My father-in-law once complained to me, on the way to a pub, that pubs used to be about beer. He said you could get a packet of nuts if you were hungry, and a cheese sandwich at a pinch. And that was that.
We arrived in the pub, and top of the menu was a cheese sandwich. It didn’t cheer him up and I think he ate something else (a packet of nuts, perhaps). But there is something to be said for the fact that pub food has improved. I read recently that 90% of pub visits these days are connected with eating of some sort or other. I don’t know if that includes people eating a packet of nuts, but if true it suggests that we are well beyond a tipping point in the social function of the pub.
It goes without saying that much pub food is not much of an improvement on the curled cheddar sandwiches my father-in-law so much misses. Many pubs are supplied by catering sub-contractors who present the food cooked and frozen and ready to micro-wave. Pubs rarely, in fact, have proper kitchens.
But those pubs that do take their food seriously can be pretty good. Some are more restaurants now, with a pub attached; some are destination foodie spots (the gastropub, a desuetudinal word, I think I am right in saying); and some get the balance just right – for example, the Kingston Arms on Kingston Street off Mill Road, and The Wrestlers on Newmarket Road. Both do a pretty reasonable beer, too—I spent the evening at the Wrestlers with my father-in-law a couple of weeks ago, and he didn’t once mention the want of a cheese sandwich.