We’re here because every time I’m in The Devonshire I get a message from Tom telling me that the Guinness at Nortons is better. This is despite it quickly transpiring that Tom hasn’t been to The Devonshire – I’m not entirely sure he’s ever been to London – and maybe has something to do with Tom having a loose working relationship with Nortons in the same way that he seemingly has with every Irish pub in Birmingham. Still, I’m making the most of his promise to pay for the afternoon, four, maybe seven pints down of the black stuff and now whiskey. All the stuff they have at the bar and some in the snug where they are building one of the finest collections of Irish whiskey I’ve seen. I’m quite pissed for five in the afternoon, the drinking pace has been as rapid as the conversation. A quick trip to the toilets reveal a sign on the back door reveals a sign that says ‘good times’. Good times indeed, my friend. Good times aplenty.

I’d only been here once before, in lockdown, out in the garden when it was likely too cold to be in a feckin’ garden, with no music and an overwhelming sense that at any time an app which doesn’t work might tell me to go home and rewatch Breaking Bad for two weeks. I hadn’t noticed the sleek bar area formed from an industrial space, that snug, or the gig space that runs behind the bar. The Guinness prints on the wall or the flush of shamrock green that’s just about everywhere. We order Guinness, Tom drinks his first in about three minutes. I’m so slow they joke about replacing the pint.

We get food. Spice bag – always my favourite of the five girls – along with curry chips, and Irish pizza, which is a deliberate piss-take before your little head explodes. It might be the booze, or the music, or the fact that everyone is smiling in there, but I’m really impressed. The curry sauce is McDonnell’s and I love it so much I beg for a packet, the spice bag – a mix of chips, peppers, onions, powdered spice and curry mayo – is as good, if not better, than any I’ve had in Dublin. And whilst I could bore you about how the pizza is a stable blend of two flours that keeps it consistent, just know that we finished the lot. I’d recommend the one with white pudding sourced from Clonakilty, delivered on the same van that brings the curry sauce, the Tayto crisps, and countless other things. They really do go the extra mile. In this case 430 of them.

And the Guinness, is it really better than the most famous pub in the UK right now? I don’t know, I’m the wrong man to ask. I know that both are very drinkable in a way I usually don’t find it, but as you might already know, I much prefer wine. Turns out Tom’s have been responding to pictures of Sophie’s pints of the black stuff. Still, I’ve had a great afternoon in an ace pub I’ve already been back to and the bill has been picked up by a mate I don’t see often enough. Good times, my friend. Good times aplenty.