Barston Lane, BARSTON, Solihull, B92 0JP
The Malt Shovel is an airy, well designed free house with modern soft furnishings and interesting artefacts. An early 20th-century, stylishly converted mill building, it sits comfortably in the countryside outside Solihull. Natural wood and pastel colours characterise the interiors and flowers decorate the unclothed tables in the tiled dining area. The bar is cosy and relaxed with winter log fires, and there's an attractive garden for outdoor dining; at weekends, the restaurant in the adjacent converted barn is opened. The extensive choice of modern British dishes makes the best of fresh seasonal ingredients, and, predictably, the daily fish specials board is popular with lovers of seafood - perhaps tempura soft shell crab, shiitake mushrooms, bok choy and satay sauce; or line-caught mackerel, free-range slow roast pork belly and buttered Savoy cabbage. A look through the imaginative menu finds starters such as chicken and chorizo patties with guacamole, tortilla chips and sour cream; or wild pigeon breast, pear and vanilla purée, balsamic shallot and pine nuts. Main course dishes are just as appetising: there could be Jamaican spiced slow roast lamb, sweet potato, mango and ginger beer shot; salmon fishcakes, spinach, free-range poached eggs and tarragon hollandaise; and open camembert Wellington, fire-roasted peppers, artichoke hearts and courgettes. As for desserts, you could easily be tempted by salted caramel chocolate torte with caramel sauce; or gooseberry bread and butter pudding. A board of English and European cheeses with grapes, celery, red onion chutney and artisan crackers will fill any remaining corners.