greenbottletree











{15/06/2012}   Pub or bar?

                I am a pub person rather than a bar person.  But I fear that a lot of pubs are crossing into bar territory, not that I’m sure what “officially” defines the two.  But if someone says, “Shall we go to the pub”, I immediately conjure up an image of what I expect from a pub, and a pub should merely have a bar, not be a bar.

                I think a pub should have a drink-stained wooden bar, ideally with a brass rail (to support yourself while lurching for your drink, balancing precariously from a wooden bar stool),  a large array of beers on tap, large glass sized bottles of dreadful wine, memorabilia of some sort around the pub, old, stained wooden tables and chairs, carpet, cold loos, a short but obvious menu (scampi and chips, burger and chips, perhaps a shepherd’s pie, and puddings with custard), there shouldn’t be music or an abundance of natural light, carpets should be patterned and sticky, there should be a lingering smell of tobacco smoke, no televisions and a few elderly male regulars propping up the bar.  That to me is pub.

I can appreciate that pubs are struggling in our challenging economic times so need to reinvent themselves, etc, but I do find it sad that pubs are resorting to becoming bars.  There seems to be an abundance of poshed up pubs, ie bars.  To me, bars have wine lists, a large selection of bottled beers, there is a distinctly Ikea “blonde” look to the woodwork/décor, from floor to ceiling, no carpet in sight, music playing, over-priced snacks, a fancy menu, matching tables and chairs, bar staff will serve you at your table and the loos will be pleasant.

I went to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street last night, a pub I hadn’t been to for a few years.  Despite the smoking ban having been in place some years now, I could still detect that distinctly stale, smoky smell.  The place screams character, history, atmosphere … and changing times, for it used to be cheap, Samuel Smith’s.  Two pints cost about £2 more than I expected at around the £8.50 mark.  That to me is bar prices.

As for food in pubs, there is definitely a need for food.  But I’m not comfortable with pubs that are more restaurant than pub.  Tables should be available for anyone.  To me, pubs and restaurants are separate establishments, one for drinking with a bit of tucker to absorb at least some of the alcohol, the other for food, accompanied by a drink.  But don’t get me wrong, crap food isn’t acceptable.  Pub menus should be simple and dependable, emphasis on stodge and comfort, but the food should be good.

There are fewer traditional pubs around these days, I’ve even sought out rural pubs for that Sunday afternoon beer garden idyll, and been disappointed, usually owing to overemphasis on gastro rather than pub, an increasing bug bear of mine, and distressing prices.  But of course there are a fair few still left, probably struggling, one of which I’m going to tonight: The Boot & Flogger, around London Bridge, which to me epitomises pub eccentricity.  It even shuts at “around 8.30 to 9” and isn’t open on weekends.  Oh, but it doesn’t really serve beer, it’s more sherry and Madeira!

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