Pub Grub: ‘Just a pint’ or ‘Grab the menu’?

Pub food seems to be something of a staple in British culture. Pub chips have created an entire potato genre on their own, distinctly different from fries, chip-shop chips, oven chips and don’t get me started on the magnificent quadrilateral Fries To Go.

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But when did food become the defining factor in so many pubs? Huge chains like Mitchell & Butlers and Marstons have a primary focus of food, with JD Wetherspoons serving a full menu of pub grub from 8am until 11pm. Banners outside proclaim “beer ‘n’ burger” deals and there’s nary a clingfilm-wrapped cob in sight.

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The Horse and Groom in Lincoln has always been a favourite pub of mine, I spent my Fresher’s week in there with it’s multiple live music nights each week, a great selection of drinks and the fact they let us sit on the sofa and watch Top Gear on a Sunday. Now it’s become the “Lincolnshire Pub & Kitchen” selling albeit amazing food but without that pubby goodness I had come to love.

Yes, I was glad when it reopened but it’s just not the same any more. Though the food is fantastic I couldn’t find myself going in there for a drink. It just doesn’t have that pub feel any more, it feels like a relaxed restaurant. And no matter how relaxed a restaurant feels, I won’t be going in there for a pint.

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What inspired these thoughts of pub food is an email I received from BrewDog this morning regarding a survey. The following image spurred me on for some reason… no idea why.

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The survey focuses on the kind of food BrewDog serves in their bars. The thing I love about BrewDog is the fact that each bar has a slight different menu with several of the bars serving Texas Joe’s BBQ. I haven’t tried anything from that particular menu yet but I can say that the chips are amazing. Nachos are great too.

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They also have a variety of bar snacks from handmade scotch eggs and pork pies to the gorgeous meat and cheese platter that I have put in my face on many an occasion.

Something I would hate if BrewDog brought food into the bars in a bigger way would be walking in and seeing more food than drinks. I go into a BrewDog for good beer and good conversation not to be surrounded by people eating. What I don’t like about many large pubs is the strange canteen like atmosphere in the middle of the day. On the other hand, even the worst of Spoons can have a good atmosphere in the evening when the drinkers outnumber the eaters.

Tom, the headbrewer at Fownes Brewing said, “More UK pubs should specialize in chicken wings. It’s an idea the US definitely has right.” I very much agree. Instead of a catch-all pub grub menu for pubs should have their own unique little specialties. A few weeks ago I sampled quiet heavenly chicken wings from The Bull in Highgate which I’d been told about for weeks before hand.

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But what are your thoughts, Internet? Do you like a good pub meal or not? Or are you like me? Does pub food please you in spite of it not being the prime focus of your visit? And where does food pairing come into this? Or is that a bit much for a busy Saturday lunchtime?

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