Oaka at The Bartons Arms, 144 High Street, Aston, B6 4UP. Tel: 0121 333 5988. Visit: www.thebartonsarms.com

If enjoying great beer and good food in stunning surroundings isn’t your bag, the Bartons Arms probably isn’t for you.

For everyone else, this is your Mecca – not only one of the finest historic pubs in the region, but one of the finest in the country.

If you live in Birmingham and have never ventured out here, make a vow to yourself to change that sorry state of affairs pronto.

Based on Aston Hall, the Bartons was built 113 years ago, one in Birmingham’s series of “terracotta and tiles” pubs designed by architects James & Lister Lea and the flagship of Mitchell & Butler’s fleet.

The Grade II-listed red-brick building, now standing like a lone survivor of a bygone age on the corner of High Street’s dual carriageway and Park Lane, wows with its Dutch gables, Victorian lanterns and central clock tower.

And the interior is even more stunning, with walls of opulent Minton-Hollins tiles, stained and leaded windows, ornately carved wooden bars, mahogany panelling, tiled arches and an elaborate wrought iron baluster running up a wide staircase.

There are little quirks here and there that make this building exceptional.

It’s one of just a handful of pubs in the country that boasts “snob screens” on one side of the bar, so that drinkers could choose to see through to punters on the other side or turn the screen and quaff in privacy.

Laurel and Hardy once pulled pints here while staying upstairs after performing at the Aston Hippodrome variety theatre that once stood next door.

The Bartons’ other patrons include Charlie Chaplin and Ozzy Osbourne.

Tod mun talay (fish cakes) from the Oaka restaurant at The Bartons Arms in Aston.
Tod mun talay (fish cakes) from the Oaka restaurant at The Bartons Arms in Aston.
 

Peterborough brewery Oakham Ales bought the building 12 years ago, restoring it to its former glory.

And while half of the ground floor is still a traditional boozer, landlords Siriporn and Wichai Thumjaroen, who moved to Britain from Thailand eight years ago, have turned the former smoking room into a Thai restaurant named Oaka.

This pub, of national importance, has not only remained standing through two world wars, the 1960s redevelopment of Aston and Newtown, dwindling trade and closure, it also survived a more recent attack during the 2011 riots when a 40-strong gang smashed windows, ransacked the pub and started fires after leaving (thankfully) dud petrol bombs in the building.

It’s nothing short of a minor miracle (and proof that it has been in safe hands) that this place has survived as long as it has and is looking as spectacular as it does.

Those safe hands have also ushered the business into the modern era, not only with the Thai food offering but with an impressive range of top-quality real ales, craft keg and bottled/canned beers.

If you despair at the ream of restaurants that have expertly-crafted wine lists yet offer beer drinkers no more than a Fosters or San Miguel, this place is the perfect tonic.

We found four mainstays from Oakham alongside guest ales from near and far.

We matched The Man on the Oss, a beer from Wolverhampton microbrewery Sacre Brew (where New Yorker Gwen Sanchirico is using her experience of the American craft beer movement to develop new and adventurous beers) with our sweet peanut dishes, and paired the zesty Citra Simcoe IPA from London favourite, Kernel, with spicy chilli dishes.

Chicken Satay from the Oaka restaurant at The Bartons Arms in Aston.
Chicken Satay from the Oaka restaurant at The Bartons Arms in Aston.
 

While not exactly managing to steal the thunder of the Bartons’ stunning surroundings and superb beer range, the food is definitely the cherry on top.

On our visit the restaurant was full, which is impressive for a Tuesday night.

The Bartons has a Tuesday £10 deal, offering two courses for a tenner with a good choice of five starters and six mains.

Ordering from the a la carte menu we were spoilt for choice with an extensive list, including wok dishes, grill dishes, noodles soups and salads.

Alongside traditionally named Thai dishes (Tom Yum, Yum Talay, Nua Yang) there are a substantial amount of dishes purely referred to by their English names (Thai fries, roast duck curry, sesame mushroom toast) giving the menu an unusually western feel.

The language and some of the recipes themselves give the feeling that the restaurateurs have made a concerted effort to appeal to diners who daren’t stray too far from the Anglicised version of Thai food.

But our starters suggested there are also authentic flavours to be found for those wanting a true taste of Thailand.

The skewered meat of the chicken satay (£4.95) fell into the time-worn trap of being too dry, but the sauce more than made up for it with its chunks of peanuts and flavours see-sawing between salty and sweet.

The tod mun talay prawn fishcakes (£5.20) were pretty average on their own, but teamed with their sauce they were hard to beat.

The dip was bursting with flavours of sweet chilli, ginger, lemongrass, peanuts and tamarind, freshened up with little cucumber chunks, and balanced the lemony fishcakes brilliantly.

Duck pad gra prao and Massaman Curry from the Oaka restaurant at The Bartons Arms in Aston.
Duck pad gra prao and Massaman Curry from the Oaka restaurant at The Bartons Arms in Aston.
 

The meat of the duck pad gra prao (£10.95) was juicy without being over-fatty and, again, the sticky sauce elevated the dish with just the right level of heat and came with gratifying chunks of red pepper.

The peanutty massaman curry (£7.95) was a touch more soupy than saucy but the meat (de-boned chicken thigh, I think) was full of flavour.

Desserts, however, aren’t Oaka’s strong point.

The rice pudding (£4.95) had a remarkable resemblance to the tinned stuff (I don’t care – I’ve got a severe weakness for tinned rice pud) but came with a clever added topping of a half mango slice that’s sprinkled with sugar and grilled to form a crisp sugary lid.

The notion of deep-frying ice cream is a giddying prospect but when pairing a rich and full-fat dessert option with a tremendously oily cooking technique small portions are surely the way to go.

Instead, Oaka’s tempura ice cream (£4.95) arrived looking like a gigantic spring roll under a blanket of gooey fruit compote.

It was too plain, too greasy and too much.

But who comes to a Thai restaurant for pudding?

Skip the sweets and head to the bar for a nightcap instead.

Food: 6.5/10

Service: 7/10

Atmosphere: 9/10

Rice Pudding from the Oaka restaurant at The Bartons Arms in Aston.
Rice Pudding from the Oaka restaurant at The Bartons Arms in Aston.