It didn’t inspire me to go on a burger kick as such, but during the following couple of weeks I’ve had two burgers in pubs, both of which were markedly inferior and had a distinct whiff of the freezer cabinet about them. Indeed, I’d say that the archetypal McDonalds quarter-pounder, when not overdone, would be better. At least it’s moist and actually tastes of beef.
This underlined a point that many writers about pubs rather fight shy of – basically, most pub food isn’t actually much good. It may be adequate and fill a gap, but if you actually want a good curry, you’ll go to an Indian restaurant, if you want good fish and chips, you’ll go to a chippy, and if you want good pizza, you’ll go to Pizza Express.
I recently praised Friends of Ham for specialising in one area of food, and doing it very well, but what most pubs do is the exact opposite. You will virtually always dine much better in a dedicated restaurant than in a pub, even if maybe a little more expensively. Where pubs do excel is in simple dishes they have prepared themselves from fresh ingredients – such as the classic ploughman’s and traditional cheese, beef and ham sandwiches and rolls – or have bought in from local independent suppliers, such as pork pies. But those are increasingly rare nowadays.
I’ve freely admitted in the past to being a distinctly eccentric and fussy eater, so I am reluctant to offer opinions of the subject of food. Very often, the criterion for food meeting my approval is simply that it is something I can eat comfortably without gagging. I worked out the other day that I had a BMI of 26.4, which just about qualifies as overweight. But if I actually liked my food, I’d probably be the size of a house. I remember a few years ago at a wedding reception being served up with some particularly inedible “rubber chicken” – but other guests were wolfing it down as if it was manna from the Gods.
However, for dishes that do fall within my sphere of palatability, I reckon I have a pretty good nose for what is good, what is merely adequate and what is awful. And most pub food struggles to achieve second base.