Skip to main content

It's a Pub Not a Restaurant

When I realised I had an opinion on that old pub maxim of+ whether they should serve food.

I am sat in the new Pilcrow Pub in Manchester. I’m alone amongst the fresh, pristine surroundings of the community pub supposedly built by the people. I’m not feeling the need to write about this new addition whilst enjoying my beer; other pens will write the reviews I’m sure.

But I am peckish; specifically desiring something warm and tasty in a way that a bag of crisps will not appease. I’ve been soaking in the new build for over an hour and a half at this point and the fourth beer of the day is making me crave something to settle the beer.  I realise at this point I have been somewhat spoilt in more recent times with the availability of food in pubs/bars. Yet is spoilt the right word? It is more that I’ve had the choice for substance when it’s been necessary.

Just seven days earlier to this moment I was visiting London and some of its various open bars and breweries. During my entire trip, wherever I seemed to be, food was so easy to come by. We could make the bars and beers the focal point of the day without having to plan an itinerary around the need to eat. If we were hungry there was generally something substantial available where we were. 

We made the rather arduous journey to the fairly new Mason & Co in Hackney Wick on the Saturday. After arriving, buying beer and taking the bar in, we found ourselves hungry. No such problem here with their onsite street food vendor Capish?  The day after I spent a lazy Sunday afternoon in the Duke’s Head, Highgate. Again, when the need for nibbles arouse, an unobtrusive onsite street food vendor - Soul Food Sisters on my visit - was ready and waiting.

But here in the Pilcrow, like many of my favourite Manchester pubs/bars, the need for warm food that doesn’t become a restaurant meal can only be abated by ... leaving.

Ironically I’m firmly in the camp of pubs not becoming restaurants and remaining places of drink, yet food does not need to be obtrusive. It need only be available. Certainly newer builds or conversions – especially one built in an area previously used for street food events – can make use of a small kitchen area preparing small dishes. (I would say Tapped Leeds has this nailed better than most with onsite Big Dan’s Pizza.) Not all older pubs have the kitchen facilities, but using 3rd parties or bringing local quality food in is not impossible.

In a crowded bar scene and struggling pub landscape, for me it will be those that can find a balance and atmosphere that is pleasing to most but also keeps people in the damn building that will succeed. Not providing a service that will lead to people having no choice but to leave your premises seems to be peculiarly self-destructive. Bars need to provide more than just good beer to thrive. Pubs do not need to become restaurants to satisfy encroaching beer hunger.

I’m a sucker for pub tradition, but even I can no longer defend food offerings of Seabrook crisps and a packet of Mr. Porky’s. Though a bit of bread and dripping on the bar on a Saturday afternoon is always welcome.

The Pilcrow Pub is at home now in Sadler’s Yard, Manchester. It is an interesting addition to Manchester’s beer scene, though the involvement of the CO-OP does unnerve me slightly.


Curmudgeon said…
I really don't see why all pubs should be expected to serve food. What's wrong with having a mixed economy of food pubs and non-food pubs? In fact, I often see the absence of food as a desirable factor in pubs.
ckdsaddlers said…
I totally agree. Bloody frustrating being comfortably shacked up in a place with ace beer and good friends and then having to move on to get a decent feed. And it never feels the same when (if) you come back afterwards.

Popular posts from this blog

"They Had Their Issues, So..."

      There’s a set of garages to rent as storage units near my workplace. One of them is taken by a local florist that uses it to store flower arrangements for various events, that are more often than not funerals.   As such, at least once a week at 8am I will pass a car being loaded up with flowers arranged into heart shaped patterns or the letters M U M. It is a grounding reminder that, as I mentally grumble my way through the upcoming arbitrary grievances of my ordinary working day, a group of family and friends locally is going through the hardest time. It provides much needed perspective on days when I could do with being reminded of all that I have to be thankful for.   These little moments explain to me why it is possible for us to share a communal loss when a celebrity passes away. Grief is often a personal and lonely experience, shared between a minority of people in your life. When a co-worker loses a relative or friend, it has little affect on me, bar signing of

The Ten Pubs That Made Me - Part 3: Dr Okell's / My Foley's Tap House and Leeds

A pint in Mr Foley's Tap House from December 2022     This is Part 3 (the fourth post) of an ongoing project. Please see the beginning of Part 0 for details.    Come the end of this journey, there may be a lesson in procrastination that I am unlikely to heed. These posts stem from a list that I made three years ago and a series that I embarked on 18 months ago. We’ve only now reached a 30% completion rate and with this post we are back to fail for the second time.   This odyssey began with a trip to Mr Foley’s Tap House in February 2022 – named Dr Okell’s bar on my first visits in 2005 – only to discover that it was closed. It did reopen by the time that the post was coming out and I managed a brief visit in December 2022. However, my July 1 st 2023 trip to Leeds, on which this post is based, is met with this sign at the door of the bar:      A quick check of social media shows an Instagram post from the day before (June 30 th ) announcing the closure of the

LIVERPOOL - the City that Craft Beer Forgot Part II (and found...)

After visiting Liverpool, one of my favourite cities, in February this year, and not impressing people with my rather hasty but honest verdict on the city’s lack of craft beer, I jumped at the chance to return last week and hoped to come out with a more attractive judgement. A couple of friends and I visited on a day out, with neither of them having been drinking in the city before. It was left to me – or rather, I volunteered – to plan the day’s itinerary and places to visit. I had a couple of new or unvisited places in mind myself, but knew it would be unfair to miss out on some of the city’s famous gems. With around 10-12 hours in which to fit in an entire city, I opted to concentrate on the famous Georgian Quarter and see if we had time for the Dale Street end later on.    We planned to arrive in the city for around 11a.m. just in time to walk up Mount Pleasant to the new-on-me, though I believe it has been opened three years, Clove Hitch on Hope Street for breakfast.