British pubs urged to drop fancy food

Pretentious and inaccessible menus are a turn-off for pub customers, according to The Good Pub Guide 2019.
Pretentious and inaccessible menus are a turn-off for pub customers, according to The Good Pub Guide 2019.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • Pub-goers will not drink to that, with Britain's pubs being urged to "ditch the fancy food" and stick to meals such as ploughman's lunches and bangers and mash.

The Good Pub Guide 2019 said pretentious and inaccessible menus were a turn-off for pub customers.

The 37th edition of the guide features more than 5,000 pubs on the basis of people's recommendations, backed up by editor visits and inspections.

In addition to official reviews, there are online listings for another 40,000 pubs across Britain.

Contributors generally welcomed the rise in culinary standards over the past decade, which in many cases saved pubs from closure.

But they feared it could have backfired, with overambitious menus featuring unrecognisable ingredients.

The guide said: "Pubs and good food now go hand in hand, but many chefs appear to have gone MasterChef-mad.

"We really aren't interested in eating kabsa, katsuobushi, matbucha, succotash, tataki or verjus in a pub.

"We don't want our dishes adorned with carrot fluff, edible sand or fish 'foam'. Leave that to the swanky restaurants. We want good, honest pub grub."

Picking up the award for value pub of the year is the Old Castle in Bridgnorth, Shropshire. In 12 years as landlord, Mr Bryn Masterman has built a reputation for homemade classics such as fish pie, steak pie and roasted lamb shank.

"We pride ourselves on our range of hearty, homemade food made from quality local ingredients," he said. "Probably the bravest thing we did was to serve real horse steaks just after the horse meat scandal. Our customers really enjoyed them."

Ms Fiona Stapley, the guide's editor, said: "In the 37 years of the Good Pub Guide's existence, fancy food fads have come and gone, but what always stands fast is honest cooking using tip-top local, seasonal ingredients, but ones that we can all recognise."

The proliferation of pretentious menus is not confined to pubs, however.

The Good Food Guide 2019, which lists Britain's top 50 restaurants, said many such eateries were "still baffling us with incomprehensible menus".

Ms Elizabeth Carter, consultant editor of the Good Food Guide, said she was no fan of "pretentious lists of ingredients devoid of prepositions, participles or conjunctions that you have to ask waiting staff to explain, for 'beef, sprouts, coffee' only invites puzzlement and a battalion of questions.

"After all, it's the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary."

The guide awarded top spot to Cornish seafood restaurant Nathan Outlaw for the second year running, after it notched up a perfect cooking score of 10 for the third year in a row. Clare Smyth's West London restaurant Core entered the top 10 at No. 3, the highest new entry in the guide's history.

Elsewhere in the Good Pub Guide, a village pub, The Cock in Hemingford Grey, Cambridgeshire - which sells real ale and 20 different wines, with a "bustling" atmosphere - has been named pub of the year for the second time.

The pub also sells local cider, has a bar just for drinkers, wood-burning stoves and a busy separate restaurant.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2018, with the headline 'British pubs urged to drop fancy food'. Print Edition | Subscribe