for us. This is a good system, or rather it is until the thing which we need to find is the actual pub itself. It is difficult to find a pub in the same way that it is difficult to find my glasses: I need the glasses to find my glasses, and I need the pub to find the pub. Such is the chicken and egg riddle of finding one’s way around Birmingham.
I’m looking for the pub now.
It’s a city centre pub, and this makes finding its whereabouts doubly hard. Firstly because there are no traffic islands, so I can’t orient myself to those and secondly because it’s not really in a bit of town that has any pubs. I’m lost, and nobody can help me.
The pub is called Tilt.
I first heard of Tilt on a text message. Apparently it’s my kind of thing.
“Where is it?”
“Near Martineau Place. In an arcade thing that didn’t really work out.”
“Ah. Birmingham’s famous Failed Development Quarter.”
Martineau Place is one of Brum’s many mixed use developments and it’s always felt jinxed. It’s currently anchored by two Poundland stores, one on each of the corners that face onto Corporation Street. Inside things have come and gone — mostly gone.
Tilt is a craft beer bar, like the kids have now.
“So is it actually in Martineau Place then?”
“No I’ll send you a map”
The draft beer line up of six taps is probably the most interesting in town, and is constantly changing.
Google maps can’t find this place, it’s got it stuck way over by the Cathedral.
We back and forth about a dozen times, trying to find common landmarks. I try for a pub, but it’s not near The Square Peg (or is it the Figure of Eight? The one with the long bar — no football colours, sorry lads). This is weird as The Square Peg is near Martineau Place which is where Tilt is near.
Eventually I’ve locked onto a location.
“So it’s in the arcade where Smiths and BHS and the Post Office were?”
“Yes. Just go through to the BHS and it’s there”.
I’ve got this.
The pub has a bonus USP — pinball tables.
I’ve recruited some people to come to Tilt. This requires me to explain where it is.
“It’s in the arcade where Smiths and BHS and the Post Office was”
Here we go…
turns out those directions make sense to me, but not to anybody else. An old BHS isn’t a universal waypoint, and so I need to redraw the map. Again.
It does all fancy coffee and that too, if you want to pop in during the day.
I’m on my way, one mate with me, the rest following with various different instructions based on their own mental maps of town. The usefulness of everybody’s instructions is under question. For them to work, we will have had to successfully completed several complex transactions. Firstly, I need to have got the pub’s location correct, then I need to have understood their landmarks, then I need to have correctly described a route from their landmarks to the pub.
We duck under a Pure Gym sign on High Street, next to the PC World concept store — all landmarks I’ve given to other people — and head into an empty shopping arcade. It seems like a weird place for a pub.
“Yeah it does”, my companion agrees.
“It’s definitely just up here”.
Turns out I’ve got shit at Addams Family Pinball in the 20 years since I last played it.
In my head I hear Mike (Jon Favreau) in Swingers:
“For some reason, the cool bars have to be hard to find, and have no sign. It’s kind of like a speakeasy kind of thing. It’s kind of cool. It’s like you’re in on some kind of secret, you know? You tell a chick you’ve been some place, it’s like bragging you know how to find it.”
He’s right. There’s something cool about this idea of a pub tucked away, hard to find. You know what’s cooler? Finding the pub.
“There it is”
Now I’m following, leader no more, we see the lights, we can almost smell the hops, we come out of the Arcade and there it is: Tilt.
It is cool though. I spot familiar faces, beer nerd bar staff from places like Brewdog, choosing to come here on their night off.
Eventually the rest of my companions find the pub. They arrive from every possible angle. One comes via a branch of Santander which I didn’t know was there, another comes in off Corporation Street. A few “come up the alleyway between the Primark and that big hotel”.
One of the group looks totally unruffled by this. He’s only lived here a month, so he’s not had time to develop associations and to draw his own mental map of town. He easily found the pub.
“Piece of piss, lads”.
“Didn’t this used to be a tourist information centre?”
“Wasn’t this a hat shop?”
“I’ve never seen this place before in my life”
I guess the big lesson from all this is that the Council need to put more pubs and islands in the middle of town so I don’t get lost. Tilt is a lovely place if you’re a beer nerd or a pinball wizard. The atmosphere inside is friendly and warm. It’s a smart little boozer. You should go.
Do you need directions?