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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.



Comments

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.

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