Monday, 31 May 2010

Lone sheep

This article discusses the Lamb at Satwell, a former Brakspear’s pub in southern Oxfordshire. I vaguely recall popping in there for a pint in the early 80s, and finding a cheerful, down-to-earth atmosphere. Now, of course, it has fallen victim to the curse of the gastropub:

Our menu is modern English and European. We do a lot of pasta and vegetarian dishes, so it’s not all straight-down-the-line English pub food. The average spend per head here is between £25 and £30 for two courses and a glass of wine.

The menu changes regularly, but at the moment our best-selling main is the double-boned pork chop with fondant potato (£12.50) — it’s flying out. People love our soups too, and because we have customers returning regularly, we change the soup every two or three days to give them something different…

…The local Loddon Brewery provides us with our bespoke ale — Leaping Lamb (3.9% ABV) – which is very popular at £3.50 a pint. We sell four pints of bitter for every one pint of lager.
FFS, bring me a Big Mac and a pint of Holt’s.

But what really struck me was their claim that they were “three miles from the nearest house”, which surely is utter bollocks. The pub is in a small hamlet, not in open country, and the map shows numerous houses within a short distance, plus a substantial settlement about a mile and a half to the south at Sonning Common.


  1. Change the Big Mac to a bag of chips and you're talking.

    Anyway, where have all the chippies gone? It used to be de rigueur to have a bag of chips after a liquid evening.

  2. £30 for two courses and a glass of wine. Only for the silly then.

  3. £8 for a boiled egg and soldiers! I think not somehow! What makes it worse is that, according to the MA article, there are four other "serious gastro-pubs" in the vicinity.

    I think that part of south Oxfordshoire is off my visiting list from now on.

  4. In the early 80s there used to be some wonderfully unspoilt Brakspear's pubs in that part of the world, but I suspect by now most of them have either closed or gone gastro. This, I think, is the long-closed White Hart at North End.

  5. But Maccy D's don't stack your chips jenga style. That's what you get for your £30.

    We will have to see if the gastropub is a fad or here to stay. I think there is a growing market for posh nosh, but if your paying top dollar ordering at a bar and paying up front is a cheek.

    At some point the punter is going to ask why they are not get the service they would get from a proper restaurant.

  6. Nothing wrong with decent food in a pub but those prices do seem a bit much.

    When it comes to food in a pub, you have to make sure that you get the balance right. Offering better food is a good idea, but when you start alienating your regular drinking customers you are making a mistake. It's all about getting the balance right.

    My local, the Bull and Castle does great food. They are owned by a chain of butchers who run their own farms, so the meat is TOP quality.

    The food area is all seated and table service. Essentially it is a restaurant with a really good beer selection. The beer hall, on the other hand is all about the beer and you are in no doubt which is which. The atmosphere is totally different in the beer hall compared to the restaurant.

    That is the balance I am talking about. If I want a nice bite to eat and a couple of pints with the wife, I go to the restaurant. If I am beering with my friends, it's the beer hall I head to.

    Everyone is catered for and no one gets pissed off (except for me and my friends at the weekend, when they turn the music in the beer hall up to the threshold of pain, but that's another gripe).

  7. There's always something insufferably smug about such articles: "Ooh, haven't we done well against all the odds?"

  8. I'm sure it's no worse than many other similar pubs - the thing that got me was the utter nonsense of saying it was 3 miles from the nearest house when it so patently isn't.


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