Skip to main content

Curious diversions

So I'm in a pub.

Not, admittedly, much of a shock. I've spent an unseemly proportion of my life since the age of fifteen in pubs. Mostly as a drinker but on various occasions as KP, chef, barman, manager, even a bouncer once or twice. I am well acquainted with pubs.

If, however, you had said to me at the start of the year that by this point of it I'd be cheffing in one, I'd have smiled politely and changed the subject (the days of bawling people out for imbecility are behind me as much as I thought cooking in pubs was). I had no intention of cooking professionally again once Source was done with. Let alone in a pub. A gastropub? No, a pub pub.

Now, before you go thinking that I've entirely lost my mind, I should explain that it is quite a nice pub, and, whilst not precisely pushing the boundaries of what's possible with gastronomy, it has a noble ambition. That of being a decent pub. Which is an ambition which I can fully get behind.

It's occurred to em a lot over the last few years that the food revolution which has engulfed this country since the eighties isn't all it's cracked up to be. Certainly things at the high end have improved, and certainly our cities have somewhat more interesting options to eat than they used to, but pubs? Not so much.

Now before you throw your hands up in despair at my ignorance, and cite the example of that lovely forty quid a head place in the countryside which is essentially a restaurant that looks like a pub, that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about pubs. And when it comes to food, pubs suck. A bunch of bought in 3663 garbage, the wetherspoonsification of food, microwaved all day breakfasts, wednesday night is boil in the bag curry night and, saints preserve us, "sizzle platters". Don't get me started on the "salads."

If the pub is a chain, possibly with a few unnecessary y's in the name, then the menu will be an horrendous mish mash of pub standards, a curry or four, a few butties (probably including some "comfort food" ones which were modish about five years ago) and a sad, ragtag misrepresentation of whatever was in fashion between 7-10 years ago. I cite as an example the pub at the end of my road. The Hayfield.

Fuck me it's terrible. A menu designed by someone who's had a short bloke with a megaphone shouting "Unit Cost percentage" at him as he tries desperately to remember whether or not chimichangas are still a thing (N.B. They're not). The menu's a sad hotchpotch of half-baked ideas featuring simultaneously "Moroccan salmon" (I beg your pardon?) Vegetable Balti, Mesquite chicken wings, and (dear God) Mushroom Carbonara. It's about six pages long. and all of it is shit. Some of it sounds quite nice. But it's uniformly terrible. I tried a veg chilli out of curiosity. Curiosity, my friends, is an overrated virtue.

I blame wetherspoons, to be honest. One of the more galling aspects of the last days of Source was watching the the Spoons opposite chock-full of people shovelling down shit. A favourite game was to watch people complaining. what are you complaining for? YOU chose to go there. I'll never forget the day I found a cardboard box scudding across the car park towards me. It was for microwaveable pre-poached eggs. I sincerely hope that the lads in that kitchen don't have the nerve to call themselves chefs. But this sort of lowest common denominator catering by numbers shouldn't be what you expect when the cost of the mains dips below fifteen quid. The most depressing aspect of it alll is that people will tolerate this bollocks. They'll even think it's nice.

So yes, I'm in a pub. And what I'm trying to prove is that a pub can be half decent whilst still (and this is crucial) remaining a pub. Doing pub food. Actual pub food. Not Hanging Skewers. Not costing silly money. Still people in the bar just there for a pint. It's doable. And whilst I still have my doubts about how many years cooking I've got left in me, this,as a challenge, is an interesting one to be going on with.


Popular posts from this blog

Just let us enjoy it for five minutes, yeah?

He lost! The moment that most sane humans have been fervently praying for for the last four years has finally arrived. After an interminable period of watching numbers fail to move, more "Key Race alerts than I've had hot dinners, and much marvelling at the seemingly iron constitutions of all at CNN, the news was finally confirmed. And lo there was much rejoicing across the land. You'll have your own favourite bit, no doubt, Personally for me it's a toss-up between Nigel Farage losing a ten grand bet and the hilariously shambolic, bathetic ending, where a confused Rudy Giuliani, thinking he'd booked the Four Seasons Hotel for a press conference, stood blinking in the car-park of Four Seasons Total Landscaping, between a crematorium and a shop selling dildoes.  I am not by any stretch much of a US politics nerd. I know that most UK politics fans have a slightly dorky obsession over the US process which probably stems from watching too much West Wing , but it's s

Lockdown 2: Back in the Habit

 The weather, suitably, is dreich. The sky's filled in, the drizzle is unrelenting, all the better, were I a glib columnist dealing in clunking metaphor, to reflect the mood of nation, as we collectively enter Lockdown 2: This Time it's Personal. As with all sequels, this Lockdown comes freighted with prior knowledge of the original. We should, arguably, know what to expect and so, in that sense, it should be easier. With a more clearly defined end point than the original, it should, in theory, be easier to bear. Only four short weeks of seeing whether or not the sourdough bread-baking skills survived the months back in work, and then off we go. Viewed this way, Lockdown 2: Lockdown Harder should be negotiated fairly easily. A pain in the arse, yes, but at least we know what we're dealing with now. That's the Panglossian version of events, of course. A bit of time at home, recharge the batteries, maybe we'll get it right this time, get that pesky R rate down, we can

Gordon Ramsay and the semiotics of the full English breakfast.

 It was bound to happen, sooner or later. A public which has spent a long time having to think and argue about serious things was just gagging for something trivial to get in a froth about. Sure, football's back, but is that trivial enough? Enter one-time chef turned full-time media personality Gordon Ramsay, and his iteration of that classic dish, the Full English Breakfast, the dish of which Somerset Maugham famously said "If a man wishes to eat well in England he should eat breakfast three times a day." Here he is announcing the Savoy Grill's breakfast It's hard to think of a dish more deeply embedded in the national psyches of the nations which make up the British Isles. I should like, at this point, to acknowledge that Full Irish, Scottish and Welsh breakfasts are all things of pure beauty, I mean no disregard by referring to a full English in this blog (though Ramsay, as a Scot, should have known he was playing with fire). Roast Beef maybe, Fish and Chips pr