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Invasion of the Pub Snatchers


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Well here's a sentence I never thought I'd write on eGullet (or maybe I've just been saving it): that man clearly doesn't know what he's talking about.

[Edit to add] Which is to say: indict a bad restaurant for being a bad restaurant, and bad furniture for being poorly made - but to accuse the catagory of pubs for homogeneity is ludicrous - either he's being ingenuous, or he knows little about food. My top four or five favourite gastro pubs share nothing in simularity. That's the whole point. There's a generation of young chefs who are learning how to cook. They want their own premises without heaving over half a million quid. And they're certainly not made from th same stamp.

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

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"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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I do take something of that point. I recently moved to a place within five minutes walk of 4-6 pubs, none of which I would enter. But I'm not sure I ever would have. And the same is true for the journalist. These places represent an aspect of the community that I've never been a part of. As you must have seen from having lived here so long, it probably comes down to class. There's no perjorative there. The question is - whether the pubs mentioned by Michael Hann could ever have represented him.

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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I have little to argue about with Gastropubs, other than the inherent lack of quality in those establishments that hide behind the name.

there is nothing wrong with a gastropub in concept, but I probably object to the name. Most gastro pubs are really 'restaurants lite', and long stopped being pubs. Nothing wrong with that at all, but the name implies a certain evolving ancestory and lineage that isn't so relevant. My contention is that a pub serving decent food isn't a gastro pub, it is a pub with a decent kitchen.

However a 'restaurant lite' that aspires to pub chic, merely because of the physical premises it inhabits, should have that fact wiped from consideration and be regarded as a gastropub. or restaurant lite as I imply.

lemme 'splain further.

2 recent ES pubs of the year are near enough to me.

The bedford, this is a pub. there is nothing than can change that, it reeks of old man smells, and traditional comforts. it is everything good about a pub, wonderful atmosphere and conviviality, very few design features, plenty of room to mingle, good beers, friendly staff and a decent bit of simple pub grub to order. it is a place to drink.

Earl Spencer is a restaurant masquerading as a pub. I like the place, but it simply is not a pub in any understood definition. There is no room to drink, every inch is crammed with a table beckoning propsective diners in. The beer is good, anywhere with hook norton on draught is good. But punters pack in for meal times, and clear out afterwards. Take a look between 3 & 6 pm on saturday, prime drinking hours, you can hear tumbleweeds through there. staff almost look at you, 'with why are you here' eyes.

The cooking is of very good standard and but not pub priced either. Almost no bar area, no standing room, and no real options to drink unless you jag a table from the ruck of people diving at the next empty one. As a drinker management have made a decision that you are not really wanted, the design and layout demonstrates this. It is not a problem, and it is not a pub per se.

I think once a gastropub may have been an improvement on the old man boozer to many people, but it kept evolving, like a virulent mutant strain of flu, until it no longer resembles the original host organism. I won't criticise it for this, nor will I compare it backwards.

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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The question is - whether the pubs mentioned by Michael Hann could ever have represented him.

almost certainly not, his dogma is that he demands certain conformity, and disregards all that falls outside. I don't think he mourns the loss of what was once close to him, but that that never were. I.e. a gastropub is a place that has foregone the opportunity to appeal to him, rather than a favourite boozer gone rogue.

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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Haan may perhaps be forgiven a bit of journalistic exaggeration, without which his diatribe wouldn't have been published. It's well documented that pubs are closing at an accellerating rate. Aside from those that were always tough hangouts, the others are becoming good or bad gastropubs, where mere drinkers are unwelcome, or part of the burgeoning number of drinking places where the music gets louder and louder and the young get drunker and drunker .

Once upon a time, a gastropub without the name was Franco Taruschio's Walnut Tree in Abergavenny, where Elizabeth David might be dining at her table in the corner of the bar, while a couple of locals knocked back a pint at the table next to her.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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John,

my favourite pub, which eschews the gastro chic but qualifies on the basis of it's first class food is the Churchill Inn in Paxford.

great pub, with a serious kitchen.

