Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Pie in the sky

From time to time, someone comes up with a report claiming that food is the future of pubs, and that wet-led pubs are doomed to disappear. I remember writing about something similar ten years ago. The latest is one Christel Lane who has published a book entitled From Taverns to Gastropubs which seeks to “contextualise the rise of the gastropub through an exploration of food, drink and society over the past 500 years.”

Of course, the importance of food to pubs has greatly increased over the past few decades, and in some it has now gone so far that they have become restaurants in all but name, with few if any drinking customers. In a sense, it could be said that the rise of food has, overall, made pubs more civilised. However, it’s important not to get carried away. Pub food is nothing new, and thoughout my drinking career people always seem to have been harking back to a non-existent past era when all you could get was crisps and nuts. Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me if more lunchtime pub food had been sold on Mondays to Fridays in the 1970s than there is now.

These analyses always seem to reflect a very limited and partial experience of pubs confined to city centres and prosperous commuter belts. Go to any ordinary town and you will still find plenty of pubs, and not by any means just in obscure locations, where the food trade is limited or non-existent, and the vast bulk of their business is done after 9pm. How pubs like that are meant to adapt to a brave world of wall-to-wall dining is very difficult to fathom.

In fact, in recent years, in less prosperous areas the tide has been flowing the other way. Many pubs that used to serve weekday lunches for workers from local businesses have now dropped the food and often stopped opening at lunchtimes completely. As Phil of Oh Good Ale has reported, in the smaller satellite towns of Greater Manchester, it’s often difficult to find any pub food whatsoever apart from in Spoons.

And, of course, over the past few weeks, many pubs have been packed with punters watching England’s progress in the World Cup, and most certainly not sitting down to a meal. Yes, wet-led pubs may have declined, but they’re certainly not going to disappear or anything like it. There are now specialist operators like Amber Taverns who are concentrating on the sector rather than regarding it as a poor relation to the upmarket food houses.

Incidentally, although not directly related to this article, it irritates me when people limit the term “wet-led” to pubs that serve no food whatsoever. Surely all it means is a pub where the drinks trade predominates, and any food served is ancillary, not necessarily completely absent.

8 comments:

  1. The future for restauration, whether in so-called pubs or elsewhere in this country is limited by public attitudes.

    In the 1980s, you paid £6-£8 for a main course in a decent curry house, and folk expect to pay the same today, whereas they are content to pay ten times as much for a house, and thrice for a pint (and the rest).

    Basically, the social stature of running a restaurant per se has declined.

    So gastro pubs might not prosper as much as some would hope, whereas an ordinary pub, where you can get a decent pie and mash, say, could do very well.

    Here's hoping.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I doubt if many people are CONTENT at paying ten times as much for a house. And paying ten times as much for a house does tend to limit the amount you have to spend on luxuries such as curries.

    And a lot of peoples perceptions are along the lines of "why should I pay 60 quid for two steaks and a bottle of wine when I can have better quality at home for twenty?" The answer to that is because of the added value. Unfortunately in many gastro pubs that added value is just not there, poor service being very common

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, they ***love*** the fact that their homes have inflated in price, David. Governments have attained power through that fact alone.

      Delete
    2. The Stafford Mudgie10 July 2018 at 19:13

      - and then moan like billyo when the inflated price is needed to pay for them being in a care home for twenty years as they've followed all the government's resulting in a very long but miserable life. Serves them right, I say !

      Delete
    3. The Stafford Mudgie10 July 2018 at 19:14

      Sorry, two words missed out. It should of course be ;
      - and then moan like billyo when the inflated price is needed to pay for them being in a care home for twenty years as they've followed all the government's health advice resulting in a very long but miserable life. Serves them right, I say !

      Delete
    4. Can't say I am particularly excited that the price of my house has increased to the point where it will incur substantial inheritance tax.

      Delete
    5. David, you probably aren't the type who wants to borrow against the value of his house, so that he can shout "white Range Rover" and "Dubai" every ten minutes in a crowded pub. Plenty do though.

      Anyway, we digress. Aspirational dining seems to be (to a degree, in many places, especially Yorkshire) what the proprietor thinks ladies might like, when their swain obeys some unwritten, tribal, matriarchal command, to treat his beloved "like a princess".

      It ain't what your normal pub lover wants.

      Delete
  3. I would never shout "white Range Rover" and "Dubai" every ten minutes in a crowded pub. I prefer to keep my problems to myself and deal with them in private.

    ReplyDelete

All comments currently require prior approval by the blog owner. See here for details of my comment policy.

Please register an account to comment. To combat persistent trolling, if you want to make more than the occasional unregistered comment, if I don't already know you, you will need to tell me something about yourself - my e-mail address is in the sidebar.