Monday, September 19, 2011

We are all gastro now

It was reported recently that the Good Food Guide had banished the term “gastropub”. However, this is not because there has been a swing back to a wet-led model, but because the upmarket dining pub has become so commonplace that it no longer needs a special term to distinguish it. In the more prosperous parts of the country, like large swathes of Cheshire, it’s getting increasingly difficult to find any other kind of pub. In a sense “we are all gastropubs now”.

So, in view of this so-called pub food revolution, I thought I would ask blog readers how often they ate out in pubs in their daily lives when not on holiday. The results didn’t really bear out the received wisdom, with 65% replying either “very occasionally” or “never”, and only 13% saying they did it at least weekly. Even accepting that there is a proportion of smoking ban refuseniks, these results certainly don’t show a huge enthusiasm for eating in pubs from a population who typically probably visit pubs more than average.

Now, I have to admit that in some respects I am a rather picky eater, so I am reluctant to pontificate on the general subject of food, whether in pubs or elsewhere. But it has to be said that a lot of pub food is extremely dull and uninspiring, and if you want something interesting and imaginative you are far more likely to find it in a restaurant or a bistro/wine bar type establishment.

This perhaps merits a more detailed post, but it is certainly my recollection that, thirty years ago, there was much more variety and experimentation in pub food than there is now. So often today, pub food has settled down to a predictable, standardised menu, whether exemplified by the steak and kidney pie in the family dining outlet or the braised lamb shank in the would-be gastropub.

There’s also a posting on this subject on Martyn Cornell’s Zythophile blog.