Now, one hesitates to pull the curtain back and let light in on magic, but there’s some things you need to know about how Pub Spy works.

Once a week Spy is called back to PI6 (Pub Intelligence 6) HQ – it’s a large, distinctive, architecturally famous building just by the river.

Spy is called up to the 10th floor corner of office of PM, not Theresa May, but the boss, Pub M, who gives PS the ritual telling-off and produces a list of pubs, or ‘targets’.

Last week the one name jumped out. The Hand in Glove in College Street. Pub Spy was pleased. It’s an interesting name, and there would be lots of scope for Smiths puns.

Except, it doesn’t do food. PS had to pick again.

The choice? The Oak Apple on the corner of Spetchley Road, and Whittington Road. You’ll have driven past it on the way to the M5 a thousand times.

For a modern pub it’s all red brick and gabled roofs and is more attractive than most. (Operational note: surveillance pics not enhanced by the plexiglass bus stop right outside.)

The inflatable rugby posts outside were a tip-off. This pub does show the sport, and there shouldn’t be any trouble in getting a view of the game, there is a mix of tables, booths and lots of screens. Although the booths also mean you can avoid it if you’d prefer.

But what’s the beer like?

Surveying the usual option PS’s eye was caught by the Oak Apple pale ale.

Brewed by Marstons, who own the pub, it’s not actually made specially for the pub, the barman confided, it’s just got its name on it.

It’s agreeably bitter and has a very smooth dense head, a bit like those smoothflow bitters all the rage 20 years or so ago, but unlike many modern ‘American-style’ IPAs it’s not overly hopped.

That meant PS was actually able to taste the food: sirloin steak, medium, with onion rings, peas and tomatoes. And a choice of chips or fries. (Like all right-thinking people, PS went for chips).

For a second PS was tempted by the rump steak topped with ale and Marmite pulled pork, but, well, he’s not a barbarian and thinks a steak should be allowed to speak for itself.

And it spoke very nicely thank you.

Cooked to a nice pink, with plenty of juice still in it the steak was very tasty. While I’m sure a steak piled up with pulled pork is fine, PS thinks you can’t really beat a good steak simply grilled for tastiness and it’s a better test of a kitchen, you can’t hide either the quality of the meat or the chef.

The chips were crispy, with that hot soft centre that makes you wave your hand in front of your mouth, and the onion rings were a revelation – crispy batter and soft, sweet onions, not at all chewy or stringy.

With a very friendly and efficient staff, it was a very enjoyable mission. PS might even use the Oak Apple for recovery after other missions.

Oh, look, PS worked too hard on those Smiths puns not to use them; the Oak Apple, I visited and heaven knows, I’m not at all miserable now.

This charming pub, the sun really does shine out of its (that’s enough of that, right now – Ed)


Atmosphere 7/10

Decor 7/10

Staff 9/10

Drink 9/10

Food 9/10

Overall 8/10