Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Substantial Meals Abolished. Insubstantial Meals Still an Issue

It seems that the bonkers and inappropriate condition that pubs could only open during a particular phase of lockdown restrictions if they served a substantial meal has been abolished under the new opening up "sometime in the future" policy announced by the Government last week.  If we are to believe reports, it comes from a legal challenge by the Manchester Night Czar, Sacha Lord, whose legal advice was that the rule was open to challenge in law. Presumably the Government's own legal advice confirmed they would be likely to lose such a challenge, hence the change of heart. Good job then that the Scottish Government weren't the subject of his legal foray, but I digress.

I have always held the view that this Government has little real experience of pubs as most of us know them and the manifest unfairness of their policy, which I have covered here,  was evident to all but the most myopic - and no - don't start me on people losing their inhibitions after a sniff of the barmaid's apron, or I'll call you out for the charlatan you obviously are.

Anyway, now my blood pressure has settled down again, I'll mention one thing that pubs can and should learn from the whole Scotch Egg debacle. And it is this. Instead of the Government forcing unwanted meals down our necks, in previous times it was pubs themselves. Feel peckish after a couple of  pints of the amber nectar and consult the menu? Like as not it was a number of main meals only. Nothing as we say in the North, "to put you on". Now I know the pedants among you will point out that the Strap and Manacle in Higher Poshley has a snacks menu to die for, but I am speaking generally. What happened to filled rolls, pies and the like and yes, even scotch eggs? This list is by no means exhaustive. The pizza slice is also a good idea and there are many more contemporary dishes that lend themselves easily to this category, be it samosas, hummus and bread or whatever.

While the daft substantial meal rule was in play, so many pubs that previously hadn't offered snacks found many ingenious ways to get round the restriction. Let's hope that they don't drop these innovative ideas. There is nothing better that a quick snack to allow you to continue a pub visit when hungry, but a full meal rarely cuts it for most of us, never mind the dedicated toper, out for a few pints or those just wise enough to want a little something and a bit more than a bag of Walkers while gently imbibing.

Now I am not saying abolish full meals in pubs, I am saying that in addition, or as an option, there should be snacks available just to keep you going without filling you up. I like a pub meal as much as the next person, but when I choose to have a pub meal, it is almost always in advance and I know that drinking a few pints will be out. Being full up and quaffing pints rarely go hand in hand.

Pubs need to come back from this catastrophic pandemic better and more savvy than ever. Snacks - substantial or otherwise should be a significant part of their revised offer. Let's see the same imagination applied to their offering when they aren't, under duress, trying to hoodwink the authorities.

I kind of exclude the Black Country and the West Midlands to a lesser extent from this undoubted criticism. Almost alone as a region, you can usually get something snacky, almost any time the pubs are open. I think too of Bavaria where snacks, even in pretty big meal oriented pubs, are always available.

On a related note, this piece in the good old Morning Advertiser is also worth reading. I might have a rant about that soon too.



Curmudgeon said...

Agreed - and I wrote something similar twenty-six years ago :-)

It's all to do with the "pubs pretending to be restaurants" mindset.

Although they aren't usually my cup of tea as drinking places, in my experience modern urban pubs do tend to offer a wider choice of snacky food.

The Dangerman said...

Completely agree, and its not just being full up, its the cost. Whilst I'm happy to pay the best part of £20 for a beer and burger on a 'nice night out' I grumble somewhat if I'm just having a couple at lunch. In this case I'll either head to Spoons, or look for a bakery or cafe first.

retiredmartin said...

Very good and timely post.

Back in December a few pubs in Cambridgeshire were doing some very good soup/sandwich/wedges/stew type things for £3-4 which I'd certainly welcome continuing.

NB: From that Morning Advertiser article at the bottom I particularly like the exhortation to politicians not to judge pub behaviour from their University memories !

Professor Pie-Tin said...

Can I play Devil's Advocate, he asked with a twinkle in his eye.
Of course we all loved the crusty ham rolls behind the bar and all the other savoury dib dabs like mini pork pies to help keep the booze flowing.
It wasn't pubs that killed them off but bloody HAACP and 'elf and safety.
You need a non-domestic kitchen and a certificate after a day-long course teaching you how to use a different coloured cutting board and knives for meat and bread as well as food thermometers and daily cleaning of all surfaces to put a ham roll behind the bar these days.
And some Jobsworth fromn the local council will always be giving you grief, rest assured.
I'm not surprised most wet-led guvnors can't be arsed with the palaver.
My gripe is the laziness of landlords who can't be bothered to stock anything more than crisps or nuts or the Devil's food bacon fries as beer snacks.
How much effort does it take to go to the local Tesco and load up on Twiglets,Quavers,Hula Hoops and Pork Scratchings ?
The Evening Star in Brighton manages to do it without much bother.

Tandleman said...

You may have a point Prof, but they managed to up their game to circumvent the substantial meal thing. In the end it won't be me that misses the trick, but pubs.

And I would refer you to the consummate ease of our friends in the Black Country in supplying beer blotting and simple snacky comestibles.

It can and should be done.

Curmudgeon said...

The Prof does have a point in respect of pubs that now find it too much of a challenge to provide just a bit of food, and so provide none.

However, the argument also applies to pubs that have extensive menus of full meals but offer little or nothing in the way of less formal snacks.

Unknown said...

It still leaves really not much room to maneuver for wet-led pubs. A lot of them owned by family brewers. Gov't will not see that a bag of crisps as a 'insubstantial meal', but where it'll sit with a picked egg, I don't know.

Dave Hallows

Anonymous said...

Substantial Utopia = having a few Rat Brewery pints in the Rat & Ratchet, Huddersfield (I have no connection with either) followed by a pork pie with English mustard, and then a few more beers, etc. The pies are displayed in a bar-top glass cabinet and served individually wrapped/sealed from the pie makers. Thus negating any kitchen/H&S issues (I think). Hopefully no substantial meal and/or crisps requirement in pubs after lockdown. Cheers Ian B

RedNev said...

It's my view that the Establishment in this country, not only has little real experience of pubs other than photo opportunities at election time, but also distrusts them. Throwing stupid rules at pubs such as the meal requirement and the ten o' clock curfew are in my opinion evidence of this. TM has quite adequately dealt with the substantial meal stupidity, so I'll consider the curfew. To quite a large extent, the closing times of pubs and bars are staggered, but insisting that everyone is thrown out onto the street at exactly the same time was - if anything - likely to encourage the spread of the virus more than leaving closing times just as they were.

"Following the science" had nothing to do with either of these proposals; there is no scientific justification for either. So why do it? Because they don't care if pubs close, despite occasional Parliamentary rhetoric about the Great British Pub. They have no institutional antipathy towards drinking in itself, which is why they get us taxpayers to subsidise their bars in the Palace of Westminster, but they don't us trust ordinary people with with what they take for granted for themselves.

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