Expand your U.K. IQ: A step above the pub grub
April 16, 2008
People who like to break bread in the local boozer but can’t stomach another plate of fish and chips need look no further than the nearest gastropub.
Most have all the trappings of the ubiquitous British pub — dark wooden furniture, orders taken at the bar and pints at the ready. Only at a gastropub, the food is better, if not a little chichi. Dishes such as salmon-and-tarragon fish cakes and seared pork belly with apple confit replace the traditional fried scampi and bland Sunday roasts.
Many who covet the old-fashioned watering holes (purists consider the food secondary to the drink) criticize the hipper versions as pretentious, the Starbucks to their local coffee shop. But gastropub converts praise the trendy restaurant concept for bringing them the best of both worlds: restaurant-quality food served in a relaxed, pub atmosphere.
The word “gastropub” — a combination of “gastronomy” (the art of good eating) and “pub” — was coined in 1991 by David Eyre and Mike Belben when they opened The Eagle in London, according to the British Broadcasting Corp.
But six years earlier, Di and Gary Kingshott opened The Beehive just outside Bury St. Edmunds with the same idea in mind.
“We became known that first year as the pub that wouldn’t do chips,” Di Kingshott explained.
But the Kingshotts were not willing to sacrifice a comfortable dining space to serve a more sophisticated menu. And they didn’t.
“It’s a pub feel. You walk in, and it’s a bar. It’s just excellent food in an informal surrounding,” she said. Still, “that’s a way a lot of pubs are going. They are either a drinking pub or all about the food.”
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