Whither pub grub?

I spent a week in England recently with my friend Josh and we ate in a lot of pubs. The food ranged from ok to excellent but I admit that I was sorely disappointed. Not a ploughman’s lunch or Scotch egg in sight. No pork scratchings. No bangers and mash. No Spotted Dick. No steak and kidney pie. Whaaa?

The first place we stayed–in Lechlade–was promising. Mushrooms swimming in creamy garlic sauce, stodgy lamb and spuds drowning in gravy and four very boring vegetables.

Foamy garlic mushrooms and cream and a giant bread roll. Just what I'd expect for a pub starter.

Still on track: lamb and spuds with more gravy than plate. The garni vert is a bit worrying though.

The quattrofecta of boring vegetables. No wilted pak choi, dressed with a lemon & tarragon broth for the New Inn at Lechlade!

It was all downhill from there pub grub-wise. The next place we went–a lovely spot on the Thames called The Trout at Tadpole Bridge–featured a crab salad with some sort of roe and dill mayonnaise.

Crab at the Trout

Thereafter, it was all curried this and Thai that and aubergine, feta cheese & beetroot cannelloni topped with a tomato & oregano sauce, minted yoghurt & cucumber with garlic ciabatta & mixed salad the other. It was good (and I would not kick the clotted cream ice cream with toffee sauce from the Rose Revived out of bed for eating crackers) but somehow it just didn’t say ‘pub’ to me.

Clotted cream ice cream with toffee sauce at the Rose Revived, Newbridge, Oxfordshire. Yikers!

I know that many of England’s 53 500 pubs have fallen on hard times since the smoking ban came into effect. I know that they get most of their profits from food sales. It stands to reason that the fancier the food, the more they can charge and the fancier the profits will be. And now that Heston Blumenthal has gotten into the pub racket there may be no turning back.

But I ask you, couldn’t they keep the odd Scotch egg or pickled beet around for old times sakes?

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6 responses to “Whither pub grub?

  1. Excuse me. But since I am a professional food writer, I really feel I have to point the following out: there are four boring vegetables in that photo, not three. See. This is why only professionals should write about food. To address important topics like counting numbers of vegetables on a plate. It takes YEARS of experience to pick up on such subtleties.

  2. Maybe if you raise your hands in the air and dance around singing “Tradition”…

  3. Ah yes. The pub-turned-up-market-restaurant type.

    Still, I can assure you they are still there – just not so many of them. Last year I had a good old-fashioned Ploughman’s Lunch (along with a couple of pints of really good ale) at a pub in Upton-upon-Severn. I know you can also get these things at Hay-on-Wye as I was there last week.

  4. If you want good, old-fashioned pub grub, come north of the border. Our Scottish pubs still have plenty of scotch eggs, haggis, neeps and tatties, steak and ale pies (and their lesser cousins, meat pies) and a variety of other things of questionable nutritional value.

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