Thursday, 27 December 2012

Food Glorious Food, Hot Sausage & Custard

Sausage and custard? I’m sure that’s how the song went. Maybe I’m wrong. Anyway, food has been a major part of a pubs income for many years. However, trends, economics and customer expectations have changed what they have been serving.

Think back 40 years or so and Berni Inns were doing a thriving trade knocking out a classic three course meal of prawn cocktail, steak and chips followed by strawberries. In the late 70s and in to the 80s it was a common sight for a pub to have a carvery. The 90s saw pubs start introducing British classics like lasagne, chicken tika masala and Thai green curry! Then in to the new millennium we were subjected to trendy gastro pub food like homemade chav pie with fresh shell suits & Burberry sauce.

Only a few years ago people were heavily in to eating healthy, organic, home grown, ethical, green, eco friendly, non climate changing, GM free, MSG free, non-pesticide, local produce. Now all they seem to be bothered about is how cheap it is.

Don’t get me wrong, not everyone has started thinking along these lines but there is a reason that the Aldis of the world are booming while the isles of corn fed tuna friendly dolphin steak in Waitrose are dwindling.

The same can be said in the pub trade. Large companies such as Mitchells & Butlers or Whitbread have switched their focus to heavy discounting and large volume, bums on seats operations such as Crown Carvery or Taybarns.

Now I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with all you can eat for £8 because there is a market for it. However, what I find annoying are these companies trying to hoodwink and dupe people in to believing that what they are eating is FRESH food! There is a reason that its only £8.

They use clever menu descriptions to disguise the fact that the food isn’t fresh but give an impression that it is. An example would be handmade fishcakes with chilled tartare sauce & mixed leaves. What this really should say is frozen factory, bulk produced, hand shaped fish scrap cakes, with bought in tartare sauce and pre washed bagged up lettuce. But that probably wouldn’t sell as many. I am not for a minute suggesting that there is anything wrong with this type of fishcake. Indeed they are probably very nice. However, to charge a premium for something you could buy in a chest freezer from Farmland is just not cricket in my opinion.

Our own homemade Fleetwood smoked haddock fishcakes, fresh tartare sauce and dressed home grown leaves is surely better? The big chains cannot use words like homemade or fresh if it isn’t. The vast majority of the time this is the case. They also have a habit of saying something is freshly made or home cooked. Neither of these mean fresh. It could still be straight from the freezer. And who would expect a meal to be cooked at another premises?

These sort of practices are akin to “smooth flow” and “draught flow” when referring to beer. Anyone in their right mind they would know that they will never pass for cask ale. The same logic should be applied to pub menus.

There are still some great pubs around that are still using local ingredients from local producers and have skilled chefs to cook some superb fresh dishes. Many of them are right on our doorstep.

So the next time you pop out for a pub lunch and you are planning on drinking cask ale, may I kindly request that you also take in to consideration the type of food on offer. As with real ale, when it comes to food, fresh IS best!

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