One of the things that I most enjoyed about the Christmas holiday was expanding our cable package to include BBC America, initially because we didn't want to miss the second part David Tennant's Doctor Who finale (not wildly impressed to be honest, but there we go). Naturally I had ulterior motives, I wanted the World News and of course I love watching anything involving Gordon Ramsey.
Lately they have been showing an episode of Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares (because even the BBC over here seem intent on repeat the same show ad naseum) where he attempts to help save a traditional English rural pub which is going doing the toilet. To be blunt, it really isn't any wonder that country pubs go down the toilet if the publican is representative of rural pub management. But this post isn't about Gordon Ramsay, but rather about a thought I had while watching it - are British rural pubs failing because they are trying to be something that the Great British Pub simply isn't, a formal, restaurant that happens to serve beer?
Despite the fact that I haven't lived in the UK for well over a decade, I am very proud of being British, and whenever I go home I indulge in every Great British tradition I can - fish n' chips (haddock of course), a proper fry up, with strong tea, and of course going to a proper pub, a place that cares for its beer, pulls it well (and when I say leave the head on, I mean it) and a place where I feel comfortable and at ease. Places like the King's Arms in Oxford spring immediately to mind. A quick disclaimer first, yes I love Czech pubs as well, but I think good Czech pubs are very similar in many ways to good British pubs, so perhaps good pubs around the world share similar traits - the main one being unpretentiousness, and that is something us beer lovers and bloggers should celebrate.
Does an unpretentious pub mean that we have to accept second rate beer? Not at all, when I think of my favourite pubs around the world, the beer is always excellent, and usually not expensive at all. Does an unpretentious pub mean crap food? Not at all, again all the best pubs I know have excellent food. Even the food isn't pretentious, none of your juliennes of this, or reduces of that, a Great British pub should serve Great British pub food, Lancashire Hot Pot, Cumberland sausages and mash, apple crumble, that kind of thing. All of it washed down with Great British real ale, think bangers and mash with pints of Landlord.
Simple, unfussy and good - that is the key to the Great British pub, and to a great pub anywhere on the planet. I am convinced that those three words are what the majority of pub goers around the world are looking for when they go out, whether just for a couple of drinks, or for food and beer, things that are simple, unfussy and good.