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06-05-2011, 17:09
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Tandleman recently on his blog was lamenting the demise of the pub sandwich (http://tandlemanbeerblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/beer-blotters.html). Thirty years ago, this used to be a staple of pub catering, a couple of slices of bread with a simple filling of beef, ham or cheese, cut into quarters and sold at a bargain price. It was the ideal thing to soak up a few pints. Yet, nowadays, many pubs don’t serve any snacks at all, just full meals, and where they do they are so often expensive ciabattas and wraps with exotic fillings. The humble filled roll or sliced bread butty is virtually an extinct species.

To make matters worse, very often you find these upmarket sandwiches being offered by default “with chips” in an attempt to make them seem more like meals. By and large, if you want a sandwich-type snack, you’re not after something with chips, and it would make more sense just to offer a bowl of chips as an extra if you want it.

I know it’s pretty much a lost cause now, but I continue to believe it would have been better all round if pubs had not tried to ape restaurants (http://pubcurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2008/04/separate-ways.html) but instead had concentrated on evolving their own distinctive, informal, snacky, mix-and-match style of food. The idea of food as an adjunct to drinking and socialising rather than an end in itself seems to have disappeared.

In a generation’s time, I suspect such pubs as still remain will tend to be seen as informal restaurants serving British-style food, and the suggestion that they were once mainly places for social drinking would be met with bafflement. Even today, many people’s only experience of pubs will be visiting them to eat a sit-down, knife-and-fork meal, which is largely missing the point of what they are all about.

You can see this today in new-build establishments such as Marston’s Fallow Deer (http://www.fallowdeerpub.co.uk/) by the A6 at Chapel-en-le-Frith. It does what it sets out to do, but it is an eating house, and effectively none of it is laid out in a way that says “social drinking”, not “dining”. It is an example of what will be a growing phenomenon in the years to come – the Pub In Name Only or PINO.

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