Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

The charm of pub food

Lockdown is starting to lift and, in response, Britons have flocked to the pub for a pint and a spot of food. I’m not a drinker, but I’m eager to return to the pub and have a meal – there’s something about pub food that is unique and comforting. It’s a meal that you can’t get anywhere else, and we all know it. But why? What is it about pub food that makes it so good?

It’s certainly true that pubs hold a special place in our lives. Research conducted in 2018 by Nisbets showed that one in three Brits (29%) visited their local pub for a meal at least once a month. For younger age groups, it became considerably more frequent – one in ten 18–24-year-olds dine out at the pub several times a week, and that rises to 17% of 25–34-year-olds. I’m in that latter group, and I love a good pub meal – you’d often find me nipping to the Duck for lunch if I was on campus, or at one of the pubs around the area for a weekend treat.

My inclination is normally towards a fish dish – fish and chips, or a batch of scampi – and it seems I’m not alone. The survey found that Britain’s top five favourite pub dishes are Sunday roast, fish and chips, steak and chips, hunter’s chicken and scampi and that we prefer these meals on plates. 67% said that they found anything gimmicky to be distracting, and serving food in items of clothing (I didn’t know this was a thing, but apparently some pubs serve bread in a flat cap) to be irritating.

You’re never going hungry with a pub meal

This simplicity is a huge part of what makes the pub meal so good. When I’m going out for a meal, I don’t want all the faffs and frills that come with some meals – you know, half your plate being salad and other decorations. At the pub, I order fish and chips and I get a chunk of fish and good chips (maybe a bunch of peas, but they don’t try and surprise you with them).

It’s normally portioned out perfectly – you’re never going hungry with a pub meal, and yet there’s always room for a starter or a pudding if you want one too. This was even true at a pub I used to go to called the Malt Shovel, which had double portions (two fish and a bucket of chips for fish and chips) – it was filling, but you could always fit a pudding in too.

Although I’m a traditionalist, I love a pub with a good specials board. And, as I live locally, I’ll recommend some places in the hope you can head there and enjoy them too. The Cottage Inn in Fillongley has a traditional menu and garden and supports it with a huge specials board – something like eight different specials every day, and they’re always very tempting.

It’s unshowy and unpretentious, focused on delivering a good solid meal

The Red Lion in Corley Moor boasts some wonderful pub food, and one of the best and most relaxing vibes I’ve ever experienced in a pub – my partner and I used to eat there all the time, and it was at the Red Lion that she discovered the joy of a roast contained within a giant Yorkshire pudding. And, dare you to venture a little further afield to my home town of Nuneaton, The Griff Inn serves some beautiful meals and a paprika chicken I highly recommend.

This is, I think, the magic of pub food – it’s unshowy and unpretentious, focused on delivering a good solid meal. You know what you’re getting, and what you’re getting is a meal that tastes great. But it’s more than the meal – it’s the drink, the ambience and the overall experience. I’m looking forward to getting a pub meal as soon as I can, and hopefully, you are too – our pubs need us now!

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