It has been possible to find decent food in London’s pubs for centuries. In 1815 The Epicure’s Almanack was published which was basically London’s first ever good food guide. Written by Ralph Raylance the guide featured over 650 eateries of which many were inns. Many of these inns are still around today but their modern-day name is a pub. London has a history of serving fine food in its pubs and it continues today. The one major difference has been the emergence of the “gastropub”.
This term was first used in 1991 when the Eagle pub in Clerkenwell was taken over by David Eyre and Mike Belben. They produced a restaurant within the pub. Traditionally pubs had always served food, but their reputation was that they produced cold or very basic dishes. When searching for good quality food in London’s pubs it is possible to differentiate between the traditional pub food and the more modern “gastropubs”.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a grade II listed public house that has been around since 1666 when it was rebuilt after the great fire. It is located in Fleet Street. Despite its rich history it is relatively cheap to drink and eat in the pub. It has a traditional menu and the favourite dishes include the Steak and Kidney pudding and the Curry-Lovers pie. This pub, that is mentioned in Charles Dickens “Tale of Two Cities”, is still going strong today.
The Anglesea Arms is located in Shepherds Bush, and this Victorian building has a separate dining area from the rest of the pub. The in-house chef Phil Harrison oversees the menu in this typical neighbourhood pub. Dishes that are included on the menu have a special feel and are not ones that would be normally associated with pub food. Juniper and gin-cured trout with a warm crumpet, and scrambled duck eggs served with charred sourdough and shaved Piedmont black truffles are two good examples of the food that can be found in this busy West London pub.
Close to the Old Vic and New Vic theatres in Southwark is the Anchor and Hope pub. Despite the pub only being opened for ten years they have kept the pub atmosphere with the low lighting. What really sets the pub apart is the standard of the food. Game favourites, such as venison and rabbit are both served, but there is a modern twist with dishes like the beetroot and goat’s curd salad. There are traditional desserts, such as the Bakewell tart with a heavy-duty clotted cream.
One of the most famous gastro bubs in London is The Cow situated in Notting Hill. Its cliental have included Tom Cruise and David Beckham, and owner Tom Conran was one of the pioneers of “gastropubs”. The top end restaurant is located upstairs and specialises in seafood dishes with large seafood platters and fish stews. It is also possible to order a decent beef roast on a Sunday. It is a pricey menu but those looking for greater value can actually eat in the rather cramped downstairs bar tasting the cheaper menu.
London’s pubs offer great opportunities for diners to be fed a great meal. There is a wide range of choice and the pub scene is quick to adopt any new changes in the food industry. The impression of pub food only being good for a ploughman’s does not apply in the capital, although if a diner searches hard enough they will unearth a delicious version of the dish.