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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Anyone up for a beer and pickled egg crawl?

The Wykeham arms in Winchester is a good example of a serious food pub, where you can still enjoy a pint at the bar.

And they sell (Very good) sausages over the bar too!

Can also recomend the Willow tree if anyone is in Winchester.

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Hmm - not sure what I find more vexing about this article: the misleading logic, the rose-tinted nostalgia or the crashing inverse snobbery.

Hann's main argument, that lots of pubs are refusing to serve those who don't want to buy food, just doesn't reflect my experience. It seems to be a distorted synthesis of two observations: i) that many more pubs now offer food and ii) that a few pubs have turned into restaurants and don't serve just drinks at all. I agree that if this were a widspread trend, that it would be bad - I just don't see it happening in London at the moment.

What's more, it seems particularly unfair to criticise gastro-pubs for being "ubiquitous and formulaic". Weren't the "genuine" pub that Hann eulogises also fundamentally formulaic? Surely the distressed leather sofas and Groove Armada CDs are just the modern day equivalent of the smoked glass, wood panelling, and faux Victoriana of traditional pubs?

I don't think there's anything wrong with being formulaic in and of itself: consider the classic French bistro, a good diner or deli - so longer as the quality is good, wild variety is unnecessary.

Of course, quality is the key, and this is where Hann has a point. If the aspiration to be a gastropub encourages landlords to sell overpriced Sysco hummus and microwaved satay, this is clearly a Bad Thing.

To save this from becoming a rant (hmm - perhaps too late), can I recommend a Gastropub I love, that serves simple home-cooked organic food (including a very good Sunday roast), but will gladly sell you a drink even if you don't want to eat. It's called the Idle Hour, and it's hidden away in a tiny lane in Barnes (I can never find it and have to be led there by Barnesian sherpas). It has a web-site but don't hold that against it. :wink:

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Forgot to mention - I remember Andy Lynes writing a great article on the same theme last year (think it was called "Saying no to gastropubs" or something like that). Would post the link but can't seem to find it - sorry for incompetence...

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Hann's main argument, that lots of pubs are refusing to serve those who don't want to buy food, just doesn't reflect my experience. It seems to be a distorted synthesis of two observations: i) that many more pubs now offer food and ii) that a few pubs have turned into restaurants and don't serve just drinks at all. I agree that if this were a widspread trend, that it would be bad - I just don't see it happening in London at the moment.

Aren't all arguments the synthesis of a number of views??

you couldn't be more wrong if you're thinking there isn't an almost industry wide push to rid the capital of the 'old man's boozer'.

It's common for say a wizard inns, or original pub co., to target aforementioned old man's boozer, and look to revamp into something far more stylish, younger and profitable.

I am less concerned about the loss of this piece of heritage, and I am just tired of the tedious low quality bastard children of this particular revolution.

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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I remember Andy Lynes writing a great article on the same theme last year (think it was called "Saying no to gastropubs" or something like that).

That was in his Nancy Reagan Young Fidelity Boy Scouts days. He was saying no to everything, but we've turned him around.

I am less concerned about the loss of this piece of heritage, and I am just tired of the tedious low quality bastard children of this particular revolution.

Scott, I would suggest you don't know which side your foie is pan-seared on! :raz: Or are you just having a grump?

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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Forgot to mention - I remember Andy Lynes writing a great article on the same theme last year (think it was called "Saying no to gastropubs" or something like that). Would post the link but can't seem to find it - sorry for incompetence...

You'll find it here. And thanks for the compliment!

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I am less concerned about the loss of this piece of heritage, and I am just tired of the tedious low quality bastard children of this particular revolution.

Scott, I would suggest you don't know which side your foie is pan-seared on! :raz: Or are you just having a grump?

lol - maybe you're right :blink:

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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Aren't all arguments the synthesis of a number of views??

you couldn't be more wrong if you're thinking there isn't an almost industry wide push to rid the capital of the 'old man's boozer'.

It's common for say a wizard inns, or original pub co., to target aforementioned old man's boozer, and look to revamp into something far more stylish, younger and profitable.

