Are snacks in pubs a good thing? I'd say so, but in the never ending search for margin and profit - just look at the good old Morning Advertiser for tips on how to do so - are pubs missing a trick in not supplying simple, reasonably priced snacks to customers, who will then carry on supping? Many of us just don't want a meal in a pub, but other than crisps, nuts and scratchings, there is little to sustain you if you are out for a few pints and feel a tad peckish. A full meal will stop the most hardened pint drinker in his or indeed her tracks. Remember the days when you could get a sandwich or filled roll more or less anytime? Or the pie warmer with its last dried out pie finding a sure sale at 9.30 in the evening?
Now some London pubs have been doing this for some time with a more gourmet approach. Simple food such as Scotch eggs or pork pies, garnished with a few leaves and a sliver of tomato, served on a roof slate for north of five notes, but while that may be a port in a storm, it doesn't quite cut the mustard - pun intended. No My Dears you want to get yourself to the Black Country where pubs are still an astonishing throwback to the seventies, without the smoke. Here you can buy a pork pie in almost any pub at all, or a filled cob - cheese and onion only - for no more than two quid and often less. OK. No added garnish and no roof slate or board - just a plate and a pit of Colman's English Mustard - but you do get a locally made pie, or a crusty, chewy cob, filled on the premises, with a hunk of cheese and a big chunky slice of onion to keep you going. Matched with a peerless pint, what more could one want?
Of course, even in the Black Country, there are plenty of pubs doing meals. Our first stop, on a Tuesday lunchtime, in Sedgley, is a case in point. Busy with diners and with exceptionally kept beer, the White Lion was doing a roaring trade in meals. The Landlady, a veteran publican, chatted merrily to us as she rushed about and we joked about the Good Beer Guide entry remark of "You won't leave here hungry". "You definitely won't". she retorted. This was a turnaround pub we were advised, something the Landlady and her husband - the beer man - specialise in doing. Giving the people what they want still works. We were in beer mode so just had a couple of pints, but I bet we could have got a filled roll if we'd asked.
We did ask in the Bull's Head along the road. "All gone" quoth the barmaid "but hang on." A quick shout out the back and a reply "How many? We'll make some fresh for you." Cheese and onion of course, as big as a baby's head and £1.40 each. Of course we stayed for a couple more pints of Holdens, hopefully proving my point.
Reasonably priced and tasty simple snacks aren't the most sophisticated of things, but they do keep people in pubs. Cheap to produce, good mark up. Worth doing in the right circumstances I'd say.
I wrote about this before here nearly four years ago. At least I'm consistent.
After we left the Bull's Head, we arrived at the famous Beacon of Sarah Hughes Mild fame, just before half past two, in time to get one pint before they chucked quite a crowd out. The Black Country is very old fashioned in so many ways. Half past two afternoon closing eh?
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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