Stonch may just be banging on about stereotypes to provoke a reaction (fair enough) but having listened to the landlord talking on the link he kindly provided, I don't see any hostility to anything. Be that as it may, the point behind this is worth debating. What is a pub and what should it be doing food and customer wise?
I won’t do the history lesson bit here. Others are far better at that, so let’s look at now. Pubs can't, on the whole, exist without food these days whether it is the humble filled roll or pie and peas, through to the "gastropub" where the whole focus is on high end food with tokenism being shown to beer. Then there is the ghastly “family” pub, stinking of chips, with unruly children running riot and keg beer, or at best, a couple of handpumps dispensing tired Greene King IPA or Courage Best. There are all points between of course. Most steer a middle road, with food being available at certain times, to sustain the drinker and to provide much needed income.
But when does the line between food and drink become one that leaves the drinker uncomfortable and unwanted, or those whose pockets are not lined with gold, dismayed by haute cuisine and "hauter" prices, when all he needs is a wholesome butty to soak up the ale? Who hasn't been made to feel like an unwelcome cheapskate in some pubs, merely because you just want a drink? Let’s not forget. A pub is for drinking in. If it is not then I'd contend it isn't really a pub.
If it is not then I'd contend it isn't really a pub.It may well be fashionable for pubs to become virtual restaurants and good luck to those that do, but when the line between the two becomes so blurred that you feel you are no longer in a pub, then surely these establishments that pretend to be pubs should be recognised as restaurants and we should just call them that? The whole point of a pub is its inclusiveness. When it fails to deliver that, whatever it is, it is not a pub in the way most of us like to think of pubs.
There is a cultural thing going on here as well. Pubs have always evolved. There have always been differences between “spit and sawdust pubs and those aiming to attract a more up market clientèle, but it is relatively recently that we have seen “pubs” aimed at particular segments of the market rather than merely aiming for "a better class of customer". Most, but not all are aimed at youthful lager drinkers. This is what has brought us "destination" places like Walkabout and other such drinking barns. Some like Pitcher and Piano and All Bar One are aimed at the affluent set, or women. All are cavernous and most are aimed at the young circuit drinker in towns, all clustered together, all belting out loud music while the scantily clad clientèle feed the binge culture image by getting arseholed on cheap bottled lager and alcopops sold expensively. However these are not pubs. They are “bars” targeting segments of the market, to the exclusion of others. The true pub aims to be inclusive and embrace all.
Returning to the food theme, I believe that pubs can still deliver value. What the majority of us want is interesting, home cooked food delivered with a decent pint at reasonable prices. That's what pubs that serve food should deliver. Those that want "fine dining" should go to restaurants in the vast majority of cases. At best they are missing the point if they don’t and at worst they are stealing our pubs.
When a new "pub" is built these days, it may have exposed pipes, plasma screens and loud music, but it will rarely attract a good cross section of people. It will rarely be the hub of a community. It will rarely feel “right" and it will rarely win awards. If it can be different, but inclusive, modern and attractive and sell decent beer, it will win awards. Unfortunately these are few and far between.
We shouldn't feel ashamed to defend traditional pubs. They have served us well for many years. They are uniquely British and they work well with a little effort, foresight, imagination and flair. A few will fall by the wayside, but these will likely be at the bottom end of the market. Most pubs will adapt to survive as they always have done, will attract customers by offering them a traditional pub atmosphere, will welcome all and mostly will be based in the original pub buildings we have. And what's wrong with that?
I'll conclude with a point of agreement. Like Stonch I think the Old Spot sounds a cracking boozer which hopefully one day I'll visit.