I am less concerned about the loss of this piece of heritage, and I am just tired of the tedious low quality bastard children of this particular revolution.

Sorry - I was being unclear.

What I meant was that I agree that _lots_ of pubs are being revamped and starting to serve (usually mediocre) food, and also that _a few_ pubs are turning into food-only places that no longer deserve the name of pub.

What I don't agree with is what Hann seems to be implying, namely that there are a large number of pubs that are refusing to serve people who won't buy meals. He seems to be conflating the two phenomena.

I totally agree with your comments on the crapness of so many new pubs, and your observation that old-man's-pubs are being bought up and transformed, not always for the better. (The pub I recommended in my last posts was a very dingy old-man's-pub before it was revamped. In this case, though, I think justice was done...)

Edited by MobyP (log)
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you couldn't be more wrong if you're thinking there isn't an almost industry wide push to rid the capital of the 'old man's boozer'.

Larry Elliott is the Guardian's economics editor; every tenth day he is a magistrate. His opinion column today explains what has been happening to Britain's pubs, and why.

. . . the government has failed to recognise that binge drinking is part of our culture, carefully fostered and manipulated by the drinks industry.

The mayhem on Britain's streets on a Friday or Saturday night is a textbook case of how Labour's kid-gloves approach to business has failed. Take the complete deregulation of licensing laws, which ministers say is based on research that liberalisation will lead to a dimunition in binge drinking and the criminality that is associated with it.

But as one charity, the Institute of Alcohol Studies, notes, this supposedly independent research was based on a report produced for the drinks industry in 1992.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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you couldn't be more wrong if you're thinking there isn't an almost industry wide push to rid the capital of the 'old man's boozer'.

Larry Elliott is the Guardian's economics editor; every tenth day he is a magistrate. His opinion column today explains what has been happening to Britain's pubs, and why.

. . . the government has failed to recognise that binge drinking is part of our culture, carefully fostered and manipulated by the drinks industry.

The mayhem on Britain's streets on a Friday or Saturday night is a textbook case of how Labour's kid-gloves approach to business has failed. Take the complete deregulation of licensing laws, which ministers say is based on research that liberalisation will lead to a dimunition in binge drinking and the criminality that is associated with it.

But as one charity, the Institute of Alcohol Studies, notes, this supposedly independent research was based on a report produced for the drinks industry in 1992.

John,

what are you talking about??

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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It's good to see that some traditions continue, and that the sub-editors at The Grauniad still don't use a dictionary. On-topic, can somebody please tell me what the phrase 'binge drinking' means?

Stephen

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On-topic, can somebody please tell me what the phrase 'binge drinking' means?

It's generally taken to mean drinking as much as possible as often as possible. For those who must work, it's mostly centered on week-ends. As Larry Elliott writes, from his experience on the bench (not the bar), there has been a quantum leap in such drinking in Britain, particularly by the young, bringing them into courts and hospitals in greatly increased numbers.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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On-topic, can somebody please tell me what the phrase 'binge drinking' means?

Some people, especially in the US, define binge drinking as drinking 5 or more drinks in a row (4 for women). If a 'drink' means a unit of alcohol, then 'binge drinking' includes what a lot of people in the UK would consider to be social drinking (so sitting in the pub with friends and drinking 3 pints of bitter would count as a binge).

On the other hand, some people use binge drinking to mean much heavier drinking (more like the definition John gives in his post).

The editorial guidelines of the Journal of Alcohol Studies prefer the second definition of binge drinking. So do I: the first definition seems like scaremongering.

Edited by Stigand (log)
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A useful post. Some of the more dogmatic would probably call me a binge drinker; I usually get through a bit less than a bottle of wine with dinner, usually nothing before. Weighing about 200 lbs, I have lots of tissue [i.e. fat :biggrin: ] to absorb it. If my wife, who weighs about 2/3 of that, were to consume a similar amount, she'd be out cold on the floor. (But she doesn't and she isn't. :biggrin: )

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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