At one time, the only food to be found in pubs was pork scratchings or peanuts – and these were only sold to increase thirst and therefore bar takings! There next followed a period when everything seemed to be served in baskets.
There’s been something of a revolution since then, with the term ‘gastropub’ first being coined in the 1980s by Lonely Planet to describe The Eagle in London. Today, food is how the majority of pubs make their money, while the smoking ban has made for more pleasant dining.
The Hand and Flowers in Marlow won two Michelin stars, with chef Tom Kerridge becoming the first in Britain to receive the honour for dishes produced in a hostelry. Kerridge says pub food should be something ‘your heart falls in love with’, comprising ‘simple yet amazing ingredients’.
Not all pubs serve dishes to Michelin-starred standards and not everyone feels entirely happy with the whole ‘gastropub’ concept but these days, there’s huge choice when it comes to pub dining whether you want a special celebration, a business lunch or a family meal.
The best pub grub essentially boils down to classic dishes, high-quality fresh ingredients – preferably locally sourced – and value for money. Few people want fussy or expensive food. Above all comfort is vital, as is a cheerful disdain for worrying about calories – go elsewhere if you want a salad! Think lasagne, steak pie, fish and chips or scampi and chips, followed by a crumble with the tartest, tastiest Bramley apples with a sweet, crunchy topping and a great puddle of custard. Essentially, these are the dishes you could conceivably make at home – but it’s nice that you don’t have to.
Perhaps the most famous pub grub of all, Betty’s hotpot (pronounced ‘otpot) was the culinary staple of The Rover’s Return on ITV’s Coronation Street. Its recipe was top secret and it was served up by Betty Williams (neé Turpin) who was the Rovers barmaid played by Betty Driver for over four decades.
You can’t beat Sunday roast down the pub! While fewer of us these days enjoy a Sunday roast with the family at home, it’s surely one of Britain’s best-loved meals and an inn is the one place where that tradition is still taken seriously. In fact, for many a pub is nothing without a decent roast. Enjoy pillowy Yorkshire puddings, perfect potatoes that are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, carrots and greens with chicken, lamb or beef… and don’t stint on the lashings of gravy!
Food writer Sophie Morris insists pubs should continue to dish up such British classics, as they have a key role to play, showing diners how to enjoy good cooking and great food.
Whatever and wherever people eat, the ambience of the establishment is paramount – stylish and sturdy furniture can be just as important to the enjoyment of a meal. Lancing-based company, Pipecraft, is leading specialist in metal manufacturing and fabrication. We recently completed some high-quality stainless-steel furniture for a UK-wide pub chain for Diversity Products Ltd.
Our metal furniture is so good, you can eat your dinner off it!