Times gone bar
British pubs are steeped in history and tradition – for centuries, they have been places where locals can meet for a slurp of ale and a wholesome yet cheap feed.
Throughout history, inn landlords have found cheeky ways to encourage patrons to keep drinking, namely through their bar snacks:
• Pint of prawns - it would be a sin not to wash a pint of prawns down with a pint of bitter, right?
• Scotch eggs - the Bull and Last on Highgate Rd in London is still famed for its eggs coated in pork meat and breadcrumbs, fried until crispy.
• Pork scratchings - these cold, chewy (and sometimes bristly) nibbles were originally served in Black Country public houses. Salt rubbed into the crackling was a cunning way to make customers gasp for more booze.
• Pickled eggs - hard-boiled eggs steeped in vinegar would keep for months in a gargantuan jar at the end of the bar.
Some of the most traditional pub dishes in the UK include:
• Shepherd’s pie - the ultimate comfort food for the cold British weather - minced lamb, peas, carrots and gravy topped with mashed potato and baked until golden brown.
• Ploughman’s - a popular cold platter of cheese, ham, pickle, apple, pickled onions, salad, crusty bread and butter.
• Fish and chips - the chips at the bottom would go slightly soggy as you doused your meal in malt vinegar.
• Chicken in a basket - pubs saved on washing up when they started the trend of serving roast chicken with chips on a napkin in a wicker basket in the 1970s. Sausage and chips and scampi and chips followed, but health inspectors weren’t impressed.
• Steak and kidney pudding - this suet pastry-coated steamed pie has been a culinary icon of England since legendary baker Mrs Beeton created the first recorded recipe.
• Bangers and mash - traditionally, this dish was a mound of buttery mashed spuds with pork snags, peas and onion gravy. More upmarket versions now include venison sausage, pureed parsnip and red wine jus.
• Steak and ale pie - in the 1950s, British pubs were big on ‘a pie and a pint’ deals- the landlord would sell (and drink) the pints of ale and the individual pies would be baked on the premises by his wife.
• Roast dinner - for years, Brits have been gathering in pubs at lunchtime on a Sunday to fill their bellies with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, chicken and stuffing, pork and apple sauce or roast leg of lamb with mint jelly.
In 1991, pubs in the UK started to focus on producing food of a much higher quality in a bid to match restaurant standards. The term ‘gastrofood’ was soon coined, giving both pub culture and British dining a new face, but some people moaned that it destroyed the character of traditional pubs.